"Paleo is more of a style of eating than a diet, per se," says Alana Kessler, MS, RDN, founder of Be Well by Alana Kessler. "It's a throwback to the hunter and gatherer days where people ate mostly meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. Foods were seasoned with fresh herbs and spices."
So eating Paleo, also known as the "caveman diet," means you stick to consuming only these types of fresh, whole foods, and nothing processed or cropped, such as grains, legumes, dairy, artificial sweeteners, or vegetable oils.
Sticking to fresh and whole foods is the key reason this eating plan helps keep your energy levels stable throughout the day. "I always recommend keeping the focus on leafy green and above-ground vegetables, followed by grass-fed and wild proteins, and lastly, high-quality fats like avocado and extra virgin olive oil," says Shauna Faulisi, a celebrity wellness chef and holistic nutritionist.
Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, RD, host of Well+Good's YouTube series You Versus Food, shares another benefit if this eating plan: "Because you’re cutting out foods that have sugar, alcohol, and gluten, Paleo could potentially reduce inflammation in the body, which could mitigate the symptoms of chronic illness,” she says.
For more benefits of the Paleo diet, watch the video below.
Tips for sticking to a Paleo diet
A Paleo diet doesn't have to be boring. Kessler recommends keeping things interesting with some variety. "Make sure you mix up the types of food you have for your meals as well as your cooking methods," she says. "Experiment with herbs and spices for flavor. Get creative with nut flour. You would be surprised how good nut flour can be. You could close your eyes and swear it wasn't Paleo."
In terms of mindset, Faulisi's advice is to focus on and celebrate the delicious food you can eat on a Paleo diet, such as veggies, proteins, and brain- and hormone-supporting fats. Also, meal prepping helps. "Pick two nights a week to cook a few items and set yourself up for success," she says. "If you're on-the-go, have things like nuts, seeds, and turkey, beef, or salmon jerky with you. If you're dining out, keep it a la carte. Order things like salads, sides of vegetables, and protein. It's fun, and it mixes up the flavors."
With that in mind, keep reading for nutrient-dense Paleo snack ideas to add to your rotation in order to keep things fresh (literally).
12 nutrition-expert-approved Paleo snacks
1. Avocado toast with gluten-free Paleo bread
In the video above, chefs Mia Ridgen (who is also a nutritionist) and Jenny Dorsey share their recipe for a Paleo-friendly bread that chock-full of protein and fiber. "Ground flaxseeds, and flaxseeds in general, are super high in fiber which is great for your digestion,” Rigden explains. "[This bread] also helps to keep us full and it’s a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are highly anti-inflammatory." Pop a slice in the toaster and top with sliced avo for an extra dose of healthy fats.
2. Cauliflower mash
Cauli mash is a super creamy, crowd-pleasing dish, and Paleo-friendly, too. You can whip it up and have it on hand for snacking throughout the week. To make it, Faulisi says, cut one head of a cauliflower and let it soak in one can of full-fat coconut milk in a pan for 30 minutes with the lid on and off, stirring every few minutes. Once all the liquid is absorbed, transfer the cauli to a blender and blend until you get your desired texture. Season it with garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and voila!
3. Paleo tacos
Yup, tacos are Paleo-approved and perfect for when you need a quick yet hearty bite to get you through the long stretch between lunch and dinner. Faulisi recommends cooking your choice of meat (or veggies!) with homemade taco seasoning in a pan and then serving them on large pieces of romaine lettuce or a grain-free tortilla. You can also top your tacos with a dairy-free sauce and cilantro for extra flavor.
4. Coconut yogurt parfait
A parfait is a quick snack you can put together fast when you feel the hunger pangs coming on strong. "Instead of traditional dairy yogurt, use full-fat coconut yogurt, and add a scoop of collagen protein powder, a tablespoon of flax seeds, and mix it up well," Faulisi says. "Then top with nuts and fresh berries."
5. Glow smoothie
Smoothies can also help bridge the hunger gap from one meal to another. Faulisi's go-to Paleo version features unsweetened, dairy-free liquid, a serving of vanilla collagen protein powder, frozen blueberries, a handful of spinach, 1/4 of an avocado, ground flaxseed, and a few sprinkles of cinnamon. Benefits of this glow smoothie include stable blood sugar, a better mood, and clearer skin.
6. Pomegranate coconut freezer bites
Low sugar? Check. On-the-go friendly? Check. Refreshing? Check. Pomegranate coconut freezer bites tick all the snack boxes. Plus, "the healthy fats in the coconut help to balance hormones, while the probiotic-filled kombucha helps restore the gut and therefore the health and glow of your skin," Faulisi says. They also look pretty, too.
To make them, blend a pomegranate-flavored kombucha (Faulisi likes Health-Ade) with full-fat unsweetened coconut milk, shredded coconut, stevia, and vanilla extract. Sprinkle some pomegranate seeds into a silicone cupcake or ice cube tray and pour in the coconut milk mixture. Freeze it for at least five hours.
7. Hard-boiled eggs
You can't go wrong with a hard-boiled egg as a snack. "It's easy and packed with filling nutrition," Kessler says. The best part is that they are great for meal prepping ahead of time in a batch so you can have them handy in the refrigerator. Pro tip: Make them in an Instant Pot, so they come out perfect every time. Another pro tip: Baking soda makes peeling a hard-boiled egg a breeze.
8. Oatless granola
Homemade granola sans oats makes a good Paleo-friendly snack, too. "It's anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and it is super filling," Kessler says. She suggests adding in a mix of nuts, seeds, manuka honey as a sweetener, and coconut oil for some healthy fat.
9. Paleo almond crackers
Going Paleo doesn't mean you have to give up crackers. Kessler recommends making your own version with almond flour. To make the crackers, all you need is one egg per cup of almond flour, salt, and pepper. That’s it! "Bake at 180 degrees for 12 minutes after processing the ingredients in a blender and making shapes with a glass to your desired size," Kessler says.
10. Seaweed snacks
Seaweed isn't just for sushi. The marine algae is also great for snacking and good for you. "Seaweed snacks are great because they pack nutrition," Kessler says. "They have vitamin K and tons of B vitamins for energy." No wonder the snack is trending.
11. Cauliflower popcorn
"Regular popcorn may not be Paleo, but cauliflower is," Kessler says. "You can season with onion powder, sea salt, and chives to give it that popcorn taste." And the benefits of cauliflower make it a no-brainer. It's filling, good for your gut, anti-inflammatory, and heart-friendly. Cauliflower saves the day again.
12. No-bake fruit balls
For a quick energy boost, whip up some no-bake fruit balls to have on hand to eat first thing in the morning or whenever hunger calls. "In a processor, blend figs, almonds, peaches, raisins, manuka honey, and orange juice," Kessler says. "Roll balls and then roll them in coconut flakes. Chill them in the fridge." Yum!
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