What is the Paleo Diet?

The paleo approach takes an ancient dietary regimen and adapts it to busy, modern-day life. Proponents believe that greater health can be achieved by eliminating modern farmed and processed foods in favor of the diet that we humans spent most of the last 40,000 years eating. The paleo diet is low-carb, grain/gluten-free and provides a healthy amount of protein and fiber.

Typical paleo-allowed foods:

Paleo: Not Paleo:
  • Grass-fed meat & poultry
  • Wild-caught fish/seafood
  • Tallow, olive & coconut oil
  • Small amounts of fruit
  • Eggs, preferably local and free-range
  • Small amounts of honey, real maple syrup, or stevia
  • Vegetables, preferably fresh and organic
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Grains, cereals, and white potatoes
  • Dairy
  • Refined sugar or sugar substitutes like splenda or aspartame
  • Legumes (beans, lentils, soy)
  • Excess salt

Some ingredients fall into a gray area within the paleo diet. With Sun Basket, you will get paleo recipes delivered fresh to your door that use ingredients approved by our dietitian to create well-balanced meals. To equip your home pantry with paleo ingredients, check out our paleo grocery shopping list.

The benefits of the paleo diet on the body have been backed up by science in recent years. Because it emphasizes fresh vegetables and grass–fed meat, the paleo diet is sustainable, packed with nutrition, and great for food allergies. Though its nutrient–rich profile can benefit anyone and everyone, the paleo diet is also a great way to take advantage of the superior weight loss possibilities of a low-carb diet.

Whatever your reason for wanting to go paleo, our recipes and tips make it easy to fit this ancient lifestyle into your busy modern life. We’ve got you covered if you’re wondering about the paleo lifestyle and alcohol, if quinoa is allowed, how going paleo might impact your Crossfit or running performance, kids, and more.

The Paleolithic Diet

“Paleo” is short for the paleolithic age, which is considered to be the dawn of mankind. Approximately 40,000 years ago, modern human anatomy as we know it today first appeared. Since then, the evolution of our tools and technologies has continued at a rapid pace, leading to a drastically different lifestyle than that of our distant ancestors. Meanwhile, 40,000 years is the blink of an eye in evolutionary terms; so our physiology remains more or less unchanged.

The paleo diet uses this principle to advocate for a return to the foods available to humanity before any traces of civilization appeared. For most of our existence, grains, cereals, legumes, sugar, vegetable oils, and dairy either did not exist or were not widely available. The paleo diet reasons that because these foods were not eaten, our bodies did not evolve ways to effectively process them. Therefore, because our digestive systems have not caught up to our modern way of life, many of these foods could be making us sick and overweight.

Meat, vegetables, fruit, and some nuts form the pillars of this diet. Since most Americans do not hunt their own game, paleo adherents are encouraged to buy grass-fed and wild-caught meat, poultry, and fish whenever possible; they are also encouraged to buy fresh, local organic eggs and produce. These preferences are part of what makes the paleo diet such a nutritional powerhouse. Fresh local produce is higher in vitamins, and even the meat has differences. The composition of grass-fed beef, for example, is slightly different than that of a corn-fed animal: it is lower in calories and fat, contains more Omega-3 fatty acids, and is higher in vitamin content. To gain the full benefits of the paleo diet, emphasis is also placed on lowering salt intake and avoiding processed materials that do not resemble anything found in nature, like aspartame.

With Sun Basket, cooking nutritious paleo meals is a breeze, with recipe ingredients delivered straight to your door!

Benefits of the Paleo diet

Because it emphasizes fresh vegetables and grass-fed meat, the paleo diet is sustainable, packed with nutrition, and great for food allergies.

The modern American diet has made it possible to be both obese and malnourished. The paleo diet takes most of today’s biggest nutritional offenders — processed carbohydrates and sugar — out of the equation, so you can get on the road to better health immediately. Along the way, you’ll support sustainable agriculture and local farms that treat animals humanely.

Dense in Nutrients

Many products in the Standard American Diet have been so processed that manufacturers have to actually add vitamins back in. All-natural, unaltered vegetables and fruits are packed with a huge variety of phytonutrients — including vitamins, other antioxidants, fiber, and healthy fats. On a calorie-for-calorie basis, you will feel much fuller on a paleo diet — which is also great news for dieters.

Avoid blood-sugar spikes

Even whole-wheat bread has a similar glycemic index as pure sugar. When you eat high-carbohydrate foods, especially in the beginning or middle of the day, your body counters the spike in blood sugar with a flood of insulin. This results in the “foggy” or tired feeling many people get mid-morning or afternoon. It’s also one of the main signals for your body to store fat. Avoiding this process is a big part of why low-carbohydrate diets are so effective for weight loss.

Fight inflammation

One factor underlying many chronic conditions like heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and arthritis may be constant, low-level inflammation in the body. Vegetable oils, corn-fed meat, and high-carbohydrate/low-fiber diets may all exacerbate inflammation in the body. Foods high in antioxidants, like grass-fed meat, wild fish, and vegetables all help the body regulate inflammatory processes.

Paleo FAQ

Is alcohol paleo-friendly?

Depends on who you ask! Our ancestors certainly enjoyed fermented fruits. Depending on how strict your interpretation is, and whether you're trying to lose weight, there may be room for certain kinds of alcohol in moderation.

Is quinoa paleo? Did cavemen drink coffee? How about (fill in the blank)?

There are a lot of grey areas in the paleo diet. Again, it comes down to your dietary preferences and other lifestyle factors. The best solution is to find what will help you stick with it!

What is a paleo challenge?

Before committing to a new lifestyle, some people like to take the paleo diet on a 14, 21, or 30-day test-drive.

Are there special considerations for the paleo diet?

If you have medical conditions, always check with a doctor first. The paleo diet is great for people who react to common food allergens like corn, wheat, soy, and dairy. Lots of people wonder if the paleo lifestyle can work for:

How can I eat paleo at restaurants?

As with any diet, it’s important to focus on what you can have versus what is “forbidden.” With the rise in awareness about food allergies including gluten, it is more likely than ever to find restaurant kitchens willing to work with you. Salad, steak and vegetables, and lettuce “wraps” are all great, widely-available choices. Big cities like San Francisco, New York, and LA all have restaurants that cater specifically to the paleo crowd! Smaller cities with lots of health-conscious residents may also have offerings, so it never hurts to check.

What about paleo cheat days?

Part of the difference between a “diet” and a “lifestyle” is the commitment to making permanent changes to the way you live. Part of keeping such big changes realistic is knowing when a little wiggle room is okay.

Is Paleo kid-friendly?

Few things incite controversy like discussing children and special diets. Nonetheless, many parents want to raise their kids with a healthy diet. So is paleo ok for kids? The simple answer is that a “pure” paleo diet is probably not appropriate for growing children.

Growing children have different nutritional needs than adults. For example, babies have trouble processing very high levels of protein. Additionally, the extremely high fiber content of many paleo meals can interfere with absorbing enough nutrients from their food.

Dietary will also affect a child’s social life. Unless they have an allergy, the benefits probably outweigh the drawbacks for letting your children have the occasional birthday cake, treat at grandma’s, or ice cream on a hot summer afternoon. This also helps children develop a healthy attitude about food, instead of learning to obsess over what is “allowed” or “forbidden.”

This doesn’t mean your child’s diet shouldn’t emphasize whole foods; organic produce and meat are still some of the best sources of nutrients that kids need to grow up strong and healthy. Instead, compromise, and be sure to model healthy behaviors like turning off screens when eating.

  • Minimize exposure to harmful pesticides and other food additives by choosing organic baby food, or make your own.
  • Serve paleo dinners, but be more flexible with other meals and snacks.
  • Make sure to offer a variety of vegetables to help your kids find options they like, and never force them to eat anything.
  • Allow it occasionally, but don’t keep junk food in the house.
  • Remember that normalizing healthy behavior and keeping discussions positive can help guide children to continue making healthy choices even as they get older.

Paleo for Athletes

For people who lift weights or do shorter periods of aerobic exercise, the paleo diet provides geat nutrition. High-quality protein and the nutrients found in fruits or vegetables can actually improve your post-workout recovery. For paleo endurance athletes, modifications to allow higher amounts of quickly-digested carbohydrates may be needed.

Paleo sports drink replacements

Bananas and coconut water work as well or better than commercial sports drinks, without all the sugar and artificial colors and flavors. Powdered coconut water can now be found at most health food stores. Just add it to your water bottle for an easy, healthy paleo-approved way to get all the electrolytes needed. Try a banana before your workout. Besides helping you replace potassium and necessary minerals, bananas are easy to digest and provide a boost energy for a great workout.

Paleo for endurance athletes

During endurance events, your body’s glycogen supply needs to be replenished every hour. Gels are popular with runners and cyclists because they deliver essential energy without the nausea associated with eating solid food during intense exercise. Fortunately for paleo runners and cyclists, honey and maple syrup-based products are increasingly easy to find. The longer or faster you train or race, the more high-starch food your body will need recover. Try potatoes, white rice, or a bagel if gluten isn’t an issue. Stay away from these at other times to ensure the blood-sugar-stabilizing benefits of the paleo diet.