There are a lot of misconceptions about the Paleo Diet. One of the biggest misconceptions is that the Paleo Diet is a meat based diet, which is not entirely true. This misconception feeds directly into the second largest misconception about the Paleo Diet, which is that it is a low carbohydrate diet….which is also not inherently true.
In my opinion, the Paleo Diet IS plant based.
The brown section in this picture below is not accurate! The green section in this picture also is not accurate….plant based doesn’t = vegan. Plant based means plants are the foundation of the diet aka: the majority of the food you eat. Eat in the orange section of this picture (maybe + raw dairy if you tolerate it), your body will thank you in all the right ways.
In the Beginning of Modern Day Paleo
Loren Cordain, Ph.D. is the grandfather of the Paleo Diet (yes, I just made that up!). According to Cordain, the premise of a Paleo Diet should be 19-35% protein, 35-45% non-starchy fresh fruits and vegetables (low glycemic index foods), high fiber, no trans fats, low Omega-6 fats with an increased amount of Omega-3 fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), low sodium and high potassium, increasing dietary alkalinity, and a higher intake of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and plant phytochemicals.
While Cordain promotes lots of non-starchy fresh fruits and vegetables, which most people will agree is healthy, he also has written about eating sweet potatoes….which is a starchy carbohydrate. The starchy carbohydrates are particularly important for very active people and professional athletes.
Robb Wolf is the grandson of the Paleo Diet (yes, I just made that up!). His first book the Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet goes into great detail about eating whole real foods and why it is important to do so. His second book, Wired to Eat, he addresses the carbohydrate issue at length (along with many other things). The short of it is that different people handle different amounts of carbohydrate differently. Meaning the need for and ability to tolerate starchy carbohydrates is highly individualized.
It is safe to say that for most average people with desk jobs that the amount of starchy carbohydrates required is much lower than what the Standard American Diet (SAD) / My Plate recommends. Cutting out grains, legumes, and white potatoes alone will cut most people’s carbohydrate intake down by ¾. So, I can see where folks get confused about Paleo being a low carbohydrate diet, because that is much lower than what the average American typically eats. What people forget when switching to Paleo from SAD is that they can replace the processed carbohydrates with whole food carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, butternut squash, plantains, yams, parsnips, winter squash, carrots, beets, cassava, taro root, and onions).
Plants Are the Foundation
The common thread between Cordain and Wolf and most every other Paleo promoting person in the real whole food space (Chris Kresser, Balanced Bites, Coconuts and Kettlebells, The Real Food RDs, Not Just Paleo, PaleOMG, Predominantly Paleo, Paleo Parents, Real Food Liz, Stupid Easy Paleo, The Paleo Mom, and the list goes on and on) agree that non-starchy fruits and vegetables aka: Plants are the foundation to the Paleo Diet and good health.
An evolution has occurred in the thinking around the Paleo Diet. The basics of “eat whole real nutrient dense food” (grass-fed meats, wild-caught seafood, fresh vegetable, fresh fruits, eggs, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils) is the same; the part that has changed is that instead of it being dogmatic of ‘there is only one way’…the thinking has changed to individualization of ‘do what works for you’. Some of the folks in the Paleo space have included legumes back into their diet (whole, soaked, and sprouted before cooked), because that works for them. Some include white rice, white potatoes, and or steel cut oats in their diet because that works for them. Some also consume raw dairy because it works for them. Make no mistake….these will not work for everyone and you will not know, until you remove them for a while (3 to 6 months or longer) first.
What Hasn’t Changed
One constant of the Paleo diet is eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruit. Eating high-quality meats and seafood. Eating high-quality fats (avocado, grass-fed butter, olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, coconut oil, walnut oil, flaxseed oil).
Not eating cereal grains, conventional dairy, refined sugar, processed foods, and refined vegetable oils.
Here is a site that has lists of foods; those to eat freely and those to avoid. Diane Sanfilippo also has wonderful one-page guides that are super helpful.
In the shortest way I can tell you, I would like to address the misconception that eating the Paleo diet or eating real whole food is expensive. The first and I think most the important tip I can give you to afford buying real whole foods (they really aren’t expensive, that box of cereal is), is to reallocate your money from the packages, bags, and boxes to the real whole foods. If you do not buy the $5 box of cereal, you can buy $5 worth of fresh vegetables. Note not all of them need to be organic, also saving money. See the “Dirty Dozen / Clean Fifteen” lists.
Other tips for saving money is to buy in bulk, buy directly from the farmers and ranchers, buy towards the end of the farmer’s market, buy online using discount codes and Thrive Market, buy in-season foods, and frozen veggies can cost less than fresh veggies.
If you live in the Spring, TX or The Woodlands, TX area, Theiss Farms Market also provides year-round seasonal fresh vegetables and fruits through their Fresh Pick program. They have an option for delivery as well as pick-up. You can pick and choose what you want or you can purchase an Assorted Box for 2 people $25 or Assorted Box for 4 people $40 that consists of enough produce to last 7 days per person.