Last week, in addition to cleaning out our kitchens, we established a baseline, began to think about which foods are or aren't Paleo, and started developing consciousness of hunger. This week, we'll choose a Paleo "scaling option," develop a Paleo shopping list, and set some ground rules about protein intake.
As a general rule, people who eat Paleo shop on the perimeter of the grocery store, and primarily in the produce and butcher sections. Paleo foods spoil quickly because they lack preservatives. For those new to Paleo, Paleo foods can seem bland relative to high sugar, salt, and chemical contents of processed foods. Some of you will be inclined to select processed Paleo alternatives to traditional foods - Paleo desserts as the primary offender. Remember: at the heart of the Paleo concept lies an aversion to processing and added sweeteners in any form - including dates, honey, maple syrup, stevia, etc. For most people, truly breaking free of old habits and addictions requires choosing to avoid non-Paleo foods, including the processed or even homemade "Paleo" versions.
We'll spend a lot of time talking about properly quantifying protein (and carbs and fat) to fit your goals as the weeks progress, but initially keep in mind that protein forms the building block for muscle and is the only macronutrient that the body cannot create from the other macronutrients or store in reserve. As a result, it's necessary for exercising people in particular to provide their bodies with a steady dietary intake of protein to support muscle recovery and growth. This week, start by striving to match protein with carb intake, or in other words, every time you eat carbs, be sure to also eat protein.
I believe everyone should do a 30 day pure, strict Paleo challenge at some point in their life. If you've done it already, I don't necessarily think you need to do it again. If you haven't done it yet, I don't necessarily think you should start today. I do think you should think about what you're trying to accomplish, how realistic it will be for you to be 100% Paleo in the next four weeks, and then decide on one of the following Paleo options.
White Level: You've never eaten Paleo before, and aren't even quite sure what Paleo means. For you, the objective this month will be to develop consciousness about the amount of non-Paleo food you eat, and begin choosing Paleo foods over non-Paleo ones whenever possible.
Grey Level: You're pretty familiar with what is and isn't Paleo, but realistically you aren't ready to actually commit to full Paleo for four weeks. For you, the objective is to eat 100% Paleo 85% of the time, or 100% Paleo for all but three meals per week. Those three meals can be whatever you need them to be to maintain your sanity, but please try to keep your goals in mind, and enjoy whatever it is you choose to eat.
Red Level: You're ready to take the plunge - 4 straight weeks of 100% Paleo eating. Be prepared for some pretty serious cravings, but stick to it, and you may find yourself really liking it by the end of the month! For you, the objective is to not only eat all Paleo foods, but also to stick with the intent of Paleo eating - nutritious, unprocessed food without added sweetener.
Black Level: You've done 30+ days of strict Paleo in the past, and you know whether any non-Paleo foods have a place in your optimal performance lifestyle. For you, the objective is to consciously choose exceptions which you'll eat even during this Paleo challenge - things that will help you optimize your body composition and performance, but you'll stick to Paleo eating outside of these exceptions.