Paleo takes a pass when it comes to refined foods loaded with stuff that can compromise the health of our gut, hormones, or immune system. The big idea we latch on to is to eat only stuff that keeps us (or gets us) healthy–no more leaky guts, chronic inflammation or a host of other nagging issues too many of us just adopted as “normal”. Simple enough. But sometimes even with the simplicity that is the definition of Paleo-friendly food, it can still be a confusing transition in the beginning. I’ll help with that right now.
Here’s a list of practical alternatives that we Paleo folks base our recipes on. I’ve added links to a lot of the products so you can easily order the item online and avoid running all over town searching for what you need. Amazon in particular often has free shipping with a Prime membership and the items are delivered fast! (I heart online shopping and do it as often as possible!)
I’m being honest, I’m one of “those” people who crave things on the salty, crunchy side versus having a sweet tooth. While making your own jerky and dried fruit is hardcore Paleo, it’s just not realistic for a lot of us, myself included. I buy my snacks through Barefoot Provisions so I’m never without quick protein when I’m out running errands. Also, I use a lot of these items in my kids’ school lunches, which makes giving them fast, easy meals more convenient for me. In fact, I’ll mark my kids’ favorites from this list with an asterisk. And yes, they really are seaweed addicts–that’s not a typo!
- *Honest Chips (regular)
- *Kale chips
- Snip Chips (made from parsnips)
- *SeaSnax (seaweed snacks)
- *Nick’s Sticks
- Primal Pacs
- *Exo Protein bars (cricket flour snack bars!)
- Nut/seed/fruit bars
- Coconut chips (these are great in homemade trail mix!)
- Jerky bars (think, EpicBars!)
You’re thinking it, I’m thinking it…. We need sugar solutions! Frankly this is one of the easiest speed bumps to cruise over. It can be a pain at first figuring out how to skirt around the refined stuff like white refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, agave (even the raw stuff!), or products like stevia. There’s a ton of great tasting, natural alternatives. These are my favorites:
Craving treats now? Let me help with that. These are my absolute favorite Paleo sweet treats:
- Coco-Roons (Almond Strawberry, Cacao Nib, Apple Pie, Lemon Pie, Brownie and many others)
- Hail Merry tarts
- Fair-trade, organic chocolate bars
- LoveBean Superfood Fudge
Since refined seed oils which constantly inflame the body are out (thank goodness!), here are the healthy fats that streamline the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, deliver essential fatty acids and keep your skin awesome:
- lard from pasture-raised pigs
- tallow from grass-fed cows
- quality duck fat
- avocado oil
- coconut oil
- and my favorite, grass-fed ghee
So peanut butter is out, but don’t worry. Any nut can be made into a butter — even seeds can go the way of the peanut with ease! These are some super tasting alternatives to peanuts:
- almond butter
- cinnamon red maca almond butter <–THIS is amazing.
- cashew butter
- hazelnut butter
- chocolate hazelnut spread
- coconut butter
- organic sesame seed butter (tahini)
- sprouted pumpkin seed butter
And by the way, I’ll let you in on a little secret called LoveBean Superfood Fudge. It’s… um… INCREDIBLEAMAZINGADDICTING. I first sampled this product back in April 2014 at Paleo F(x) and fell in love at first bite. Literally bought a jar right there on the spot.
While some people still do grass-fed butter, raw cheese here and there and even heavy cream once and while, when talking about Paleo in general, usually cow’s milk gets booted to the sideline. Thankfully, nearly every use you’d need from a cow’s milk can be done with non-dairy options like:
- coconut milk
- nut milks like almond, cashew, hazelnut… (Did you know that you can make your own nut milks with this one little tool?)
- cauliflower, sweet potato, butternut squash (for thickening soups)
Gut health, probiotics and healthy bacteria to support the microbiome are a big deal in Paleo. This is the stuff that keeps you healthy and your food well adjusted, maximizing the absorption of all those nutrient-dense foods you’re now eating. Save yourself some cash and learn to make kombucha, sauerkraut and whatever fermented goodies excite you with these basic tools:
- Kombucha home brew kit (with starter SCOBY)
- Kraut Kap
- Fermentation pot (with weights)
- kefir grains for coconut milk yogurt
Gluten-Free & Grain-Free Flours
When you want some kind of baked good or bread substitute, you need to find recipes that use these ingredients. Keep in mind that none of these flours swap out directly for wheat flour, so make sure you find a good recipe and follow it to a “T”. Can I let you in on something? Most of the complaints us bloggers get on recipes are from folks who tried to swap out a non-Paleo flour for one of these. There’s a science to it, guys. Trust us! These flours can be deeeeelicious when prepared correctly!
If you are looking for a gluten-free breadcrumb alternative, the only thing you’ll ever need is this: Pork Dust. It’s amazing and I use it ALL. THE. TIME.
Last couple things…
Use coconut aminos in lieu of soy sauce. Not only is soy avoiding in Paleo (I recommend reading It Starts With Food for a detailed explanation), but it also contains gluten. Skip soy sauce altogether and buy coconut aminos instead.
I also love to make homemade gummy snacks with this brand of grass-fed gelatin. It’s super healthy for us and is a convenient way for everyone to get some more gelatin into our food. Also, I like to add collagen hydrolysate to my smoothies. It’s the same as gelatin, essentially, but won’t turn solid or gum up.
Do your best not to get confused by all the “noise” out there in the Paleo-sphere. You need to eat the foods that agree with your body and promote health. While there is certainly a baseline of where we all start from, expect that what’s on your plate will differ in part or quite significantly from your Paleo neighbor’s plate. Cause after all, what makes my body tick isn’t necessarily what you need to stay in tip-top shape. A lean athlete will eat little like someone trying to lose 50 pounds, just as someone managing an autoimmune condition will eat way way way different than a healthy, whole foods lover with no real aversions or allergies. Do you homework, do an elimination diet (such as a Whole30 or Autoimmune Protocol), and do whatever makes you healthy.
That said, in general we all seem to agree that it’s best to skip gluten, grains in general most of the time, refined sugars, any refined seed oil, soy everything, legumes (while not totally horrible, the bad outweighs the good for those of us hell bent on a healthy gut and balanced blood sugar) and… dairy… *sheds tear. That’s a great start to Paleo, though most of us fine tune from there.
Be sure you do a Whole30 or another elimination diet at some point, if you feel like you’re not getting the full benefits of this health-centered diet!
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