So, you have decided you want to try your hand at the paleo lifestyle, but you don’t know where to start? Well, it isn’t nearly as complicated as it may seem; contrary to popular belief, going paleo doesn’t mean that you have to be a miserable hermit who only eats meat and plant-based foods. Truthfully, with the proper amount of research, some creative recipes, and a little trial and error in the kitchen, you don’t really have to give up your favorite foods; you just need to re-invent them a little. Take a look at these 7 essential steps to switching to a paleo lifestyle.
1 Throw Out Unhealthy Food
The first step you need to take to start your paleo lifestyle is cleaning out your pantry! There is no need to keep temptation lingering around the house, office, car, etc. Grab a trash bag and a box of the things you can donate to the local food pantry. The majority of things in your pantry may be pretty easily spotted as non-paleo. But, for the rest, you need to read labels! I cannot express this enough. Reading labels will become your best friend and before long, you will have a great idea of what things you can and cannot have a simple glance.
Remember to keep in mind the simple paleo rules:
- Avoid grains, such as flour, bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, bagels, muffins, tortillas, chips, rice, quinoa, rye, oats, and buckwheat.
- Avoid dairy including milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, and whey protein powders.
- Avoid beans and legumes, meaning no soy in any form. This includes black beans, lentils, pinto beans, red beans, peanuts white beans, and garbanzo beans.
- Avoid most oils, especially those labeled vegetable oil. Instead, use coconut oil or organic olive oil.
- Avoid refined sugar and artificial sweeteners. This includes white sugar, corn syrup, malt syrup, Splenda, equal, and pretty much any other sweetener that is not 100% natural.
This list pretty much means you will be throwing out the majority of items in your pantry. If it is pre-packaged or pre-made, it is most likely not on the recommended eating list for a paleo lifestyle. Just be sure to check all of the labels just in case, many of the foods you have been eating as a healthy snack or healthy alternative, may not be so healthy once you glance at the label.
2 Buy High-Quality Ingredients
You wouldn’t believe how important it is to buy high-quality ingredients. This doesn’t just mean splurging on the “good olive oil” on occasion. Just like checking your labels to clean out your pantry, you will need to get in a good habit of checking labels on everything you buy. Eventually, this will get easier and you will have a routine of what you should and shouldn’t be buying. Shopping for high-quality ingredients isn’t about which item has the highest price tag or is imported. High quality in the paleo world means shopping for ingredients that are natural, have gone through minimal processing, organic, local, and raw.
- Source out as many local ingredients as you can, such as high quality meats and seafood, organic produce, organic honey, etc.
- Take a look at the health food department of your local grocery store and seek out natural organic ingredients.
- Shop online for the items you can’t find locally; just be sure to use a trusted source of reliable high-quality ingredients.
3 Plan Meals
Once you switch to a paleo lifestyle, a quick trip into town for take-out isn’t really going to fit the bill anymore. The truth is, you will be spending a lot of time eating at home. The best way to beat the weeknight rush is to plant ahead. This goes for breakfast, lunch, and snacks too. Convenience food is not your friend! There is nothing about rushing into a convenience store, vending machine, or drive through that will meet your paleo lifestyle needs. Planning ahead will save you from a huge mid-week headache.
Start out by cooking what you know. Eating paleo is as much about eating healthy as it is to getting back to simplicity. The simplest meal can be so very satisfying when it is made with fresh, well-sourced, and quality ingredients. Meal planning is a relatively common practice with so many people living hectic lives. Start with a chart, calendar, list, or whatever works best for you. Then get to sourcing out ideas! Blogs, Pinterest, and recipe books can all give you some great ideas and recipes to make paleo cooking your own.
No matter how you choose to plan out your paleo meals, it won’t take long for you to get the hang of it and it will come as natural as picking up that take out menu.
4 Have Snacks Ready
While it isn’t a requirement of your paleo diet to snack, most of us start searching for a snack at some point or another during the day or late evening. Obviously, most of the go-to snacks we have all come accustomed to grabbing from the pantry are off limits. But, that doesn’t mean you have to give up your daily snack altogether; you just need to switch it out for a healthier, paleo option. Try some of these simple switches:
- If you normally go for a sweet snack, try going with a naturally sweet fruit. While fruits are still high in sugar, they are natural sugars that are good in moderation. Eating a hand full of fruit is the simplest switch, but possibly boring to some. With a little effort, there are other options, such as homemade fruit leather, pure dark chocolate, homemade fruit popsicles, etc.
- For a savory snack substitute, some popular options are nuts, baked zucchini chips, homemade trail mix, hardboiled egg, homemade beef jerky, etc.
- Some other simple options are the old faithful ones like baby carrots, cucumber slices, grape tomatoes, and other fresh produce picks.
You should also be prepared to pack snacks. When you pack your lunch for work, throw in a small snack, just in case. You never know when hunger will hit, especially early on when you are adjusting to the paleo lifestyle. The last thing you want is the 4 o’clock temptations of the snack machine at work.
5 Go for simple
Making an entire lifestyle change most likely sounds like anything but easy. But keeping things simple will make the process go so much smoother. Overthinking is not your friend; do the research that you need to, come up with a plan, and do your best to stick to it. Switching the things that you love out for paleo versions is just as much a part of keeping things simple as anything else. Start out by making the simplest changes that you can, without overwhelming yourself.
To begin with, you may find it easier to gradually introduce paleo into your life. For instance, cook a few paleo dinners a week instead of making the huge switch all at once. Gradually change out more and more meals until you are comfortable enough to clean out your pantry and switch over every meal to paleo. Keep things simple and ease yourself into your new paleo lifestyle.
When switching to a completely new lifestyle, stress and anxiety can be key factors in the make it or break it factor. Don’t push yourself too hard and remember that taking your time will best suit your dietary needs in the long run. Keeping things simple also applies to new recipes. Fresh high-quality ingredients can do the work for you with simple and easy applications that are sure to prove that simple can be amazing.
6 Make meals in batches (leftovers are your best friend)
Any kind of cooking for only one or two people is, well, daunting. But it can also be a huge advantage. Think of it this way; the more you cook on Monday night, the more leftovers you have to eat during the week. You may be thinking, yuck! The same meal all week long, but different variations on one simple dish can make life easier in the long run. Plus, lunches and snacks can all be easily accommodated with leftovers.
There are several options when it comes to cooking meals in batches, whether you are looking to feed a house full or make meals last longer, all of these options can easily be adjusted to suit your needs.
- A slow cooker can be your best friend! Slow cooker meals are an easy fix and with the proper ingredients, can make your week easier. Meat is the easiest thing to cook to last. For example, cook a large cut of meat with simple seasonings that can be used for many different things.
- Grilling is another great option! If you are already planning to fire up the grill on the weekend, then what is the harm in throwing on a few extra cuts of meat that you can heat up or use in salads during the week.
- Meat isn’t the only make-ahead option; vegetables can last just as well. Try cooking your favorite side dish in bulk and using it in as many ways as you can for a few days. You can also prep uncooked veggies in advance to make weeknight cooking easy. Even salads can be prepped and stored in individual containers for easy grab and go access.
- Another extremely popular option is to pre-assemble meals and freezes them. Some people spend their entire Sunday prepping and cooking in bulk to last an entire week.
7 Do It With A Friend or Family Member
Doing things in pairs can help ease the stress and anxiety of going it alone and making such a huge life transition. If you are attempting to make a lifestyle change with a house full of not so eager participants, buddying up with someone can help. Even if you can’t find anyone in your house to convince of your lifestyle endeavor, you can always go with someone outside of your household or convince a friend to go it with you. It isn’t just about having someone to say is going paleo with you, it is about having a support system. Lean on one another when things are feeling a little tough or buddy up to create the perfect paleo meal plan to ease the transition.
If you have tried without much luck to find a paleo lifestyle partner, you could also seek out a paleo support group. You won’t have as much of the one on one experience that you could have with a family member or friend; but it would give you the companionship that you could use to get you through the tough times, you know when the sugary snacks are calling your name. Regardless of whether you need someone to swap recipes with, meal plan with, or just have a paleo centered conversation; having a partner will ease the pressure and anxiety, thus making it a much smoother transition into your new paleo lifestyle.