This article is reviewed by a team of registered dietitians and medical doctors with extensive, practical clinical and public health experience.
A 14-Day Paleo Diet For Beginners: Guide & Meal Plan
The Paleo diet is often described simply as the “hunter-gatherer diet” or the “Stone Age diet”. The term is unceremonious – what exactly does it refer to?
The back-to-basics mentality behind the Paleo diet is fraught with controversy, but many die-hard devotees swear by this lifestyle. Is the Paleo diet right for you? If so, what should you be eating and what should you be avoiding?
What Is The Paleo Diet?
The popular notion behind the Paleo diet is that we should try to avoid processed foods or anything that our caveman ancestors would not be eating as a part of their own Paleolithic diets.
The basic principles of Paleo eating include:
- Choosing whole foods and recognizing them as a superior source of fuel
- The rejection of processed, factory-made, nutritionless commercial food
- The desire to give the human body food that it is naturally inclined to thrive off of
Benefits of the Paleo Diet
Some of the clinically-demonstrated benefits of the Paleo diet include the following:
More Effective Weight Loss
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a long-term commitment, either. This study on fourteen healthy volunteers found that a Paleo diet meal plan helped them lose weight over only the course of three weeks.
A Paleo lifestyle has been shown to improve glucose tolerance and improve insulin sensitivity in diabetics.
Protection Against Heart Disease
The Paleolithic diet has also been suggested to be heart-healthy, as well.
What Should I Eat on the Paleo Diet?
To reiterate: the central tenet of the Paleo diet is choosing unprocessed foods, things that ancient people were eating before the advent of commercial food production. What exactly does this mean for your plate?
Foods to Avoid on the Paleo Diet
If you dread calorie counting, you’ll be happy to hear that the Paleo diet actually asks you to cut out many calorie-laden food groups entirely. Out of sight, out of mind.
Often called a dietary irritant, ridding your diet of dairy might confer benefits beyond the waistline – in fact, some studies indicate that going dairy-free might also make your skin clearer and more radiant than ever before.
Eliminating dairy might invoke some dietary deficiencies if you do not take care since dairy is a primary source of calcium and vitamin D in our diets.
Those who adhere to a stringent regime of blood sugar control can already attest to how beneficial cutting out processed sugar can be – you look better, you feel better, and you have so much more room for other stuff in your diet, calorically.
Some of the top sugar offenders when eating Paleo:
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Table sugar
Instead of these refined options, choose natural sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit extract, maple syrup, and coconut sugar.
Gluten, Grains, and Legumes
The most challenging aspect of the Paleo diet: all grains are officially off of the table. We hate to scare you with such a dramatic ultimatum, but if a Paleo meal plan is your goal, this is one of the most important rules.
Our ancestors were not able to cultivate or mill grains as we do; this unfortunate fact will have you eating fewer calories than ever before. Alternatives like almond flour can be used as a substitute if you’re one to bake often.
Refined Vegetable Oils
Trans fats like soybean oil, grapeseed oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil should all be avoided on a Paleo meal plan. Healthy fats and unprocessed oils like nut butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, and extra virgin olive oil are still allowable.
The Best Foods to Eat on the Paleo Diet
Now that we’ve taken care of the junk, what should actually go on your Paleo shopping list?
There are so many ways to build an awesome, everyday Paleo diet meal. Here are the building blocks that you should always have on hand for when hunger strikes.
Whole, Plant-Based Foods
There are few unprocessed whole foods that you will not be allowed to enjoy while partaking in a Paleo diet. This includes all fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts and seeds.
The stereotypical Paleo foods that most think of first include the giant hunk of meat, straight off of the bone, and the wild-caught salmon, eaten raw, right out of the river.
There is an emphasis in many Paleo circles on choosing organic, grass-fed, and pasture-raised whenever possible. The health benefits of cage-free eggs and hormone-free poultry are undeniable; consider it to be a bonus.
These basic food groups will form the foundation of your Paleo eating plan. What does one week of typical Paleo meals look like?
The Best Paleo Diet Meal Plan
Throughout the week, each Paleo meal that you make should meet all of your dietary and caloric needs. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner can all be arranged well in advance if you’re somebody with a busy life to maintain.
As with any type of meal plan, the logistics of your schedule will be pivotal. Do you work for a living? Will you need to prepare many meals in one session?
Sunday, for many meal preppers, is day zero. You should take an hour or two to prepare a variety of ingredients or even entire meals to grab throughout the week.
A few things that you can do ahead of time:
- You can roast an entire chicken or sauté a bunch of ground beef for the week.
- You can pre-chop vegetables for a quick mixed-greens salad or sheet pan dinner.
- You can process cauliflower rice for a convenient side on-the-fly.
- You roast a bunch of sweet potatoes and other root vegetables; these are especially versatile and can be made into soups, smoothies, and even baked goods.
- There are Paleo snacks that you can prepare in advance, such as baggies of nuts and dried fruit.
If you’re meal prepping, certain foods will hold up longer than others. There are some exceptions to the approach described above; if you plan on eating apple slices one day, you should wait to cut the apples until you’re just about to eat them, to name one example.
Once you’ve got everything ready for the week, it’ll be easy to put each meal together, even if you’ve got a busy schedule in front of you.
Those who frequently find themselves in need of Monday motivation should start the day off right. You’ll need more than some steamed broccoli and sea salt to get yourself out of bed – we recommend a hearty breakfast scramble with all of the fixin’s.
- 2 eggs
- Olive oil
- The veggies of your choice
- Avocado on top
- Some smoked salmon or breakfast sausage, if you’re feeling frisky
- Salt to taste
The biggest difference between your previous life and your new diet will likely be the exclusion of refined carbs from every meal. If you need them in order to function, you can substitute your daily toast and butter for starchy vegetables instead.
That’s breakfast. Lunch is going to be another story. If you roasted a chicken, this source of protein is going to be your ace in the hole for the rest of the workweek.
You can incorporate leftover roast chicken into a number of tasty staple meals – a fast and easy chicken salad, to name one example, or a protein-style chicken sandwich, substituting lettuce cups for the bread. For a light snack that does not skimp on healthy fat, you can try fresh fruit and almond butter or almond milk.
When dinner finally rolls around, you’ll be glad that you’ve already prepared protein and vegetables ahead of time. One idea would be to grab some of your beef stir-fry and toss a few vegetables into the pan for a meal in less than ten minutes. You could also roast an oven-baked salmon and some bell peppers, preparing a side of brussels sprouts on the stovetop all the while. It really comes down to what you like and what you have time for.
Tuesday Through Friday
Your goal throughout the week is to keep things interesting for yourself. While a Tuesday morning breakfast of coconut milk, pumpkin seeds, and mixed berries might be fine as a novelty experiment, you’ll likely want your Wednesday breakfast to pack more of a punch.
You can keep the hungries at bay by switching things up every day. Paleo diet-friendly seasonings and spices like red pepper flakes and curry powder add no calories to your meal and make using up leftovers a breeze.
By Saturday, your stockpile is probably looking just a little bit depleted. It’s time to come up with a new shopping list for the week.
Take a moment to assess what you’ve been craving on your new diet. After a moment of reflection, you can take the previous week into account and double down on what worked well for you.
We can also recommend giving yourself a treat day, especially if your lifestyle is active and already relatively healthy. All brussels sprouts and no play make Jack a very sad boy, indeed.
Losing Weight With the Paleo Diet: A Back to Basics Approach, and We’re Loving Every Minute of It
Many closet dieters swear by their favorite dietary supplements, but sometimes, cleansing your routine of everything but the bare necessities can be a profound experience. Letting go of your favorite processed foods can be difficult, but the weight loss and the energy boost will be well worth the effort.
Watching your calorie intake is easy when everything on your plate comes from nature. The Paleo diet will awaken your inner Neanderthal and have you feeling closer to Mother Earth than ever.
+ 7 sources
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