So you have decided to kick wheat, grains and refined sugar to the curb and adopt a Paleo approach to eating. Or perhaps you have already gone Primal, but are frustrated with what appears to be a total lack of recipes for the food that you can and want to eat. This article will help you learn how to make Paleo meal planning easy and full of the foods you enjoy.
Most of us grew up with the good old food pyramid, which had grains at the bottom. At home, our dinners were laid on a nice mattress of white rice or spaghetti. Otherwise, every meal was divided into three parts; the meat, the veggies, and the starch. The starch usually meant potatoes, rice, or those noodles you made from a packet. It’s what we knew, it’s what our parents knew, and that was that.
Things have changed a lot. Over the past decade or so, it feels like we have seen a big shift in our approach to food. Now we are starting to rebuild that pyramid, and grains are no longer seen as the perfect base. We are noticing that grains can have a negative effect of some people, and they have no choice but to rebuild their personal food pyramid.
Some people have chosen to remove the grains entirely in their quest to optimal health, myself included (with certain exceptions – I am not committed enough to be a purist). Many people have achieved positive results by switching to a Paleo diet some or all of the time. The foods that are Paleo change depending on who you ask, but the things most can agree on include:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables – most are fine, but a few kinds, such as potatoes, are avoided
- Meat and eggs – grass-fed and organic are preferred
- Animal and other good fats – choose high-quality animal fats and oils from good sources, such as coconut, avocado, and olive oils
- Nuts and seeds (but not peanuts, which are of course, not really nuts)
That is by no means a complete guide to what you can eat, but I am going to have to defer to actual experts on a lot of this. My go-to for Paleo advice is Mark’s Daily Apple, which is an excellent resource for those who follow a Paleo or Primal lifestyle.
So with all that in mind, how do we go about revising our plates when we’ve taken out 33%-50+% of the stuff we used to pile on it?
Here is a simple guideline for planning Paleo meals.
Take your plate and fill it like this:
- 1/3 Hearty Vegetables (such as squashes and sweet potatoes – the vegetables that are substantial and add body to a meal)
- 1/3 Super Vegetables (this is where you load up on nutrient-dense vegetables, such as dark greens or brightly colored tomatoes and peppers)
- 1/3 Meat (lean protein is good, but a little extra fat is okay here, since it helps keep you feeling full long after the meal)
That is it.
Now it is easy to use this principle to come up with dozens of meals.
You could set up your Paleo meal plan strategy by making lists of your favorite foods for each category and matching them up.
Tip: Consider putting ingredients together than pair well or could be cooked together.
For example, you could place cubes of chuck steak in a slow cooker with chunks of butternut squash and pearl onions and celery (there is no limit to how many Super Vegetables you can use). Add some broth, tomato paste, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper, and there you have it!
Avoiding Carbs or Starchy Vegetables?
It should be noted that you don’t have to put every category on your plate. For example, if you are trying to avoid vegetables that are high in carbs or sugar (such as sweet potatoes), you could just skip that category and just double up on the Super Vegetables.
Paleo meal planning can be a challenge at times, but if you follow this simple food matching approach and include the healthy foods that you enjoy, it can be simple.