Paleo Meal Building Made Easy

Paleo Meal-Building Made Easy

Paleo Meal-Building: Here’s How To Make It Deliciously Simple!

So you’re thinking about giving the paleo diet try. You’re certain you’ve got the willpower to kick refined sugars and grains to the curb. But…there’s just this one little thing keeping you from making the leap – paleo sounds like a heck of a lot of work!

If that’s what’s holding you back, you’re not alone. I hear it from Paleo Newbie website visitors all the time…and it’s one of the big reasons why most of my Paleo Newbie recipes are super-simple.

But I’m going to be honest with you here: Yes, it does take a little more time and effort to eat paleo.

Now here’s the good news – putting together a simple and tasty paleo meal is not nearly as difficult as you might think.

Sure, you can’t just toss any old pre-packaged meal into the microwave or pull into a fast food drive-through on your way home if you’re paleo.

But there is a very simple formula you can use to quickly figure out all your paleo-approved meals…

The 4 Ridiculously Simple Steps to Successful Paleo Meal Building:

  • 1. CHOOSE A PROTEIN

    roasted-chicken-300x244Easy, right?

    What sounds good to you right now: eggs, chicken, beef, seafood, pork?

    You’ve got lots of choices here and already know what you like.

    Just go for the highest quality protein you can find/afford – naturally raised and minimally processed.

    If you’re concerned about portions, the protein on your plate should be about the size of your fist – more if you’re really active.

  • 2. PICK 1-2 VEGETABLES

    spinach-300x200OK, maybe a little tougher choice here because with paleo you should skip the white potatoes, rice, beans and peas.

    But once again, there must be at least a few veggies you like on the paleo A-list.

    How about sweet potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes, asparagus, all leafy greens, carrots, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers, celery, zucchini, squash, bok choy, onions, beets…and the list goes on.

    A good rule of thumb is to choose one green vegetable, and you can make your second one more starchy if you like. But if one of your paleo goals is to lose weight, take it easy on the root and tuber veggies like carrots and sweet potatoes.

    If you just can’t come up with a second vegetable, go with some fruit instead.

    Avocados are actually a fruit and offer lots of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

    Other good paleo fruit choices are any kind of berries, and cherries, melons, peaches or apricots. Once again, if you’re trying to drop some pounds, avoid the fruits with higher sugar content such as apples, mango, pineapple, grapes, pears, bananas and dried fruit like dates and figs. That said, any fruit is still better than a bag of chips as a side dish.

    And as far as portions, you ideally want your two vegetables (or veggie and fruit) to be about the size of two fists on your plate. Again, dish up more if your physical activity demands it – or if you’re just really hungry today.

  • 3. SELECT A HEALTHY FAT

    Olive-Oil-300x246Contrary to popular belief, fat doesn’t make you fat – that’s usually the handiwork of too many carbohydrates and not enough exercise.

    Fat actually helps keep your energy levels up, makes you feel satisfied longer after a meal, plus it supports body fat reduction.

    So for your paleo meal building, choose a healthy fat to enjoy along with your meal.

    Some good fat examples include olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, ghee, lard, tallow and full-fat coconut milk. No refined vegetable oils including margarine, canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil and flaxseed oil please!

    Cook with it, drizzle it on your veggies, make a salad dressing out of it, or you can even put a spoonful of coconut oil in your morning coffee.

  • 4. ADD HERBS AND SPICES

    Spices-300x231As wise as your choices have been so far, your paleo meal is going to be a little bland without some tasty seasonings to liven things up.

    As far as I know, all pure herbs and spices are paleo approved – and no, a shaker of sugar and cinnamon is not a spice.

    So go ahead and load up your meal with wonderful flavors.

    Some of my paleo kitchen must-haves include garlic, onion powder, chili powder, chipotle, paprika, cayenne pepper, ground pepper, parsley, dill, mint, chives, cinnamon, ginger, rosemary, oregano, nutmeg, basil, ground mustard and cumin.

That’s it!

This simple, four-step formula will always help you create a well-balanced and perfectly paleo meal – whether you’re following someone’s recipe or winging it on your own.

Just remember: 1) Protein; 2) Veggies/Fruit; 3) Fats, and 4) Flavor – paleo meals are easier than you thought, right?

Paleo Quickstart Guide

Paleo Quickstart Guide

It’s Not Rocket Science…Get Started On Your New Paleo Lifestyle Right Now!

New to paleo and anxious to get going? Awesome! Here’s a simple, no-frills, quickstart guide to the paleo basics. If you could care less about the details and just want to jump right in, this will get you off to a flying start!

  • Stop eating processed foods of any kind. The same goes for grains, beans, dairy, refined sugars, soy or industrial vegetable oils. Ideally, eliminate alcoholic beverages. Coffee gets a pass for paleo – hold the cream and sugar. TIP: Clean out your pantry, refrigerator and cupboards of all of the above. Donate unopened packages to your local food bank, or toss them in the trash.

  • Start eating wholesome, unprocessed, real foods. These can include meats and poultry (preferably grass-fed/organic certified), eggs, fish, vegetables, fruits and nuts. Cook with healthy oils such as olive oil and coconut oil. Substitute ghee for margarine/butter. Remember to eliminate legumes (beans), white potatoes, corn, rice, peanuts and of course wheat/gluten from your diet. TIP: Check out some of my easy recipes for delicious, wholesome meals. Start out with the simplest ones. I strongly urge you to skip past the “Treats” recipes if you’re just getting started.

  • Go grocery shopping. Keep in mind paleo is an investment in your health and longevity. Eating higher quality food may mean you have to spend a little more at the supermarket. Hit the store with a list and buy only what you need. TIP: Avoid the center aisles of the grocery store and shop the perimeter. On a tight budget? Do what I do and skip unnecessary luxuries like your morning lattes and put what you save toward your paleo shopping trips.

  • Paleo is a lifestyle, not a fad diet. Commit to it for the long haul if you decide it’s right for you. (You should know that after giving yourself at least 30 days (more if necessary) to get into the Paleo groove.) TIP: I personally recommend starting your first 30 days eating only paleo-approved foods and meals, and NO treats – even if they’re paleo-friendly.

  • Exercise! TIP: Any physical activity from high-intensity interval training to weight lifting is good. CrossFit is popular with paleo peeps, but any exercise that gets you moving and your heart rate up will help increase your body’s metabolism and energy levels.

  • Get plenty of sleep. Most studies indicate between 7.5 – 8 hours of quality sleep each night is what you need to fully rejuvenate your body and mind for the next day. TIP: Do not ignore this step…the benefits of good sleep are amazing.

  • Get regular exposure to sunlight. It’s the best source of vitamin D for your body. TIP: Obviously, don’t overdo this. Adjust the time for you skin type and seasonal sun intensity. Fifteen minutes per day is a good general recommendation for most people.

  • Don’t freak out if you mess up and eat something that’s not paleo. TIP: Seriously, you’re attempting a lifestyle that may be radically different than your normal routine. Chances are you will slip up. Well so what, you’re human! Just shake it off and get back on track. Paleo can reverse years of poor eating and lifestyle habits…stick with it and you will soon start seeing the rewards!

Quick Guide: How to Eat Paleo

PaleoNewbie - foods to eat and avoid on the paleo lifestyle

Living the paleo lifestyle begins with choosing the right foods to fuel your body.  Here’s a good starter list of paleo diet foods you can eat, and which ones shouldn’t be on your menu.


GOOD PALEO FOODS TO EAT

Meats – just about every kind of meat is paleo, with the exception of processed meats such as hot dogs, Spam, bologna, and so on. Choose grass-fed beef and free range poultry over grain-fed meats whenever possible.

Fish – freshwater and saltwater fish provide great nutrition for the paleo lifestyle. Avoid farm-raised fish and choose fresh-caught instead.

Eggs – eggs are paleo and rich in protein and omega3 oils. Choose eggs that come from cage-free/free range hens if possible.

Oils/Fats – minimally processed oils and fats are good for you on the paleo diet. Healthy choices include olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, ghee and grass-fed butter.

Vegetables – almost all are perfect for the paleo lifestyle. Just avoid those higher in starch and lower in nutrients – especially white potatoes. Also note most legumes (especially dried beans) corn and peanuts are on the do-not-eat list.

Fruits – concentrate mainly on berries to avoid consuming too much fructose (sugar), especially if your goal is to lose weight on the paleo lifestyle.

Nuts – okay to eat, but do so in moderation due to some toxins and generally high omega6 content.


FOODS TO AVOID ON THE PALEO DIET

Processed/Junk foods – if it comes in a box, package, pop-top can or fast-food wrapper, it probably includes additives, preservatives, sugars, processed oils, or any number of things that add useless carbs and health-robbing ingredients to your diet. Think wholesome fresh food and steer clear of pretty much everything else.

Grains – wheat, rye, barley, rice, corn – all grains and products made from grain such as cereals and breads should be avoided following the paleo lifestyle.

Sugars – definitely no table sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, cane sugar and similar refined sugars that provide no nutritional value and can be downright harmful. Sweeteners that are better for you (but should still be limited to small amounts) include raw honey, coconut sugar, and pure maple syrup.

Vegetable oils – consuming heavily processed and chemically refined oils (corn oil, canola oil, seed oils) may cause inflammation and possibly lead to more serious problems.

Dairy – no milk, ice cream, cheeses, yogurt, pudding, and so on. We make an exception for grass-fed butter or ghee, however if you want to follow a strict paleo diet, avoid those too.

Soft drinks – no sodas, and it doesn’t matter if they’re “diet” – avoid them all. Get used to drinking pure water instead.

Fruit juices – most fruit juices are about the same as a glass full of sugar water. Enjoy whole fruits instead.

Legumes – most beans, particularly dried beans such as lentils and navy beans, contain toxins and other stuff that can be bad for your digestive system. This includes peanuts. Fresh green beans and peas are less toxic, and when cooked, are fairly benign.

Starchy vegetables – it’s best to avoid white potatoes and other similar vegetables which are higher in starch and lower in nutritional value. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with them, you’ll look and feel better limiting your intake of starch – especially if you’re trying to lose weight.

Suggested Reading

Some Good Paleo Books To Read

I love to curl up in my cave with a good digital book, so it’s only natural I’d go hunting for some interesting reads on the Paleo lifestyle to download.

Some of these zero-in on the Paleo lifestyle, while others explore health and eating from other fascinating angles that make me even more convinced Paleo is the only way to go.

I’ve included links below each review that will take you directly to the book’s page on Amazon.com. When you click the links here and buy through Amazon, that earns us a few pennies per sale to support the blog, but won’t add anything extra to the price you pay on Amazon. Thanks for your support!

Mark Sisson has been one of the leaders of the Paleo revolution since starting his popular MarksDailyApple.com blog in 2006. The is really a good book that lays out the Paleo lifestyle, supported by a lot of facts so you’ll thoroughly understand why you’re eating some things and avoiding others. It can get a little detailed in places – perfect for a Paleo geek like me. I highly recommend this one.


Robb Wolf’s “The Paleo Solution” was not only very informative, it was a kick to read. A former biochemist, Robb presents the Paleo lifestyle in a very casual and engaging way, that makes even the heady biology sections easy to absorb. Robb turned his health around on the Paleo diet…no doubt why he spends a good amount of time talking about how Paleo can help prevent diseases. Really good stuff!


This is not a Paleo book per se, but more about why you should stick to the “outside aisles” of the grocery store if you want to eat healthy.  “In The Defense of Food” goes into detail about the evils of processed foods and the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.). Michael Pollan also weighs in on how the U.S. government started making our diets worse by pushing cheap grains in the 1970’s. A really fascinating read.


If you have any doubt refined sugars are bad for you, read “Fat Chance.” The toxicity of the sweet stuff really is scary. You can tell Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist, is on a personal mission to demonize sugar, nonetheless, he’s got the scientific evidence to back it up. His book is peppered with personal stories of kids he’s treated for obesity which was also interesting.  All and all, another good book to grab.


This one by an astrophysicist and molecular biologist husband and wife team, is full of scientific data. “Perfect Health Diet” is a little more cumbersome to wade through than the other books here, but still pretty enlightening. It’s interesting the authors encourage you to eat rice and potatoes – big no-no’s for Paleo purists. For newbies struggling with the stricter Paleo diet, this book’s eating plan may be a good way to ease into it.


“The Fattening of America” looks at our eating habits from a different perspective – mainly the economics of cheap food and what that actually costs us in the long run. The authors, a health economist and a business writer, explain why America is in the middle of an obesity crisis thanks in part to low-cost, high-carb foods – as well as our own lack of willpower to choose a salad over a Big Mac. This one’s interesting and easy to read.


I’ve just started reading “Salt Sugar Fat” by Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Moss. It’s an expose on the USA’s most powerful food brands, and how they make us crave their packaged goodies so much. This book makes you realize how huge and influential the food industry really is in America. With the government in their back pocket, it’s obvious the food titans are after only one thing: profit…shrinking our wallets while our waistlines expand. This one’s an eye-opener.


“Deep Nutrition” by Dr. Shanahan, highlights the evils of processed foods and encourages us to eat in more traditional ways along the lines of the world’s great cultures. There are not a lot of dietary tips here, instead she focuses primarily on the relationship of food and genetics. Could eating better turn your next baby into a supermodel? That’s one of the gene-related topics she dives into here…a fascinating concept, but I’m just grateful my babies turned out healthy. Not a particularly Paleo read – but still interesting.


Paleo Overview

Paleo is shorthand for Paleolithic. The whole idea behind the Paleo lifestyle is that our bodies (specifically our genes) are programmed to function best when we eat only those foods that were available through the Paleolithic Era, which ended about 10,000 years ago. Any new foods that popped up after that on the Neolithic menu and later, are pretty much taboo on the Paleo plan today.

The 10,000-year cut-off is significant because that’s about when those early hunter-gatherers began turning into farmers and started planting and harvesting crops. Before that, eating grass seeds (grains) would have probably been a foreign concept to them. Likewise milking anything. And chances are legumes (beans) wouldn’t have been served at the dinner table because those need to be soaked and cooked to dilute the naturally occurring toxins. And most modern-day Paleo devotees believe the ancient ones didn’t go around digging up tubers either (like potatoes and yams – although there’s some heated debate about this one). Of course, the Paleo plan rules out anything processed, from margarine to Big Macs.

On the Paleo diet, you’re encouraged to eat meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and eggs…basically whatever our distant relatives would have been able to scrounge up in the wilds to survive.

There’s some pretty good forensic evidence to back up the Paleo lifestyle based on the remains and artifacts of our predecessors. Compared to us modern humans today, paleontologists say our predecessors were taller, healthier, had larger brains, experienced less chronic disease, and had almost no tooth decay. Back in the day, the biggest threat to your life was cave lions or aggressive bands of humans rather than heart disease.

Along with the diet, most Paleo followers recommend exercising the whole body (mainly the short-burst kind of activity similar to what you’d get running around spearing a woolly mammoth) instead of spending endless hours on a treadmill.

Most Paleo practitioners also advocate getting regular sun exposure for the vitamin D, and a good 8 hours of shuteye each night.

Here’s a video that starts out with a good summary of the Paleo diet from Robb Wolf, the author of “The Paleo Solution” – keep watching beyond the first minute if you want to learn more:

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