What is Primal? And What CAN You Eat?

by | Jul 3, 2014 | Blog, Nutrition

The typical American diet has changed. Drastically. In fact, in wellness circles it’s referred to as “SAD” – the Standard American Diet. Quite fitting, really, when you consider the way we have replaced nutritious, whole foods with processed, chemical-laden convenience foods. If you compared the “Standard American Diet” 150 years ago to that of today it would be like comparing apples to orangutans. Think back on what you ate over the last 24 hours: what percentage of your food came with a label (in a box, bag, can, package, etc)? As our reliance on convenience foods has increased, our overall wellness has plummeted. As a society, we no longer think of food as fuel for our bodies and the cornerstone of our health – but it is!

The Primal philosophy is based on embracing a lifestyle that largely mimics the way our Paleolithic ancestors ate, moved and lived. From a nutrition standpoint, it focuses on the types of foods that were available at that time – not man made frankenfoods but whole foods like vegetables, fruits, meat, nuts and seeds.

When I tell people that I follow a Primal way of eating, their first question after I briefly explain it is “So what can you eat?” as if to imply that my options are seriously limited. They’re not! Here’s a quick glance at what types of foods fall into the “Primal” category and which do not. It’s important to note that I avoid or limit some foods which are in fact Primal but don’t help me reach my fat loss goals. This is meant to be a quick overview, not an exhaustive list.

Primal Green Light Foods

  • Meat (ideally grass fed/free range)
  • Eggs (ideally highest quality available)
  • Vegetables (I limit my selection for optimal fat loss)
  • Fruits (I tend to avoid for optimal fat loss)
  • Nuts (this does not include peanuts. Peanuts are legumes)
  • Seeds
  • Fats and Oils (items like EVOO, coconut oil, avocado, ghee)
  • Coffee and Tea

Primal Yellow Light Foods – Enjoy on Occasion

  • Dairy (Ideally full fat, raw, highest quality available)
  • Some alcohol (primarily red wine)

Primal Red Light Foods – Avoid

  • Grains and oats
  • Beans and legumes
  • Processed foods

So what does a day in the life of a Primal eater look like? Pretty delicious, if you ask me! I’ll admit that it took a while to find my groove but I certainly have and I look forward to every meal and don’t spend hours in the kitchen!

Breakfast: Coffee with almond milk and a veggie/turkey frittata


Lunch: Salad from Chipotle (hold the rice and beans) with chicken, pico and guacamole

Snack: Dry roasted almonds

Dinner: Homemade sweet potato chip and ground bison nachos

Dessert: Mocha Gelatin Snacks

Ultimately, following Primal principles is about improving my health but one of my primary goals is fat loss. I make my food choices based on a couple of key factors:

  • I eat foods I love. I’ve spent years choking down crap I hate in an attempt to lose or maintain weight. No more. I enjoy every meal. If I don’t like it, I don’t eat it. Food is a wonderful source of pleasure and to adopt a new lifestyle, you have to enjoy what you eat. Take the time to try new things and find foods you love that also help you reach your goals.
  • I eat foods that make me feel satisfied. I’ll talk a lot about managing hunger, energy and cravings. This is a practice I learned from Metabolic Effect and it has been one of the most important parts of my fat loss journey. Hunger, energy and cravings are powerful tools – they are a few easily observable ways that your body lets you know whether or not your hormones are in balance. Managing hunger, energy and cravings will not only keep you happy, it helps keep you in fat-burning mode. I continuously tweak my diet to ensure that I never feel deprived and always feel satisfied.
  • I eat foods that don’t require hours in the kitchen. Sure, there are tons of Paleo and Primal recipes that look amazing but I know myself and I can’t follow a plan that requires lots of prep time. I keep my meals simple but satisfying.

For people who have grown up on the Standard American Diet I’m sure Primal can look pretty daunting but no one said you have to dive right in. Pick one meal at a time or eliminate one processed food item at a time. There is no right or wrong way to get started, only the way that works best for you!

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