I eat mainly protein, vegetables, nuts/seeds and some fruit. I lost 30# without really trying – I didn’t count calories and didn’t fret over portion sizes. I just ate until I was full. Quite frankly, I was surprised at how easily the weight came off and how my body composition changed. It really did change my life and it changed the way I look at food. I see food as fuel and a source of vitamins and minerals, not just something I eat to keep me from starving to death.
You don’t have to starve yourself by eating this way. It’s pretty tasty and you feel full because you are eating lots of protein and fat. If you want to eat this way, you need to cut out the crap food – especially the bread, pasta, etc. Right now, your body is used to running on sugar (grains turn to sugar the minute they enter your body) and you have to get it used to running on fat as its fuel. As your body adapts, it will start to burn excess fat as fuel and you’ll start to lean out and really see changes in your body composition. You don’t want to increase your fat intake while you are still eating the grains, it’s counterproductive.
Your diet is 80% of your body composition, working out doesn’t help all that much, it’s more about what you do (or don’t eat). I was out of the gym for 3 months and cheated a good bit and didn’t gain my weight back.
NOTE: The weight won’t come off all at once, I saw a loss of about 1-2# per week. If you want a quick weight loss diet, this might not be your answer. This is a lifestyle change and it requires a shift in how you view food. If you are frustrated at how slowly the weight will come off, just realize that you didn’t gain all of that weight overnight, so it would be silly to expect it to come off overnight, too.
Here’s a quick summary about what foods you should be eating:
Stuff to avoid:
- Sugar (refined and processed)
- Soda – even diet – stay away from it. Drink water, tea, coffee – anything without sugar. If you drink coffee with sugar, slowly decrease the amount, you will adapt, I promise (this is from a former sugar addict)
- Boxed/frozen processed food
- Fast Food
- Dairy (milk, cheese, butter)
- Grains – this includes bread, pasta, gumbo & anything made w/ roux (which is made with flour), rice & corn
- Legumes (beans, lentils, soy & peanuts). Peanuts are not a nut – they are a legume.
What you need to eat:
Protein – the following are some good examples of protein. If you can find a local farmer (check out your local farmers markets!) to procure your meat, that is usually your best option. It is more expensive. If all you can afford and find is what is in the grocery store, then go with that and try to work on improving the sources of your protein, if possible.
If you buy conventionally raised meat, buy the leanest cuts possible and trim all visible fat before eating it. Most of the harmful toxins (from the environment where the animal was raised and/or their diet) are fat soluble.
Eating pastured raised meat (grass fed beef, pastured chicken & pork) or wild caught fish will result in a diet higher in Omega-3 fats, which is very important. The standard American diet is too high in Omega-6 fats, which leads to silent inflammation, which is believed to be the underlying cause of many diseases.
- Eggs (you can have the whole egg, yolk & all)
- Beef (grass fed is best, if you can find it)
- Chicken (pastured chicken is best, if you can find it)
- Pork (pastured pork is best – find a farmer that offers it in your area, conventionally raised pork is NOT recommended)
- Venison and/or other game (rabbit, etc)
Veggies – eat a variety of these and vary the colors to ensure you are getting a variety of nutrients. It’s best to eat vegetables when they are in season – they are fresher and taste better. For good local seasonal produce, check your local farmer’s market.
- Brussels Sprouts
- Sweet potato (no more than 3-5 x per week)
- Carrots (no more than 3-5 x per week)
- Peppers (green and/or sweet)
- Any other vegetable you like/will eat
Fruits (you need to eat more veggies than fruit). It’s best to eat fruits when they are in season – they are fresher and taste better. For good local seasonal produce, check your local farmer’s market.
NOTE: If weight loss is a goal for you, I suggest you limit your fruit intake and/or choose fruits that are lower in sugar for best results. Berries are the best choice/apples & grapes are very high in sugar and should be avoided or eaten in limited quantities.
- Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries) – whatever berry you like/will eat
- Apples (not too often b/c of high sugar content)
- Grapes (not too often b/c of high sugar content)
- Any other fruit you like/will eat
- CAUTION: dried fruits are easy to overeat and may be sweetened and/or coated in vegetable oils (which are high in Omega-6 fats). Read your labels! It’s best to eat fresh fruits instead of dried fruits!
Fats – stay away from vegetable oils (like canola, corn, etc); you want to use stuff like olive oil, coconut oil, lard and even some butter (even though it’s dairy)
- Coconut oil (You can find it in health food stores or online – www.tropicaltraditions.com is a great resource). Great for pan frying and high heat cooking. It’s solid at room temp and can be used as a substitute for solid vegetable shortening.
- Olive oil (use mostly for salad dressings & marinades – high heat will cause the oil to oxidize and that’s not a good thing. Use coconut oil for frying)
- Animal fats (bacon, chicken, lard) – it’s important that animal fat come from a “clean” source meaning that it’s not raised on a factory farm, pumped full of hormones & antibiotics and such. Your best bet is to buy the animal from a farm that raises pastured meat and use the fat from that animal.
- Butter (Grass/pasture butter is best and it’s best if you clarify it, to remove the gut irritating milk solids) Not recommended if you are doing a 30 day clean eating period
- Nuts & Seeds – these are more of a fat source than a protein source. Your protein sources should be from animal proteins.
To learn more about paleo/ancestral eating and living:
- Robb Wolf – great website with tons of information and a podcast. His blog features success stories, lots of science-y stuff about why eating this way is so healthy. He also wrote a book about the science behind eating this way.
- Mark’s Daily apple – great blog and resource site for ancestral eating and living
- Whole 9 - great nutrition info, blog and workshops on how to implement this way of eating into your life. I HIGHLY recommend perusing their “resources” page for some great info/articles. Melissa & Dallas from the Whole 9 also wrote a fantastic book titled “It Starts With Food” about eating this way. I’ve found it to not only be informative, but entertaining to read!
- Paleo Diet Lifestyle – great overall site with great information for those just starting out and learning about this lifestyle
- Archevore – a blog written by an MD who eats very similar to the paleo diet.
Some great informational videos:
On the diet itself and the reasons why:
- Paleo in a Nutshell Part 1: Food
- The Paleo Diet
- The Caveman Diet
- Interview with Robb Wolf on how he found paleo, his experience eating a vegan diet, then converting to paleo and how it dramatically affected his health
- Omega-3 to Omega-6 fat ratios and why it matters
On shopping in the grocery store:
- Crossfit Food Shopping – Crossfit Southside
- Crossfit Paleo Style – Crossfit Amelia Island
- Unpacking my Groceries – Valley Crossfit
- Robb Wolf in the grocery store – Sugar, baked goods, cheese and addictive foods
- Robb Wolf in the grocery store – Produce (excellent video!)
- Robb Wolf in the grocery store – how best to choose dairy items & eggs
- Robb Wolf – grocery store, lunchmeat, meat & seafood
- Veronica Garza – paleo success story; how it drastically changed her health and her life
- The Paleo Parents – interview with husband & wife who lost over 200lbs between the two of them AND feeding their children a paleo diet. They wrote a book “Eat like a Dinosaur” and have a website – www.paleoparents.com
Recipe sites and blogs:
- Everyday Paleo – A trainer from Robb Wolf’s gym who also has 3 kids and a husband w/ a busy chiropractic practice. She is the master at quick meals, all paleo style. She also has a great recipe book – “Everyday Paleo“
- Paleo Parents – another great site (and book) for families with children who are looking to adopt the paleo lifestyle.
- Whole Life Eating Blog – Written by a guy who works out at CF North Fulton; very interesting recipe ideas. The whole 9 team actually link to his recipes frequently
- Mark’s Daily Apple – there are free reader created cookbooks
- The Clothes make the girl blog – Melissa also blogs about CF workouts, motivation, etc, but her recipes are pretty interesting. Here’s the link to just her recipes, she is also recommended by the Whole 9 folks. She also has a great recipe book – “Well Fed” – if you’re not sure you want to buy it yet, try out the free 30 page sampler!
- The Foodee Project – excellent source for recipes!
- Primal Palate – I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews for their cookbook “Make it Paleo“
- Paleo Comfort Foods – LOVE their cookbook (“Paleo Comfort Foods“), I’ve met these guys in real life and they are AWESOME. If you’re Cajun and you go paleo, get this cookbook. The food is flavorful and I’ll forgive them for suggesting we put tomato sauce in gumbo….