You’ve heard so many things about it: Paleo. What does it mean? The fad diet that has real science to back it up as one of the healthiest diets you can go on (keto is arguably the best) is not incredibly easy to manage. Follow some of these tips to help ease the transition:
1) Take things one step at a time.
I started gradually eliminating dairy from my diet about four years ago when I decided that I wouldn’t drink cow’s milk, but rather unsweetened almond or coconut milk. I barely drank milk as it was, but giving up cheese was insanely hard. Growing up French made it a nearly impossible feat when there was camembert, gouda, and brie constantly lying around my parents’ house when I came to visit. My advice is: take it one step at a time. If gluten is a huge part of your diet, start by eliminating bagels, for example.
Don’t beat yourself up over this. This is hard and eliminating just one piece is a feat of its own.
2) Replace what you can’t eliminate
If sugar is a huge part of your diet (this, for me, is the hardest), go for natural sugars like fruit and sweeten things with raw honey or maple syrup. Coconut sugar or palm sugar are also healthy substitutes. For burgers or sandwiches, try paleo wraps, rice wraps (although not entirely paleo), or romaine leaves to substitute the bread. You can also go gluten-free for awhile until you figure out the grain thing. As for dairy, there are plenty substitutes, including cheese!
3) Incorporate other healthy activities besides diet
Incorporating exercise, spending time outdoors, and staying away from screens are all part of the “paleo lifestyle.” Some may also claim that Crossfit is a huge part of it and it’s a “cult.” Whatever. Pretty much everyone is trying to get and stay healthier. If you’re changing your diet, you might as well take the time to better other parts of your life as well.
4) Yes, you have to stop eating legumes
That means peanut butter. There are many reasons why legumes are not a part of the paleo diet. My main reason is the amount of mycotoxins present on beans, peanuts, chickpeas, etc. Someone else I talked to explained that they eliminate them because they suck the nutrients out of other food present in your stomach and pass it through. Another very valid reason is that they lack nutrients. There are barely any solid nutrients in legumes.
5) There are exceptions
If you avoid potatoes, you can still eat sweet potatoes. If you avoid legumes, you can eat sprouted legumes. Generally, you can eat quinoa and black rice. They are so packed with nutrients, especially if sprouted, that it’s worth it. Camel milk is also considered paleo as well as goat cheese, sometimes, by some people. Some people also claim that yogurt and kefir are paleo, but I really don’t think they are and if you want probiotics, you should really stick to fermented foods. Kombucha, although it is usually made with sugar (sometimes honey) is still paleo considering the bacteria has eaten the sugar anyway. One can argue that corn and beef are not paleo because corn is over-processed and barely contains nutrients. Corn is also contributing to hurting the environment. The same goes for beef. Just avoid beef at all costs if you can.
6) Reduce your intake
If giving up something in particular is too difficult to you or you just don’t want to give it up, go easy on yourself and just eat less of it. For example, if you love tacos, stick to corn tortillas rather than flour and eat them once a week instead of every day (I know, I’m sorry. Tacos are amazing).
7) Get creative!
If you love to cook, paleo is awesome for you! Try making a vegan cashew sauce to put over sautéed vegetables. Try making a paleo nut bread to spread your almond butter. Check out all the weird recipes people have come up with online. Make your own date balls!
8) Make it right for you
There are SO MANY variations of the paleo diet that you may find it difficult to pick which one to stick to. Do what’s right for you and make paleo what you want it to be. If you really can’t give up cheese, keep goat cheese. If you want to give up eggs, like The Wahls Protocol suggests, do it. If you want to give up nightshades because you think they mess with you, go for it. It is up to you to decide what’s right for your body and your lifestyle. I suggest sticking with the basics, though. They’ll make a huge impact in your health and your life.
Good luck and be sure to share your story in the comments below. Want to write for The Barefoot Aya? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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