My last post explained a little about how I’ve been dabbling in the Paleo diet world and really enjoying it. I used to think that eating Paleo was DUMB. I’m not a caveman; and their life expectancy wasn’t so hot. So why should I eliminate my beloved Greek yogurt just because cavemen hadn’t tamed a cow yet?
Fast forward a couple years of testing various eating styles and learning more about nutrition… I’ve realized that you can create your own diet. I don’t have to follow someone else’s list; I can gather the knowledge, test the parameters, and make my own perfect diet. This second time around approaching Paleo, I’ve made some personal choices about my food that aren’t exactly Paleo. I’ve been calling this Paleo-ish. I think the correct term for it might be “primal.” Whatever it is, it works for me, so I do it. I’m not trying to sell you on a set diet, but you might get some ideas for your own personal eating plan…
What is Paleo?
Just in case you’re new to this, the Paleo diet is based on a theory that our bodies are made to process the foods that our Paleolithic ancestors once hunted and gathered. The Paleolithic period was prior to farming, processing, and certainly manufacturing. Ergo, we are healthier avoiding anything that couldn’t be hunted or gathered. TBH, I’m not sure I buy this completely as I have much better health than Nelda the Neanderthal did. But I can get on board with the unprocessed, real food angle. I’ve heard enough of the science to realize that some “food” isn’t actually food. Without going too much into the weeds, I can recommend the following resources (some free) to begin educating yourself to make your own decisions:
Strict Versus ‘Ish’
This is where the Paleo police attempt to arrest and publicly flog me. Whatevs. You do you, boo.
I like to start with what you CAN eat. Put on your positive pants. In general, Paleo means you are eating a LOT of:
- Fruit, especially berries
- Vegetables, except for nightshades
- Sweet potatoes, in moderation
- Nuts and seeds
- Healthy fats: Animal fats, coconut, olive, avocado, flaxseed, grassfed butter
If you are doing ‘strict’ Paleo, you eliminate the following from your diet:
- All grains
- Legumes (beans, soy, peanuts)
- All dairy, except for grassfed butter
- Sugar, including honey or maple syrup
- Nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, white potatoes)
Don’t freak. I’m NOT telling you chocolate is never going to pass your lips again. I have chocolate daily.
That elimination list above is what you START with, especially if you have gut issues or auto-immune disease symptoms. If you’ve never tested yourself before, you should go strict for at least a couple weeks, maybe even a month if you’ve got health issues. Then, you slowly add things back in, one at a time, to test if you have an allergy or sensitivity to it.
So what does my food list look like? Most days, it resembles…
My additions of the fermented dairy, occasional white potatoes, and Shakeology push my Paleo diet into the -ISH realm. My occasional dark chocolate (70%) is also not Paleo. I also eat fresh green beans and baby peas, but Mark’s Daily Apple considers these Paleo/Primal as they are technically seeds when picked and eaten fresh. Regardless, these items are still clean and make it possible for me to actually stick to and enjoy my eating plan. Sanity matters, people.
Adapting the 21 Day Fix to Paleo (ish)
The 21 Day Fix color-coded containers are still an amazing way to ensure you are eating a balanced, healthy diet. It already limits processed food and encourages you to eat lots of good vegetables, fruits, and protein. You can still follow the plan according to your calorie level (which you calculate based on your current weight, activity level, and goals). You simply adjust the approved foods to match your version of Paleo, or Paleo(ish) in my case.
A couple notes about this graphic:
- The foods are listed in order of most beneficial/compliant to least beneficial/compliant. For example, in the blue container group, avocado would be preferable over aged cheeses if I’m trying to choose between the two. Let’s be honest though; I usually eat both.
- I didn’t include the serving size guidelines here, so you’ll want to investigate that if it’s not something that readily smushes into the container. Example: 1/2 banana = 1 purple container.
As for the number of containers of each, you either follow the plan, or dabble a bit on your own. My dabbling has led me to eat a little less of the yellow and purple, keep my purple to berries mostly, and have a little more of the blue, orange, and gray (teaspoons). This leads me to a lower carb, higher fat macro ratio, which agrees with me. My container count looks more like…
Full Disclosure: I’m not measuring out everything I eat. But this is generally what a day would look like if I went back and measured it all out.
I’ve been using the 21 Day Fix containers long enough that I’ve learned what portion sizes need to look like. Can we say NSV (non-scale victory)? That’s a major benefit of learning to eat with the containers. I also naturally think of meals in balanced portions when I make my plate. I’m searching for protein and vegetables, with a little starch on the side if it’s available. I think of snacks as fruit, nuts, and healthy fats. This has truly been a mental shift that has led to a big lifestyle change for the better.