When people find out that I follow a paleo lifestyle, there is one question that is very often asked: “How did you start? And how can I start a paleo diet?” It’s a simple enough question, but one that I often struggle to answer.
You see, how one starts a paleo diet is dependent on so many factors, from the person’s current eating habits and overall health, medical history and activity level, to their reasons for beginning a paleo lifestyle.
If you’re doing it to treat a medical condition, I’d definitely recommend seeking the advice of a holistic medicine doctor or nutritional therapy practitioner for a professional opinion. But if you’re looking to improve your overall health, lose some weight or just get closer to real, local food, then try out my tips below for a smooth transition to a paleo diet.
1. Clean out your pantry. When you’re planning on changing your diet, you won’t be successful if you don’t also change the food that is in your house. You can shop at all the farmer’s markets in the world, but if you have cookies, chips and candy in your pantry, it highly unlikely you’ll choose asparagus over the processed junk. So go through your pantry and get rid of anything that has ingredients you can’t pronounce or identify, ditch anything with lots added sugar and get rid of the rice, pasta and traditional flours.
2. Hone your cooking skills (and tools!). If you’re going to be tossing the processed foods in your home, you’re going to need to do a lot more cooking. I’m not suggesting you’ll need to make complicated meals, but you won’t just be boiling pasta any more. So make sure your knives are sharp, invest in some good pans, and then head to YouTube. There are tons of great cooking demos you can find online to about roasting, sauteing, boiling, scrambling, flambe-ing and basically any other cooking term you can think of. Sharpen your skills and you’ll feel confident to begin cooking more meals at home.
3. Find replacements for your favorite traditional foods. While some may find success going completely cold-turkey into a paleo diet, that kind of drastic lifestyle change just isn’t for everyone. Just because you’re no longer going to be eating sandwiches and pasta doesn’t mean you have to move away from your favorite meals all together. Love spaghetti and meatballs? Learn to make spaghetti squash and meatballs. Love chicken and rice? Try some cauliflower rice? Are sandwiches a lunch time staple? Stuff a lettuce leaf full of your favorite clean meats and veggies. If you’re feeling really adventurous in the kitchen, you could even try making some plantain tortillas for tacos or some grain-free biscuits to eat with breakfast. As time goes on, try branching out from some of these replacement foods and try some new things.
4. Don’t be afraid to go slow. Just because you have the motivation to change your life doesn’t mean you’re a super hero. It’s not easy to completely change the way you eat, so don’t be afraid to change slowly. I waited 8 months before cutting out dairy because I couldn’t handle another change to my diet. And guess what? I still lost weight, I still improved my health and I still felt great. I didn’t beat myself up about it either, I went at my own pace and as a result, I was able to successfully made a lifestyle change I know will be life-long. Go too fast, and you may find yourself falling back into your old habits.
5. Find your tribe. Making a major diet and lifestyle change is a lonely road if you try to go it alone. So try to get your family on board, or find a friend interested in changing their health. While you can’t expect everyone in your life to jump on board the real food, primal train, you’re likely to find someone who wants to join you on this journey. If you can’t find a friend or family member to join you, head online. There are tons of Facebook groups and online paleo forums where you can find a virtual support group. Try a nutrition workshop at a local gym, or head to a paleo book signing nearby. Chat with some of the other people in attendance, and you just might find a new friend who can be a support for you during this transition.
Looking for more great tips? Check out the infographic below from Paleo Living Magazine on what to eat on a paleo diet to start stocking your fridge and pantry with delicious, whole foods. Like what you see? Check out Paleo Living Magazine for more great resources! Visit us to find out more about what to eat on a Paleo diet.
Have you already transitioned to a paleo lifestyle? Share your best tips in the comment section below. Have more questions? Share those, too!