© Taylor Kiser
Back in 2014, when the ‘clean eating’ trend swept through Instagram and foodies everywhere were swapping bagels for bilnis, another diet came to the fore: the paleo diet. And while ‘clean eating’ has been replaced by less regimented trends like intuitive eating, the paleo diet has remained a firm favourite among the wellness tribes.
Questions then: what is makes the paleo diet standout? Why is the PT behind the Victoria’s Secret models attributing their rock-hard abs and peachy glutes to this nutrition plan? Is the whole thing a dangerous fad or a sustainable way to eat?
While the CICO diet has received mixed reviews from dieters and dieticians, and the 5:2 diet has been labelled dangerous, the paleo diet has had positive backing from many nutritionists – and it has spurred on a wave of weight loss success stories.
It’s a simple concept – cut out all of the usual culprits like refined foods and trans fats, and your body will reap the rewards.
But before you whip up a shopping list and doodle Gigi Hadid at the top, take a read of exactly what a paleo diet entails, how and why it works, and who should give it a go.
Because if you’re really going to commit to cutting out cheese, you need to know why you’re doing it. Here’s everything you need to know in a little (paleo) nutshell.
Read: Louise Thompson On Intuitive Eating & Saying Yes To Pudding
What is the paleo diet?
The paleo diet principles are this: eat only all natural, whole ingredients like grass-fed meats, fruits, seasonal vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds. And eat as much as you like – there is no arduous measuring of ingredients like on other diets.
It focuses on a high-protein, low-carb pattern, although the paleo pros are quick to dismiss it as on par with a ketogenic diet because not all carbs are not eliminated. Complex carbs like sweet potato and butternut squash are acceptable, but in moderation.
Is the paleo diet the same as the caveman diet?
The paleo diet and the caveman diet are essentially the same pattern of eating, as they both stem from one very simple question: would a caveman eat it?
If the answer is yes, then it’s welcome in the paleo diet. Anything a caveman would hunt or gather is paleo friendly. Otherwise, it’s a no – which means avoiding your favourite spaghetti dinner spot.
Paleo diet rules
The paleo diet rules are simple, and using the caveman analogy is the easiest way to decide whether or not something is suitable to eat. Our ancestors weren’t washing down cheesey pasta with a can of Coke, so if you follow paleo, neither can you. Sorry.
The average paleo menu includes everything except grains, sugars and processed foods. And as mentioned, you don’t need to own electronic kitchen scales as you can consume as many paleo foods as you like.
Paleo food list
You can find a definitive list of paleo foods online, but if you’re looking for an overview before you take the leap, here’s an idea of what should be on your plate, and what needs to stay on the shelf at Sainsbury’s.
Foods you can eat on the paleo diet
- Grass-fed meats
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Olive, walnut, flaxseed, avocado or coconut oil
Foods you can’t eat on the paleo diet
- Cereal grains or legumes
- Refined sugar
- Sweets, processed or overly salty foods
- Refined vegetable oils
WH has plenty of paleo diet recipes if we’ve whet your appetitie. Whether you’re looking for a hearty paleo breakfast, a filling paleo lunch or a warming winter paleo dinner, do bookmark our library of recipes.
Best paleo diet breakfast recipes
A paleo diet breakfast can be both delicious and fuel your body for the day ahead, and if egg porn makes your morning you’ll find the transition over easy.
- Paleo All Day Breakfast
- Baked eggs en cocotte florentine-style recipe
- Egg and avocado pots recipe
Best paleo lunch ideas
Forget limp lettuce, because no one deserves a sad lunch. Take a look at these easy ways to jazz up what’s in your lunchbox:
- Kale crisps recipe
- Truffle roasted cauliflower recipe
- Slow cooked courgettes with basil and lemon
- Grilled asparagus with avocado salad
- Sardines wrapped in grape leaves with turnip green pesto and tomato salad
Best paleo dinner recipes
Lacking caveman culinary skills? Give these mouthwatering meals a go.
- Raw green curry with courgette noodles recipe
- Fish and kale creole recipe
- Mango chicken curry recipe
- Sauteed monkfish with green apple and fennel salad
Best paleo diet desserts
That’s right – following a paleo diet doesn’t mean you have to forgo after dinner treats. Nix your sugar cravings with these paleo desserts:
- Paleo chocolate cake recipe
- Raw carrot cake recipe
- Healthy key lime pie
- Chocolate and coconut cream raw cake
- Raw cinnamon rolls recipe
Should you follow the paleo diet plan?
Lovisa Nilsson, nutritionist at health and fitness app Lifesum, believes that the paleo diet can be used as part of a healthy lifestyle as long as you ensure that you’re eating a balanced diet.
“Paleo can help people develop healthy eating habits that revolve around clean, organic, natural, vitamin-rich products, so eliminating processed foods,” she says.
“Plus, the diet is high in protein and fibre, which are good for sustained energy and digestion.
“It’s undeniably an effective weight loss tool, although if you’re skipping grains and dairy, make sure you eat other things to get your calcium (try kale, garlic, asparagus and almonds), Vitamin D (salmon, tuna, mushrooms, eggs) and probiotics (microalgae and olives).”
Paleo benefits are claimed to include helping you lose fat, leaving you strong and full of energy as well as reducing your risk of conditions including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
However, it is worth bearing in mind that the British Dietetic Association named it as a celebrity diet to avoid in 2014, saying that while reducing sugar, salt and anything processed is good, cutting food groups isn’t.
Paleo diet for beginners
Lovisa advises that trying the paleo diet doesn’t have to mean sticking to it so rigidly that it starts having a negative impact on your lifestyle. If you’re struggling to keep going, then make adjustments so that it slots into your life, and don’t try and force it to work.
“If you find Paleo difficult to maintain in the long run, I advocate incorporating some of the clean food theories behind the diet but tailoring them to your lifestyle and body’s signals.”
Worried about keeping your Paleo diet up over Christmas? Take a look at the Best Healthy Christmas Paleo Recipes and give these Paleo Junk Food Sweet Potato Wedges a go.