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Staying on the Paleo diet while traveling

Wherever you live or have access to a kitchen, it’s easy to stick to the paleo diet. Traveling, however, is one of the most common times people fall off track. To keep the paleo lifestyle realistic when you’re away from home, there are a few things to consider.

Paleo business travelers

If being on the road is part of your career, it is going to be important to commit to lifestyle changes. With long days and ubiquitous fast food, staying paleo will require some extra effort. Anticipate temptations by filling up on healthy food first. When you’re out with coworkers or clients, remember that most restaurants do have paleo-friendly options like salad with olive oil and vinegar. Don’t be afraid to ask the server; the increasing popularity of gluten-free and low carb diets means that restaurants are increasingly able to cope with food allergies and preferences.

Can I stay paleo-friendly during foreign travel?

The short answer is yes. If you have very strong willpower and are ok with bringing many of your own paleo snacks, it’s possible. But in countries that don’t have accurate food labels or any time there’s a language barrier, it will be extremely difficult, especially if you’re there for more than a week or two.

Being “mostly” paleo

In places where being 100% paleo is going to be difficult to impossible, consider being happy with doing the best you can. Unless you have severe allergies to gluten, lactose, etc., it might be time to relax your habits for a few weeks. Not being 100% paleo for a few weeks isn’t going to ruin your life. Aim to eat as many whole foods as possible, avoid sugar when you can, and enjoy your trip!

Grey areas in the Paleo diet

With such a wide variety of books and websites devoted to the paleo lifestyle, different interpretations are unavoidable. For certain foods and drinks, nearly equal arguments can be made for or against their inclusion in the paleo diet. Also, some paleo-approved foods can make conditions like IBS worse. Ultimately, the best advice is to do what works for you. It’s better to adapt the paleo diet for your health concerns and lifestyle preferences than to dismiss it entirely.

Is coffee paleo?

Cavemen probably didn’t drink coffee, but it did originate from a wild plant. Caffeine can cause stress levels to increase and irritate the stomach, but it also has documented health benefits. Try a coffee detox to see if you can live without drinking it every day.

Do I need to give up alcohol?

Not necessarily. Fruit has been naturally fermenting since it first appeared. Stick with wine if possible. Avoid beer and other drinks distilled from grains.

Can small amounts of dairy be paleo?

Grass-fed dairy is an easy way to get essential nutrients and is well-tolerated by many people. Try avoiding it for the first month of your paleo diet and then, if you want, reintroduce small amounts and pay attention to how your body responds. Large amounts of processed dairy, even if produced by grass-fed animals, goes against the paleo philosophy.

How about quinoa?

Quinoa is actually a seed not a grain. It is gluten-free, high in protein, and affordable. It does, however, contain soap-like components that can irritate the gut. This might go against the central point of the paleo diet, which is reducing digestive problems. Most store brands of quinoa process it to remove some of the saponins, and soaking at home can also help.

Are potatoes and related tubers like tapioca paleo?

White potatoes and tapioca both have a high carbohydrate content but are still whole, grain-free foods, so it depends on personal needs, like trying to lose weight. Chips and sweet potato fries might be technically paleo, but are certainly not health foods and should be eaten sparingly.

Are paleo “cheat days” ok?

During the first few weeks of paleo, it’s essential to follow the diet as closely as possible. This means not indulging in “free” meals or days. This is because your body needs time to reset, which will help you later if you want to add grey area foods later. You will learn emotional and behavioral tricks to help you live without junk foods. Indeed, you probably find that the less you eat candy or chips, the less you will crave them. After that, the occasional non-paleo treat might actually help you stick to the paleo diet the other 95% of the time by helping you not feel deprived.

Relaxing your paleo lifestyle vs. bingeing

It’s important to know yourself. If a weekend with extended family includes homemade pie, will it be a delicious part of a treasured tradition, or will it trigger you to lose control?

Cultural considerations

If certain foods are an important part of your religious or cultural background, you don’t necessarily have to give them up. One of the main reasons the paleo diet is great because it improves your quality of life by helping you be healthier. If being completely paleo means not being able to participate in important religious or cultural traditions, that’s bad for quality of life.

Surviving the holidays on a Paleo diet

Holidays are a hard time of year for anyone on a diet. Most of us grew up associating this time of year with sweets in particular. An occasional slice of pie might be ok, but the holidays are no reason to undo all of the progress you’ve already made. You’ll have to use a combination of planning ahead, altering recipes, and changing habits. It’s also a good to know when it’s ok to allow a non-paleo indulgence.

Anticipate potential pitfalls

Office and holiday parties that serve alcohol offer a particularly dangerous combination of temptations that can be a disaster for your paleo diet! Alcohol lowers your inhibitions and self-control, which can make it hard to resist all those platters loaded with unhealthy finger-foods. One solution is to avoid alcohol altogether. If you do decide to drink, stay paleo by sticking to wine, cider, or gin. Don’t forget the old dieter’s trick of making sure you’ve had something filling to eat before you go so that hunger doesn’t push you over the edge.

Start new healthy holiday traditions

Instead of baking cookies together, have your whole family develop some non-food related traditions. You can even sneak in some exercise while you’re at it! Go sledding, ice skating, or take a tour of your town’s best holiday displays. Warm up with a cup of paleo-friendly hot chocolate when you’re done.

Paleo-friendly holiday foods

Some foods, like yams, just need a few minor adjustments. If you’re craving a treat and are willing to put in a little effort in the kitchen, paleo cookies and even cakes are possible. Instead of pie, try serving delicious and paleo-friendly poached pears over a grain-free granola crumble.

Using the Paleo diet for weight loss

The health effects of the paleo diet can benefit anyone, but many people first learn about the paleo diet when looking for weight loss ideas. Unlike most “diets,” paleo is a lifestyle, and ideally a reorientation of your relationship with food. Anyone who has tried a crash diet before knows that you might see short-term results, but the weight will come back as soon as you transition to “normal” eating. That’s where the paleo “lifestyle” comes in — you will learn to replace the empty carbs and sugar found in the Standard American Diet with whole foods instead. Along the way, you will learn to be more conscious of what and when you eat.

On the paleo diet, you will:

Significantly lower your carb intake

Cutting out sugar and other refined carbs will stabilize your blood sugar and reduce inflammation, which will help most people lose weight.

Increase mindfulness

Going paleo is a good time to make other healthy changes like stopping the habit of eating in front of the TV or computer. Learning how to cook at home and planning what to eat outside the house will also help you be more mindful of your eating habits. Being mindful of what and why you are eating will help you have a healthier relationship with food and your body.

Move you beyond calorie-counting

Because most paleo food is unprocessed, counting calories can get complicated. The good news is that Sun Basket will provide you with nutrition information for all of our recipes. Calorie-counting alone as a weight-loss strategy is being changed by new information about how our bodies process food. Some foods take significantly more energy to digest and absorb — so a 100-calorie serving of nuts and a 100-calorie serving of chips might have drastically different impacts on weight. If you are eating balanced meals made at home with a lot of fruits and vegetables, you probably won’t need to count calories to lose weight. That being said, if weight loss is your primary goal, you still need to be mindful of calorie-dense foods like dried fruit, coconut cream, etc.

Paleo cleanses & paleo challenges

A dietary cleanse is a great way to reset your body, especially if you are worried about the effect that a certain ingredient like lactose or gluten is having on your body. A paleo challenge is a short-term way to try the paleo diet and see the effects for yourself. Most paleo challenge plans call for a time commitment of 2 weeks to 30 days.

14-Day Challenge

Any period shorter than 2 weeks is probably not enough time to notice systematic changes to your body. If you have gut damage caused by gluten or other food allergens, it may take weeks for the body to repair itself after the allergen is removed. On a positive note, a few weeks is enough time to see changes to your alertness, mood, and energy levels that happen when blood sugar is stabilized. A time frame of 14 days is also a short enough commitment to find out if the diet can work for you.

21-Day Challenge

21-day paleo “challenges” are very common, because it’s a long enough time that you can actually start to see changes in your digestive system, and your brain can start breaking old eating habits for good.

30-Day Challenge

Month or three-month paleo cleanses are probably the best if you’re committed to truly changing the way you live. For most people, it will take over a month to eliminate cravings for sugar and other junk foods. Many paleo converts eat super-strict for the first month or few months, and then gradually work in “cheat” days or meals, once they know these won’t sidetrack their success.