Thinking of going Paleo? Don't let the caveman jokes stop you—clean eating is about so much more than raw veggies, meat on a stick, and loincloths. (Actually, it really shouldn't be about loincloths.) But because it's a diet that goes against the (processed) grain of modern-day eating, it can be hard to stay with it. Luckily, we've got blogger and Paleo pro Alexis Davidson of Lexi's Clean Kitchen here to share 10 tips on how to enjoy the Paleo life as a modern Homo sapien.
1. It doesn't have to be all or nothing.
Don't make yourself crazy by diving into everything right away. Cut out a few things and take a week or so to ease into it. Make this work for your lifestyle and use it as a template; don't try to fit yourself into a mold if it's not working for your lifestyle because that might make you nuts.
2. Meal-prep and meal plan.
Meal planning and meal prep are key when it comes to eating Paleo foods. It may take a little extra effort, but it's well worth it. It's not that you can't find healthy, Paleo-friendly options while dining out, but it's definitely harder to find snacks, lunches, and small bites. I find when I let myself hit starvation mode with nothing planned, I lose sight of my intentions and goals, and then I crave a ton of junk. Having food prepped for a few days during the week is a great way to stay on track because make-ahead meals and leftovers really are your besties.
So are Paleo-friendly snacks. I always have an RXBAR or these energy balls on hand as "emergency food," but I find when I prep and plan ahead, I don't feel the desire to snack. Take one day to think about what you want to make for the week, do your shopping, then spend a few hours cooking and prepping. Here's an eight-ingredient meal-prep plan that will have dinner on the table all week.
3. Keep a food journal.
Whether you're changing your diet for health concerns or you just want to eat healthier and have more energy, keeping a log is always a good idea. Note which foods make you thrive and give you energy, which foods upset your stomach, which ones make you feel tired, etc. Keeping a food and feelings diary is a great way to track your progress and get a closer look at what's working for you (because you're all that matters).
4. Transition your pantry.
If it's in the house, you may be more inclined to eat it, so make it easier for yourself and get rid of the food items that won't make you feel amazing (I'm looking at you, addictive pita chips). Use my pantry guide to stock your kitchen with ingredients that will make your life easier and keep temptations to a minimum.
5. Learn to read labels.
My rule of thumb: If you can't read half of the ingredients, or it has a ton of unnecessary ingredients, don't buy it. Learning to read labels and becoming accustomed to knowing what's in your store-bought food is super important. The more you start looking, the more often you'll find tons of unnecessary added sugars and additives in items that you once thought were "healthy." The best part is now that clean-eating has become more mainstream, you can find good-quality versions of so many of your staples.
6. Eating out doesn't have to be stressful.
I often get asked, "What about eating out?" It really, really doesn't have to be stressful. Stick to your basics—fish, meat, veggies—and talk to the waiter about substitutions. Restaurants are so accommodating these days so you can go out and enjoy yourself without feeling deprived.
But remember: Balance is important and for me, it is a huge part of having success with changing your diet. You have to live a little and not drive yourself crazy. I had to be really strict at one point when healing my gut, and now that I have more freedom and flexibility, I can run with it. A little butter in my potato at my favorite restaurant won't kill me, but when I cook at home, I'll use ghee.
7. Do your research.
Stop stalking Instagram celebs and instead start looking for Paleo gurus that share tons of Paleo recipes, tips, and advice on how to succeed while you're committed to a Paleo plan. You can also follow a few new Facebook pages and grab a cookbook or two to help you through your journey and give you inspiration.
8. Shop smart.
You don't have to spend a fortune to clean up your pantry/fridge/lifestyle. Use this Paleo shopping list to get you started, but don't forget you can shop in bulk or on Amazon for good deals on nuts, nut flours, avocado oil-based mayo, high-quality dressings, and other pantry items. You should also check out meat delivery services that deliver grass-fed meat right to your door for decent prices. Stores like Costco and BJ's are also ramping up on their organic, grass-fed, and wild products so you can get your toilet paper and your turkey too.
9. Eat healthy fats.
I often get asked about snacking and how to feel full for longer. I find that when I fill up on healthy fats like avocado, good-quality olive oil, and eggs, I don't feel the need to snack all the time because I'm more satisfied throughout the day.
10. Don't try to be perfect.
I can't stress this enough. This is your journey to feeling your best. You need to listen to your body and know what works for you. Don't listen when people say you need to be perfect and omit every single thing from your diet to be "Paleo." Use it as a template to work for your lifestyle, rather than a strict diet. Not going to give up cream in your coffee? Not willing to give up the occasional glass of wine? That's fine, in my opinion.
Know your goals, listen to your body, and make choices that will make you feel good and thrive without driving yourself crazy. You will feel great, and it will become second nature to nourish your body with real food to optimize your mind, body, and spirit. Remember, "Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going." - Jim Ryun
Alexis Davidson is the voice behind Lexi’s Clean Kitchen—the go-to food blog for clean and delicious recipes that shows readers that living a healthy lifestyle can be simple, fun, and above all satisfying. After discovering firsthand the healing power of food, Lexi was inspired to create recipes that omit negative health instigators like gluten, grains, dairy, and refined sugars while still delivering the taste and gratification people expect. She inspires readers to get creative, whether they are gluten-free, eat Paleo, or just love delicious food.
Her first cookbook launched nationwide November 2016. The Lexi's Clean Kitchen cookbook takes a practical approach to clean eating that won’t deprive you of your favorite foods. This fundamental cookbook transcends dietary labels – it is for everyone who loves preparing delectable meals that satisfy every palate and every craving. Lexi has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Self, Women’s Health, Yahoo.com, and many other publications. Originally from New York, she now resides in Boston, MA with her husband, Mike, and her golden retriever, Jax.