Health | Wellness | Yoga | Chicago

What You Need To Know About Paleo

I was feeling pretty uninspired to write this week because I was going through some really tough stuff. I wanted to write how I was feeling and how I got through it, but I pretty much just tried to stay busy and cried.. A lot. Not very interesting. It’s pretty cool though how you can really tell who your real friends are when you go through really difficult times. Some of the people I thought were some of my best friends really failed to be there for me. And other people who I didn’t even know gave a shit about me, really stepped up and helped me get through it, even friends that I met through Instagram (hence why I freaking love this platform). I was hurt at first by some people who failed to be there for me because I really thought they cared about me, but that’s life. You can’t control what others do and you can’t beg people to want to be in your life. If they don’t want to be in your life then you shouldn’t want them there.

 

Anyways, now that I’m done with my tangent, when I asked people what I should write about this week, they said they were interested in the Paleo diet. A lot of people are confused about what it is and what the benefits are. So, although I am no Paleo expert, I will explain what the Paleo diet is and how it has helped me personally!

 

What does Paleo mean?

 

The actual meaning of Paleo is “older or ancient, especially relating to the geological past.” This is why often times people call the Paleo diet the “Caveman” diet. The idea is that you should only eat what cavemen would have been able to hunt or gather.

 

What can (or can’t) I eat on the Paleo Diet?

 

EAT THESE:

-vegetables

-fruit

-eggs

-sweet potatoes

-healthy oils (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil)

-meat (grass-fed only)

-fish (wild caught only)

-nuts

-seeds

-spices

-natural sugar (honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar)

-cassava flour, coconut flour, almond flour

 

DON’T EAT THESE:

-dairy*

-gluten

-grains (rice, oats, barley, etc.)

-soy

-legumes (beans, peas, peanuts)

-refined sugar (cane sugar, sugar)

-corn syrup

-agave (yes it is natural, but it is also processed, some people eat it on a Paleo diet)

-processed food

-unhealthy oils (vegetable, canola, rice bran)

-starches (potatoes, corn)

*Some people on the paleo diet choose to eat grass-fed cheese or grass fed butter. Others choose to eat clarified butter (ghee) and some choose to avoid dairy all together.*

 

Some foods are kind of in a gray area, and there are also a lot of slightly different versions of Paleo. One tool that I use to determine what true Paleo means is the app, Paleo.io. You just type in a food and it gives it a thumbs up or  a thumbs down and then normally I Google why or why it isn’t Paleo.

 

Health Benefits of Paleo?

 

Anti-Inflammatory

The Paleo diet is an anti inflammatory diet. Inflammation of all sorts can be brought under control with the paleo diet: inflammation of the stomach (belly fat) inflammation of the gut & digestive system (gas, bloating, IBS, leaky gut), inflammation of the immune system, and even inflammation of the skin (acne). This diet is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation and also lowers the risk of chronic diseases.

 

Weight Loss (More Muscle, Less Fat)

The Paleo diet shouldn’t necessarily be used to lose weight, but most people do end up losing weight when following the Paleo Diet because all of the foods are so clean, rich in protein and healthy fats, and very low in carbs and sugars. Proteins build new cells like muscle mass and fat cells shrink;  more muscle means better metabolism! The awesome thing about Paleo is that calories don’t matter, which is why I don’t even like calling it a “diet.” You can eat as much of these foods as you want (until you’re full) and you will still see amazing results in your body and mind.

 

Healthy Brain

The Paleo Diet contains foods that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids which play a crucial role in brain function and development. Some of the foods that provide omega 3 fatty acids are eggs, pasture raised meats, and especially cold water fish (wild caught salmon)

 

The list of benefits goes on. There have been extensive studies that show that eating Paleo or very similar to Paleo has been shown to help children with autism. An awesome book to read in order to understand the connection between what we eat and how it affects our bodies is, Breaking The Vicious Cycle: The Specific Carbohydrate Diet written by Elaine Gottschall. This diet is extremely similar to Paleo, but a little more strict and has been shown to heal people with celiac disease, autism, diabetes, IBS, leaky gut, etc.

 

Personally, Paleo has helped me to see more progress in my workouts both because I have lost weight, built muscle, and have more energy overall. Paleo has also helped heal my gut and has helped with bloating and other gut health issues.

 

Tips & Tricks

 

Don’t become obsessive.

It can be easy to become a little bit too obsessive on the Paleo Diet. It is okay to follow it strictly if you have a healthy relationship with food and if that makes your body and mind feel better, but in the world we live in it is nearly impossible to be perfect. One of the hardest times to strictly follow Paleo is when going out to eat because almost all restaurants cook with canola or vegetable oil (even True Food Kitchen *sad face*). But that’s okay! It’s not healthy to say no every time one of your friends asks you to go out to eat because you’re scared that they’re not going to cook with coconut oil or because you’re scared that the olive oil isn’t a high quality brand. However, it is completely okay to ask questions… which brings me to my next point.

 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

When going out to eat, it’s totally cool to ask where they get their meat from or if it’s grass fed, if their fish is wild caught, what oil they cook in, or even for an ingredients list for salad dressings, etc. Sure, you may get a couple wierd looks at first but you are entitled to know what you’re putting in your body, and other people should respect that. Not to downplay anyone with legitimate allergies, but sometimes it’s easier to just say you have food allergies even if you don’t in order to make the servers take you seriously.

 

Follow the 80/20 Rule

Eating 80/20 Paleo means that you eat Paleo 80% of the time and not paleo 20% of the time. This doesn’t mean that 20% of the time, you can eat a box of oreos, it just gives you a little bit of a break. Eating a certain way or a new way 100% of the time can be difficult and/or overwhelming. When you go from eating a standard American Diet, you may have foods that you really don’t want to give up, such as ice cream. Although there are ice creams that are non-dairy, I haven’t been able to find one that doesn’t contain sugar (unless you make it yourself) so maybe on some nights, you have some ice cream for dessert and then get on track with Paleo the next day. A lot of people also use the 80/20 Rule because they go out to eat a lot. Basically, it justs takes some of the stress off of “being 100% Paleo” and can be awesome for people who are just starting to eat paleo, people who have a history of restrictive eating or eating disorders, or anyone who just wants to indulge in some sweets some of the time! You don’t even have to call it an 80/20 rule, just know that just because you eat paleo, doesn’t mean you are committing to something for the rest of your life. Nothing is permanent and nobody is perfect.

 

Meal Prep & Snacks On The Go

I feel like people get scared when they hear the words, “Meal Prep.” I’m not saying you have to break out your fifty million containers and prep your breakfast lunch and dinners for the entire week. I’m just saying, at the beginning of each week, try to cook up some meat and veggies that will last you for a few days. Especially with my busy schedule, I often times prep a salad the night before to bring with me to work the next day. If you don’t meal prep, eating a specific diet such as Paleo can get pretty overwhelming because when you walk in the house starving, there’s nothing to eat, and then cooking a full meal seems like it’s going to take forever so you grab something quick and probably unhealthy. It can also be overwhelming if you’re on the go and you get hungry. A lot of restaurants or fast food places don’t offer Paleo options, especially if you’re looking for something quick, that’s why I always recommend bringing snacks in your bag or purse! I seriously always have a baggy of nuts and a granola bar in my purse in case I get hungry. Even when I go out and my friends want to get pizza after an event, I break out my RX Bar and I am one happy camper.

 

Check Ingredients 

This is probably the number one most important thing to do when you’re adopting a Paleo lifestyle. Learn which ingredients are Paleo, and look for non-Paleo ingredients on the back of every damn package. One thing to be extra careful about is nut butters. That almond butter that you love might have sugar in it and you didn’t even know. It can get super confusing because sometimes one brand will make a bunch of paleo products and then one product has sugar and you didn’t check the back. You would be very surprised at how many products contain necessary additives and sugar. Also, a LOT of products contain canola oil, even the Whole Foods hot bar. Even a package of frozen veggies at Trader Joe’s had “sugar” as one of the ingredients. You can never be too careful. Also, a lot of packages that say “Paleo Friendly” or “Paleo Inspired” are not actually completely Paleo and will contain agave or brown rice syrup. I would say assume all products are NOT Paleo until you actually physically read the back of the package.

 

Don’t become overwhelmed.

It can be extremely easy to start overthinking everything, especially meals when going Paleo. But remember, the entire purpose of the Paleo diet is simplicity; going back to our roots. Cavemen ate the most simple meals ever. Meat and veggies! It can be so easy to get caught up in buying Paleo donuts and Paleo this, Paleo that, but just remember that the point of this diet is simple, clean food. Most of my meals contain meat, veggies, and eggs, and eating that simple and clean diet is what makes my body feel good.

 

My Favorite Paleo Brands:

 

Siete Foods

Although regular tacos, corn or flour tortillas, and corn tortilla chips are not paleo, Siete Foods makes Paleo mexican food taste freaking amazing. They have grain free tortilla chips in three flavors: Sea Salt, Lime, and Nacho. They’re all really good with guacamole, and the Nacho chips taste like BBQ Chips in my opinion. The tortillas are out of this world. I think I eat more tacos now than I did when I wasn’t paleo. They have Almond Flour Tortillas, Coconut Tortillas, and Cassava & Chia Tortillas. They’re all amazing, but the Almond Flour Tortillas are my favorite!

Steak tacos featuring Siete Foods Almond Flour Tortillas and Siete Foods Grain Free Sea Salt Chips

 

Daydream Dessert Co.

These paleo desserts are so freaking good. You have to order them online, but it’s so worth it. So far, I have tried the bars and the maca caramels, but I’m hoping to get one of the cakes for my birthday! The ingredients they use are super clean and all paleo (except for some of the desserts contains peanuts including the Johnny bar, but it literally tasles like snickers so it’s worth undulging)

 

Primal Kitchen Foods

This company freaking rocks. I truly love everything they make. From their dressings to their collagen bars, to their collagen powders, I recommend all of their products. Ranch literlaly used to be my favorite food, so I think their paleo ranch is out of this world; I also love the Greek dressings. I add their collagen powders to my smoothies, but I really love the Cashew Collagen Bar. It is hard to find “granola” bars that are paleo because a lot of them contain grains, brown rice syrup, or sugar.

 

RX Bars & LaraBars

Speaking of bars, these are the only other two bars that I will eat. RX Bars are my favorite. They have lots of protein and have very few ingredients. My favorite flavors are the Maple, the Blueberry, and the Mint Chocolate. The only issues with RX Bars is that they aren’t vegan, but LaraBars are! LaraBars have even less ingredients tahn RX bars, but more sugar because they have lots of dates. However, I like to have them as a treat. There is so many flavors of LaraBars but I like the Cashew one. But, disclaimer: all LaraBars are not paleo. The one’s that have chocolate chips also contain sugar so make sure to check ingredients!

 

Coconut Secret

This company makes a lot of different awesome products such as coconut aminos, coconut oil, etc. But one of my favorite products is the chocolate covered coconut bars. I stick them in the freezer and they make for an amazing dessert. The mint flavor literally tastes like mint chip ice cream! They also just very recently came out with a products called “UnGranola Bars.” They are grain free bars that taste amazing, especially dipped in nut butter. Stay tuned for a giveaway featuring the UnGranola Bars!

 

Barely Bread

If one of your favorite breakfast’s is toast, but you really want to try out eating Paleo, no worries! I have a brand of Paleo bread for you! Now, most of the gluten free bread’s out there are filled with additives and sugars, but Barely Bread has all clean ingredients. They have toasts, breads, and even bagels that are all Paleo. If you’re used to sourdough or white bread for your toast, it isn’t going to taste exactly the same, but if you load it up with some awesome toppings, it definitely does the job.

2 slices of Barely Bread Cinnamon Raisin Toast topped with nut butter, banana, chia seeds, and fresh coconut flakes.

 

EPIC Bar

If you like beef jerky, you will definitely love Epic Bars. They have all kinds of meat and it’s all grass-fed and pasture raised. The cool thing about this brand is that they are very concerned with animal welfare standards involved in restoring grasslands throughout the globe. Although there are other grass-fed beef jerky’s out there, I really appreciate this company’s ethics. My favorite “jerky” is the chicken cranberry bar.

 

Paleo Passion Foods

Best granola, hands down. I don’t know what else to say. It needs to be ordered online, but hit me up for a promo code. It’s amazing and addicted. My favorite flavor is the maple, but they’re all good. If you’re going to try one thing off this list, try this granola.

 

Kitchfix

If you live in Chicago, you MUST try Kitchfix. It’s a restaurant with pre made meals and they have amazing paleo versions of lots of foods. One of my favorite meals is the paleo almond crusted chicken tenders with sweet potato wedges and primal kitchen foods ranch. They have everything in the actual store including kombucha, Primal Kitchen products such as collagen powder’s and dressings, rawmio chocolate, etc. Kitchfix also has their own brand of granola and it’s pretty damn good. Probably second place right after Paleo Passion Foods.

 

SnapKitchen

This place is extremely similar to Kitchfix, but they have more locations and less brand name items. Their meals are also extremely good. The options are endless, and you will seriously be amazed at all of the paleo options that they have.

 

Simple Mills

I love this brand because it makes baking Paleo recipes extremely easy and quick. Their pancake mix is absolutely amazing, but so is everything else. If you’re looking for a REALLY simple pancake recipe, check out my recipe for 2-Ingredient Paleo Banana Panackes. They have a chocolate cake mix, pumpkin bread, and lots more. They also have boxed cookies that are out of this world. My favorite are the pecan. They also make crackers and they’re honestly one of the best damn crackers I’ve ever had. The Rosemary one’s are my favorite, and the Sun Dried tomato crackers kind of taste like pizza goldfish in the best way possible.

Although the Simple Mills pancakes are my fave, these are my 2-ingredient Paleo Banana Pancakes topped with almond butter and strawberries.

 

Rawmio

My favorite product from this company (and quite honestly the only one I’ve tried) is the Hazlenut Spread. It’s literally a paleo version of Nutella but and it tastes better! They also have paleo chocolate that I’m sure is bomb but I have yet to try it. Check out my recipe for Rawmio Covered Strawberries.

 

Eating Evolved

Favorite paleo chocolate hands down. I feel the way about this chocolate that I do about Paleo Passion Foods Granola. The ingredients are amazingly insane, and the chocolate is sweetened with coconut sugar. Their Keto cups literally have 4 ingredients including MCT oil, (Medium Chain Triglyerides) which is a very healthy, fatty oil. The chocolate is kind of bitter, but I love having it with nut butter.

 

Made In Nature

Dried fruit is an awesome snack or treat to have on the Paleo diet. But, the problem is that a lot of companies pack refined sugar in their dried fruit. The Made in Nature brand is awesome because none of their dried fruit has sugar and it’s all organic. I was especially impressed with the dried cranberries, because I had the hardest time finding cranberries with no added sugar. Their cranberries are sweetened with apple juice which is pretty awesome. They also have a product called Figgy Pops and they’re such an awesome snack for on the go. My favorite Figgy Pops are the Choco Crunch variety.

Made in Nature dried cranberries.

Trader Joe’s

I went to Trader Joe’s the other day just to pick up my favorite nut butter and I was absolutely blown away. They have their own brand of grain-free granola, and delicious grass fed beef sticks. They have a lot of awesome, cheaper paleo options however, I am going to save all of my awesome finds for my blog post next week all about my favorite Trader Joe’s products.

 

If the Paleo diet interests you, try it out; but make sure it’s right for your body first. I would say to ask your doctor, but if you are in the Western Medical System they are probably going to think you’re crazy for thinking your diet can change your health (which is a whole other blog post about why I hate the Western Medical System). Personally, I think the Paleo diet can benefit anyone and everyone. If you have any health problems at all: leaky gut, IBS, acne, bloating, fatigue (literally anything) I challenge you to eat Paleo for 30 days and notice the changes in your body and mind. Or, maybe you just want to try to actively look for more Paleo recipes. Most of the recipes for sweets use cassava flour, coconut flour, almonds flour, or coconut sugar so be sure to buy a couple of those for baking. Even if you just change the oil that you cook with, that’s an awesome step. There are so many amazing Paleo creations out there, just do a Google search! My friend Christina, addictedtolovely, has loads of AMAZING Paleo recipes on her blog. Another blog I like to look at for Paleo desserts is rachlmansfield.com. I also have a couple Paleo recipes on my Eats page, so check that out as well. If you decide to eat Paleo, let me know!! I have lots of tricks up my sleeve and would love to be there for your awesome journey!

 

My most recent Paleo Dessert obsession: Paleo Blondies from rachlmansfield.com // I made them into little cupcakes instead and added fruit. They are made with coconut sugar and coconut flour and they are SO freaking good.


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