Getting Started: Grocery Shopping Guide

This is a guide to grocery shopping when you are trying to start eating paleo.

Step 1: Meal Plan.  Look up paleo recipes online and look at the lists of what foods you can and can’t eat.  Figure out what you will be eating for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for a week.  Your meal plan can be as detailed or as simple as you want.  Remember to account for everyone in your household who will be eating the food.

Step 2: Create a grocery list based on your meal plan for the week. Account for how many servings will be needed for each meal to get an idea of how much you will need to buy.

Grocery List Categories: [fresh] vegetables, [fresh] fruit, [fresh] meat / seafood, frozen meat/seafood, frozen vegetables & fruit, eggs/almond milk, sausage/bacon, baking/spices, condiments, canned goods

Separating your list into categories will make it easier to find items and figure out if the store does not have certain things.

Avoid processed foods.  If you need to buy something that comes in a package, always read the ingredients list before buying.  You will basically be shopping around the edge of the grocery store and bypassing the middle.  You will need to go down the baking aisle for spices, natural oils, nuts, vanilla, cocoa, and other baking items.

Vinegar is usually in the condiments aisle alongside salad dressing.  Honey is usually next to the peanut butter and jelly.  Pure maple syrup can be in the baking aisle alongside agave nectar or by the other syrup, usually by peanut butter and jelly.  Almond butter will also be next to peanut butter, but I have yet to find a paleo version and simply make my own.  Almond milk is with silk in a case next to regular cow’s milk.

Coconut milk comes in a can and is in the ethnic/asian food aisle.  A higher fat content means it is “full fat” and will naturally separate into coconut water and coconut cream.  A lower fat content is not full fat, and will more likely stay homogenized.  If you buy the full fat coconut milk and need it to be mixed together, simply shake the can vigorously right before opening.

I also buy canned tomato products like tomato puree and tomato paste for making tomato based soups and sauces.  If you need to buy canned goods, make sure to always check the ingredients list.  There should only be a few ingredients listed, and you should be able to identify them all as natural foods.  If you can’t, find a different brand.

Give yourself time to adjust into eating paleo.  It will take a while to figure out which stores carry the different items you will be eating regularly.  A natural food store or a grocery store that offers a bulk option may be the best place to go to buy nuts.

Try not to buy more than a week’s worth of vegetables.  Don’t go overboard, or you will end up throwing away fresh vegetables at the end of the week when they go bad.

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Getting Started: What Can I Eat?

The main point of eating paleo is to eat only natural, whole foods that have not been processed or genetically modified in any way.  Paleo also cuts out foods that can cause allergies and other similar issues, even though they are a whole food.  For more information on this, check out Beginners Guide to the Paleo Diet.  The paleo diet is based off of what humans living in the paleolithic era would have been able to eat.  They were hunter/gatherer cavemen, and literally lived off of the land.  They could only eat natural foods.  So basically, if you could grow or hunt it, you can eat it.

So, what can you eat?

Meat & Poultry: all meat is fair game, as far as I have seen.  Grass-fed meat is the best choice if you have the option.

Beef, pork, chicken, turkey, venison, bison, duck, etc.

Seafood: all fish and seafood are excellent as well.  We try to buy wild caught rather than farm raised fish, but that is not always an option.  Catching it ourselves is our favorite, though not always practical.

Shrimp, lobster, scallops, crab, salmon, tilapia, bass, flounder, swai, grouper, catfish, clams, oysters, etc.

Eggs

Breakfast Meats: Sausage and bacon.  Look for brands that do not contain any nitrates, nitrites, sugars, MSG, or chemicals.  The ingredients list should only include meat, spices, and water, and you should know what everything is.  If there are ingredients you haven’t heard of, it is likely not paleo.  This is very hard to do, and I end up cheating here.  I do not buy anything with nitrates/ites or chemicals in it, but I do buy bacon and sausage with sugar in it – as long as it is plain sugar and not corn syrup or another chemically altered sugar.  Ideally I would be making all of our sausage from scratch with ground pork, but I haven’t gotten that far yet.

Vegetables: These are very important, and best if included in every meal.

Lettuce, romaine, spinach, cabbage, kale, bok choy, watercress, greens, peppers, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, green beans, zucchini, carrots, avocados, eggplant, squash, brussel sprouts, asparagus, sweet potato, sugar snap peas, snow peas, water chestnuts, turnips, beets, celery, etc.

Fruit: All fruit is paleo, but it is high in sugar, so limit how much you eat if you are trying to lose weight.  Berries are lowest in sugar content.

Nuts: Nuts are very versatile and can be used to make many things.  They are high in calories, so eat them in moderation.

Almonds, almond milk, almond butter, pistachios, coconut (unsweetened), coconut milk, cashews, etc.

Oils: Natural oils are great, healthy sources of fat.

Coconut oil, olive oil, bacon grease, avocado oil, sesame oil, etc.

Natural Sweeteners: Eat in moderation.

Pure maple syrup, honey (local & unpasteurized is best), agave nectar, molasses

Other: Flavorings.  I use these in every meal!  Instead of table salt, switch to sea salt and use it sparingly.  Too much salt can lead to health problems.

spices, herbs, roots, garlic, lemon, lime, vinegar, pure extracts (such as vanilla), cocoa, etc.  Fresh herbs and roots are in the produce section (ginger, horseradish, parsley, basil, etc.), while dried roots and herbs are in the baking aisle with the other spices.  Be careful to check ingredient lists of anything packaged.  Make sure seasoning mixes do not include anything besides spices, and extracts are pure.  You don’t want any additives like sugar, corn syrup, or mono-sodium glutamate.

What Can’t You Eat?

Grains:  No grains are allowed on the paleo diet.

Dairy: No dairy, though some people eat whole, all natural dairy like butter that has not been processed or pasteurized.

Legumes: Because these can cause food allergies, they are excluded.  Peas or beans that come in a pod like snow peas and green beans are more pod than legume, so some (like me) say that they are okay.  For more information on legumes, check out what Ultimate Paleo Guide has to say here.

peanuts, peas, beans, lentils, soybeans, etc.  Anything made from these, then, is also not paleo.

Unnatural oils: All refined oils.  Soybean oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, corn oil, etc.

Unnatural sweeteners: sugar, cane sugar, palm sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, etc.

Other: potatoes

Avoid processed foods.  If you need to buy something that comes in a package, always read the ingredients list before buying.

Give yourself time to adjust into eating paleo.  It will take a while to figure out which stores carry the different items you will be eating regularly.  A natural food store or a grocery that offers a bulk option may be the best place to go to buy nuts.

Nutritionator offers a great food list here.

Getting on Track: Figuring Out Proper Nutrition

We’ve all heard that in order to lose weight, calories in must be less than calories out.  We also know that not all calories are the same.  Once I decided to try to get healthy (in other words, lose weight as quickly as I could for my wedding), I started thinking about what foods are the best for weight loss.  My main approach was to pay attention to how many calories were in every single thing I consumed, including drinks and condiments.  My new plan was to eat whole grains, fruit, veggies, meat, beans, and nuts, and watch how many calories I consumed a day from dairy products, condiments and beverages.  I also did my best to only eat grains with breakfast, so I would have the whole day to burn them off before bed.  This did not usually happen, although I did my best to count calories and only have one serving of grains per meal after breakfast. (This meant measuring my pasta, having one burrito and a salad instead of two, etc.) I usually had half a serving of leftovers for lunch with a salad, greek yogurt, and/or fruit.  I ate protein like cheese and peanut butter or an energy bar as snacks to help keep me full.  I also tried to only drink alcohol sparingly.  It was hard not to cheat when I did not pack a lunch and was tired of fast food salad, when I did not feel like cooking dinner, or when my significant other wanted a meal that I knew wouldn’t help me lose the pounds.  How could I resist?  The pizza and mac’n’cheese smelled amazing, I was hungry, and I was tired. I really didn’t want to cook an entirely separate meal just for me. So yes, I cheated, but I did succeed in losing a good deal of weight.  When I went to try on my wedding dress a month before the wedding, I found that it was too big and ended up getting it altered last minute.

The entire time I was dieting this way, it was a struggle.  I was never entirely sure about what I should and shouldn’t eat to best lose weight.  I figured eating healthy was the best way to go, but more often than not I wasn’t sure what “eat healthy” really meant.  So I tried to eat no more than one serving of “normal” food and fill the rest of my stomach with salad or vegetables, and then snack on fruit and “healthy” proteins like cheese, peanut butter, greek yogurt, and hummus.  It seemed like a lot of work, and I was hungry all the time.

I stopped dieting after our wedding.  I still made an effort to eat healthy, but I stopped counting calories and allowed myself pizza or a burger and fries every now and then.  As I mentioned earlier, my husband decided to get fit and healthy since our move to California.  Of course I was ready!  He spoke with a personal trainer at the gym about his new goals, and she recommended cutting out all carbs.  He did some research, and came across the Paleo diet.  He thought it sounded like just the diet he was looking for, so he told me about it.  I looked into it further, and decided that this diet made a whole lot of sense.  I had been searching for an explanation of healthy eating, and this diet offered one that was logical to me. If you are thinking about going Paleo, I would recommend doing some research on the diet first.  Here are some articles I found helpful: Beginners Guide to the Paleo Diet; Ultimate Paleo Guide.  There is also something called the “Whole 30.”  The Whole 30 is spending 30 days eating clean, whole, non-processed foods, 100% of the time – no cheating allowed.  This is meant to flush your system of any toxins and to cut out any foods your body could be allergic to.

Here are some links to great Paleo Recipe Blogs to help you get started: Stupid Easy Paleo, PaleOMG, and Paleo Plan.  You can also check out the recipes I have saved on Pinterest here.  I haven’t made all of them yet, but I will be posting the recipes I have made – and my changes to them – in the near future!

I am not going to lie to you – starting a new diet is a lot of work.  I spent  lot of time figuring out what we could eat, finding recipes, grocery shopping, and cooking during the first few weeks.  The first grocery trips were a lot of work because I didn’t know what many of the items really were on my list.  Almond butter – that’s in the butter aisle, right? Nope, it is with peanut butter.  I have yet to find a Paleo almond butter in a store, but it is very simple to make.  Eating all natural foods means cooking every meal yourself, which is not as easy as ordering a pizza or sticking a frozen lasagna in the oven when you are too tired to cook.  You can cook enough to produce leftovers though, and you can freeze things like chili for a quick and easy dinner.

Getting on Track: Tips to Enjoying Exercise

My husband and I recently moved from the Florida panhandle to sunny San Diego, California.  When we lived in Florida I succeeded in gaining 20+ lbs and was then faced with the task of trying to lose it before our wedding in about 7 months.

Trying to get fit and healthy has been one of my biggest goals since, and after our move to California my husband has decided to join me!  I must say though, it is a daunting task.  Especially in a new community.  When I was ready to lose weight in Florida it was soon after I had moved there from my hometown in Ohio.  I asked family and friends for advice, and the majority of them said, “Losing weight really just comes down to calories in vs. calories out.  It really is pretty simple.”  Ok, sounds simple, but I still had no clue how to start.  I was in Florida in the middle of the summer.  It was upwards of 100 degrees outside with what felt like 100% humidity, or close to it.  That, or it was raining buckets.  Remember, in Florida the summer is not only the rainy season but also hurricane season.  Being very out of shape, I definitely did not want to be outside more than I had to, and especially did not want to try to run or walk outside.  Surely I would die of heat exhaustion!  I was also unemployed, diligently searching for work, which made the prospect of a monthly gym membership charge unsavory.

Over the past year and a half, I lost those 20 extra pounds and am trying to become as physically in shape as I have ever been in my life. I want to share with you what I have learned about personal nutrition and physical fitness.

1. Get Started

When it comes to fitness, I have learned that it is best to start small, with something you have done before and think you will enjoy.  This will most likely leave you feeling good, excited and motivated to be active again!  Make the first thing easy for yourself, because the hardest part (in my experience) is getting started.  Going for a walk is a great place to begin, and you can even bring the family with you.  You might choose to walk around your neighborhood, or find a safe place to walk nearby such as a housing development, a park, or inside a large public building such as a shopping mall, museum, or hospital.

2. Make a Plan

After you get started, make plans for how you will be active.  Make a schedule for how you can work it into your life.  My husband just decided last weekend to purchase the treadmill he had been eying for quite a while.  He did some research and found one online for a great price.  On our way to see it, he told me “The best investment you can make is in your health.  You are investing in yourself.  What is more important than that?”  To which I replied, “What about my ring?”  He had to agree.  All joking aside though, he is right.  You may decide to invest some money in your physical fitness, and you are worth it!  That does not mean you need to buy a treadmill.  Your investment might be good running shoes, a bicycle, some workout DVDs and a mat, or a gym membership.

3. Have Fun!

It really does not matter how you exercise, as long as you are active.  So try new things and find something you enjoy!  For me, I enjoy working out at the gym and going on long walks/hikes outdoors.  I would also like to become a decent runner and be able to do a 5K, so I push myself to run outside even though it is awful.  I used to love riding my bike when I was in college, so I am hoping to buy a bike soon.  My husband and I have decided to start having active dates instead of going out to eat.  We want to learn how to surf and snorkel, go canoeing, climbing, kayaking, and of course hiking at the beautiful parks around us.  I am so excited!  It is not only good for our bodies, it is great for our marriage to spend time having fun together in a new and healthy way!

4. Set Goals for Yourself

It helps me to stay motivated if I have a goal I am working towards.  As I mentioned previously, I want to run a 5K, so right now I am working on my running.  My husband and I are also setting goals of hikes we want to do at the gorgeous parks nearby, like the hike at the Grand Canyon all the way to the bottom and then back up, and Zion National Park.  Do some research to find exciting things you would like to be able to do in your area!

5. Focus on the Positive Outcomes

I exercise because I decided to do it, for me.  Exercising helps to lose weight and prevent weight gain, and helps you get in better shape.  Exercising will also make you feel better.  I feel happier and more energized if I am active on a regular basis verses when I am not.  Plus, your clothes will fit better!  And, seriously, who doesn’t want that?