By now you’ve probably heard of the Paleo diet, and you may be wondering how eating like a caveman could make you healthier. Or maybe you just want to know what the heck cavemen ate, and if you have to forage it for yourself.
Fortunately, the Paleo lifestyle does not involve hunting and clubbing your own meat. Instead, think of it like a return to the basics. “Focus on fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, grass-produced meats and poultry, fresh fish, fresh seafood, free-range eggs, nuts, and certain healthy oils,” says Loren Cordain, Ph.D., founder of the Paleo movement. “Avoid processed foods, refined sugars, refined vegetable oils, refined and whole grains, salt, dairy products, and legumes.”
That sounds reasonable—especially because fit guys probably already skip refined sugars and processed foods. Plus, Paleo guidelines suggest that about three non-Paleo meals can be consumed per week (preferably with a pint of your favorite brew). As for cooking Paleo, most spices are permitted, vinegar is acceptable (as long as it’s made without salt), and even some healthy, fatty oils—like olive, avocado, walnut and coconut—are permitted.
The Paleo diet outlaws popular vegetarian protein staples—legumes, dairy, and even oft-toted “healthy” grains like quinoa are out, Cordain, says. But Paleo dieters replace those with higher doses of meat—about 19–35% of ancient hunter-gatherers’ daily caloric intake was protein, Cordain says—and encourages non-starchy vegetables and fruits aplenty (ideally, 35–45% of daily calories). Some nutritionists have expressed reservations about the Paleo diet, though, citing concerns that it could lead to deficiencies in vitamins and minerals—notably calcium and vitamins B and D—without disciplined nutritional planning.
So who should take a swing at the Paleo lifestyle? Cordain suggests obese Americans—an ever-growing population—would make great candidates. Of course, heavy-duty weightlifters and CrossFitters alike have long been drawn to the Paleo diet’s high-protein, no-junk-food approach.
Still not convinced? Try it for a day by whipping up these easy Paleo meals. They’re relatively quick, simple meals. You probably have the ingredients in your pantry already.
Breakfast: Paleo Banana Pancakes
Splash of vanilla and dash of cinnamon (optional)
½ Tbs of butter (for pan)
Fresh berries (for garnish)
1. Peel and mash banana.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs.
3. Combine egg and banana mixture and stir in vanilla and cinnamon.
4. Heat skillet or frying pan to medium high heat. Coat pan with ½ Tbs butter.
5. Pour about ¼ cup of batter for each pancake. Cook until golden brown then flip.
6. Garnish with a heap of berries. Serve.
Snack: Sliced Apples + ¼ Cup Walnuts
Rather than reach for your standard junk-food snack, slice up an apple and grab a few walnuts. The apple will pack enough sugar to keep your energy levels up, and the fiber and healthy fats of the walnuts will help you feel feel fuller for longer.
Lunch: Mexican Chicken Salad
½ small red onion, sliced thin
¼ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 avocado, sliced
Grilled chicken breast, sliced
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbs Red wine vinegar
Juice of one lime + zest
1 Tbs honey (optional)
Salt + Pepper
2 Tbs cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1. Place all the veggies in a large serving bowl.
2. In a separate container, whisk dressing ingredients together and immediately drizzle over salad.
3. Toss to coat.
Dinner: Pork Loin + Easy Ratatouille
For the Pork Loin:
1 Pork Loin (~2 lbs)
Juice + Zest of one lemon
2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Dash of pepper
Marinate pork in the remaining ingredients overnight, or for at least three hours.
Preheat oven to 400. Cook for 20 minutes, turning once.
1 yellow onion, diced
1 small eggplant, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 Tbs olive oil
2 bell peppers, diced
1 zucchini, diced
2 tomatoes, skinned and cut in wedges
1 Tbs Italian seasoning
1 Tbs fresh parsley
¼ tsp pepper
1. Over medium-high heat, saute onions and garlic in olive oil in a pot.
2. Reduce heat to low and add vegetables and seasoning before covering.
3. Simmer 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Dessert: Grilled Peaches
½ Tbs butter, melted
Pinch of cinnamon
Drizzle of honey (optional)
1. Heat grill to medium.
2. Cut peach in half and remove pit.
3. Brush each half with a little butter to avoid sticking to grill.
4. Place peaches fruit side down and cook 4-5 minutes.
5. Flip and cook another 3-4 minutes, or until just cooked through.
6. Sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon and a drizzle of honey.