What’s the Best Way to Go Paleo?
Before going Paleo, most people will do a ton of research online, searching for the absolute best way to go Paleo. We can’t blame them – making a radical change to your diet isn’t easy. What is easy, is deep diving, reading articles on how to do things the right way, but not actually doing anything. Don’t be like the people who make the mistake of knowing all about the Paleo lifestyle, but don’t ever apply it to their own lives. Fortunately, by the time you get that familiar with Paleo, you’ll be kicking yourself for every piece of bread and tablespoon of sugar that makes it into your diet.
Go all in or dip your toes in first?
The biggest thing that people get hung up on before making the switch, is whether they should just go full Paleo right from the start, or try to ease into it. Many people believe they will have a much easier time by just easing into it. So instead of going full Paleo, they will eat mostly Paleo foods, but still be eating bread or pasta with their meals.
While we definitely understand that taking things you love out of your diet entirely isn’t easy, it negates a lot of the positive benefits of Paleo if you’re still eating those things on a regular basis. While you might try to rationalize to yourself that a couple hundred calories from non-Paleo foods won’t completely destroy your diet (and you may be right about that), that isn’t the point. The point of Paleo is to eat clean, feel healthy, be able to digest things properly and reduce inflammation. If you continue to eat those less than optimal foods, even if they only make up 10-20% of your diet, then you won’t ever escape the harmful effects of those foods.
For that reason, our suggestion for the best way to go Paleo, is to just go all the way in, all at once. Cut out all grains, sugars, legumes and dairy and don’t look back. Don’t implement any cheat days in the beginning. We recommend doing a full month of eating absolutely nothing but fully approved Paleo foods. The reason for this, is you will be able to truly see the difference of how you feel when only eating these types of foods. You’ll be able to make a proper assessment of how well you react to the Paleo diet. Most people react very well to a Paleo lifestyle, after they get after that initial hump of being low carb.
If you contaminate the Paleo lifestyle by eating non-Paleo foods though, you’ll never be able to truly assess what it’s doing for you. You might be feeling off, and blame the Paleo lifestyle, when in reality it’s the non-Paleo food you’ve been eating that’s causing you to feel off. The only scientific way to assess how you react to Paleo is to go full Paleo and then make your assessment.
When is it OK to add in other non-Paleo foods?
Ideally, never. Many people can go full Paleo and never look back. They reap the benefits of extra energy, more focus and a feeling of mental clarity and wouldn’t trade that for breads and pizza. At the same time there are some people who might benefit from adding a couple of extra things back into their diet, or might want to take a less strict approach to Paleo.
In that case, we still highly recommend you go through an entire 30 days of 100% Paleo foods first. This will give your system a reset and you’ll be able to start fresh again with a clean slate. Then you can start slowly adding food groups back in and see how they affect you.
We will note though, that while different people have varying degrees of adherence to Paleo, there are some things that you simply shouldn’t introduce back into your diet. Gluten and most other grains are great examples of things you absolutely don’t need.
One of the first things people want to test with is dairy. Dairy is often controversial, since it comes from animals, and can be unprocessed in many situations. At the same time, more people have issues with lactose than they realize, and it isn’t until they cut it out entirely and then try to reintroduce it that they realize its full effect.
If you’ve been full Paleo for over 30 days, have a glass of milk – whole milk, not skim – and see how you feel. Did you get gassy? Bloated? Did you just feel off? Then you may have an issue with lactose and might want to avoid dairy entirely. If you don’t then you might be just fine with dairy. Many people follow a “Primal” rather than Paleo style of eating, which allows dairy, but never in huge amounts. If you do find that you react well to dairy, still make an effort to limit it.
Another thing some people will add back in is white rice. Even though rice is a grain, white rice is not nearly as dangerous as wheat or any of the other grains. Usually athletes will experiment with adding rice back into their diet, because they need the carbs and are getting sick of eating so many sweet potatoes. While sweet potatoes are much more nutritionally dense than rice, which has almost zero nutritional value, rice is still an OK way to get in more carbs and calories on heavy training days.
We recommend only adding in something like rice if you’re training hard, and you’re not currently trying to lose weight. If that sounds like you, and you’ve been full Paleo for the past 30 days, go ahead and give it a try and see how you feel. Having a huge dose of simple carbs like that might make you feel sluggish after, or it might help you recover from your workout. You never know until you try.