4 Ways to Follow the Paleo Diet (With Pictures)

The “Paleo diet” or “Paleolithic diet” (sometimes referred to as the “Caveman Diet”) is based on the idea that our bodies are better adapted to what our human ancestors ate during the Paleolithic era.[1] The premise of this diet is that you’ll regain lost fortitude and grow to be as strong and vital as our ancestors. While we don’t have the predators, caves, and short lifespans of the caveman to contend with, there is the reality that many of the foods we consume aren’t very healthy for us. And for some, a return to eating like cavemen of yore is a way of restoring a little balance. In case you’re interested in trying out this diet, here are some ways to get started.


Method 1 of 3: Get Ready

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    Decide what extent you’re prepared to take the diet. The elements of the paleo diet vary according to which source or practitioner of the diet you follow. However, it is possible to discern some basic elements that you can use to form your take on this diet:

    • Some followers of the paleo diet eat large quantities of meat and then fast for up to 36 hours at a time.[2] This is supposed to emulate the times of lean in between meals that hunters and gatherers experienced. At this extreme, fruit and vegetables are appropriate but nothing baked, such as bread, or other foods that only came about with the introduction of agriculture.[3] Be aware that some experts dispute the health benefits of fasting and the unsuitability of products created by agriculture for the human body.[4]
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    • Some paleo practitioners avoid eating items from the nightshade family. These would not have been available to paleolithic hunter gatherers. Others see this as taking things too far.[5]
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    • While some cavemen diet followers consume raw meat, others point out that paleolithic humans had fire and were able to cook.
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    • Ultimately, the diet is viewed as very much “do-it-yourself”, to be tailored to suit your body’s own needs.[6]
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    Prepare your kitchen and pantry. You’ll need somewhere suitable to store your meat supplies, such as a large freezer. You’ll need a fridge to store fresh ingredients such as vegetables, berries, fish, and fruit, and pantry space to store nuts, some vegetables, and jerky.

    • You won’t need salt, sugar, potatoes, or beans anymore.
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    • Remove all processed foods. These no longer form a part of your diet.
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  3. Follow the Paleo Diet Step 3
    Gather your basic ingredients. Within the parameters of the ingredients you are able to consume as part of the paleo diet, you can make a range of different meals. The ingredients that are permitted as part of the paleo diet will vary slightly depending on which source you’re following, but the following provides a general guide:

    • Meat – red meat, bacon, ham, pork, venison, etc.
    • Fish and seafood
    • Eggs
    • Cheese (this could be herd based food or post-agriculture, it depends on your interpretation)
    • Nuts (note that peanuts and cashews are not nuts)
    • Vegetables – raw, steamed, salad varieties
    • Fruit
    • Berries
    • Seeds


Method 2 of 3: Eat Like a Caveman

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    Start the paleo diet. Initially, it’s suggested that you ease yourself gradually into the diet. There are several ways to do this – by weekly blocks, or in stages of days. Do whatever feels best for you at the time. Here are some suggestions:

    • Matt Emery’s gradual weekly stages:[7]
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      • For the first week: graze all day on fruit and unsalted nuts, while eating whatever you like at night only. Drink lots of water. Do this for no more than 2 to 4 weeks.
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      • For the next weekly stage: Drink water to start the day and eat nothing all day. At dinner, eat meat, birds, fish, eggs, fruit, vegetables, nuts, berries. Do this for 2 to 8 weeks.
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      • For the final stage: Drink water, live on unprocessed foods, graze during the day, and enjoy a healthy meal every night. You should now be enjoying the caveman diet as a lifestyle, no longer craving unhealthy foods, and feeling fit and strong. The times that you eat your meals will vary according to your healthy food cravings and energy requirements.
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    • Gradual day stages:
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      • Start with a paleo breakfast for three days and keep eating as you always have for the remaining meals. For example, have a meat, eggs, and berry breakfast.
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      • For the next three days, add a caveman lunch and keep eating dinner as always. For example, have a ham, salad, and nuts lunch.
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      • Add dinner next. For example, have fish with roasted turnips. Enjoy berries and fruit for desserts. The more modern caveman or cavewoman may prefer a berry cake or tart.
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    • Snacks should always be simple grazing food, such as berries, raw vegetables, nuts, fruits. You can also have jerky, cheese, and dried fruits in moderation (remember that dried fruits contain high levels of concentrated sugar).
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  2. Follow the Paleo Diet Step 5
    Don’t think of the meals as the familiar breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc. As a caveman-like eater, you are now a grazer. You’re not looking for three meals per day. Although you don’t need to eat dried foods all the time, you will be looking for 6 small meals per day.
  3. 3
    Savor your food. A big part of the caveman diet is respect and love for your food. Matt Emery, who describes himself as a “modern hybrid caveman” suggests that the following rituals or attentions are a vital part of following a caveman diet:[8]

    • Smell your food. Use your sense of smell to work out the freshness, the tastes, and the origins of your food. Some smells will be pleasant, some less so. The more you train your sense of smell, the greater the enjoyment.
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    • Eat your food with your hands. Touching your food directly allows an intimacy that forks, knives, and chopsticks have removed.
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    • Look at your food. What are the colors, the textures, the parts of your food? Learn to appreciate food in its naturally appearing state.
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    • Taste your food. Learn the different tastes – salty, acidic, bitter, sweet, umami. Can you tell the different variations within the natural food? Learn to like each in its own turn.
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    • Flirt with your food. Change your emotional love of food from unhealthy food to healthy food.
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    • Be intimate with food. Be amazed by the miracle that food is.
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    Start a paleo diet recipe collection. When you first start out, it’s likely you’ll still be able to use some of your cookbooks for basics such as salads and roasting. However, you’ll be confronted fairly quickly by all the elements you can’t use, such as salt and processed items. Expand your repertoire of caveman recipes and explore the many possibilities by building on the basics. Examples of recipes that fit the caveman diet include: broccoli and bacon salad, egg and capsicum salad, pumpkin chicken curry, white fish with macadamia salsa, pancakes made using ground nuts in place of flour, apple glazed turkey breast, shrimp curry, etc.

    • Look for recipes that call for fully natural ingredients to make breads, cakes, and other baked items. If you’re allowing yourself baked foods in your diet, this can still be possible but the types will be very basic, for example a pan-bread made from just flour and milk or water, perhaps with some fresh herbs for seasoning.
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    • Search online for caveman food websites and blogs. There are also books available for purchase about the caveman diet – take a visit to your local bookstore.
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    • Go through your existing cookbooks and adapt the recipes. You might like to compile a single book in a folder or in digital form to make it easier to refer to daily.
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Method 3 of 3: Consider the Health Benefits

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    Encompass other aspects of the caveman diet if you wish. For some people following the caveman diet, it’s not only about what goes into your body, but also what feeds your soul. Since this is about emulating the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, it’s also about movement, foraging, and the ability to be flexible. This means that sitting at an office in front of a computer all day doesn’t sit well with practitioners of the caveman diet and they’d prefer to roam and think on the go than to be kept in an office all day.[9]

    • Walk everywhere.
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    • Work out to increase your strength. Some paleo diet followers like to work out on an empty stomach at the end of a fast, for the feeling it brings, but that’s a purely personal choice and it may just make you feel giddy and weak.
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    • The more complex the cooking instructions, the less true to the caveman diet. If you’re fiddling with blenders, food processors and funny gadgets instead of just getting on with it, perhaps you need to review your approach to the caveman diet.
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  2. Follow the Paleo Diet Step 9
    Consider the health aspects. While this diet may suit some people and their lifestyles, it won’t suit everyone. For a start, any change in your diet of such a magnitude should be discussed with your doctor or dietitian. Similar to the Atkins’ diet owing to its heavy reliance on protein and fatty foods, the caveman diet is considered to be unhealthy by some dietitians because it can involve an unhealthy level of fat consumption, has unbalanced vitamins, and is low on carbohydrates, which could leave you feeling weak and tired.[10] After discussing your plans with your doctor, it’s probably best to remember that the paleo diet is about tailoring it to fit your optimal needs rather than adhering to being overly strict on things that would otherwise mean it doesn’t work for you. There will always be purists of any lifestyle, as well as shades of gray, so mix it up in ways that ensure your optimal health. After all, eating more healthy food and less unhealthy food is always a sensible thing to do.

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