If you are wondering what I mean when I talk about paleo or what it means to me, you have come to right page!
In a nutshell, paleo is choosing to eat foods and moving our bodies for optimum health. We are omnivores by design (to eat whatever we need to survive) and the only food truly “designed” for human consumption is human breast milk. Anything else we eat is a choice and was designed to serve a purpose for the plant or animal it came from.
Paleo is a framework for decisions we make, not just a “diet” to follow. If done correctly, there is no one perfect paleo “diet”, because the idea is to eat and move based on what is best for YOU.
These guys gave a really good talk about this framework:
It means reducing our reliance on pills and potions by using nutrient dense foods to keep our bodies healthy.
You will see plenty of headlines about science saying this and science saying that, it is enough to make you crazy and wonder if ANYTHING is safe to eat! The important thing to know is that we are still learning more and more about food every day and to just do the best you can. Trust your gut, I say.
Take me for example. No one would argue that tomatoes are a healthy food. However, when I eat them it causes inflammation because it is a nightshade so I have chosen to avoid them.
But what SHOULD you eat?
You can start with a template like you might find at Whole 30 (very strict) and then experiment based on how you feel when you eat certain foods. You can read all about how to follow a paleo lifestyle has helped people reduce and control or eliminate all together things like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and skin and autoimmune issues and their dependence on medications for these ailments.
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Here are the basics I feel are important to know:
- Fuel yourself with nutrient dense foods like vegetables and fruit, grass fed meats and high quality fish, and healthy oils and fats.
- Reduce low nutrient (and often inflammation causing) foods like grains and legumes (including soy and peanuts), highly processed oils, dairy, added sugar, and artificial anything. If you see a reference to a “primal” diet, it usually means paleo+high quality dairy (raw, grass fed).
- Don’t count calories or weigh yourself.
- Reduce stress through 8 hours of sleep, moderate (organic) exercise*, meditation and a slower paced lifestyle.
- Play and spend lots of time outdoors!
I also try to stick a few of Michael Pollen’s Food Rules (adapted):
- Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food
- Avoid foods containing ingredients you wouldn’t keep in your pantry.
- Avoid food products with more than 5 Ingredients.
- Avoid anything “lite”, “low-fat” or “non-fat”
- Avoid food you see on television.
- Shop around the walls of the grocery store, avoid the middle.
- Eat mostly plants.
- Eat your colors.
- Eat animals that have eaten well themselves (most animals do not do well eating grain, just like us).
- Eat all the junk food you want as long as you make it yourself.
I do my best to eat whole foods and avoid highly processed products. I try to eat like my ancestors may have: “old school”. The Weston Price Foundation is a good source for this.
Side note: you can probably tell how “old school” I am from the pictures. Although I love my Pinterest, I still use the library and enjoy reading actual books.
I make a lot of my own food, but more and more companies are moving away from artificial ingredients and making food with names you recognize and ingredients you can trust for when you need the convenience.
I do also supplement with Vitamin D (our poor little sun here in the PNW only makes it June-August) and probiotics (I go for things like sauerkraut first). I use a magnesium oil at night to help with sleep. During high hike season, I use an electrolyte drink (ULTIMA) and supplement with potassium and Vitamin C.
I am in no way perfect or 100% when it comes to eating healthy. Every once in awhile I enjoy homemade popcorn with grass fed butter knowing I just might not feel my best the next day. You will hear me talk about eating high quality (raw, grass fed, organic) sources of dairy on occasion. And I don’t sweat it when I eat rice at times on the trail. You can read why HERE.
I try not to adhere to dogma and you are just as likely to see me gleaning info from pages like The World’s Healthiest Foods or The Nourishing Cook. There are also variations on paleo in books like The Perfect Health Diet and Primal Body, Primal Mind that really talk about the science behind what food does in and for our bodies.
I hope that if you are interested in eating for health and finding out what is best for YOU, rather than what convention wisdom (and the food industry) has been telling us in the last 65 years that you will consider giving a paleo lifestyle a try. It isn’t the easiest route, but it definitely is a worthwhile one for your health.
*What do I mean by organic exercise? It means exercise that occurs when doing every day activities or being outdoors, not the treadmill or lifting iron weights (alternatives when you can’t do the organic stuff). Check out MovNat or Parkour for more information and ideas!
Find out more about how I “do” paleo on and off the trail on the following pages: