The Paleo diet is based on the theory that our bodies haven’t significantly changed since the Stone Age. As a result, advocates say that optimal health can be achieved by eating the foods enjoyed by the hunter-gatherer tribes who flourished during the Paleolithic era. One of the key benefits of this plan: You eliminate processed foods, so that you’re following a clean eating program, thereby avoiding potentially dangerous ingredients in processed foods such as high fructose corn syrup and white flour. In addition, you benefit from healthy fats in foods such as salmon, olive oil and nuts.
If you want to try the diet for yourself, plan on eating generous amounts of fruits and vegetables. Your protein choices include meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. In addition, you’ll enjoy nuts, seeds and oils ranging from coconut oil to olive oil.
Foods developed after the Agricultural Revolution, however, aren’t part of the Paleo diet. What this means: You’ll avoid grain products such as wheat bread and corn flakes, as well as dairy products such as cheese and yogurt. In addition, salt, potatoes, legumes and refined vegetable oils aren’t on the Paleo menu.Here’s what a day on the Paleo diet might look like:
- Breakfast: If you’re used to a small breakfast, enjoy sliced fresh fruit to kick off your day. You can sprinkle it with sliced almonds, such as Woodstock Farms Thick Slice Natural Almonds, to add protein and healthy fats. Eggs are also a great way to jump-start your day, served topped with magnificent mushrooms or other veggies sautéed in organic olive oil such as Newman’s Own Organics Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
- Snacks: Nibble on fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs, veggies or sunflower seeds. Choose unsalted seeds, such as Best Of All Organic Unsalted Hulled Sunflower Seeds. Another favorite for Paleo people: Fish, meat or poultry jerky! Read the ingredient lists carefully for one without additives, such as Golden Valley Original Natural Turkey Jerky.
- Lunch: Make protein and veggies the centerpiece here. For example, you can pile assorted leafy greens and veggies into a salad bowl and top with canned salmon, such as Crown Prince Natural Skinless and Boneless Pink Salmon. For a filling meal, sauté zucchini and green beans in olive oil and toss in some diced chicken breast.
- Dinner: If you’re pasta lover or a vegetarian or vegan, swap raw, julienned spaghetti squash for traditional wheat pasta. Another low-calorie swap: Steamed cabbage leaves cut into slices resembling pasta. Top with your favorite pasta sauce, preferably homemade from fresh tomatoes, onions and herbs. A jarred sauce, such as Amy’s Organic Pasta Sauce, which is made with olive oil and assorted herbs that are Paleo-approved, will do the trick in a pinch. On the side: A fruit compote combining assorted fruits, from Edward & Sons Native Forest Organic Sliced Peaches in Organic Fruit Juice to Edward & Sons Asian Pears.
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Joanne Eglash, Vitacost.com’s Diet Diva, has a master of science in holistic nutrition and more than 15 years experience as a nutrition consultant, blogger, author and journalist. She has written for a wide range of publications and websites, including ediets.com,Natural Health magazine, Shape magazine, Success magazine, Energy for Women and Chefs. Joanne is currently the national Diets columnist for the online news and entertainment site, Examiner.com, and a features food columnist for Yahoo.