Strict Paleo: Breaking the Rules

​Strict Paleo: Breaking the Rules

​Strict Paleo Rules: OK - Except When It Doesn't

Obsessive rule following is not my thing, as anyone who knows me personally would tell you.   

This blog post outlines where the rules of strict paleo can be bent ... and where you should probably stick to the rules.

Strict Paleo: What is it?

The Paleo diet isn't just about diet - it's a lifestyle.  Yes, I hear you groaning at the back there.  But, the thing is ... Paleolithic people had a lifestyle that really doesn't look like the one you have right now. 

Of course, they starved a great deal, they had quite a short lifespan - ​around ​35 years, according to some - and they tended to eat things we wouldn't dream of eating now.

​              Strict paleo is more of a modern phenomenon than a historically accurate one

motivation to lose weight Fiona McCallion headshot image

​Fiona McCallion

What is Paleo?

Today's version of paleo is really two branches: diet and exercise.

Yes, exercise.  Nobody told you that, did they?

The Paleo diet emerged from the High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) community.  HIIT is those brief explosive exercises that take about 20 seconds, followed by a 10 second breather.  The media would have you believe that's all there is to it with headlines implying that less than a minute of exercise is enough to get you fit! 

Um ... no.  You have to repeat that 30 seconds for about 30 minutes in order to get the benefits.  And you have to do it a lot.  I mean, over several months. 

But, you know, it works ... if you're into that kind of thing.

I'm not.

The Why of Strict Paleo: What You Can Expect

When you start eating paleo, your body will be so grateful, you will begin to feel better almost immediately.  Even if you didn't know just how bad you felt before starting, the increased energy, better skin tone, rising motivation and upsurge in well being that emerges over time, together with the surprisingly fast weight loss will come as a delightful ​bonus. 

Strict Paleo Diet

It's easier to list what you can't eat, than what you can.

  • ​No grains - particularly gluten containing grains (wheat, rye, barley).  Not even ancient ones.
  • ​No factory oils - particularly those labelled as healthy (they're not): rapeseed, vegetable, corn, any oil you would need a factory to produce.
  • ​No processed foods - particularly not processed food labelled as paleo.  Everything needs to be cooked from scratch. 
  • ​No dairy - whey, milk, cream, butter, cheese ... or anything else that saw a cow, sheep or goat.  Although you can eat the meat as long as it's grass fed and/or organic.
  • ​No legumes - peanuts are legumes, as are any form of beans or peas. Including corn and soya.

Urk!  That's all the food in your cupboards and freezer!  If you can't eat that ...

What Can You Eat on a Strict Paleo Diet?

  • ​Nuts and seeds - any nut that isn't a ground nut.  Nuts can be used to make nut butter, nut milk, flour - all the things you thought wouldn't be part of a paleo lifestyle - even cheese!
  • ​Vegetables - any vegetable that isn't a legume, although nightshades are a grey area
  • ​No processed foods - particularly not processed food labelled as paleo.  Everything needs to be cooked from scratch. 
  • ​Fats that really are healthy - coconut oil, ghee, olive oil
  • ​Fruit - dried, fresh and frozen
  • ​Meat - as long as it's grass fed and/or organic

But ... But ... All that Cooking!

Yes, it's a lot of cooking (more on that later).  The trick is organisation and it took a while to get my head around what that meant.  I thought it was hard.  But as it turns out, it isn't. 

And if you've heard that eating paleo is expensive, think again.  As long as you're organised, you'll save money.  Partly because it's more nourishing, so you'll eat less.  And partly because cooking from scratch is less expensive than processed food.

How do You do Paleo

For a couple of years I was very strict paleo, due to a physical condition I won't go into here.  What it taught me is that my body is sensitive to some foods but not others.

​And I didn't discover that until I stopped eating them - ​and tried to reintroduce them later.​​​

Red Lines

  • ​Well, no one is ever going to persuade me that coffee=bad.  I know it's a legume, but I don't care.
  • ​Ditto chocolate.  As long as it's very high cocoa butter and no soya!  Green and Blacks 85% cocoa butter is my go to.  The emulsifier they use is sunflower lecithin, not soya.
  • ​Kale. Is. Not. People. Food.
  • thumbs-up​Oats.  Oats are grains.  I like them for porridge in the winter.  And have been known to grind them into flour for baked goods.  Not paleo. 
  • thumbs-up​Almond flour is surprisingly versatile.  This coffee cake by Elana's Pantry is a winner.

What's the Most Painless Way to Go Paleo?

First, learn to cook.  If you've never cooked before and didn't learn how to at school or at home, you'll need a program designed with you in mind.  Paleo Cooking School by Camile Macres is a great place to start - try the basics course first.  Then move on to the Masterclass.  Camile's courses are worth every penny, even if, like me, you learned to cook at school (or at home!) and have been cooking all your life. 

I don't spend an entire day cooking.  However, I often make a batch of cauliflower rice and shove it in the freezer.  And, since you have your food processor out anyway, dice that entire bag of onions in it, divide them into portions and those go in the freezer, too.  Don't try and keep them in the fridge - they'll go mank very quickly.

cook strict paleo image

When I'm making something like burgers, I make a whole lot at a time and put them in the freezer.

It's just as easy to cook 10 chicken portions as 2 - the rest go in the freezer.  Yes, cooked chicken ready and waiting when you don't want to cook.  Make sure they're fully defrosted before you eat them. 

Breaking the Rules of Strict Paleo

As mentioned above, I am never going to give up coffee.  Or chocolate.  But I use a mix of 1/4 cup nut milk, 1/4 cup coconut milk, 1/2 cup water to achieve ​a similar "mouth feel" for my morning latte.

Heated up in the microwave.  Which isn't paleo either. Or is it?

But then again, strictly speaking, you wouldn't find electric ovens in paleolithic kitchens, so there you are. 

How Long Do You Have to do Strict Paleo?

I was very strict paleo for two years - with the exception of coffee and chocolate.  During that time, my health improved dramatically - and I dropped right back down to my set point weight. Fast.

These days I have been known to cheat a little - but am instantly aware of what it's doing to my body.  When you eat reasonably clean over a long time period, your body will tell you which foods it's not keen on - and which it considers poison.  You won't want to go back - and you'll realise just how crap you felt before you made the change.

  • ​Paleo isn't really paleolithic. 
  • ​Strict paleo includes HIIT exercise. (HA!)
  • ​When you take out all processed foods from your diet, you have to cook from scratch otherwise you'll starve.
  • plus​Cooking from scratch isn't hard, it just requires some thought and organisation.
  • plus​Avoid processed food labelled "paleo".  It isn't.  It's processed.
  • plus​You can break the rules of strict paleo once you've made it a lifestyle.
  • plus​This is a very long rambling post.  Congratulations for getting this far.

Thoughts?  Leave a comment below to share your own approach. 

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