What the heck is Paleo?

Edith Kirkland is a certified Holistic Health Counselor through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is always studying the latest news and released studies on nutrition. She joins us today to explain Paleo and her 30-day journey eating this way:


Paleo is technically not a “diet.” It’s a way of eating that aims for well-balanced nutrition by increasing vegetables, fruits and high-quality meats and fish, while eliminating sugar, processed foods, grains, alcohol (for some people… ahem, I can’t give up my wine!), dairy and, the real kicker, legumes, including beans, soy and peanut butter. The premise is that we should eat like the cavemen did! The main reasons to give up all of these foods is to lose weight (i.e. pound for pound you get more protein and fewer calories from a lean piece of meat than from beans) and to reduce inflammation in the body. Typically, inflammation is the body’s normal response to germs or injury, but eating too many “bad” foods can cause chronic, imperceptible, low-level inflammation. “Over time this kind of inflammation sets the foundation for many serious, age-related diseases [like] heart disease and cancer…even psychological disorders, including depression.” (from Dr. Andrew Weil’s website)

Salmon and berries are Paleo-friendly options.

So, how and why do I know all this about Paleo stuff? I started the 101 class at Iron Tribe Fitness in early December with three friends. We found out that eating a Paleo diet is a big part of the program, and of course I was game to try it! Let’s get one thing perfectly straight, though. What we did was 30 days of “Whole9’s Nutrition Guide,” catered specifically for Iron Tribe, which is a modified version of Paleo. And, even with the modified version, as I confessed just a moment ago, I didn’t give up my wine! So, as long as we’re on the same page, I will tell you about my 30 days “going Paleo,” as I know there is a lot of buzz right now about eating this way, and along with it, some confusion.

I felt great eating like this, and the Baby #3-induced tire around my middle deflated a bit, for sure! You base your meal around a good protein. It’s really not that hard to find a source of meat without added nitrates (always avoid) that’s relatively “good.” I really like the whole cooked turkey breast from Costco – not organic, but no nitrates either – and since turkey breast is lean, it is a better source of “factory farmed” meat. Most of the antibiotics, hormones, pesticides and other environmental toxins are stored in the fat, so If you don’t have access to organic, grass-fed meats, then buy the leanest cuts of meat and trim the fat.

Once you have your protein identified, load up the rest of your plate with veggies. We are all so accustomed to meat/starch/veggie, but with the Paleo plan, we just have to re-think: meat/veggie/veggie. Make sure you have enough fat on your plate to fill you up. Fat does NOT make you fat. Take that idea out of your head! I used to HATE vegetables back in the 80’s when butter was a sin, but if you make your veggies with butter, olive oil, coconut oil, or bacon grease, they will taste really GOOD and will fill you up.

Here is an example of our dinner the other night. I made a cauliflower-crusted pizza using kale pesto and roasted tomatoes as the toppings. Also on our plate was our cold Costco turkey, with sliced avocado on the side. Was this my kids’ favorite meal ever? NO. Did they eat it? YES.

Salad is, of course, the best option for any meal – cut the raw veggies pretty small so they’re harder to pick out, add some nuts to give it some oomph (LOVE the shelled pistachios from Costco), and don’t skimp on the dressing! One great idea I read about on Whole9’s website is that if you are at a restaurant with boring salads, just order a yummy looking sandwich instead, and have them dump all the stuff on a bed of greens, add a dressing, and hold the bread! I’m also very into homemade coconut butter and I’ve made raw zuchini hummus, spinach sausage balls, and Paleo pumpkin cheesecake.

Going Paleo was honestly pretty difficult unless I planned to eat at home for most every meal. Because I was doing it for StyleBlueprint, and just for a month, I felt okay being at a dinner party and passing up MOST of the meal because it wasn’t on my diet. But, really, who wants to live that way all the time? I do encourage people to go Paleo for 30 days and see how they feel, then slowly add things back to determine what foods make them feel their best. I know I’m better off avoiding dairy, which I can do. I also know I feel better if I don’t eat gluten and sugar. I am not so good at that!

At the end of the day, we all have the bodies God gave us. Yes, my tire re-inflated when I stopped eating the Paleo way. Oh, well. I am sure I have some inflammation in my body, but hopefully not too much – I’m healthy enough, but I do like to splurge! If we could all try to eat well 80% of the time, that would be enough to take care of a lot of health issues in our world! And however you choose to eat, I do believe that Michael Pollen says it best, “Eat Food: not too much, mostly plants.”

I’ve included an interesting debate regarding legumes at the end of today’s post, if you are curious, click here.


Thanks, Edith, for sharing your Paleo experience today on SB!