Some of the links on this site may be affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I may be paid a small commission if you follow the links and make a purchase. Learn more here.
Are you dipping your toes in the stream of the Paleo diet? Been hearing a lot of talk about the “caveman” style of eating, but you’re not quite sure what it’s all about? Good. You’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to learn about the Paleo diet rules and five things you need to know before taking the plunge.
You know when you’re walking on the beach in the soft warm sand, how every step feels harder than normal? Walking on soft sand uses different muscles than we’re used to. From a distance, it still looks like walking, but it just feels different.
And after a long day at the beach in the hot sun, as you’re walking out to the parking lot, all of the sudden you get to the pavement. And it feels…easy…normal. It feels like what you’re used to.
That’s how changing eating habits feels. At first it’s like the soft sand. It’s hard…you’re still eating food, but it takes more effort. It looks like cooking, but you have to think harder about each step (“Can I eat this ingredient?”…”Am I doing this wrong”?).
And then after a while of consistent cooking and eating with your new rules, it starts to feel normal again. Ah…the wonderful feeling of “normal”.
Getting started with Paleo
In the age of the internet, misinformation, and crafty marketing campaigns, it’s more important than ever to be empowered with knowledge and the ability to critically assess health and diet claims.
That’s why I’m so excited that my friend and trusted educator, Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, PhD, has launched a new course detailing why the Paleo diet is still an optimal one!
In this online course, Dr. Sarah uses her medical research background to lean into challenging and controversial topics, and busts a bunch of common myths that can actually harm your health! Learn the Paleo diet rules from an expert!
5 things nobody tells you about The Paleo DIet Rules
Have you heard talk about the Paleo diet in the news, or online? Maybe you just came across the phrase and you’re not sure what to think. Eating like a caveman? Could that really be good for you?
1. You can be Paleo and not even realize it
I kind of fell into the Paleo diet.
After several months of elimination diets, food journals, and paying close attention to how different foods made me feel, I ended up eating grain free, gluten free, mostly dairy free, with LOTS of vegetables, no processed foods, healthy fats and oils and no beans and minimal legumes.
I’d heard of the Paleo diet but was super skeptical (I’m not a fad dieter, and that’s what I previously thought this was).
But once I decided to keep an open mind and read more about it, I learned that the Paleo diet is a way of eating focused on nutrient dense foods that help (not hurt) our bodies.
And I’d already cut out a lot of the “no” foods from my diet in an effort to pinpoint foods that were making me fatigued and bloated.
2. It’s not as Black and White as you think
Sure, in the Paleo diet there are rules. There are “yes” foods and “no” foods. Depending on the source, the rules might look something like the chart below.
- Lean meat (grass fed & locally sourced is best)
- Fish/ seafood (wild is preferred)
- Organ meat (start slow and you’ll figure out ways to incorporate it)
- Healthy fat & oils (avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, lard, tallow)
- Legumes (peanuts, peas, beans)
- Dairy (sometimes falls in the “yes” category)
- Refined sugar
- Processed foods
- Refined oils (vegetable, canola, sunflower, safflower, etc.)
But what no one tells you is that it’s not actually about following a set of strict diet rules that are impossible and unrealistic to follow. It’s about eating a diet rich in nutrients and free of empty calories and foods that are harming our bodies. For example,
- Dairy is slightly controversial in the Paleo world. But most agree that if dairy sits well with you, enjoy grass fed butter on your food! Read this article about dairy in Paleo.
- Legumes (meaning peanuts, peas, beans, etc.) are typically on the “no” list. But if they sit okay with your body, many people agree that it’s okay to eat them in moderation. Here’s more information about legumes and Paleo.
That means your neighbor’s Paleo might look a lot different than your Paleo. The most important thing is that you’re paying attention to how each food affects your body, being careful to focus on consuming nutrient dense whole foods at every meal.
3. It’s a lifestyle, Not just Diet rules
You might start the Paleo diet just to get your eating habits under control, and to get more energy. But Paleo is more than just a diet. It’s a lifestyle.
Diet and lifestyle have to work together. If you’re looking for overall well-being (I mean…who isn’t?) then pay attention to things like your stress level, how much sleep you’re getting, the health of your relationships, and taking time to play and enjoy nature.
The Paleo lifestyle is centered around being active. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean training for a marathon….so don’t worry.
What it does mean is to find ways to incorporate more movement in your day-to-day activities? You can do this in a bunch of different ways.
- Take an evening stroll around your neighborhood after dinner.
- If you enjoy more vigorous activities, go for a hike or consider doing some weight lifting.
- Opt for a standing desk at work (if it’s an option).
- Take frequent breaks throughout your day to walk around the block, around the house, or around the office.
The important thing is finding what works for you. And work towards consistency.
And before you worry that you’ll never have enough energy to go on walks or hikes every day, remember that by changing your eating habits, you’ll be more energetic, have a lifted mood, and you’ll find yourself opting for a walk around the blog instead of a Netflix binge.
4. Paleo is not that different from other diets
Yes, Paleo is unique in it’s own ways. But if you take a close look at a few other diets (like Whole 30 or Keto), there’s a LOT in common with Paleo. And honestly, I think this is why there are so many success stories out there.
In Paleo, Whole 30 and Keto, here are the overlapping “rules”.
- No processed foods
- No refined sugar
- Eat nutrient dense food
- No refined oils
- Limit (or avoid all together) empty calories
5. Paleo isn’t just about the meat
When I first heard about the Paleo diet, the images I saw were of people eating HUGE steaks every night for dinner. But really, that’s not what Paleo is about. And it’s honestly not a very nutritious diet to ONLY eat meat.
Don’t get me wrong, I think protein is good for our bodies. But vegetables provide SO much of our daily nutrients.
So here on Scratch To Basics I’m working hard to bring you simple recipes to make eating LOTS of vegetables something you actually want to do. Because when vegetables taste good, you will want to eat them. A lot of them.
If you’re looking for some vegetable recipe inspiration, here are a few to try.
- Sesame ginger broccoli
- Grilled cauliflower steaks
- Honey mustard brussels sprouts
- Maple bacon brussels sprouts
- Homemade veggie chips
More Information on Paleo Diet RUles
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by all the questions you have about a new way to eat?
I know I have. And usually I turn to Google.
But what if we try something new this time around? Instead of getting hit with the Google firehose about this new way of eating, what if instead we try to learning more about the science behind the diet? I’ve been working on doing this and it’s been awesome. I feel more confident in my food choices because I know what they’re doing inside my body.
I highly recommend this online course. It includes 5 hours of video lectures, plus downloadable and printable PDFs of course slides.
The topics covered in detail are:
- Nutrient requirements of biological systems
- Prevalence and sources of nutrient deficiencies
- Top sources of nutrients commonly deficient
- Designing a nutrient-sufficient diet (surprise! it’s the Paleo diet!)
- Sleep as a linchpin of health
- Impact of stress on health
- Activity balance and health
- Connection and health
- Diet vs. Lifestyle: priorities and synergy
- Nutrient, diet and lifestyle links to the top mortality- and morbidity-causing chronic illnesses
- An introduction to the Autoimmune Protocol
This course is all about educating yourself so you can educate friends and family on the real basis behind the Paleo diet. Isn’t it exciting to learn that the Paleo diet is grounded in science—no cavemen needed?
If you’re ready to dive into Paleo nutrition science with Dr. Sarah, sign up here for the Therapeutic Paleo Approach online course.
Don’t trust everything you hear about the Paleo diet (like those people who think “Paleo” means eating 90% meat). But trust the people who’ve done the research and want to help you understand the science behind it.
if you’re looking for a trustworthy resource to help you in your journey to Paleo, check out Dr. Sarah at The Paleo Mom!