Starting Paleo: A Beginner’s Guide

As many of you know, I’ve been living Paleo since May when my husband put me on a diet. Yup, you read that right. And it’s the best thing I’ve done. I feel good (healthy and more energy) and I look good (not trying to be snotty but I lost 14 lbs) and it just feels like the right thing to do.

Trust me, it was NOT easy for me to start it, especially as a life long carb lover. I once tried Atkins and lasted three hours.

I get a lot of people asking how to start, so this post is for you!

The Basics

  • Eat organic, grass-fed meats. Nuts. Veggies and fruits. Eggs (not dairy even though they are in the dairy section…but they come from chickens, not cows)
  • Do not eat anything processed. Dairy. Legumes (which includes peanuts). Grains.

Visiting the farm where we get our grass-fed beef

Follow the right people on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest

This may be the right time to hide Paula Dean, or all the Cupcake Bakers you follow. It’s not that you love them any less, but you just need to focus. Some of my favorite people to follow are:

  • Just Eat Real Food – I’m obsessed with this page. It’s not 100% Paleo but typically follows a Paleo/Primal philosophy and posts amazing recipes from other sites, as well as articles and research. It’s my favorite research. TIP: When you see a good recipe, click into the link and follow to where it originated….then Pin it to Pinterest.
  • Twitter – It’s tough to navigate the good vs the bad on Twitter sometimes. I’d like my Paleo Twitter list to grow so please offer suggestions. I love @robbwolf – this is the main Paleo guy that my husband follows and reads. Unfortunately you find a lot of heavy-duty cross-fit or body-building people who also eat Paleo…but I think it’s tough to find the right people to follow that “jive” with you.
  • Pinterest – I used to think Pinterest was making me fat, but I’ve realized you can also find really healthy, good for you recipes here.

Get a cookbook or two 

I bought Everyday Paleo by Stacey Fragoso and The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain to kick things off. I needed inspiration to start cooking and didn’t know where to find it. There are some great recipes in these books, but after a few weeks, I found that I didn’t really need them any longer…I was able to just cook things up from on my own, or learn to use “normal” recipes and replace non-paleo ingredients. I refer to the Just Eat Real Food Facebook most often now for inspiration. I also bought Paleo Indulgences and it’s awesome to test out some “baked” goods and other “cheat” foods.

Throw Away the Bad Stuff

I know this is a lot easier said than done, but I’ve done it and so can you. Throw away the processed stuff. I know this is hard if you have kids who love snacks. But as much as you can, get rid of the stuff that you snack on. Get ride of the pastas and the rice. The cookies, the crackers. Even the “healthy” things like quinoa…GONE. I had a lot of boxes of unopened food that I delivered to the local food bank.

Shop and Stock Your Kitchen

I’ve written about how to shop Paleo. It’s important when you start Paleo to have a kitchen stocked with fruits and veggies and real food. Some of the key things to get include:

  • Organic chicken
  • Organic grass-fed beef
  • Nuts like almonds and pecans
  • Organic fruits and veggies. If you are trying to lose weight, don’t load up on sweet potatoes or bananas, but if you are doing it for the health value, they are fine. I’ve found having a lot of celery, carrots and peppers around to slice and snack on are great for when I’m wanting a crunchy snack (when I used to reach for chips!).

Snacks from our Paleo 4th of July Party

Beware of the so-called healthy stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Regardless of where you shop, you need to follow my guidelines for shopping Paleo. Even in the organic stores, you basically shop the perimeter of the store, unless your store has an organic section in the middle. All the stuff in the center of the store is likely processed and therefore not Paleo.

I’ve actually become a huge fan of Trader Joe’s through this process as they have great organic chicken and fruits and veggies. Even for the processed stuff I still buy for my carb-loving 3 1/2 year old, I’ve migrated away from all the “big brands” and over to Trader Joe’s. No more Cheerios, Rice Krispies, etc. (because they contain GMO’s) and we now buy all the Trader Joe’s products which do not contain GMO’s. The little one loves their version of Cheese-Its, Graham Crackers, cereals and more. (The GMO discussion is for another post…information overload! But google it if you wish.).

Make It a Family Lifestyle Change

If you are the only one in your house committed to Paleo, it will be difficult. That’s why I say get rid of the temptations. And don’t let age factors inhibit you. My youngest daughter who is almost 18 months is actually about 90% paleo…except for the oatmeal she loves and cereal bars we snack on. My older daughter, the 3 1/2 year-old carb loader is another story, but one day….

Start Strong and then Understand It’s Okay to Cheat Once in a While

I started of 100% Paleo for about 6 weeks. I had to…it was the only way. In that time, I lost about 10 pounds and felt healthier. It truly became a lifestyle, not a diet. Then, once in a while, I allow myself to cheat. Usually 2-3 times per week. At first, I felt like I couldn’t wait to cheat…and now, I realize some of the foods I want to cheat with make me feel awful.

About three months into Paleo, my kids were staying with their grandparents and my husband and I had the night and next morning to ourselves. We went out to breakfast where I ordered my favorite, coconut french toast. I felt like death after I ate it. It wasn’t food poisoning, but rather the gluten. Since being on Paleo, I’ve noticed I have a gluten intolerance, yet if I cheat with dairy, there are not issues or repercussions.

Some of my favorite cheats include ice cream, pizza and Mexican food.

Don’t be THAT Dinner Guest

Paleo isn’t a binding set of rules that if you break them, you’ll be damned. If we go to friends house and they decide to order pizza for dinner, I eat it. If they cook and serve rice or pasta with dinner, I try to load up on the meat and veggies and then skip the processed carbs. But guess what…at this point eight months in, if I want it, I eat it. I notice though I don’t WANT to eat the bad stuff nearly as much….it’s truly become a lifestyle.


I am by no means an expert on this. I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist. I’ve been on the Paleo journey for eight months and I’ve seen results. 

My Paleo Shopping Guide

I’ve talked about my new Paleo lifestyle before in the past when I told everyone that my husband put me on a diet. I’ve been eating Paleo since May and I’m loving it. Aside from losing 14 pounds, I just feel better.

Paleo has transformed me and my life, and also my shopping. I basically shop the perimeter of the grocery store. And not even just the regular grocery store, same applies for Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

Since we stay away from all processed foods (as well as dairy and gluten), that eliminates the center aisles for the most part. My grocery list includes:

  • Fruits and vegetables – I try to buy fresh, local organic whenever possible. But also buy frozen organic when fruits are not in season. We don’t buy organic bananas or a few other things because it’s not necessary. We love to have the kitchen stocked with apples, pears, grapes, kiwi, peppers, onions, squash, tomatoes, eggplant, artichokes and brussel sprouts.
  • Eggs – We should probably buy a chicken….we buy a lot of organic omega 3 eggs
  • Organic, grass-fed meats – We typically buy our red meat from a local farm, and also find organic chicken at Trader Joe’s
  • Some nuts – We stay away from peanuts but love raw almonds

And that’s it! I do buy some things for my children in the center aisles, but I’m slowly trying to get them away from all the processed stuff too! We make gluten-free pancakes and baked goods, and integrate almond milk instead of cow’s milk where ever we can.


Do I cheat? Of course I do! Pizza is one of my favorite foods and I do indulge in a regular pizza now and then. But I’ve also found some “paleo” pizza recipes that are delish! And other items, I’ll order a gluten-free pizza. Cheese is also another craving that I indulge in once in a while.

Overall, I’ve found that my shopping trips are much faster now…and the food in my cart is so much healthier! The only downside…there are never coupons for “healthy” foods. What’s your shopping routine?