Everything you’ve thought you knew about the paleo diet is…wrong.
- Butter coffee + Eggs and Bacon for breakfast.
- Chicken, avocado and some mixed greens for lunch.
- A handful of nuts for a snack.
- And a big juicy steak, Brussels Sprouts (with more bacon) and perhaps a little bit of sweet potato for dinner.
…Not so fast.
Archaeologists in Israel’s Jordan Valley have recently discovered that cavepeople (dating back 780,000 years ago) actually ate a wide variety of foods, including vegetables, roots, seeds, nuts, and fruit.
In other words: Our ancestors ate a plant-based diet.
This may not come as a shock or news to some of you, but a look into mainstream media and many Paleo bloggers and Insta-posters may have you believe otherwise.
“Bring on the bacon! The jerky! The butter coffee!” ’tis the battle cry—especially with the ever popular rise of ketogenic diets and Intermittent Fasting approaches.
Although no one is necessarily saying “greens are bad” or “eat less fresh fruits and veggies,” one concept that fails to be overlooked by many paleo adherents is the primarily plant-based nature of the diet.
While the diets of our prehistoric ancestors, and optimal-dietary preferences vary (depending on the climate and environment in which we live), there is no denying that plants—mostly veggies, starchy tubers, fruits and nuts and seeds—were the most popular foods readily available (newsflash: there were no grocery stores people!).
So What Does This Mean for You?
Meat is bad?
Rather, it is confirmation (and justification) to stop avoiding carbs—if you are. They are not the enemy.
Our body thrives upon a balance of all macronutrients: Fats, proteins AND carbs, included.
Note: The majority of the carbs your body was designed to run upon come from whole food sources (there were also no processing plants or refined grains and Goldfish crackers lining the shelves back in the day).
While your carb needs may vary (depending on activity levels and hormone needs), I venture, it’s safe to say, far too many paleo-peoples eat a lower carb diet than they need to.
Again, I am not talking Dr. Perlmutter’s “Grain Brain” here. I am talking enough starchy tubers and other foods (like plantains, carrots, beets), fruits, and veggies with your meals to allow for:
1.) Optimal digestion (fiber moves things along, paired with healthy fats—leading to less constipation).
2.) Enhanced energy. Yes fat, fat, fat fuels us for life! But so do carbs—and all the minerals and vitamins colorful fruits and veggies provide.
3.) Peace of mind. Unnecessary food fears have taken root with the increased consciousness of carbs.
4.) Hormone balance. Fellas: Low testosterone? Ladies: Missing period, low energy, infertility, adrenal “stress?” Take a look at your veggie, fruit and all around plant consumption.
How much do I need?
I am not one for counting or tracking things, but as a general baseline for “moderate” carb intake for health, ladies need at least 75-150 grams of carbs (and no, the 2-3 grams in your chicken breast don’t count), and fellas upwards of 100-200 grams of carbs. Seriously, serious.
Diets are funny to me. People tend to find their identity in something—and diets are not excluded.
“Hello, I’m vegetarian.”
“Hello, I’m vegan.”
“Hello, I’m paleo.”
“Hello, I’m _______.” (You insert your food philosophy).
Since we eat on the daily, it’s easy to identify with the foods we put into our body…But newsflash: Your diet does not define you.
I especially see this within the vegetarian, vegan and paleo worlds—ethics, dogmas, rules, food guilt…all in the name of sticking to your identity.
Heard of it?
A beautiful blend of the ever-popular “paleo,” “vegetarian,” and “vegan” philosophies—helping people put down their rules, in the name of genuine health: Balance.
Again, there’s no denying your body needs a balance of all three essential macronutrients for optimal well-being: Protein, fats, and carbs—and the best way to “give your plant the water it needs” (i.e. your body), is to go straight to the source.
A “Pegan” based plate is built upon plant-based, real-foods, with protein as a compliment or “condiment” at the very least to your plate.
No, protein is NOT a bad thing (at all), but simply put: This breakdown is aimed at helping people (the 9 in 10 Americans who do NOT eat enough fruits and veggies) to get back to their roots:
Plants are where the rich, soil-based nutrition is at.
Interested in learning more about this philosophy (read: not a diet).
Here are the basic principles:
- Eat the Big 3. Base your plate on veggies, proteins and healthy fats.
- Eat mostly plants – lots of vegetables and fruits. This should be at least 50 percent of your diet and your plate.
- Eat healthy fats. Reach for omega 3 fats, nuts, coconut, avocados, nuts (not peanuts), seeds, olive oil and saturated fat from grass fed or sustainably raised animals. Stay away from most vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, corn, and especially soybean oil, which now comprises about 10 percent of our calories.
- Limit Dairy –Try goat or sheep products, or grass-fed full-fat dairy sources (less processed).
- Eat gluten-free whole grains sparingly– Why? A grain-based diet (just like an all-protein diet) is tough on digestion due to the antinutrients on the outer shell of the wheat protein; they also still raise blood sugar and can trigger blood sugar issues in some (headaches, brain fog, hypo/hyperglycemic); Be in touch with how your body responds when you eat them, and reach for less glutenous grains if you do (white rice, steel cut oats, quinoa).
- Eat beans occasionally – Lentils, chickpeas and pre-soaked whole beans.
- Eat meat or animal products as a condiment, not a main course. Read The Third Plate by Dan Barber or Eat the Yolks by Liz Wolf to understand how shifts in our eating habits could save the environment and ourselves. Vegetables should take center stage, but meat is still a crucial part of a balanced diet, and if anything, is a side dish.
- Think of sugar as an occasional treat – in all its various forms (i.e., use occasionally and sparingly).
Foods to Thrive Upon
Eat real food for optimal self-care!!
Fruits and Vegetables
All! Mix it up and balance between cook/raw vegies.
- Nuts and Seeds (walnuts, pistachios, cashews, almonds, flax seed, chia seed, sesame seed, pumpkin)
- Olive Oil
- Sesame Seed Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Hemp Oil
- Coconut Butter/Manna
- Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
- Beans (Limit 1 cup per day)
- Acorn Squash
- Winter Squash
- Sweet Potato
- Wild Rice (limit to 1/2 cup per meal)
- Black Rice (limit to 1/2 cup per meal)
- White Rice
- Quinoa (limit to 1/2 cup per meal)
- Almond Flour
- Coconut Flour
- Seeds and Nuts
- Nutritional Yeast
Animal Protein: Sustainable, Organic (25-30% or less of plate)
- Wild-caught Seafood/Fish
- Pasture Raised Eggs
- Grass-Fed Meat
- Coconut flakes
- Maple syrup
- Agave Nectar
- Decaf Teas
- Unsweetened almond milk
- Unsweetened coconut milk
- Goat’s milk yogurt
- Coconut Yogurt (Coyo at Central Market)
- Coconut Cream/Milk
- Coconut Aminos
- Fish Sauce
- Almond Flour
- Coconut Flour
- Yam Noodles/Zucchini Noodles
- Herbs & Spices
Example Pegan Meal Plan
Need some meal ideas? Try one of these…
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with veggies, cooked in coconut oil, Berries
Lunch: Chickpea Buddha Bowl with Greens, Roasted Carrots, Broccoli & Avocado Cream
Snack: Celery with Almond Butter
Dinner: Zucchini Noodles with Grass-fed Bison, Nutritional Yeast & Red Sauce, Side salad
Breakfast: Green-Chocolate Protein Smoothie & Berry Bowl
Lunch: Tuna Salad in Collard Green Wrap + Orange
Snack: Handful Cashews
Dinner: Sweet Potato + Roasted Chicken + Greens + Drizzled with Olive Oil
Breakfast: Turkey Sausage Links + Sauteed Mushrooms and Pepper in Coconut Oil
Lunch: Burrito Bowl: Black Beans, Guacamole, Roasted Squash, Greens, Salsa
Snack: Cucumber + Paleo Mayo Dip
Dinner: Pan-grilled Salmon + Butternut Squash + Steamed Broccoli