All About Paleo

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

This post is for everyone who has emailed asking about the paleo diet. I have officially been a CrossFitter for 8 months, and while I write these posts for myself, I am thrilled that they've inspired several readers to give CrossFit and/or paleo a try. Over the past few months, I have received multiple emails about CrossFit and paleo, and while I would hardly consider myself an expert on I have learned a thing or two. And yesterday, I did 5 unbroken unassisted pull-ups, and 20 unassisted pull-ups!

Again–I am not an expert and urge you to do your own research. The paleo/caveman diet is simple. Eat real food. Lean meats, vegetables, eggs, fruit, some raw nuts, honey, etc. No sugar, corn syrup, soy, or anything modified. This does not work for everyone, and it's certainly not the only way to be healthy. I am not saying that dairy and grains are bad. I just tend to avoid them because this is a lifestyle that works for me. I've never felt better, and I believe that the way I eat has drastically improved my body, mind, and the way that I work out.

These days, we eat food designed to last on a shelf for months and then wonder why our bodies can't break it down. Boxed cereals, pasta, cookies etc. Pop tarts are not food. Soda is poison.

This doesn't mean you can't have the occasional treat. These brownies are one of my favorite desserts, and are paleo friendly. And if you really want to splurge on a Sprinkles cupcake, go for it. I had one while on the paleo challenge and still lost 1/4 of my body fat in two months. I try to stick to one cheat meal a week and do not believe in depriving myself. I also have some big goals. I am working on getting below 20% body fat (athlete status) in the next few months. 

The paleo challenge is a more intense version of paleo. It involves lowering sugar intake and eliminating alcohol. No bananas, grapes, larabars, almond milk, or sweet potatoes (all are paleo friendly but not paleo challenge friendly), for example. Too much sugar. I chose to eliminate all fruit except for berries which are lowest in sugar but would have apples on occasion. And really–if an apple is the worst thing you've eaten all day, I think you're doing pretty well. We were allowed one glass of red per day although I tried to keep it to 2-3 glasses a week. I am on another challenge with a few friends and have had two glasses the past two weeks. It's just about being healthy most of the time.

Instead of baking with wheat flour and sugar, you'll use almond or coconut flour and honey. This isn't about deprivation. It's about providing your body with the best possible nutrients that you can. And if you really want some pizza, a non-paleo cupcake, or another treat–you should have it. But you shouldn't eat that way on a regular basis.

What I typically eat/drink
Breakfast: 2 organic free range eggs, organic turkey sausage, and a few sliced strawberries, blackberries, and/or blueberries. I will sometimes make an omelet with 2 eggs, some egg whites, and lots of veggies.

Lunch and dinner: I usually make a few servings of some sort meat and veggies and then alternate between the two for lunch and dinner. I've been relying heavily on my crock pot but plan on mixing things up a bit more. If I have a salad, dressing is always olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Snacks: vegetables (jicama is a favorite), a few raw almonds, or some strawberries. I will sometimes have a larabar. They're delicious. And I'm so excited that a friend of mine from CrossFit is launching a line of bars that are much healthier (and taste better) than larabars. I'll let you know when they're available. He dropped a few off for my trip to CA last week and they are the perfect snack!

Alcohol: red wine or tequila with soda water and lime (paleo margarita)

Beverages: water, iced americanos, and coconut water after an especially intense workout. I love la croix coconut sparkling water as well.

What's always in my pantry:
Lots of spices!
Coconut oil
Avocado oil
Olive oil
Almond and coconut flour
Coconut sugar

In my fridge/freezer:
Chicken (organic/free range/grass fed–always!)
Frozen fruit (I love frozen strawberries)
Coconut water
Coconut La Croix
Black cherry Klarbrunn sparkling water

Fruit / berries

When I need a treat:
Coconut larabar
Enjoy life chocolate chips
Hail Merry macaroons
Go Raw organic lemon super cookies

A few links/resources:
What is the paleo diet?
What is CrossFit?
My thoughts on CrossFit
Elana's Pantry
Nom Nom Paleo
My friend Gina's blog–River North Paleo Girl
Other paleo blogs I love–Civilized Caveman and PaleOMG  
And of course, the place that changed my life: RNCF 


  1. Great job summarizing! A few suggestions for you - there is a brand of dressing sold in Whole Foods called Tessa Mae's. I think most, if not all, are completely paleo friendly. I like the italian and the buffalo sauce... you should try them out when you want to mix things up instead of always using olive oil and vinegar. I also have been making "sandwiches" with iceberg lettuce as the outside and no-salt added applegate farms turkey, a few crumbles of no-sugar bacon, tomato slices, and homemade olive oil mayo (from the Clothes Make the Girl). So so good. Glad you found Crossfit and Paleo, d!

  2. What is the rationale behind avoiding legumes/unprocessed grains?

    1. Alex, I recommend doing research on this topic. I am not an expert and just wanted to share my experience, but I do not feel qualified to explain all the reasons behind why certain foods are/are not paleo.

  3. Hey, Danielle! This looks awesome. I'm currently trying a super clean diet as well, only it's more along the lines of vegan than paleo. Have you heard of Kris Carr? I read her book Crazy Sexy Diet and haven't been the same since. I'd recommend it if you're interested in health. I love reading about all the different theories and perspectives on food/diet. :)

    And ooohhh—that ice cream. Hello.

  4. I'm still pretty new to paleo, and I've only been doing strict for a challenge since Jan 1, so this post is a great resource. Thanks! I'm having a pretty hard time eliminating fruit and the occasional Lara bar and sweet potato but I am trying to stick to lower sugar fruits, berries and some apples and I figure this isn't the end of the world in the scheme of things!

  5. Thanks so much for the explanation! I've been wondering for awhile what paleo is all about. I'm not sure if I could ever go full out paleo, but I do like the idea of focusing more on real food instead of processed junk. Glad it's working for you!

  6. I love this post. I have been eating Paleo off and on for about a year now. I find that i feel more energized, sleep better and just generally feel better about myself. I love that you post about Paleo- it's good to know there are others share the same Paleo passion! You inspired me to do another challenge so i stick to it this time! Thank you!

  7. i have really been wanting to try paleo. i think i might try after my birthday. no way am i missing out on cake.

    1. I would go paleo and then cheat on your birthday. I had a cupcake on the challenge. You can still have treats–just in moderation. I try to stick to one cheat meal a week.

  8. Thanks for the great post! I'm about a week and a half into a paleo challenge at my gym and am loving it so far. Yes, there have been really tough moments, but the difference in how I feel is completely worth it (plus the few lbs that have already come off help!). At the beginning I tested at 14% bf, so I'm excited to see what I'm at in 6 weeks with that and some other performance metrics. I don't know if you eat red meat or just chicken, but if you do, this crockpot recipe from paleomg was amazing last night: http://paleomg.com/paleo-crockpot-beef-and-mushroom-stew/ (we can have sweet potatoes on our challenge though as part of post workout meals). Also, I just finished rereading Great Gatsby last night too..can't wait for the movie!

  9. Great summary! I try to explain to people that I'm not on a "diet", it's simply how I choose to eat.. I do treat myself from time to time. I think if you said you could never again eat a cupcake or a piece of pizza, you wouldn't last. It's about making those things a treat and eating well on a daily basis. Thanks for the post and congrats on the pull ups! It's a big day!!

    1. EXACTLY. I will have pizza again. And cake. Licorice too!

  10. Thanks so much for this post. I recently started CrossFit and have been trying to get into Paleo, but have really been struggling with sticking to it. Your suggestions will be key in helping me to succeed at Paleo! Thank you!

  11. Thanks for this post! I'm just starting out with eating paleo and this post was extremely informative.

  12. Thanks for the post, I love a simplified post to read more on Paleo. I am always learning more. Can't wait to see when those new bars come available, I am not a big fan of Larabars. But I do like NoGii bars and some of them are Paleo. Thanks again!

  13. are you allowed to have rice?

  14. I love this! I watched the documentary Food Inc a few weeks ago and since then have been trying to avoid processed foods and meats. Such an interesting read! Best of luck with all of your goals - so inspiring!

  15. It's always so great when people realize how eating really does affect their mood & everything about how they feel! I never felt good eating meat, and I stopped a few years ago-I noticed an immediate change in every little thing in my life. I felt better, more clear-headed...it also made me re-evaluate the way I ate entirely! I eat a lot of fresh produce, don't drink pop (I drink milk, but it's OK on my diet!), and know my limits and moderation. Thanks for sharing your story :)

    Blonde in this City

  16. This is so informative! I have always been interested in "paleo" but have never taken the time to dive into what it is and what it isnt! I can imagine for me the hardest part would be eliminating the wine (or restricting my intake) as well as curbing my sweets craving, but I love some of the paleo friendly recipes you have listed on here! Is it hard when you find yourself at restaurants? how do you order? do you do meal prep for the week? Would love to learn more!

  17. I loved reading about this. My scale hasn't budged for about 3 weeks of working out... I need to switch it up and I think this might ba a good place to start!

    Holly Foxen Wells

    1. Don't focus on your weight. Focus on how you feel, how you work out, and how your clothes fit. I only lost 3 lbs during the 2 month paleo challenge but 1/4 of my body fat. I was very weak and have gained muscle which weighs more than fat.

  18. I just started CrossFit myself and have really enjoyed following your progress - it's amazing and inspiring! You should be proud. Please keep up the CrossFit and paleo posts - they are so motivating! I've been thinking about trying Paleo but my lack of willpower and love of carbs scares me! (That and I really don't like coconut). The thought of giving up lattes and mexican food only makes me crave them more! Congrats on your success!

  19. So glad you shared your experience with Paleo. I have been paleo for about 6 months now with amazing results for my health, the weight loss thing is just another 'side effect'! It is easy to stick to and i am never hungry (or hangry) ever and have so much energy for intense workouts. This is a first and something you dont experience on a low fat, high carbo diet.

    Thank you for also encouraging people to do research as paleo is not a fad diet, its a lifestyle, so people need to fully understand the ins and outs! Robb Wolf was my first go-to guru!

    All the best with your training, its so great when girls get in the gym and do pull ups!!!!

  20. This diet sounds interesting...I love to have a glass of wine on the weekends...what do you do. I will look into it more because i would love to lose 7-10 pounds!

  21. Oh I just saw that you drink red wine! Perfect that's what I have in my kitchen right now.

  22. Thanks for sharing Danielle. I am looking into exploring the Paleo DIet. I think I am on the right track. My pantry is looking pretty similar. I think it is more weekends when I am going out to eat etc that will be hard. Gonna make the commitment after a little more research with the links you shared.

  23. Thank you for finally explaining paleo! I've been wondering what it is for awhile now, and upon seeing the opening graphic, I began to think "hey, that's actually how I eat?" until I saw "avoid dairy and grains." I honestly can't imagine a life without grains and/or milk (hello, cheerios!) But everything else, I pretty much follow as well :) Processed foods make me feel so disgusting ever since a few years ago (during my last leg of college). I try to go for things with natural ingredients, in their simplest forms. Passing along this way of fueling my body to friends is what I hope to do... Too many of them think eating "healthy" is buying any frozen Lean Cuisine and eating it everyday for every meal. Woof!