Tuesday, 14 August 2012

How to Make the Transition to Paleo

The Paleo diet is easier for some of us than it is for others. If you are eating a diet which consists mainly of sugar and carbs, particularly the really processed ones, the Paleo diet may sound like Kill-Joy's perfect way to get you wound up. Paleo experts suggest dropping your current diet and switching to 30-day trials without every food you've been used to, or a 30-day Reset. But what if you need to function at your best and can't function when you're body has been thrown into a place it hasn't met in, say, 10,000 years? And what if you've never cooked a chicken in your life? Don't run away, and don't bark back at Kill-Joy, who means well. Instead, try a proper transition, slow and steady. 

A 30-day trial is fine if you want to start seeing results quickly or you want to be aware of the real difference between how you felt on your old diet and how you will feel in 30 days. But what if you actually need to function during those 30-days? What if you are pushing your limits of activity? What if you can't take the 'carb flu', as I hear it's called, and either you need to keep going or you become extremely agitated when your body won't let you stay awake through the afternoon? And finally, what if you've never cooked in the manner advised by many of the meal plans online? What if you don't know how much the average supermarket chicken weighs and you've never had to squeeze its slimy legs into the oven before? A recipe with a long list of weird food preparation guidelines may be seriously off-putting for the five-minute kitchen spender or the person who is more familiar with the identically sliced meats in the cooked food aisle of the supermarket than he is with a very long kitchen knife. 

So, for anyone who even slightly fits into this category, try making smaller changes to your diet. Try experimenting with one recipe one day and another on a different day. Try slowly replacing your poorly formed, energy-depleting, high-carbohydrate, passed through thirty hands in a factory meal with something which looks like you could have hunted, caught, grown, or picked, yourself. And then evaluate the results so far.

Here's my best idea for making the transition. See what you think.
  1. Protein comes from poultry, eggs, and meat. Only. That's actually a massive variety of sources.
    • Get your poultry and your meat from the relevant 'fresh' aisles in the supermarkets. Choose grass-fet or organic where possible, but if not just go for something which requires cooking. The chicken breast fillets or the beef pieces in packets are fine. What you're doing right now is increasing the amount of poultry and meat you eat and buying ones which haven't been prepared, cut into shape, and depleted of nutrients. Seriously, turn over the packet and have a read of the ingredients. What does it say? Chicken? Beef? As expected? Right, now walk over to the cooked meats section. Pick up a packet of chicken. Turn it over. Read the ingredients. More than one? Anything you don't recognise? How comfortable do you feel now?
    • For eggs, choose ones which are organic or where the packet says that welfare of the chickens was good. Not only will it stop you feeling guilty, it will taste better too.
  2. Replace all 'carby' meals with their equivalent veg sources. Let's break this down:
    • Want pasta or noodles? No problem. Just replace the pasta itself with zucchini, carrot, spaghetti squash or other starchy vegetable source. Grind down until it resembles noodles, or you can play around to make pasta shapes, and then boil, fry, or think of something new. Now add the sauce. Great.
    • Want pizza? Make the bread out of flax and almond flour. 
    • Want bread? Ditto.
    • Cereal? Porridge? Oh my gosh, you have just reached the amazing Paleo meals! Nuts can make porridge. Did you know that? Nuts can make milk. Bet you didn't know that either. Combine an apple (without skin) and a pear in a blender, add maybe five almonds, and you have the same magnificence. You can also use buckwheat to make your own fabulous cereal. Try fresh fruit with almond milk for breakfast. Yum.
  3. What have I missed?
  4. If you do eat all the crap you're not supposed to eat (ehem, crisps, sweets, etc...chocolate is debatable), make these instead:
    • Sweet potato chips (dehydrated in the oven)
    • Other vegetable chips
    • Smoothies, sweet porridges, and dried fruit (limited!) to get your sugar craving sorted.
  5. No fizzy drinks. N.O. Make fresh fruit juices instead. 

---> Get that sorted, and you're on Transition Road! --->

Next, reduce the amount of carbs you are eating and increase the amount of protein. 

---> How are we doing? --->

Finally, vary the types of protein you are getting. Ensure that you have veg with every meal, and protein with every meal. Vary the amount of veg, too. 

---> And that's a wrap for now! --->

Just keep going!


  1. Are you aware that flax, almonds, pears and sweet potatoes are goitrogens? These are not good for hypos, I'm afraid.

  2. Hi,
    I was not aware, from what I have read, that the goitrogen food list includes those listed above. I know that the list of goitrogen's can vary massively depending on what you are reading and I tend to take an avoid but eat unless there's a clear reason not to stance, just because I seek out the nutrients in the foods. I do avoid the big ones like soy (http://thyroidlife.blogspot.co.uk/2009/07/tips-whilst-taking-levothyroxine-for.html).

    Having not noticed specific problems myself surrounding the foods you've listed, I've considered them to be okay for me if I don't go over the top (e.g. nuts only twice a week, just as I aim to have eggs - nightshades - only twice a week). I'm then keeping an eye on any symptoms and determining where they're from. I'm not sure how much evidence there is to support the idea that we should avoid EVERY food on the goitrogenic list - http://chriskresser.com/the-healthy-skeptic-podcast-episode-4 - but the closer it is possible to get to a Paleo diet without ignoring a need for carbs (http://perfecthealthdiet.com/) is better.