You’ve talked to friends, read blog posts and forums, have done your research, and you’ve decided you want to make a change in your diet. You’ve decided that paleo is the lifestyle change you want to make, but now that you’re decided, you’re not quite sure exactly how to get started. I know EXACTLY how you feel. On a whim, I decided a few years ago to make the paleo switch. I hadn’t done my research, I just knew it was a healthy way to eat. I had no support, no resources, I just decided to go for it. And I failed. I think we lasted all of 3 days before we went back to the same old junk we always ate. I convinced myself that paleo was too hard and not worth the effort.
Fast forward 2-1/2 years later. After joining CrossFit Evolve here in Fort Collins, paleo started becoming a little more clear to me. This time, I did some more research, purchased Practical Paleo, found people with a similar interest, and made a plan. With those major changes at the start of our second attempt at paleo, we were set for success and not only did we not fail, but we thrived. So when I’m asked “I would like to get started with paleo, do you have any tips?” (and I’m asked this question quite often), I usually have to try hard to condense my answer. But why should it be condensed when knowledge is power? Considering how many people are yearning for a change in their eating habits and just don’t know where to start, I’d like to offer some help to those of you searching for some tips.
1. Make The Commitment
This might sound like unnecessary advice, because you’ve already made the decision. But a decision and a commitment are two different things. If you go into this without being truly committed, you are bound to fail, just like we did with our first attempt. You need to know that you will succeed and truly want to make a change. If you do that, committing to the change will be a piece of (paleo) cake.
2. Have A Support System
If you are anything like me, you have to have someone with similar goals, otherwise your self control just flies out the window. I find it very difficult to stay on track with my diet if my husband and I are not on the same wavelength. So when he made the paleo decision with me, it was easy. He would eat what I cooked, and would advise me not to buy the flour and sugar to make cookies.
However, I know that not everyone has a significant other that’s on track with the whole paleo thing, but finding a support person or group is now so easy with the internet. There are forums, websites, Facebook groups, Meetups, etc. Our Paleo Life has a Facebook page, which I would suggest is a nice place to start (wink, wink). Or maybe you know some people in real life (IRL, whatever) that would like to start a paleo journey of their own and are looking for a friend. Whatever the case may be, find someone who you can chat with, talk to, share with. It will be a tremendous help.
3. Be Accountable
Accountability goes hand-in-hand with having a support person or group. You need to tell someone, make it public, that you are making a change. If I just make a commitment to myself to stop biting my nails and don’t tell anyone, what’s to stop me from cheating on myself? People tend to be far too dishonest with themselves, and that can lead to cheats and failures. If we are accountable and someone else is aware of our goals, when we want to cheat, we’ll think twice about it, because we don’t want to let that support system down.
When I started my first Whole30, my husband new all about it, even though he wasn’t doing it. He knew what foods I should or shouldn’t be eating, and because he was aware, there was no way I wanted to even entertain the idea of cheating. I also had a group of girls from the gym that were on doing the Whole30 right along with me. I never wanted to have to admit to our group that I cheated, so I just didn’t. My accountability to all those people played a huge part in my success and it will in yours as well.
4. Get Rid Of The Junk Food
It’s one thing to say “I just won’t eat that last sleeve of Thin Mints in the freezer” and quite another to actually not eat them. And as much as I hate to waste food, I hate failure even more. I am very aware of my own self control issues, I am not very good at turning away from sweets. It’s a curse. So when I made the commitment, I got rid of almost everything that I knew I shouldn’t eat. Some I gave away, some I threw away, but no matter the method, it left my house. If it’s there, it will most likely get eaten. Why bother shoving that temptation in your face every time you open the pantry of refrigerator? It won’t do you any good. It won’t make you any stronger or more able to resist temptation, it will only break you down and set you up for failure. So get rid of the temptation. We’re trying to kill the sugar monster here, not feed it.
5. Stock Your Kitchen
Once you’ve gotten rid of the bad food, restock with good stuff. You might need to jump down to Tip #6 before you do this, but you can also use the Paleo Food Staples we’ve put together to give you a good base to get started. Fill your kitchen with healthy food and I guarantee you will actually eat healthy food.
6. Make A Plan
Throughout the years, even before we started eating paleo, I realized that planning is the key to maintaining any way of eating. And it’s even more important if you’re trying to eliminate entire food groups from your diet, as is the case with paleo where we try to reduce or eliminate dairy, processed foods, grains, legumes, and sugars. That seems to leave us very limited, but in reality, it is liberating freedom. We are free to eat real food, whole food, food that can strengthen and cure our bodies.
If you decide late on a Sunday night, “Hey, I’m going to drastically change my eating habits and do awesome. Starting tomorrow morning!”, you will probably find that come Monday morning, you’re eating whatever Special K or Cheerios you have in the pantry, along with slice of toast or something. This isn’t something you will be able to successfully start on a whim. Once you’ve gotten through Tips 1-4, 5 and 6 will come together to help you really get this thing going. The first steps are mental, the last steps are the physical ones you need to take in order to get this going.
A couple weeks ago, we sent out a newsletter with a 5-day meal plan and a grocery list. If you’re not signed up for a newsletter, you can do that by filling out your name and email at the top-left of this page. For those of you that did not receive that newsletter, I’m including the download here in this post, because I want you to succeed. You can choose to either follow the meal plan as-is or modify it for your family, using it as a guide to see how simple meal planning can be. But whatever you do, make a plan that fits your family, your lifestyle, and your schedule so that when it’s time to eat, you have healthy, clean, wholesome food ready to go, giving you less chance to slip back into old eating habits.
*Click the image below to download your Free 5-Day Meal Plan and Grocery List Printables*
Don’t want the printables or just want a quick glance at what’s included?
Click these links to see the 5-Day Meal Plan and Grocery List.
7. Go Easy On Yourself
I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one who has ever gone on a “diet”, failed with a snack or meal a few days later, and then said “This is too hard, I can’t do this, I give up”. One cheat does not mean you’re a failure. It means you cheated. Once. Seriously not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Just get back on the horse and know that you’re not perfect, nobody is. We will all cheat, we will all make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. It means that you’re human, and is a wonderful opportunity to learn what you would like to do different the next time you’re in a certain situation. We can only get better with each experience we go through, so turn the slip-ups into learning experiences that will strengthen you, rather than beating yourself up about it and making excuses to give up.
Now that you have some tips on how to get started, how about some resources? Let’s be honest, all you really want is some great recipes that you’ll love so you won’t be dreaming about that pizza or cupcake that you passed up at your kid’s friend’s neighbor’s birthday party.
In addition to the Meal Plan download in Tip #6 (that also includes a 5-Day Grocery List and a blank Grocery List printout), here are some other great resources to get you (and your entire family) started:
- Paleo Lunches for Kids: easy-to-prepare lunch ideas that the kids will love
- Paleo Food Staples: a comprehensive list of food to keep on hand
- Camping: Paleo Style: meal and snack prep that can be useful, even when you’re at home
- Why Paleo?: maybe you’re still not sure about paleo and would like to do a bit more research
5-Day Meal Plan and Grocery List At A Glance
Detailed 5-Day Meal Plan
- Breakfast: Bacon and Eggs
- Lunch: Breadless BLT (Make extra bacon at breakfast so you don’t have to make more for lunch)
- Dinner: Baked Teriyaki Chicken (cook 12 instead of 9 to make sure there are enough leftovers)
- Snack: Savory Coconut Flakes (doubling recommended to have a bunch on hand for everyone)
- Breakfast: Paleo “Faux”tmeal
- Lunch: Baked Teriyaki Chicken (leftovers from last night’s dinner)
- Dinner: Coconut Chicken (double the recipe to have leftovers for lunch); Best Roasted Veggies
- Snack: Mini Sweet Potato Souffles (can double if you want to include some for breakfast the next day. Grocery list does not account for doubling.)
- Breakfast: Eggs; Raw Applesauce (Cinnamon version included in the Grocery list below)
- Lunch: Chicken Bacon Salad w/ Leftover Coconut Chicken
- Dinner: Minestrone Soup; Cornbread Minus the Corn
- Snack: Blueberries & Cream Gummies
- Breakfast: Bacon and Eggs
- Lunch: Leftover Minestrone Soup; Leftover Cornbread Minus the Corn
- Dinner: All Day Frittata (may need to double for a larger family, not accounted for in Grocery List)
- Snack: Chocolate Brownie Bites
5-Day Meal Plan Grocery List
- 13 Bananas
- 9 Sweet Apples
- 15 Medjool Dates
- 2 Lemons
- 3 Tomatoes
- 3 heads Romaine Lettuce
- 5 Sweet Potatoes
- 1 Yellow Onion
- 2 bulbs of Garlic
- 2 Zucchini
- 2 Shallots
- Mixed Greens
- 4 heads Broccoli
- 2 heads Cauliflower
- 24 Brussels Sprouts
- 4-6 Beets
- Tessamae’s Salad Dressing (any flavor)
- 3lb Bacon
- 1 lb Chorizo
- 24 Chicken Thighs
- 2 lb Chicken Tenders or Chicken Breasts
- 1-2 lb Pork Sausage
- 5 dozen Eggs
- Ghee (or Grass-Fed Butter)
- Almond Milk
SPICES & BAKING
- Ground Cinnamon
- Ground Nutmeg
- Baking Soda
- Baking Powder
- Vanilla Extract
- Bay Leaves
- Cayenne Pepper
- Coconut Butter
- Coconut Flour
- Coconut Oil
- Almond Flour
- Raw Honey
- Coconut Aminos
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Mayo (preferably homemade)
- 2 cups Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
- 1/3 cup Pecans
- 1/3 cup Flaxseed Meal
- 1 cup Raw Almonds
- Cocoa Powder
- 2 cans Coconut Milk, Full-Fat
- 1 cup Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
- Grass-Fed Gelatin
- Grade B Maple Syrup
- Olive Oil
- 28oz Vegetable Broth
- 28oz can Diced Tomatoes