The paleo diet has slowly been gaining momentum over the course of the last few years. It has become a staple in the CrossFit community and among many athletes. Dr. Loren Cordain’s books provide you with some of the most fascinating scientific evidence why the Paleo Diet is effective, healthy and helps treat, if not cure some common lifestyle diseases known to modern humans but did not exist among our prehistoric ancestors. Rob Wolf has done a great job in teaching the general population, in lamens terms, about the paleo diet and the reasons it should be implemented into daily life. This blog post is not my way of preaching to you the value of the paleo diet, nor am I trying to convert you! I know many of you are vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan, etc for cultural, ethical and personal reasons which I completely respect. This post is for those of you, who would like try the paleo diet, live in an urban setting and have no idea where to start.
I think that eating the paleo way is the most basic and simple way to eat, however, without proper planning you’ll get bored with flavours and always reverting to your staple foods. The key then becomes to experiment with new foods, spices and mixtures. Furthermore, you don’t always have to cook “paleo” recipes. Most recipes can be modified to become paleo friendly.
So the basic principles of paleo are:
- no grains (that means, rice, wheat, barley, quinoa, etc.)
- no refined sugar
- no dairy (this seems to be the hardest one for most people, some paleo advocates allow for some butter from naturally raised, grass-fed cows)
- no beans, legumes, or soy
- meat and fish (should be naturally raised, not factory farmed, and fed a natural diet – cows aren’t supposed to eat corn)
- vegetables, lots and lots of veggies (try to eat seasonal, local vegetables from farmer’s markets when possible)
- fruit (in moderation due to high sugar content, try to eat seasonal/local fruit)
- nuts and seeds (peanuts and cashews are legumes)
- good fats (olive oil and coconut oil are my staples)
Ideally you want to shop at smaller shops that specialize in the desired foods. I’m lucky that I have a fantastic butcher in Kensington Market (Toronto) who sources all of his meat locally and it’s naturally raised. Although I’m not very adventurous when it comes to meat I do deviate from the typical chicken/beef/pork/lamb and try bison once in a while. There is a great fish shop around the corner too where you can get high quality, sashimi grade wild fish from sustainable sources. Fruit and veggies I do my best to go to the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings where some of the farmers grow their crops organically and if I can’t get organic I’ll get whatever I can from a local farm. My last trip is usually to a big-box grocery store to buy whatever I can’t find anywhere else. That’s how I generally go about my groceries… when you’re planning your initial trip you have to do some research and see what is available in your neighbourhood. Most urban cities have great variety but smaller towns it may be a bigger challenge. Below is my typical grocery trip, your’s may differ depending on what you like.
Meat (local butcher)
2 lbs of either grass-fed or local ground beef, depending on what he has
2-4 pork chops
1 chicken or 2 chicken breasts
2 steaks (tenderloin or flank)
2-4 pieces of fish (something different each week)
Veggies (farmer’s market, depends on what is seasonal)
Spinach, kale, lettuce, tomatoes, asparagus, peppers, cucumber, onions, avocado, broccoli, sweet potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms
Fruit (farmer’s market, depending on what is seasonal)
Berries, apples, bananas, peaches, pears
Coconut oil/olive oil
Almond milk/coconut milk
It seems pretty basic but that’s all you need. Once you have all of the ingredients it’s a matter experimenting with recipes. Some of my favourite sites for quick recipes are:
You can also simply convert many standard recipes by removing the ‘non-paleo’ items. For example, you can switch canola oil to olive oil, remove the pasta and add spaghetti squash. Finally, if you don’t have the option of shopping at a local butcher or farmer’s market and need to shop in a big-box grocery store you can still stick to most of these rules. Look for meats that are ‘naturally raised,’ try to get organic fruit and veggies. Do not buy pre-packaged meals, especially meats as they will contain all sorts of preservatives and chemicals that are often carcinogenic.
The Bottom Line
If you want to try the paleo diet, you have to be willing to cook. There is no way around this. Meal planning is very important as it’s easy to get lazy and ‘cheat.’ Try it for just one week and you will see how much better you will feel – more energy, better mental focus and your body will just simply feel ‘cleaner.’