This list below basically answers the question:
What do you eat?
When you eat primal, you stick to a template of foods to eat, and foods to avoid, and create your meals and grocery lists based on that template. I strongly advise that prior to switching to primal way of eating (whether paleo, ketogenic or primal like me), that you use my posts (and the links in them), as sources of information. You need to know about this way of eating, inside and out, to help you make informed food choices. I would also suggest buying and reading at least a few of the books listed in my previous posts because anyone can post anything on the internet, with information taken out of context, picked apart for bias, or referenced from poor sources, which is exactly what scientists did decades ago to come to the conclusion that fat was bad for us. But that’s for another post. And yes, I am one of those people whose credibility you could question. Afterall, I’m not a dietician, nutritionist, nurse or a doctor, I’m just someone who was following conventional ‘healthy eating’ but was getting bigger and bigger, and couldn’t understand why. Let’s be honest, though, even the above mentioned professionals will still try to convince you the primal way of eating is wrong. Again, that’s for another post.
On to the YES and No’s…. I’m going to break it down as macronutrients: which ones that YES!, you should eat! And NO you should not.
And please bear in mind that primal eating is all about JERF: Just Eat Real Food! All food choices must be real food with real ingredients, there should be no chemicals or weird stuff in it. Keep it simple!
Anything hydrogenated or poylunsaturated. These have been heavily processed, and some, like canola oil, require the use of chemicals to get the final product. While these are labeled ‘Heart-healthy fats’ this moniker couldn’t be further from the truth: these are the fats to avoid (and throw away if you have them in your kitchen). For more information on why, read this.
- canola oil (for you North Americans)
- rapeseed oil
- soybean oil
- corn oil
- cottonseed oil
- sunflower oil
- grapeseed oil
- safflower oil
- sesame oil
Anything saturated, monounsaturated or unsaturated, coming from an animal or a plant. Read why saturated fats are amazing here.
- coconut oil
- ghee (clarified butter, where the milk solids have been removed – great for people with dairy issues)
- olive oil
- avocado oil
- macadamia nut oil
- lard (rendered pork fat) – from ethically sound sources
- tallow (rendered beef fat) – grass-fed
- goose fat
- grass-fed beef
- fish oils + all seafood
- ALL full fat dairy -> milk and yogurt (if you want), cream cheese, cheese (!), all cream except half and half. All must be free of added sugar.
- full fat coconut milk
- natural nut butters, like peanut butter, almond butter or cashew butter
- dark chocolate (85 – 90%)
- unflavoured nuts
- unflavoured seeds
***** While I realise it’s very liberating to be able to eat full-fat dairy without guilt, this is a food in primal eating that must be consumed in moderation, or not at all if you react to it somehow. Moderation looks like a cheese on your burger, OR a dollop of cream cheese with your smoked salmon salad, OR berries and cream for dessert througout the day. Please don’t make dairy your main fat, nor eat portions of it at every meal, it will give you issues when you start out. Your main fats should be avocados, anything coconut, and oily fish. Think of dairy as more of an accessory to your food intake for the day instead.
Basically, if you’re a meat eater, all protein is acceptable unless it’s been processed and mass-farmed. As for vegetarians, unfortunately your protein sources aren’t a part of the primal diet.
- processed lunch meats
- tofu and any soy, including soy protein powder
- legumes or pulses – so beans, lentils, chickpeas
Everything else! Just watch for seasoning and flavours with some smoked and canned seafood, which could contain hidden gluten, soy or sugar.
- grass-fed beef
- chicken, all parts with skin on
- pork, especially unprocessed bacon
- all game
- ALL fish, from a can, fresh, smoked, cured. And the oilier, the better
- ALL shellfish, from a can, jar
- natural nut butters
- whey or egg white protein powder if you’re going down that road. Choose unflavoured if you can because you could put it in savoury dishes
- sausages made with good quality meat from responsible producers
Anything made with wheat, sugar, processed and premade. All grains.
- ALL types of bread
- ALL types of cereal
- ALL types of pasta
- ALL types of sugar
- ALL types of oatmeal
- bagels and scones
- English muffins and crumpets
- crackers and oatcakes
- cereal bars
- any baking made with real sugar and flour from grains
- rice cakes
- any breaded or battered foods
- any premade, packaged gluten-free foods
- pancakes and waffles made with real sugar and flour from grains.
- fruit juices
- artificial sweeteners, like the ones found in diet soda
- all packaged, premade carbs, including sauces and spreads
It also goes without saying ANY TYPE of junk food! I’ve probably left some out, but you get the picture.
- LOTS of vegetables and ALL kinds!
- Sweet Potatoes
- White Potatoes
- Wild Rice, because it’s a wild grass and not actually rice
- Quinoa, because it’s a chenopod not a grain
- Pickled veg that are sugar-free
- Fermented veg, like sauerkraut and kimchi, that are sugar-free
- Some fruit. Consume far less than your daily vegetable consumption. I eat about 2-3 fruits a day, which is down from about 8!
- almond flour a.k.a. ground almonds for baking
- coconut flour for baking
- arrowroot powder for baking
- tapioca flour for baking
A grey area for primal is rice: some people are totally against it, while others are #TeamRice – I’m #TeanRice. If it’s something your guts can handle, choose Basmati in small quantities. Your body will tell you. In a nutshell, what I eat can fit nicely-ish into this diagram:
I think we assume that everything we used to eat is no longer an option, but that’s simply not the case. There are many traditional dishes, from decades, even centuries ago, that are naturally primal:
- Salad Nicoise
- Steak au poivre (minus the brandy in the sauce) without fries/chips
- Taco Salad with sour cream or a fatty Mexican dressing
- Roast chicken / beef / pork / lamb with vegetables and meat juices (no gravy because of the cornflour used to thicken it)
- Eggs and bacon and/or sausage
- strawberries and cream of any kind, except half and half
- grilled meat
- grilled seafood
- crustless quiche
- savoury crêpes, or sweet ones with fresh fruit and cream
- Cullen Skink, a Scottish chowder made of smoked haddock, minus the white wine
- Alfredo Sauce, on vegetables or meat instead
- antipasti minus the bread
- Bolognese sauce with tinned tomatoes
- Chili con Carne without kidney beans
- Chicken breasts stuff with cheese and wrapped in bacon or parma ham
- Bubble n’ squeak with bacon
And I could go on. Russ Crandall, the writer over at The Domestic Man, does a good job of creating, updating and pointing out primal dishes that have been around for years, decades, perhaps even centuries? Once you have your YES and NO foods, I would suggest finding a few recipes online (or buying a paleo or keto cookbook, like the ones I suggested) to get started. That’s what I did. Then I was slowly able to start being more independent once I got very familiar with the foods.
The way I see a meal:
1. Most important – what’s my protein?
2. Now, what’s my fat?
3. My carb will be salad, sliced veg or grilled vegetables.
I will only have sweet potatoes/rice a few times a week on top of the salad.
Your meals might not initially be fat-heavy, but use the YES list to add fat on, like a whole avocado (depending on size), a dollop of cream cheese on the side, or do what I do and mix together cream cheese, avocado and egg yolks to make a dip for salad and meat.
I’ve also been one for making guacamole as a side to eat with meat, and putting a creamy, primal-friendly dressing on salads.
Even a simple garlic butter on potatoes and steak will do.
You could also fry your vegetables in butter or ghee to add to the fat content.
A day of food for me is:
Breakfast of a smoothie with coconut milk, berries, rhubarb (sometimes banana), psyllium husk powder, unflavoured whey protein powder and coconut oil. And a bulletproof espresso, along with potassium, magnesium and CoEnzyme Q10 supplements.
Lunch will be either leftover Peruvian Chicken with Aji Verde Sauce (Nom Nom Paleo cookbook!) or pepper/courgette-zucchini/aubergine – eggplant stuffed with Moussaka / Bolognese / Chili Con Carne, made with grass-fed beef and lots of cheese. And a fat bomb.
Dinner might be steak, chicken wings, salmon, burgers, all with salad and occasionally sweet potatoes / potatoes / Basmati rice.
And could be Paleo Chocolate Swirl Banana bread. With butter of course.
N0w you have a better idea of what I eat everyday, as well as a list of YES foods to add to your larder and grocery list, and NO foods to rid your cupboards of. Again, there is no one way of eating primally, you need to figure out your own way. As mentioned before, continue to do your research for recipes, but also information, and read some books on primal eating.
Another great place for primal ideas is Instagram: just search #paleo, #primal, #lchf and #keto and you’ll find plenty of users posting fantastic food ideas that you too can make.