What is Paleo?

And what does Paleo mean for me? You may have read my article in June called Getting Started on Paleo. I want to reiterate what I consider to be the main points of a Paleo diet/lifestyle, with notes on how I tweaked Paleo to fit me, specifically.

I follow an 80% Paleo protocol. I give myself a little leeway because I’m a human being (damnit!) and not a food nazi.

Fundamental Principals:

Grains are bad.  Avoidance of grains is one of the main reasons I adopted a Paleo diet. I’m gluten intolerant (no wheat), and most refined grains trigger my hypoglycemia (grumpy sugar crashes). I haven’t had any alergen problems since I quit grains. This alone has made me a huge fan of Paleo!
I’m not above having the occasional oatmeal-for-breakfast or rice with my sushi. If I’m going to include grains, they’re gonna be whole. Not “Whole Grain Cheerios” but actual grains of rice. And the kind of oatmeal I eat is the kind you cook in a pot, not instant stuff. Slow carbs, dude. It’s the way to go.

Avoid dairy unless it’s raw or minimally processed: I’m intolerant to most dairy so this was another good reason to focus on Paleo recipes. Most (but not all) Paleo recipes avoid my two main allergens: gluten & dairy. That being said, there are lots of Paleo eaters who consume dairy every day. So don’t let this deter you from taking a Paleo approach to your diet. You can have your cheese if you want it…

BUT, if you have a problem with leptin levels, adult acne, or IBS you might want to consider eliminating dairy for two weeks to see if that helps. Dairy can be a major culprit in digestive issues as well as autoimmune diseases. Just sayin.

Eat nuts: In moderation! I’m really into snacks, so I need to be told when enough is enough. And nuts are high in calories, yo! So I limit to a handful. Pretty satisfying. Try not to have ‘em every single day.

Don’t  Eat Peanuts, Though. Why? They’re legumes and legumes are “not paleo” because they have similar traits to grains in their make-up; they contain phytates which inhibit nutrient absorption and cause inflammation. They also contain lectins and mess with healthy hormone function. Strict paleo eaters also avoid lentils, all beans (kidney beans, pinto beans, all of em), soy beans, and chickpeas.

I don’t eat nuts every day because they are super high in fat calories, but I have them a few times a week. Do I avoid peanuts? Not religiously. I don’t include beans or peanuts in my recipes at home but I’m not above eating a bowl of chili at a picnic. If I’m out and the only food choices are peanut-y trail mix or cookies, I’m gonna eat the trail mix. (Let’s not get too crazy here.)

Eat fat from animal sources: Paleo seems to focus on lean meats whenever possible. Also, organ meats, if you like them. I like liver about once a month. Two or three days a week I eat ground meat mixed with taco seasonings, topped with shredded lettuce and salsa. I pick the leanest ground meat and my portion goes in a bowl. Mr. Boyfriend doesn’t give a hoot about paleo so his portion goes in tortilla shells topped with cheese. It’s fast, it’s easy, it makes a good packed lunch. Everybody’s happy.

And yes, sometimes I have my tacos in the corn shells. I’m 80% Paleo. Not sweating the details too much. The real point for me is no processed foods.

Eat protein: This doesn’t mean gorge on protein, but get enough! Protein should be atleast 40% of your calorie intake. (But get your veggies in too. Duh!)

Keep carbs low: If you add a lot of fat to your diet, you have to keep carbs low. If you’re going to do more carbs, eat less fat! When I have time, I keep track of my carb/protein/fat percentages on fitday.com. “Primal” is an offshoot of the Paleo eating style that encourages high fat. Fundamental Paleo encourages lean meats and I like that better. Every body’s different though, so figure out your needs based on how you feel.

Eat lots of non-starchy veggies: You can eat tons of veggies at every meal and still keep carbs pretty low. Sweet potatoes, tubers, and fruits are what bring your carb intake up. If you crave a super carb-y meal, fit some heavy lifting into a day when you over-carb on starchy things. (That way you can enjoy the yummy stuff guilt-free while you restore your depleted glycogen stores. A win-win situation for your body.)

My favorite starch indulgence after lifting heavy is this little recipe: Bake sweet potato, allow to cool, slice into medallions and pan sauté in coconut oil and lemon pepper. (Make sure your brand of lemon pepper has no added sugar!) My mom used to make me this dish, sautéed in olive oil, when I was little. Mmm.

Fine Tuning with Paleo

Depending on how many fruit carbs you want, try to get them from a low-fructose source like berries. Apples and watermellons are like bags of sugar. Fat+Sugar is a bad combination. If you’re going to have plenty of one, limit the other. Key word: ballance.

Really, you don’t need to worry too much about macronutrient ratios, unless you feel like you want to bring down your bodyfat percentage. Just follow the main rules of Paleo, and take the more nit-picky rules with a grain of salt. It’s not rocket science.

Unless you like rocket science. Or food science, rather. Calorie watching and macronutrient tweaking. I love that stuff. Check out my article on Calorie Cutting. It’s important to eat enough calories to build and maintaing your muscles while maintaining just enough deficit to “shred”. Do it safely or don’t do it at all.



Have a question? Leave me a comment!

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