Salad Menu - The Paleo Diet: What Is It, and Is It for You?

paleo diet

I have been hearing a lot about the Paleo diet lately, and wanted to find out more about it. To do that, I signed up for a store event in one of Portland, Oregon’s natural stores. The event was specifically designed for people who want to learn more about the paleo diet. The event consisted of an hour and half long class with a certified nutritionist who walks around the store, showing and explaining the different kinds of foods that people on the Paleo diet eat. 

I learned a lot of interesting facts from that evening and from my own research. I’d like to share them in this post and give my general opinion of the Paleo diet. 

First off, what is the Paleo diet and why do people eat this way? 

The Paleo diet, sometimes called the “caveman diet”, really isn’t a diet in the way that word is often used (think food deprivation). Most followers of the Paleo diet view it as more of a lifestyle change in which they consume the types of foods that early humans presumably ate. In particular—foods available before animals were domesticated and farming began.

People go on the Paleo diet because, as one of my favorite recipe sites, nomnompaleo.com notes: the Paleo diet “is based on the notion that for optimal health, modern humans should go back to eating real, whole unprocessed foods that are more healthful than harmful for our bodies.”

In reality, we can’t eat exactly as our ancestors ate. But we can come close. Modern Paleo-inspired diets generally include pasture-fed meat, wild fish, non-starchy vegetables, additional fats, along with some fruits, nuts and seeds. 

How do you know what foods are ok to eat while on Paleo diet?

Because the Paleo diet consists of food that our ancient ancestors ate, it focuses on eating foods that come straight from the earth. Those early ancestors didn’t have livestock or crops, so any meat they ate would be free range and antibiotic-free. Any fruits or vegetables would organic. That’s why whenever possible, people on the paleo diet often buy grass-fed meat, along with organic fruits, vegetables, oils, and nuts. This limits their exposure to pesticides, antibiotics, and other chemicals that didn't exist back in the Paleolithic era.

Here’s a brief list that gives a good idea of what you can eat on the Paleo diet:

  • Grass-fed meat
  • Wild-caught fish/seafood
  • Eggs
  • Fresh fruits
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Spices
  • Herbs
  • Healthy fats and oils (olive, walnut, flashed, avocado, coconut) 
  • Nuts (sprouted are best) 
  • Seeds (sprouted are best) 
  • Maple syrup
  • Hemp hearts
  • Cocoa

When possible, people on the Paleo diet try to buy organic and local. Some grocery stores now even include a small Paleo section, which includes some snacks and salad dressings. 

Foods to avoid when on the Paleo diet

The Paleo diet tends to avoid foods that cause inflammation and that derail our natural metabolic process. These foods are viewed as foods that are toxic to our body. Typically, anything that comes in a box, jar, or bag should be avoided—our ancient ancestors simply did not consume processed foods. 

Here’s a short list of foods that aren’t part of a Paleo diet: 

  • Refined sugar
  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Legumes
  • Soy
  • Beans
  • Grains
  • Alcohol
  • Potatoes 
  • Processed foods
  • Candy/junk food 
  • Peanuts 
  • Sweet juices
  • Starchy foods

Is the Paleo diet for you? 

The benefits of the Paleo diet have not been proven, but to me, this diet seems like a great starting point for people who want to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Food should be enjoyable, and the way you eat—your diet—should not make you feel deprived. Instead, your diet should consist of tasty, nourishing, and nutrient-dense foods that you look forward to eating. This is the only way to make sustainable dietary changes that support good health. To me, the Paleo diet has all these qualities. 

I actually have a great recipe that meets all the Paleo diet criteria. Go Paleo for a lunch or dinner with my Eggplant spread.