Take the Challenge…Go Paleo

Take the Challenge...Go Paleo








(Updated: October 2015) A lot of my friends and I like to sign up for different types of Paleo/Primal/Clean Eating Challenges here and there. By following a clean eating plan a little stricter than you may choose to day-to-day, you are giving yourself the opportunity to be pushed out of your comfort zone, detox your body, and reboot your system. Whether you’re gearing up for the 8 week Lurong Living Paleo Challenge, The 21 Day Sugar Detox, Lizzy’s Clean Eating Detox Challenge, or the month long adventure with The 30 Clean, this post can lend you a helping hand. (Please see challenge disclaimer below.)

This post is meant for those trying to take the first steps into their new health journey, or for ones that may have been eating along the lines of a Paleo/Primal/Clean Eating lifestyle for a while, but need a good 30 day clean out and reboot! So dive on into the information I have been gathering along my way, and help yourself to a new life filled with so many possibilities!

***Disclaimer: Please make sure that you refer to, and follow, the specific guidelines provided in the rules of any challenge you take part in. My post is not meant to meet all rules of all challenges. I have taken lots of notes while on my journey and jotted down in this post: basic Paleo guidelines, tips, recipes, and a week 1 menu example. My intentions are to help others looking for information on how to execute Paleo guidelines, clean out their body, and reboot their system.caveman

Paleo stems from the dietary lifestyle Paleolithic Diet (defined in Wikipedia as):

The Paleolithic diet, also popularly referred to as the caveman dietStone Age diet and hunter-gatherer diet, is a modern nutritional diet designed to emulate, insofar as possible using modern foods, the diet of wild plants and animals eaten by humans during the Paleolithic era.  Proponents of the diet therefore recommend avoiding any foods that are thought not to have been available to humans at that time, including dairy products, grains, legumes, processed oils, and refined sugar.

Over the years many varying diets have emerged from under the umbrella of the Paleolithic diet (also referred to as an Ancestral diet), and the two that my dietary lifestyle most closely resemble are the Paleo and Primal dietary guidelines.  I started my Ancestral diet journey in June of 2013, and I haven’t looked back!  I had received diagnoses for ailments that had been altering my quality of life, and I needed answers that the medical community could not give me.  I wanted to take back control of my life, and I knew there had to be a way, I just needed to take the time to find it.

I started off by doing a lot of research and reading.  I searched many websites and blog, after blog, after blog.  I was reading about other people’s experiences, learning from their trials, and taking notes from their personal health journeys.   I became very intrigued by a blog called Marks Daily Apple by Mark Sisson and ordered his book The Primal Blueprint.  After reading it from cover to cover, and following the guidelines described in the book, I felt immediate relief from most of the pain and discomfort I had experienced for years.  I was getting back control, and I knew from here on out my life would change forever. (For more details about my personal journey check out my post:  About Me and My Health Journey.)

I have since then gravitated back and forth between Paleo and Primal dietary guidelines, searching and discovering what foods work best for my body.  A wonderful book that really highlights how I feel about finding your personal dietary lifestyle (and a great place to start) is Your Personal Paleo Code by Chris Kresser. I am always on a quest for what fuels me, what satisfies me, what makes me feel strong, and what makes me feel my best.  It is definitely a process to identify the foods that break me down, make me weak, and try to control how I feel day-to-day, but using Paleo guidelines to lead me down that path has been the key to my success.

In this post I am going to focus on core Paleo guidelines, and how to get through the first 30 days of a Paleo regimen/challenge. It’s so important to stick to specific guidelines at the beginning of your journey to create that clean slate.  Your body must detox and reboot before you can start adding back and testing what foods truly wreak havoc on your system, and identify what foods play nice.  Also, you may find that after 30 days you feel so good you don’t want to play around with what you’re eating, and choose to stick with a stricter approach for a very long time. There is no right way or wrong way. The point is it’s up to you, your body’s reactions, and being willing to take the time to listen to what your body is trying to tell you.  Only you will know which path to take next!

 Basic Overview

checklistFoods You Can Eat: Meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, berries, nuts, seeds, spices, herbs, healthy oils and fats, most condiments (specifics further below), and certain types of flours and nut meals for baking.

Foods to Avoid: Processed foods, grains, gluten containing products, processed dairy, legumes/beans, refined carbohydrates and sugars, high fructose corn syrup, soft drinks, artificial sweeteners, processed cooking oils and fats.

Check out my Ingredient Guide to help navigate through some of the items you may come across in Paleo cooking that are unfamiliar.


To Eat or Not to Eat…That is the Question

The following list was created after viewing and reviewing many articles and books covering this topic. Links to all websites, and blogs, viewed to gather information for this post is listed on the resource page.

Eat This:Yes

  • Meat and Poultry Beef, chicken, pork, goat, lamb, venison, turkey, duck, other game meats, liver, sweetbreads, other organ meats, etc. Try when possible to purchase grass-fed, free range meat. It is much higher in nutrients because of the way the cattle is fed and raised. Try to purchase directly from farmers whenever possible for higher quality products at a cheaper price.  Next best is to purchase meat labeled with an official organic seal. When searching for farmers in your area check out Local Harvest. (No Factory Farmed Eggs and Meat- No added hormones, No antibiotics)
  • Fish and Seafood All species are fine: salmon, tuna, anchovies, sardines, red snapper, cod, halibut, sea bass, trout, shrimp, scallops, crayfish, calamari, crab, lobster, oysters, mussels, etc. Try to choose sustainable, wild fish and seafood when possible.
  • Eggs From ducks, chickens, quail, etc. Free-range, pasture raised. If purchased from the grocery store make sure they have the official organic label so that you are getting a higher quality product than others. (No Factory Farmed Eggs and Meat- No added hormones, No antibiotics)
  • Vegetables All vegetables are acceptable: brussel sprouts, celery, cucumber, eggplant, onions, squash, sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots, parsnips, spinach, kale, artichoke, tomato, okra, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.  During elimination phases try to stick to non-starchy tubers and root vegetables like: sweet potatoes, squashes, pumpkin, plantains, etc. (Refer to the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 for a list of the most important fruits and veggies to buy organic, and for those you can skip over for budget or availability reasons.) Try to buy local seasonal fruits and veggies whenever possible for greatest health benefits.
  • Sea Vegetables Wakame, kombu, other seaweeds, algae, etc. Seaweed vegetables carry many healthy and vital sources of micronutrients from the sea such as: iodine, sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, selenium, and zinc.
  • Fruit/Berries  Blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, rhubarb, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, apple, nectarines, grapes, lemon, lime, pomegranate, apricot, cherries, orange, figs, grapefruit, kiwi, etc. Try to stick to low sugar fruits and berries, and eat high sugar fruit like bananas and mangos for days when you need a higher carbohydrate intake or when in season and tasting delicious. (Refer to the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 for a list of the most important fruits and veggies to buy organic, and for those you can skip over for budget or availability reasons.)  Try to buy local seasonal fruits and veggies whenever possible for greatest health benefits.
  • Nuts and seeds Almonds, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, pine nuts, chestnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, etc. Nuts and seeds are a good grab option, but many nuts and seeds are high in Omega-6 fatty acids (which can cause inflammation if consumed in large quantities).  When consuming these make sure to balance out your diet with equal amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish (i.e. salmon, sardines), eggs, and leafy greens (i.e. collards, kale, spinach). Basically, don’t gorge on buckets of nuts and seeds every day. The same goes for nut meals and flours such as almond meal.
  • Spices and herbs Oregano, pepper, cilantro, rosemary bay leaf, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne, garlic, turmeric, etc. Sprinkle it on, the more the better!  As far as salt goes make sure you are using a good quality sea salt, Celtic salt, or Himalayan salt to get beneficial minerals. Herbs and spices are a key to good health so don’t be shy!
  • Healthy fats and oils – Coconut milk/cream, coconut oil, ghee, unsalted grassfed (organic if can’t find grassfed) butter (Most do not seem to have trouble with butter because it’s mostly fat so no problems with lactose, but if you find you are still having some stomach issues switch to ghee), duck fat, bacon fat, olive oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil, macadamia nut oil, sesame oil, fish oil, and fats rendered from grass-fed high quality meats (tallow from beef fat and lard from pork fat).
  • Condiments – Homemade condiment recipes can be found all over the internet. I always just Google what recipe I desire, or just make up my own.  For example type in your search engine: “Paleo Ketchup, or Paleo Mayonnaise, or Paleo BBQ Sauce, etc.” The list goes on and on and the internet is filled with wonderful Paleo blogs with amazing recipes.  Condiments are fine, but most of them have to be made by you to past the Paleo approved list test.  Mustard, organic apple cider, aged balsamic, olive oil, salsas, and pesto may be fine for purchase, just make sure there are no nasty chemicals and/or preservatives listed. READ INGREDIENT LABELS!  Rule of thumb:  If you can’t pronounce it, grow it, or create the ingredient outside of a science lab put the jar back down.  Wheat free soy sauce such (i.e. Tamari) and naturally derived oyster sauce are ok here and there, but it’s better to use coconut aminos (soy-free seasoning sauce made from coconut tree sap).
  • Baking Flours – Coconut flour, tapioca and arrowroot flour, sweet potato flour, chestnut flour, nut meals, etc. These items are a great way to have a treat every now and again, or make an ole fave without damaging your new and improved system. Still use these in moderation because they either contain high amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids or are high in carbohydrates.

Not That:X

  • Grains  No wheat, barley, rice, oats (even gluten free oats), spelt, corn, etc. Do not consume items made by these grains: bread, rolls, pancakes, pasta, waffles, cookies, doughnuts, cakes, tortillas, pizza crust, pita bread, etc. Most Important:  Stay away from wheat and anything with gluten.
  • Legumes- No beans, soy, peanuts, black beans, lentils, red beans, chickpeas/garbanzo bean, etc. (snap peas and green beans are fine). There are some debates over, if prepared properly, whether some legumes are safe to consume in moderation (must soak for 12 hours and then cook well to remove phytic acid so that they are easier to digest). During your elimination diet do not consume any beans, once completed you can try adding them back in one at a time to see how your body reacts if you would like.
  • Refined Sugars and Artificial Sweeteners –  No white sugar, brown sugar, artificial sugar, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, cane syrup, malt syrup sodas, fruit juices, store bought juice, Splenda, Equal, aspartame, or any other man-made sugar substitute.
  • Dairy-  No milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, creamer, crème fraîche, etc. During the elimination stage of your diet you need to avoid all dairy (most people can tolerate butter, but if you’re still having stomach issues try switching to ghee and eliminate butter completely for the remainder of your cleanse).  You should mainly avoid dairy, especially if you suffer from gut problems and gluten intolerances. If you have no sensitivities to casein (the protein in milk) or to lactose (the sugars in milk), and are in good health then a little healthy dairy can go a long way. When adding back dairy after elimination phase: avoid cow’s milk as it’s got high GI, unlike cheese or yogurt. Better options are goat’s and sheep’s milk products. Also some find fermented cows milk products tolerable like:  unsweetened yogurt, kefir, aged cheeses,  butter, full fat cream, and ricotta.
  • Processed Cooking Oils and Fats- No canola oil, soybean oil, vegetable, rapeseed and sunflower oils and margarines and spreads made with such oils. The problem is vegetable oils aren’t really made from vegetables, which is very confusing when trying to figure out how they came up with the name?  They are usually made from soy, cottonseed, corn, sunflower, safflower, and sesame.

Use In Moderation:

  • Natural Sweeteners- honey, molasses, maple syrup, dried fruit, dark chocolate, coconut sugar/palm sugar.
  • Alcohol- dry wines, pure spirits (because they don’t contain any toxic grains or added sugar)
  • Fermented Soy-  small amounts of tempeh, natto,  miso, and wheat free soy sauce (I recommend excluding all types of soy during the elimination phase)
  • Pseudograins-  Items such as: quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, Chia seeds, etc. are less harmful but are still dense sources of carbohydrates. These items need to be prepped with care to remove some of the anti-nutrients (i.e. phytic acid). Try soaking these grains in salted water for 8-12 hours, rinse, and cook before consuming. (I personally recommend avoiding pseudograins during the elimination phase of your diet.)


What to Drink When Going Paleowater4

When it comes to wettin your whistle stick with pure, filtered water.  Water is a great way to keep you hydrated without corrupting your daily clean eating goals!

Other Useful Links:

What Should I Drink? via Paleo Plan

Paleo Happy Hour via Diane Sanfilippo

Primal GRITS Tips: Try adding drops of essential oils to your filtered water to liven that glass up! I love to put a couple of drops of lemon essential oil or peppermint oil (sometimes both) in at least one glass of water a day for extra health benefits. (Peppermint Water is perfect to drink before a work out! Studies have shown that ingesting, or inhaling, peppermint before exercising can improve blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory functionality. It is so invigorating I just love it!!

For more information on the health benefits of using essential oils refer to the following link: http://www.doterra.com/us/essentialDefinition.php

Other Beverage Options:

  • Herbal Teas (Naturally Decaffeinated) are a very healthy beverage option loaded with antioxidants and various health benefits.  My day-to-day favorites are:  Peppermint, Ginger, and Chamomile.  (My favorite brand is Traditional Medicinals).  High quality means high benefits when it comes to teas. Primal GRITS Tip:  I love to liven my cup up with a drop of essential oil!HotTeaLemonEssentialOil
  • Infused Water is filtered water combined with herbs, essential oils, fruits, and/or vegetables. It gives you the opportunity to amp up your ordinary glass of water with real flavors from real nutritional vitamin packed sources.  If this option grabs you make sure you stick with homemade recipes where you have control over the ingredients in your glass (store bought flavored water options risk added preservatives, chemicals, and sugars you will need to avoid). Try out some of the following recipes:  InfusedWater
  • Juicing/Smoothies/Shakes When choosing one of these options greensmoothiemake sure you stick to Paleo approved recipes. It can be as easy as pulling up Google and typing in “Paleo smoothie recipes.” Remember when in doubt compare recipes against approved Paleo food lists and make it at home (premade options can have hidden ingredients that are not approved). Optional Recipe Links:
  • Coffee is rich in antioxidants and for some can be a good option for coffeebeansbeverage variation.  When consuming coffee be cautious, and keep track, of your daily caffeine intake.  Too much of anything is never a good thing, especially when it comes to caffeine.  I personally only drink 1 cup of coffee, at the most, a day as long as I do not feel any reaction from it.  Research on drinking coffee varies. So, it’s really important that you pay attention to how your body reacts to what you are putting in it, and stay aware of how you feel when consuming coffee.  I also love the Caffeine-Free Herbal “Coffee” recipes by Jessica Espinoza over at Delicious Obsessions!! Definitely check them out and give one (or all) a try!

Routine Challenger: Are you an avid coffee drinker? Can’t get going in the mornings without it?  I really recommend/challenge you to replace your daily coffee habit with herbal teas (that are naturally decaffeinated) or a nice glass of filtered water with a couple drops of lemon or peppermint essential oil.

Caffeinated beverages can really take a strain on your adrenal glands and hormones. Try this for a couple of weeks to see how you feel!  If you decide to add coffee back into your daily routine make sure to take note of your body’s response.  If the reaction isn’t positive you may want to consider removing coffee from your daily routine for a much longer amount of time till your body balances out.  Through trial and error you may find that you are one of those people whose system is unable to handle coffee, and really need to consider removing it for the long haul.

Primal GRITS Tips: I had stopped drinking coffee and replaced my consumption with hot naturally decaffeinated teas for over 6 months, but when I started Crossfit I found that I really enjoy a bullet proof coffee before my WOD every now and then.  For me, it’s a great way to get going before my early AM workout, and it provides some really healthy fats for my body to enjoy while I put it to work!  (At this time my body’s reaction to the coffee is positive.) The following is how I make mine:bulletproofcoffee1

Bullet Proof Coffee


  • 8-10 oz of brewed organic coffee (with filtered water)
  • 1 tablespoon organic coconut oil (melted)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons grassfed butter (melted)


  • Pour coffee, coconut oil, and butter into food processor or blender
  • Pulse for 30 seconds, till frothy
  • Pour into your favorite mug or to-go beverage container and Enjoy!

***Not Feeling the Bullet Proof Coffee? Here is my regular mug full of goodness that I make when I am not about to go workout. It is so delicious and filled with lots of health benefiting nutrients!

My Regular Morning Cup of Joe (no butter)



  • Pour coffee, coconut oil, and gelatin into food processor or blender
  • Pulse for 30 seconds, till frothy
  • Pour into your favorite mug or to-go beverage container and Enjoy!

 ***Some mornings I like to add 1 drop of peppermint essential oil to my coffee recipe. I call it “Christmas in a Cup!” So delicious and refreshing!!

For more beverage options and recipes check out the Primal GRITS Pin Board:  http://www.pinterest.com/primalgrits/beverages-and-smoothies/


Next Phase of the Series “Take the Challenge” Continued: Pre and Post Workout Meals, Paleo Snacks, My Week 1 Sample Menu,  Eating Out Tips, and Resources/Other Useful Links.  So come on back and check it out!


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