Trying to get started following the Paleo diet can be a bit overwhelming at first. Most of us grow up following the standard American (or British) diet, which consists of a lot of processed foods, a deficient amount of vegetables, occasional fruit (often via juice), and way too much sugar. Changing your entire way of eating is not easy and there will be obstacles on your path.
There are a couple of things that are essential to improving your diet though and if you start with these then whether you apply Paleo guidelines 100% depends on your personal preference.
1. ELIMINATE PROCESSED FOODS!
This is the number one thing you must do. Even if you decide that the Paleo diet is not for you, you absolutely must get rid of processed foods. Processed foods exist for one reason – to make profits for the corporations that distribute them. They could not care less about your health, despite their advertisements about using healthier ingredients. Processed foods are full of empty calories that are meant to taste good and leave you wanting more. They don’t satiate your hunger but they do provide comfort, which is why they are good for profits. When you are in need of quick mood boost, they will provide it, only to leave you crashing later.
2. No. More. Sugar.
This is covered in a sense by #1, but sugar is also damaging. Beyond the weight gain effects of sugar, studies have shown that can be harmful to the brain and energy levels as well. Start by getting rid of the obvious stuff – candy bars, sweets, donuts and what-not. Then stop putting in your coffee and tea. You can gradually do this by starting out with a replacement like Splenda which is widely available at Starbucks, this is only a temporary fix though because artificial sweeteners may also have an effect on your insulin levels. A more natural sweetener is Stevia, a plant-based sweetener that you can grow yourself if you like. Gradually reduce the amount you put in your coffee until you are drinking it black or with just cream. If you have a sweet tooth try making berry smoothies or having high cocoa percentage dark chocolate (80%+, in moderation).
3. Ditch the grains.
#1 is relatively easy compared to this. You know deep down every time you grab a bag of chips, a candy bar, or McDonald’s that you’re hurting your health, but grains have had a better marketing campaign and now they’ve convinced a large portion of the public that they can be healthy. Not to mention the official food pyramid which has them at the foundation, grains are now trumped as healthy, as long as they are whole grains. In reality, they cause inflammation and bloating in a lot of people after eating them, and they cause you to gain weight. One of the first things you’ll notice when you ditch the grains is that you’ll lose 3-5 pounds in the first week, just of water weight that is caused by eating unneeded carbohydrates. Unless you are an endurance athlete you probably have no need for grains since you probably sit in an office most of the day. If you are participating in intense athletic activities then it can be beneficial to have some complex carbohydrates immediately after your workout, but I would suggest eating a sweet potato, quinoa, or Basmati rice instead.
The main problem with this is when you are at a restaurant on a date or with friends and your options are limited. For men especially it can be somewhat awkward to order a salad, though really you shouldn’t be embarrassed. In this case, it is okay to have 1 day a week where you cheat, just keep in mind that if you start slipping up more than 1 day a week you will slow your progress.