The Ultimate Guide To The Paleo Diet

If you want to be slim and trim while eating like your ancient ancestors, the Paleo diet has some pointers for you. The Paleo diet is based on the premise that our bodies are designed to process whole foods rather than the processed foods of today. And if you eat that way, you’ll naturally trim down to a lower and healthier weight and live a healthier lifestyle.

The diet requires you to cut out everything that is processed. That can be highly restrictive for most people as a lot of foods require some processing to make them consumable. However, you can follow Paleo principles without having to be so hard on yourself.

At Fitmate we encourage a modified form of the diet that will keep you full. You can do that by consuming minimally processed foods that are full of fiber and protein. Not only will these foods keep you full, but they’ll also prevent overeating and cravings and help you lose weight. The best type of diet is the kind that you can stick to and with a few changes, you’ll be able to stick to the Paleo diet too.

What Is The Paleo Diet?

The Paleo diet is modeled off the hunter and gatherer eating patterns of our Paleolithic ancestors. The diet is also known as the “caveman” or “Stone Age” diet.

The Paleo diet centers around eating whole foods that can be hunted or gathered in nature, such as meat, fruits, and vegetables. the diet eliminates foods that are a result of modern-day agriculture and processing, such as grains, dairy, and packaged snacks.

Essentially, what is Paleo diet approved is what you can find in nature and eat as is or with minimal amounts of cooking.

How Does The Paleo Diet Work?

The thinking behind the Paleo diet, known as the evolutionary discordance theory is that humans are genetically coded to survive and thrive on ancestral foods. Modern grocery stores are full of food that simply don’t fit our blueprint.

By including only the foods that could once be hunted and gathered, the Paleo diet encourages the consumption of nutrient-dense foods. The creators and followers of the Paleo diet believe processed foods and modern farmed foods, like whole grains and dairy, are not nutritious. They believe these foods contribute to chronic illnesses, such as obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.

By replacing these foods with wholesome and natural options, you may lose weight and improve overall health. However, these benefits are not unique to the Paleo diet. Other popular diets that focus on high protein and fiber foods like the Mediterranean diet have also been scientifically proven to support weight loss and decrease the risk of chronic disease.

Whole Foods are Encouraged on the Paleo Diet

What Food Should You Eat On The Paleo Diet?

The Paleo diet food list contains whole foods, which are single-ingredient foods that are minimally changed from the form they are found in nature.

Some Paleo diet followers have expanded on this Paleo food list and also allow some modified foods.


Atkins Foods Non-Atkins Foods
 Meat - beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, pork  Sugary foods and drinks - soda,   juice, cake, candy, ice cream   cookies
 Fish and shellfish  Grains - wheat, rye  barley, rice
 Eggs  Trans fats - called hydrogenated,   partially hydrogenated fat 
 Low-carb vegetables - kale, spinach, broccoli,   asparagus  High-carb vegetables - carrots,   turnips (for first two weeks)
 Full-fat dairy - butter,   cheese, cream, full-fat   yogurt  Starches - potatoes and sweet   potatoes (first two weeks only)
 Nuts and seeds  Legumes (first two weeks only)
 Legumes (after first 2 weeks)  
 Healthy fats - olive oil, coconut oil, olives,   avocado  
Stay away from processed food on the Paleo Diet.

Foods To Avoid On The Paleo Diet

The main foods not included in the Paleo diet are dairy, grains, legumes, and processed foods. Here’s a closer look at what’s included in each category.

Foods to Avoid
Dairy Grains Grain Products Legumes Processed Foods
 Milk  Wheat  Bread  Beans Processed foods such as granola bars, crackers, pretzels, and chips
 Cheese  Oats  Bagels  Lentils Processed, cured, and smoked meats like bacon, ham, hot dogs, sausage, and lunch meats
 Cottage Cheese  Rice  Muffins  Peas Most condiments, including salad dressings, margarine, barbeque sauce, mayonnaise, and soy sauce
 Yogurt  Rye  Cereals  Soybeans Vegetable oils such as sunflower, soybean, safflower, cottonseed, and corn oils
 Sour Cream  Spelt  Oatmeal  Peanuts Any product containing trans fats, which is denoted by any oil labeled “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” on the ingredient list
 Ice Cream  Barley  Grits   Soft drinks and fruit juice
   Farro  Pasta   Table sugar
   Corn  Tortillas   Sweets made with refined sugar, such as cake, cookies, candy, donuts
     Popcorn   Artificial sweeteners
        High-fructose corn syrup

Pros Of The Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet focuses on consuming healthy foods like lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. It discourages the eating of processed foods, sugary foods, and refined grain products. These are important components of a healthy diet and can help you lose weight fast.

Animal proteins, nuts, and seeds are good sources of protein. Protein fills you up more than refined carbohydrates so you’re less likely to overeat and more likely to stay full between meals. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are good sources of fiber, which move slowly through the digestive system and also help keep you feeling full.

Eating more fiber and protein-rich foods and fewer processed foods can give you more energy and support weight loss as they are filling. While on the other hand processed foods like refined carbs can do the opposite as they are not filling and lead to overeating and cravings.

The Paleo diet may also support a healthy heart and balanced blood sugar levels since it does not include unhealthy fats or refined carbohydrates.

Cons Of The Paleo Diet

In its purest form, the Paleo diet is restrictive. It eliminates food groups that are typically considered healthy, which may set you up for nutrient deficiencies. For example, whole grains and legumes are generally affordable and good sources of fiber and plant-based protein but are not allowed on Paleo. Dairy products are also not allowed and yet they are good sources of protein and calcium.

The Paleo diet can also be expensive to follow. Wild-caught, pastured, and grass-fed animal products may be the healthiest versions you can buy, but they’re also the priciest. Most of the food you eat on the Paleo diet needs to be freshly prepared so followers need to devote time for meal planning, shopping, and cooking.

The Paleo diet doesn’t offer guidelines around portion control, the timing of meals, or which foods to combine to keep hunger at bay. For optimal weight loss results, you should be focusing not only on healthy food choices but also on including protein and fiber at each meal to keep you full.

If you don’t like animal foods, you won’t be able to follow the Paleo diet. There are no vegetarian or vegan options and plant-based staples, like whole grains and beans, are a no-no.

The Paleo diet allows for fruits and nuts.

Paleo Alternatives

Whole30

Whole30 is a 30-day program that focuses on whole foods and eliminates certain foods believed to contribute to poor health and weight gain.

What you can and can’t eat on Whole30 is similar to the Paleo diet plan.

Whole30
Whole30 Foods Non-Whole30 Foods
Vegetables Grains (e.g. wheat, rice, corn)
Fruits Grain Products (e.g. bread, pasta, pretzel)
Unprocessed meat, poultry, pork and seafood Dairy
Nuts and seeds Legumes
Eggs Sugar
Healthy fats Natural and artificial sweeteners
Black coffee Processed foods
  Alcohol

The Whole30 plan is designed to help you lose weight, improve digestion, decrease inflammation, and identify food sensitivities and intolerances.

Many people report feeling better after eliminating the above foods and continue this way of eating beyond the initial 30 days. However, the Whole30 diet is quite restrictive. It can leave some people feeling deprived and you may end up eliminating foods that you do not need to avoid.

Like the Paleo diet, the focus with Whole30 is on what you eat and not how much you eat. While the allowed foods are generally healthy, neither of these diets will result in weight loss if you’re consuming more calories than your body burns.

To lose weight, you need to eat healthy foods that are filling. Filling foods include fiber and protein, which keep your appetite in check and help reduce calorie consumption. The combination of those things helps you lose weight.

CICO

CICO or Calories In, Calories Out is a diet that focuses on eating within a calorie deficit to promote weight loss. A calorie deficit means you eat fewer calories than your body burns.

CICO doesn’t eliminate any foods, so technically you can eat anything you’d like as long as your total daily calorie intake is less than what your body burns.

The CICO diet requires you to count calories, which means measuring your portion sizes to get an accurate calorie count. This level of record keeping and personal accountability isn’t the best diet match for most people. Eating fewer calories than you burn is one of the key principles for successful weight loss. However, the lack of direction as to what to eat is a major downside to CICO.

If you only count calories without also focusing on eating the right foods, you’ll likely feel hungry throughout the day, have cravings, and struggle to eat within your calorie limit.

Eating a Paleo diet may help you reduce calories without having to track them, but at the cost of eliminating many healthy foods.

Rather than eliminating foods instead focus on including protein, fiber, and a bit of healthy fat each time you eat. Modifying the CICO concept by purposefully including meals and snacks packed with protein and fiber can make the diet easier while helping you to lose weight.

Choosing The Right Diet For Weight Loss

The Paleo diet focuses on nutrient-dense foods, however, it restricts a lot of other foods like whole grains, legumes, and dairy. These foods are good sources of protein and fiber, which means eliminating them may not be the best for your weight loss diet.

In fact, any diet that is too restrictive is not going to be a good diet for you. Rather, it is best to modify diets to suit your needs and lifestyle. A good rule of thumb is to always include foods that are filling. Filling foods are those with healthy fibers and proteins.

Foods that include those things keep you full so you aren’t triggered to overeat or get into your cravings. Just eliminating those two possibilities can have a massive impact on your weight loss capabilities.

To find the best diet for your needs, take the Fitmate quiz. A Fitmate health coach can provide education, accountability, and an individualized weight loss plan that gets you results without giving up the foods you don’t want to live without.

FAQs

What Is the Difference Between Paleo and Keto?

There are two main differences between the Paleo and Keto diets. The core principle of the Keto diet is eating a certain balance of macronutrients, whereas the Paleo diet doesn’t specify how much of each macronutrient you need to consume.

The macronutrient breakdown on a Keto diet is high in fat, moderate in protein, and low in carbohydrates. This macronutrient ratio is intended to put the body into ketosis, which makes your body burn fat for fuel.

These two diets also differ in which foods are restricted or avoided. The Keto diet allows processed, cured, and smoked meats, like hot dogs, bacon, salami, sausage, and lunch meats. These foods would not be eaten on a Paleo diet, which encourages consumption of unprocessed and grass-fed meat and poultry.

Most dairy products, as long as they are low in added sugars, can be included on a Keto diet. No dairy is consumed on a Paleo diet. A Paleo diet encourages more fruits and vegetables than a Keto diet. Starchy veggies, like white potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and corn, are included on a Paleo diet but eliminated on a Keto diet. Small amounts of low-sugar fruit, such as berries, might be eaten on a Keto diet.

Sugar-free sweeteners are acceptable on a Keto diet but not on Paleo as they are processed. Natural sweeteners, like honey and maple syrup, can fit in moderation on a Paleo diet, but these items still contain sugar and carbohydrates so they are eliminated on a Keto diet.

What Foods Are Paleo?

The Paleo diet includes foods that are believed to have been eaten by our ancestors. It focuses on single-ingredient foods that were once hunted or gathered by humans. Grains, legumes, and processed foods (think: snacks, sweets, and soft drinks) are not eaten on a Paleo diet.

Meat, poultry, seafood, nuts, seeds, healthy fats like nut oils, vegetables, fruit, and natural sweeteners are given the green light on the Paleo diet.

Why Are Legumes Not Paleo?

Legumes refer to a category of plants that includes beans, peas, lentils, soybeans, and peanuts. They contain compounds that are labeled anti-nutrients because they are not digested by humans. These compounds are also found in many grains and include lectins, phytic acid, and saponins.

Paleo advocates believe these anti-nutrients contribute to poor health. Lectins and saponins are believed to cause chronic inflammation, damage the lining of the small intestine contribute to increased intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut syndrome), and trigger autoimmune conditions.

Phytic acid binds to minerals, such as iron, magnesium, and calcium, in the intestine and interferes with their absorption. That means you absorb less of these nutrients from your food.

How Do You Start the Paleo Diet Plan?

The Paleo diet may seem easy to follow once you understand which foods to eat and which foods to avoid. However, putting the Paleo diet into action requires a lot of planning and preparation since you’ll need to keep an abundance of fresh foods on hand and prepare them yourself.

The first thing to do is to familiarize yourself with the Paleo food lists. Then, you’ll want to take an inventory of your kitchen and pantry, read food labels, and dispose of products that are way off of Paleo eating guidelines.

You’ll need to create a Paleo meal plan for several days or weeks at a time and purchase the ingredients you need for each meal and snack. You may need to acquire new Paleo-approved recipes and/or familiarize yourself with new cooking methods.

You don’t have to dive all in when you start a new diet, in fact, starting out gradually is best. Additionally, don’t be too restrictive. Food is meant to be enjoyed and you are meant to feel satiated so remember to include high fiber and high protein foods in your plan. They will help you lose weight and maintain it.

All that being said, starting a new approach to eating and overhauling your diet can be overwhelming. Our Fitmate coaches can make it a little easier by helping you create a modified plan that works for your life. Take our Fitmate quiz and find out how our coaches can help you create the perfect weight loss plan.