In today’s post, I want to touch on a popular myth that the paleo diet is all about MEAT.
Have you ever Googled ‘paleo diet’ only to find a few random images of half-naked cavemen grizzling on chunks of raw meat?
Sure, there are probably a few fanatics out there who get a kick out of that sort of thing, but for the most of us, we like to get food from shops and fresh food markets; and to eat it at the table…while clothed (most of the time).
The notion that the paleo diet is meat-heavy is not surprising. After all, when you learn about the foods you are encouraged to eat, meat does come up high on the list. That’s not to say that you’re actually eating a lot of it.
If you’re used to relying on pasta and bread for the majority of your daily calories, then you naturally have to replace them with another type of food to get the same amount of fuel. The assumption is that we replace those staples with meat.
That’s not the way to do paleo right.
While protein is certainly key in the paleo diet – it is satiating and helps to stabilise the blood sugar levels – it’s not were most of the calories come from.
Healthy fats – such as those found in eggs, fish and seafood (and meat), ghee, coconut oil and olive oil, avocados, coconut milk, nuts and seeds – provide double the amount of calories per gram compared to protein and carbohydrates. As we reduce the amount of carbohydrates we eat – by eliminating things like refined grains or legumes – we increase fat and protein…mostly fat, actually.
My point is, that even though protein is often featured in every meal on the paleo diet, it’s usually not the largest source of calories and it’s not always red meat. Eggs, fish, seafood, nuts and seeds are all sources of protein and should make a regular appearance on your plate.
If you’re doing paleo right, your plate should consist of a medium piece of meat, fish, seafood or eggs (for a steak, we’re looking at 150-200 grams for women and more for men), lots of vegetables (two thirds of your plate, my friends), and the rest is healthy fats (the oil you cook in, the fats present in the food or drizzled over the food). In some meals, the ratio can be different as it’s not a rule to always have protein on the plate.
Here is my ideal paleo meal plate.
While my protein intake has increased slightly since going paleo, my vegetable and fat intake have gone up a lot more. In fact, I dare say that I eat more vegetables than a vegetarian because I rely on them to replace my bread and pasta. I have them at every meal. In fact, I just polished off a vegetable and mushrooms stir-fry for lunch…no meat in that one.
Another shift I noticed since going paleo is the quality of protein I now consume. If you asked me 6-7 years ago the difference between grass-fed and grain-fed meat or between wild fish and farmed fish, I wouldn’t have a clue. In fact, I used to buy whatever was on special at my local supermarket, giving little thought to how the animal was raised and what it was fed. These days, I focus on quality over quantity, and I would rather have a smaller piece of chicken but know that it comes from a happy and healthy bird.
Finally, if you eat paleo the right way, you should be including a large variety of foods – whether it’s meat, veggies or fat. I cycle between different types of meat, poultry and game, cheaper cuts of meat and offal, different types of sustainable fish (yep, including those smelly sardines) and shellfish. I’ve tried lots of new vegetables and I no longer get scared by egg yolks, full-fat mayonnaise and coconut milk. Fat is my friend!
The main take away is that paleo is actually 70% plant based. Yes, if you look at the amount of veggies and plant-derived fats we consume, this is a more accurate picture.
If you’re concerned about the amount of meat you consume, here is a quick checklist to get you back in the right direction:
- Make sure two thirds of your plate are plant based;
- Don’t forget that you can get a lot of fuel from healthy fats;
- Cycle between different types of protein, not just read meat and chicken;
- Go for quality over quantity;
- Feel free to go meat-free or low-protein for some of your meals.
I will leave you with a collection of some of my tasty, meatless recipes that either feature fish, seafood, eggs or are totally vegetarian.
What do you think? Is paleo diet all about meat? Leave me a comment below.
10 Delicious Meat-Free Paleo Meals
Broccoli & Cauliflower Fritters with Halloumi (cheese can be omitted)