The Paleo diet is all kinds of trendy right now, but is it worth the hype?
Based on the idea of eating the same foods that our ancestors ate, the diet plan focuses on whole, clean foods — think vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, organic meats, egg and fish — and cuts out processed or packaged foods and dairy.
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While the verdict is still out on whether or not Paleo is the miracle diet it claims to be, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that going back to a more natural, clean-eating diet can do a body good.
From budget and meal prep to weight loss and expectations, here’s everything you need know about going Paleo.
Get Ready To Budget
Swapping out cheap pantry staples like pasta, carbs and legumes for fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, and organic meats means your grocery bill is likely to sky rocket. Many Paleo diets also recommend choosing organic wherever possible and opting for grass-fed meats — these healthier-for-you options also tend to be budget busters.
However, there are ways to eat Paleo while sticking to a budget. Choose fruits and veggies that are in season, and don’t be afraid of frozen fruits or vegetables or preserved/canned veggies, too. Eggs, canned tuna, and all-natural nut butters are cheap and easy ways to get in some Paleo protein.
You May Lose Weight – But That’s Not The Goal
Although there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence about losing weight on a Paleo diet, medical research has yet to substantiate its weight-loss benefits, a small study found subjects lost an average of 5 pounds after three weeks on a Paleo diet, but this is to be expected of any new diet that cuts out sugar, refined carbs and junk food. While weight loss is a welcome side effect for some people, it shouldn’t be the sole goal of going Paleo. Embrace the Paleo diet as a clean-eating lifestyle with an emphasis on enjoying and preparing whole foods, rather than as a fad weight-loss plan.
Exercise Is Essential
If you’re going to eat like a caveman or woman, you’ll want to work out like one, too. Also known as functional training, focus on HIIT-style cardio moves like sprint intervals, jumping and stair-climbing, as well as resistance training exercises, including pull-us, lunges and squats. Not sure where to begin? Here’s a complete bodyweight workout that you can do on your lunch break.
You Might Not Feel Great At First
Even if it’s good for you in the long-run, dramatically changing how you eat can be tough on the body. According to Dietitian Alexandra Caspero, “Whenever you drastically change your diet, your body’s going to react. Your body has to get used to a new way of eating.” The “shock to the system” especially happens when you cut caffeine or refine sugar. You may feel a bit of a “paleo flu” for the first week, but not to worry — these symptoms eventually pass, and many people report feeling more energetic than ever by week two or three.
Plan Your Meals (But Keep It Simple)
The key to sticking with Paleo, or any diet for that matter, is to plan your meals ahead of time. However, don’t let those Paleo Pinterest boards get the best of you. “I cooked not one, not two, but three elaborate Paleo recipes I had pinned in preparation. Not only did I spend a ton of money from day one, but by day three of the same recipes, all I wanted was something else,” writes a fitness editor at Popsugar.com of her experience going Paleo. “Meal prep is absolutely essential, but be realistic about what you’re going to want to eat for the next few days — especially if you’re on a budget.”
As With Anything, Practice Moderation
As with most anything, there are pros and cons to the Paleo diet. Even though the diet focuses on eating wholesome, foods, it does have its critics. The sticking point is how restrictive the diet is and how difficult it would be to stick to it over the long term.
“Scientists take issue with the supposed fact that human digestion has not evolved, and also the idea that all hunter-gatherers around the world ate the same thing (they did not).”