So you’ve heard about this paleo diet and want to give it a try, or perhaps a colleague at work has gone Paleo and is looking trim, or you’ve done the calorie-counting thing and are sick of losing and gaining the same 5 or 10 kilos and am ready to try something new and sustainable, like going paleo! Where to begin? You could take baby steps, or could plunge right in. Most people find it easier to make a gradual change, I know I did. Undoing decades of misinformation and ingrained beliefs about what is and isn’t supposed to be good for you can be stressful, so take it easy and try to enjoy the challenge.
Here are some painless steps towards transitioning to a paleo diet:
- Switch from margarine to butter.
- Instead of cooking with vegetable and seed oils, use coconut oil or ghee. I like Spiral Organic Coconut Oil from Woolworths as it doesn’t have strong coconut flavour. I have tried other coconut oils which make everything I cook taste of coconut, which gets old pretty quickly.
- Instead of store-bought salad dressings which contain unhealthy vegetable oils, make your own dressings with extra virgin olive oil, macadamia oil, avocado oil, and balsamic or wine vinegar.
- Eat eggs for breakfast every day. Boiled, fried, scrambled, whatever. Boiled eggs make a great snack on the go. They’ll fill you up, provide protein and don’t omit the yolk! It is one of the most nutrient dense foods you can get.
- Give up soft drinks (including diet drinks) and juice. Drink water or green tea instead.
- Introduce more non-starchy vegetables into your meals. I like broccoli or spinach for breakfast.
Next step is going paleo one meal at a time. Breakfast is usually the hardest because most of the breakfast foods available at the supermarket contain grain and sugar. But it is easier if you stop thinking of breakfast as a time where you need to eat “breakfast foods”, and think of it as any other meal.
The hardest thing to give up for most people is wheat, which is ubiquitous. When I mention I don’t eat wheat, people often ask “well, what do you eat then?” I say “meat, vegetables, fish, nuts, fruit.” Most people can’t contemplate a life without bread, but those who have given it up and feel terrific can’t contemplate a life with it.
You will need to be prepared and have paleo alternatives at the ready. I prefer not to give up something without knowing what I will eat in its place otherwise I am susceptible to making poor choices. At 1pm on a weekday, in a food court, when your stomach is grumbling and you have all of 30 minutes to locate, capture and digest your prey and walk back across the plains to rejoin your tribe is not the moment to decide that you are going to go paleo. Because there will be bread, wraps, pies, pasta, and pastry everywhere you look and it is going to get stressful.
On the other hand, if you are the type of person who doesn’t like to do things by halves, or are dealing with digestive or auto-immune issues and want to plunge head-first into strict paleo, check out the Whole 30 program. It is basically an elimination diet with a list of foods to eliminate for 30 days – no dairy, grains, sugar/sweeteners or soy. The Whole 30 is stricter than what most paleo-eaters follow on a day to day basis, but if you suspect you may have any undiagnosed food intolerances or IBS, the Whole30 can help you find out what foods are causing you grief. It also helps you to acclimatise to the spirit of paleo and to overcome sugar addictions by going cold turkey.
Check out our Whole30 compliant meals here.