The paleo diet is meant to mimic what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate. But what foods should you eat to follow this diet and what foods do you want to avoid? If you’re new to the paleo diet, knowing what to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner can be hard. As with most diets, there are foods that are allowed and not allowed. Some foods also fall into a bit of a gray area and are sometimes allowed.
Whether you’re a beginner, looking for a refresher on the rules or just want to adopt some of the healthiest parts of the Paleo Diet, here’s what you need to know to eat paleo.
What is the Paleo Diet?
The premise behind “eating paleo” is that the current Western diet is contributing to the rise of chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease and cancer. Paleo diet proponents claim, eating this way can reduce inflammation, improve workouts, increase energy, help with weight loss, stabilize blood sugar and even reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
The pros of paleo are that it focuses on increasing intake of whole foods, fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins and healthy fats and decreasing consumption of processed foods, sugar and salt. For those looking to eat a more well-rounded diet, these “guidelines” sound familiar and altogether healthy.
However, the paleo diet also advocates cutting out grains, dairy and legumes, and this has caused controversy among scientists. These foods, despite what paleo advocates claim, are healthful and can be good sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Foods You Can Eat On Paleo
In short, if your ancestors could hunt or gather it, it is allowed on the paleo diet. This includes:
Grass-fed meat:choosing grass-fed is healthier for you, the environment and closer to what our ancestors ate.
Most meat and seafood fits on a paleo diet. Meat is a source of lean protein, and protein is the building block of all cells and tissues. Protein also helps keep you full. Watch out for pre-marinated and cured meats that may contain added sugar.
Grass-fed meat is recommended on the paleo diet because it is leaner than meat from grain-fed animals and has more omega-3 fatty acids, the healthy fats that reduce inflammation in the body and protect your heart. A typical American diet is high in saturated and trans fats and lower in healthy poly- and monounsaturated fats, hence the paleo diet’s emphasis on grass-fed meats.
Look for chicken raised without antibiotics and try to source your meat from a local farm to learn more about how it was raised.
Choosing wild seafood over farm-caught may help boost your omega-3 intake too. That’s not always the case, but look for wild salmon and other sustainably-caught seafood when you’re eating paleo.
Fruits and Vegetables
There is little argument over the health benefits of fruits and vegetables. They are chock-full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. The only caveat for paleo dieters is that some vegetables are starchy (e.g., potatoes) and some fruits are higher in sugar (e.g., bananas). So, if you are trying to lose weight or watch your blood sugar levels, eat these in moderation. In fact, potatoes are banned from some strict versions of the diet.
Many paleo followers wonder if bananas are paleo, because of their higher sugar content. They are considered paleo. One medium banana has 100 calories, 3 grams of fiber and 25 grams of carbohydrate. Bananas are a good source of potassium and they are an unprocessed, whole food.
The key to remember with eating paleo is that you want your diet to contain unprocessed, whole foods so fruits and vegetables should make up a bulk of your diet. Frozen vegetables without added sauce, are also allowed on a paleo diet.