I'm a newbie, and learning all the time. It's easy for me to identify the basic foods as paleo or not (beef=paleo wheat=not) but I'm struggling every time I encounter a new food, or a food that there's some disagreement on (eg dairy). Also, I find I get bogged down when the discussion turns to omega3/6, anti-nutrients etc. It's annoying to have to look up or google every time I need to find out where something fits, so I'm wondering if any of you have a "rule of thumb" that works for you? The sorts of things I imagine are
"could I grow or kill this myself?" "could I eat this raw?" "how many people have touched this before me?"
Help me navigate through these first stages, please?
For a newbie - If the total ingredients on the package is equal to 1 you have made an infinite improvement over the SAD.
That'll get you to 80% while you are still learning.
As a newbie I say don't get caught up in trying to be to perfect. It gets exhausting, and usually leads to bad choices. Just use good judgment. Easiest way is if it has been altered to eat, stay away. Aside from heating it up obviously. Meat and Veggies, Nuts and Seeds, Some fruit, little starch and NO sugar. Good luck and welcome.
Honestly it's difficult to apply a glib-sounding rule of thumb to all of the grey areas in Paleo - you have to make up your own mind on a case by case basis by weighing the pros and cons.
Paleo grey areas off the top of my head: fruit, optimal carb consumption, dairy, tea coffee and chocolate, "safe" starches like white rice, fish oil, novel supplementation e.g. curcumin.
The good news is that these subjects have all been discussed in depth from a variety of perspectives on this site. Once you work out where you stand, things should become automatic and then if you're a nutrition nerd you can tweak your views and keep abreast of the latest Paleo thinking.
I am a newbie also and realized pretty quickly that I was spending more time looking up information on the computer than I was on eating, exercising and hanging out with the family. My epiphany came when I realized that I was reading alot about 80/20 or 90/10 and lots of "you don't have to be 100% to still see and feel dramatic results". So I am done stressing about how to make my necessary coffee both paleo and drinkable - a Tbsp. of heavy cream and a smidgen of Splenda is not going to wreck my whole program.
I've also come to think of doing-it-the-paleo-way as a way of life and not a Diet. I always fail at diets because they are too hard. As soon as I would go on a low-carb diet, I'd concentrate on all the stuff I couldn't have, give in, have it, and then feel like I had failed, so why continue. With paleo I'm thinking of it as a lifestyle change - I have RA and need to get healthy - losing weight will undoubtedly come along. I'm much more stringent about not eating gluten, if I relate it to my health and not my weight.
Well the rule I apply when eating out isn't perfect but it is an 80% rule designed to make my social life work more easily. I ask" Would I make that at home"? If the answer is yes I consider it even if the preparation isn't paleo.
Stay as unprocessed as possible as much of the time as possible. Pretty much sums it up for me :) And also, don't freak out if you find you can't follow that rule for some reason...depending on the situation. Sometimes you may find yourself where you may not be able to. Make the wisest choice you can, move on and don't beat yourself up for not being perfect. Simple but effective.
Remember you will make mistakes, don't beat yourself up over it. That will discourage you fast. Keep it simple for a while and faze things in. You will find that it will work easier. Also your body will go through an adjustment period. Big thing is processed as Karin said, it's your biggest enemy. If you try to be perfect you will be your biggest enemy. So relax and enjoy the ride. Welcome and best wishes.
I am beginning too! But a few questions (they are rather liberal) that I ask myself are: 1) did it have a mother? (beef? yes. milk? no.); 2) Does it bear seeds? (these are fruits and veggies---good choices); Is it a legume or grain? (then don't eat it); Is sugar listed in the ingredients? (don't eat it). These questions probably do not encompass all the things you could look for, but it's a start.
I think training yourself to flip a package over and reading the ingredients is important. Honestly, most of the foods I buy do not have a package. They are single ingredients. Apples. Lettuce. Eggs. Beef, etc...the only real time I check is with dried fruit and nuts, which is my favorite most portable snack. I prefer fresh fruits and veggies for snacks, but if you are stuck on campus, some homemade trail mix is awesome. Unsalted nuts and unsweetened dried fruits.
I think the easiest way I have eased into the omega-3/-6 thing is, if I eat a food at some point in the day that is high in omega-6, I try to eat something else that is high in omega-3. An example: nuts are higher in o-6s, so I try to eat a piece of fatty fish high in o-3s at some point in the day. It seems easier to get the o-6s, so I try to counter it by sprinkling flax seeds on salads which are higher in o-3s. This is probably a pretty rudimentary way of doing it, but it's easy for me to do as I am beginning as well.
Barry Sears, in one of his books, had this very simple rule -
"if it didn't exist 10,000 years ago, don't eat it."
That would have to be the very quintessential essence of the term "paleo" and it's self-evident any deviation wouldn't be true paleo. That would leave out much of what many paleohacks eat.