How To Plan the Paleo Diet: Interview With Neely Quinn of PaleoPlan.com
Happy Monday, SlimKickers! We've received a lot of questions from people on how to start doing Paleo, so we did an interview with Neely Quinn, the CEO of Paleo Plan to get her thoughts on how beginners should start living the Paleo lifestyle. Here it is:
SlimKicker Team: Tell us about the Paleo Plan - what you get when you sign up? In particular, how can it help people who are new to Paleo? Are the meals and recipes different month to month?
Neely: We have a meal plan at Paleo Plan for $9.99/month that provides people with weekly Paleo menus and grocery shopping lists. We include a full shopping list and a "flex" shopping list, which is for people who want to have a non-Paleo day in their week.
The meal plans use our recipes at Paleo Plan, which are free on the site. We make sure to use leftovers almost every day, so people aren't cooking all the time. And we have favorite recipes that we use over and over, but we always mix things up every week, and are regularly adding new recipes to our collection.
Breakfasts are things like egg and sausage scrambles or almond flour pancakes, lunches are often leftovers on salads, and dinners are anything from cilantro turkey burgers to salmon with coconut cream sauce.
We also have an ebook that helps people understand the diet in 50 pages or less and provides 6 weeks of our signature meal plans and a ton of recipes.
The meal plan subscription service and the ebook really help people who are new to Paleo because there's no room for wondering what they're going to eat, or whether something is Paleo or not. We give you the menu, the recipes, and the grocery lists and it makes things super easy.
SlimKicker Team: A lot of people view Paleo as very intimidating, and part of the problem is they don't know where to start. Would you recommend people dive into Paleo with a strict, disciplined approach, or ease into it?
Neely: Well, that kind of depends on the person. I think people who are sick - like people who have an autoimmune disorder like celiac or Hashimoto's or rheumatoid arthritis - should take a pretty strict approach to the diet. But even then, just taking out grains most of the time will help a ton of people, no matter what ails them.
Some people have to start out strict because otherwise they won't follow the diet. They'll just cheat and cheat and cheat until they're not even on the diet anymore. But then there are people who've been Paleo for years who eat pizza or bread or drink beer just a couple times a week and they still feel the benefits of the diet.
If I ate pizza once a week I'd feel terrible for a week! But not everyone is like that.
SlimKicker Team: Are the rules different for someone who needs to lose weight? Do they still need to look at calories-in, calories-out, or is eating unprocessed, whole foods good enough?
Neely: It's usually enough, but most of my clients are people who've been Paleo for a while and are still not seeing the weight loss they want. At that point I get into calories, sleep, stress, and carb/protein/fat ratios. That's where you guys come in to my clients' and readers lives, actually, so thanks for that.
Anyway, it's not just calories - if they're eating too many carbs, not enough protein, or "cheating" too much, then they need to reconsider whether that bread or tortilla chips are really worth it. And if they're working out too much and not sleeping enough, then some people aren't going to lose weight either.
Again, it really depends on the person, but I always say to try the diet as-is and wait a month or two until your body has adjusted to it. THEN start tweaking if you're not seeing the inches melt off.
SlimKicker Team: What about macronutrient splits? What do you think is the ideal split between carbs, proteins and fats? And how would it change if you're more active?
Neely: It's really different for everyone (I sound like a broken record, don't I?). So I'm an active person. I climb 3-5 days a week, walk a lot, run sometimes, do a high intensity interval training workout once a week, train with weights once a week, and I do hikes with a backpack on like once a week lately.
I need lots of carbs. Some people can make it work with just increasing their fat intake, so they're more fat adapted for energy. I haven't been able to be successful with that, so for instance, my ratio is about 30% carbs, 25% protein, 45% fat.
I think that's about right for a power athlete like myself, but it could also work well for a less active person who isn't trying to lose weight. On the other hand, an endurance athlete is going to need a lot more carbs than that, especially if they're training more than like 8 hours a week.
A less active person who's trying to lose weight can go pretty low with carbs - like 10-15% carbs, 25% protein, and 65% fat. You don't want to go beyond about 35% protein, though, so be mindful of that. To find out what your ratio is, just log your food intake for a day on slimkicker.com and it'll tell you.
SlimKicker Team: What's your view on fruit, particularly for people who want to lose weight? Fruit obviously has nutritional value, but since it contains so much sugar, do you recommend just sticking to 1 serving a day?
Neely: I think fruit is delicious. In fact, here's a blog post I wrote on fruit that states exactly what I think of it in detail.
I think the whole don't eat fruit if you're trying to lose weight motto is a bit excessive, especially because a lot of people who are trying to lose weight are also working out regularly, and without some carbs they're going to feel pretty terrible (unless they're better than I am at becoming fat adapted, of course).
Here's a good rule of thumb that I take from Mark Sisson at marksdailyapple.com. For weight maintenance, eat between 100-150g of carbs. For weight loss, eat between 50-100g of carbs. And for extreme weight loss, eat 0-50g of carbs a day. So if we're using that rule, you could eat 1 medium banana, 1 cup of blackberries, as well as 1 cup carrots, 2 cups cabbage, 2 cups kale, and 2 cups peppers and still only be at 90g of carbs, which is still within the weight loss range.
Now that's not for everyone and I want to be really clear about that. Some people can't eat more than like 35g of carbs a day or they'll gain weight, and some people can't digest fruit well because of its high fructose content. So, again, everyone's different.
SlimKicker Team: A lot of people grew up with the notion that whole grains are better than refined grains. For people who are used to eating grains, what are some substitutes you would recommend?
Neely: In terms of flours, I always recommend tapioca flour, almond flour, coconut flour, and sweet potato flour. You can bake a Paleo version of just about anything with those flours or some combination of them.
I personally love tapioca crepes because they're super quick to make. Just take 1 cup of coconut milk (canned), 1 egg, and 1 cup of tapioca flour and mix it together. Then pour a bit of it onto a pan and fry it up into a crepe.
SlimKicker Team: Within Paleo, there seem to be some disagreements among what foods can be digested properly by humans. For instance, foods such as quinoa, and legumes. What are your opinion on these foods?
Neely: Here's the deal with quinoa, since so many people seem to think it's totally different than a grain. If it looks and acts like a grain, it's a grain, and quinoa contains some anti-nutrients that other grains contain, such as phytic acid, lectins, and saponins.
Even if quinoa is properly prepared, meaning it's soaked and cooked for an adequate amount of time, some of those substances will still remain.
Now for some people it's fine. But for others with more compromised guts and therefore sensitive immune systems, quinoa may not be ok. They may have digestive symptoms or skin irritation or asthma or fatigue after eating it, just like they would with other grains.
The same goes for legumes like lentils and other beans. Once again, it just depends on the person.
I don't think these foods are inherently bad. I just think that after a lifetime of eating improperly prepared, highly glutenous refined grains, pasteurized dairy, toxic seed oils and tons of sugar, a lot of people have compromised guts and immune systems and they can't handle these foods like native people who've never eaten those kinds of foods.
SlimKicker Team: Do you have a favorite mobile app or 2 related to the Paleo lifestyle?
Neely: Honestly, I don't really. I stick to my nerdy word games and weather.com for apps, so I'm kind of out of the loop on that one. I know that nomnompaleo.com has a new cooking app that everyone's excited about, but I haven't tried it yet. And you guys have an app that I'm sure would be amazing for people with a health goal in mind.
SlimKicker Team: What's your favorite guilt food?
Neely: Cookies. I have a major sweet tooth and every month or so we'll make cookies made from coconut flour and cane sugar. And bacon :) They make me a little crazy, and I definitely overeat them, but they're SOOOO good!
SlimKicker Team: What do you have in the plans for the future of PaleoPlan?
Neely: We hope to keep doing what we're doing, but start adding more tools to help make Paleo easier for people to do. Jason and his wife just had a baby, though, and I'm about to get married, so we're a bit busy this summer.
After that, though, we'll work on creating more ebooks on different health topics and maybe some help with exercise for the Paleo lifestyler.
SlimKicker Team: Thanks a ton for taking time to answer these questions.
Neely: Thanks for having me!