7 Easy Ways To Upgrade A Paleo Diet

Certified Nutrition Specialist By JJ Virgin, CNS
Certified Nutrition Specialist
JJ Virgin is a Certified Nutrition Specialist, Board Certified Holistic Nutritionist, Certified Exercise Physiologist, and New York Times best-selling author.

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Paleo has become hot for good reason. Mimicking the way our ancestors ate—focusing on a whole, unprocessed diet that eliminates high-sugar-impact foods, soy, gluten, corn, and other food intolerances—provides a ton of health benefits.

Eating Paleo also means more healthy fats like anti-inflammatory omega-3s, which balance out inflammatory omega-6s in ubiquitous foods like vegetable oils and grain-fed meats. Studies show that while our ancestors got about an equal amount of omega-3s and omega-6s, today we get up to 50 times more omega-6s. Among that imbalance’s detrimental repercussions include chronic inflammation, which contributes to weight-loss resistance and nearly any disease imaginable.

Those and other benefits aside, Paleo can feel a little too restrictive or even dogmatic. I playfully call my eating plan “Paleo with benefits” by combining its best principles with a few foods our way-way-back ancestors didn’t eat.

When you eat lean protein, healthy fats like avocado, tons of non-starchy veggies, and "slow low" carbs like quinoa, you signal fat-burning hormones to get busy while crushing hunger and cravings. Whether you’ve been Paleo for years or want to give it a whirl, these sevens upgrades can make your plan more accessible while dialing up fat loss and overall health:

1. Give yourself a little leeway.

You needn’t become militant or “100 percent” (whatever that means) Paleo. Don’t be afraid to deviate with rockstar, non-Paleo foods like legumes or (if you’re not dairy-intolerant) unsweetened Greek yogurt to increase variety and nutrients.

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2. Up your fiber.

Studies show that Paleo folks ate way more crave-busting, health-promoting dietary fiber. Leafy greens, low-sugar-impact fruits like berries and avocado, nuts and seeds, and a professional supplement powder are easy ways to effortlessly work toward your 50-gram (yes, 50) daily fiber quota.

3. Remember: Paleo doesn’t mean all-you-can-eat.

Even healthy foods become unhealthy when you eat too much. You won’t eat six chicken breasts, but overdoing other Paleo staples like nuts becomes far too easy. If a handful becomes half the container, portion control is your best friend!

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4. Stay away from processed stuff.

Looking at you, Paleo bread and…well, pretty much any junk food. Manufacturers know you’re craving “legal” versions, so they’ve concocted “Paleo” versions of nearly every comfort food imaginable. Many come loaded with soy protein isolate and other decidedly un-Paleo ingredients. Skip ‘em and focus mostly on real, whole, unprocessed foods.

5. Have beef for breakfast.

Grass-fed steak makes a great breakfast, but who has time? A defatted beef protein powder from grass-fed cows becomes an easy, whey-but-without-the-dairy way to create a Paleo-inspired, protein-rich breakfast. Blend that protein powder with avocado, raspberries, leafy greens, freshly ground flaxseed, and unsweetened coconut or almond milk for a fast, delicious, nutrient-rich meal replacement.

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6. Buy the best meat.

Most commercial meats come from antibiotic-injected animals subjected to wretched living conditions. Skip the feedlot steaks, farm-raised fish, and hormone-injected chicken breasts, which tend to be higher in inflammatory omega-6s. Switch to free-range poultry, wild-caught seafood, and grass-fed meat, which provide higher amounts of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and fat-burning conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).

7. Cover your nutrient bases.

Paleo folks didn’t have supplement stores, but researchers find their foods contained a significantly higher nutrient profile than what we currently get. That makes supplementing mandatory. At the very least, a professional-quality multivitamin-mineral with optimal vitamin D and magnesium as well as fish oil will cover the nutrient bases you’re probably not getting from food. Unless you’re eating dirt (I hope not) or fermented foods like kimchi, incorporating a probiotic supplement is also a good idea.

If you’ve done a Paleo diet, did you find that sticking to the plan became a challenge? What modification(s) did you add to make your plan more accessible? Share yours below.

JJ Virgin, CNS
JJ Virgin, CNS
JJ Virgin is a celebrity nutrition and fitness expert who helps clients lose weight fast by breaking...
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JJ Virgin, CNS
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