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PAYTON’S PALEO 30 DAY CHALLENGE – How to start eating paleo

How To Start Eating Paleo – Do a 30 Day Paleo Challenge



Ready to take the Payton’s Paleo 30 Day Challenge? Do you want to change your life, improve your health, and say goodbye to all those poor eating habits and non-nutritious foods? Excellent. I’m proud of you and I’m here to help and support you.


All this takes is commitment, and the willingness to break free from the grip disease-causing, sugary, processed, chemical-filled foods have on your mind, your body and your health right now. You will have to keep a clear head and have firm resolve that you really want to experience your best state of health. Maybe a state of vitality you have never felt before. There can be no holding on to bad eating habits. No focusing on what bad stuff you can’t have. Change your mindset and zero in with laser focus on all the healthy things you will eat to regain and optimize your health and life. Go all-in for 30 days. Give it your best shot. Don’t cheat and don’t give up. You have only this one life, in this one body. Why not explore your highest potential with the right food fueling your health? You can do this!


You’ve been reading up on paleo eating and lifestyle changes and you like what you see. You now know that all those SAD (standard American diet) foods and food-like-products are making you sick, fat, tired, lethargic and depressed. You’ve truly made up your mind to give this “paleo-thing” a shot. Dive in full throttle. It will be worth it! Here we go …


  ~Prepare for success – commit to 30 days of paleo~


      1)  PICK A STARTING DATE:  This will be the day you commit to eating pure paleo for the next 30 days. Make sure you have planned well. Hopefully, no major life events will coincide with your 30 days. Don’t do this in the middle of an awful work month, school finals, or any other major events (weddings, holidays), or you will set yourself up for failure. Have all your paleo foods on hand before you start so you will not be caught with nothing to eat.


     2)  TELL YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS ABOUT YOUR PLAN AND START DATE:  This will make sure everyone is in the know and can be ready to support you and bolster you on. It also is a good way to make sure you actually start when you say you will. If you have verbally told others of your commitment, there is a bit of positive social pressure to keep your word and stick it out.


     3) PALEO-TIZE YOUR KITCHEN:  Go through all your cupboards, pantry, fridge and freezer and get rid of all non-paleo, SAD foods. Don’t keep anything around if you can help it. 


  ~Make a paleo shopping list and notes on paleo food ideas~


After you have chosen your start date for your Payton’s Paleo 30 Day Challenge, make a paleo shopping list and go to it! Use my posts: Paleo Foods: What to Eat and Drink, Stocking a Paleo Pantry and Stocking a Paleo Fridge to pick out a large variety of foods that sound appetizing to you. Look at my Paleo Recipes and Paleo Recipe Picture Gallery pages to get ideas and learn new ways of preparing paleo foods. Take notes on fast and easy paleo ideas to keep things simple as you are first starting out on this new way of living and eating.



  ~Here’s what to eat for the next 30 days~


1) ANY ANIMAL PROTEIN.  Try for at least 15 grams of protein with each meal. No less than 45 grams per day. This is important!  Even if you usually skip breakfast, you need to eat it now. Don’t skip protein at any meal. It is vital for rebooting your metabolism, kick-starting your thyroid and adrenals and keeping your hunger under control. Vary your types of protein. Include fish, shellfish, eggs, organ and game meats, along with meat and poultry. Canned fish is fine as long as it is packed in olive oil or water. NO other oils in cans, like cottonseed or canola. If your protein is organic and grass-fed, you may eat the skin and fat, if not (if the protein is conventionally raised, with grain feed), trim off the skin and fat. You DO NOT have to buy all organic. I understand financial reality. If your budget does not allow you to, then buy conventionally raised meats. In this case, canned fish and organic organ meat can be a great way to help out your budget, along with being extremely nutrient dense. Only occasionally, if you absolutely must, should you resort to protein powder. If you must, use unsweetened egg protein (not whey based), such as Jay Robb’s Egg White Protein Powder. The idea behind paleo is to get you away from the habits of eating processed foods. Therefore, it is much better to eat the real, whole eggs, instead of powder that has been made from them.


2) ANY VEGETABLE.  Try for at least 6 cups of veggies per day. There is no upper limit. Eat as much as you want. Cooked or raw. The more colors the better; vegetables with the most vivid colors tend to be the most nutrient dense: carrots, beets, dark leafy greens, tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes. Enjoy them with pastured butter (Kerrygold), ghee, duck fat, bacon fat, coconut oil, olive oil or any other healthy paleo fat. If you don’t think you can eat 6 cups a day, you can always put them in a blender or food processor and drink them. 6 cups is very doable when it is liquefied. The veggies are to make sure you get your needed vitamins and minerals which will help keep any cravings for junk-food and sugar away. If you are missing bread, eat more tuberous veggies and squashes: sweet, white, red potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, kohlrabi, pumpkin and all the winter and summer squash. Nothing can hit the spot like a big sweet or white baked potato with butter! You may also eat cassava flour, and any starch or flour made from tubers, such as tapioca starch, arrowroot starch, potato starch. My Paleo Seeded Bread, Paleo Rosemary Irish Soda Bread and Paleo Tortillas are allowed on Payton’s Paleo 30 Day Challenge since they are made from eggs, tuber flour and seeds.


3) ANY FRUIT.  Try for 2 pieces of fruit per day. A warning here, fruit consumption is where people with insulin resistant metabolisms can get into trouble. If you are significantly overweight or have diabetes, limit your fruit choices to those with the lowest amount of carbs and fructose: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cantaloupe, nectarine, peach, plum, not overly ripe pears, pineapple, grapefruit, watermelon, bananas (on the greener side), and oranges. Avoid dried fruit and fruit juices for your first 30 days, those too easily trigger over consumption and sugar cravings. You may use banana flour during your 30 day challenge.


4) HEALTHY PALEO FATS.  Try for 2-3 tablespoons per day, with at least 1 tablespoon being coconut oil (unrefined with the taste, or refined without the coconut taste, both will work). Believing what I say next is crucial, though it is like reversing brain-washing that our culture has done to us for about 40 years. Do not skip paleo fats and oils. You will fail your challenge if you do. Fats keep our brains performing at their best, our metabolism optimized and our hunger and appetite satisfied. Keep in mind (like that pun?), our brains are made of fat. We need healthy paleo fats to enhance our thinking and maintain our mental health. Depression and lethargy can result if you do not consume healthy paleo fats. Try to vary your types of fat, some pastured butter (like Kerrygold) or ghee, some coconut oil, some avocado, some olive oil, some walnut oil, some tallow, some lard, some duck fat, some bacon (count 3 strips of bacon as = 1 TBS. fat).


5) NUTS AND SEEDS.  Limit to 1/2 a cup whole nuts or seeds, or 1/4 of a cup of nut-butter made from them per day, or 1/2 a cup of any type of nut flour. That is a total of all nuts and nut products. Not a serving of each type. This category includes coconut meat and canned coconut milk.  Go very sparingly, or skip nuts and seeds altogether, if you are overweight and wanting to slim down, or if you’re experiencing any flares of autoimmune disorders. Nut and seed milks, including canned coconut milk are also okay, as long as they have no added sugar or carrageenan. Guar gum is okay used sparingly, if you have no gut issues, if you do, look for one without. This group of food can be problematic as it is easy to overeat nuts and nut products! If you start to gain weight on your paleo challenge, chances are, you are either over eating nut products or over doing paleo fats. Conversely, if your goal is to gain weight, the nut and starchy tuber categories, with lots of paleo fats, can help you achieve this.


6) BEVERAGES.  Water, seltzer water, mineral water, coffee, decaf-coffee, tea, herbal tea, yerba mate, bone broth, nut milks without sugar or carrageenan, coconut water (my favorite is Vita Coco coconut water with pineapple.) You may use SweetLeaf liquid stevia drops to sweeten anything. (I use that brand of liquid stevia exclusively, because they use only water to extract their flavor, not chemicals. It does not have a chemical aftertaste like so many other liquid stevias.) Hold off of kombucha and kefir water for now, as these do contain trace amounts of sugar and can derail your sugar-detox. My favorite hot drinks:  hot water with lemon juice, hot water with apple cider vinegar, Traditional Medicinals organic Every Day Detox dandelion tea, Guayaki Yerba Mate Chocolatte, or Guayaki Chai Spice Mate, both just plain or with a splash of lite canned coconut milk.


7) HERBS, SPICES AND NON-IODIZED SEA AND ROCK SALT. Experiment with new spices, look up food combinations, use fresh or dried, whichever you have access to. Plenty of healthy micro-nutrients, vitamins and minerals are found in herbs, spices and organic sea and rock salts. Again, here is more reversing of cultural misinformation; sea salt is not bad for us. If we eat no processed or packaged foods, we need to salt our foods. Do not restrict your salt intake while you are eating pure paleo foods, it’s necessary for health and we need it.


8) RECIPES ON MY SITE MARKED WITH AN ASTERISK (*):  These recipes will start you out on learning how to cook using paleo foods. You may view all my written recipes by clicking here, and photos of all of them by clicking here. If a recipe is okay for your Payton’s Paleo 30 Day Challenge, I have written what to do with your ingredients to make it “30 Day okay”, at the bottom of each one. (Example: “Payton’s Paleo 30 Day Challenge friendly if made with stevia or xylitol”.)


9) FOR THOSE WHO THINK THEY CAN’T SURVIVE WITHOUT BREAD. I made these recipes with you in mind:  Paleo Seeded Bread, Paleo Rosemary Irish Soda Bread, and Paleo Tortillas. They are grain, dairy, and coconut free. Also, you may eat the Vermont Country Rolls from Against the Grain Gourmet baking company. They can be found in the freezer section at some Whole Foods, or ordered on-line. They are made from cassava root flour (a tuber) and their Vermont Rolls have no dairy, so they are allowed. I keep sliced Paleo Seeded Bread in the freezer, and toast it whenever I want a piece.


10) Sweeteners.  You may use Sweetleaf liquid stevia (any of their flavors), and birch xylitol (I recommend only birch derived xylitol, to avoid GMO corn exposure from non-birch sources) as desired for sweeteners. Neither of these sweeteners will spike your blood sugar or give you a rapid insulin response. Using ONLY Sweetleaf stevia would be the ideal, because it is not processed with any chemicals. This company uses only water to process their stevia leaves. Be aware that Xylitol can cause gas and diarrhea in high doses, in some people, so try it the first time in a small amount to make sure you tolerate it. Xylitol is the only sugar alcohol which has been found not to aggravate candida overgrowth, actually killing off harmful bacteria in your digestive system, and may help reduce sinus and ear infections in children. Here is an extensive informational page about xylitol. So, if you feel that you absolutely cannot stick to your 30 Day Challenge without sweets, then using xylitol and Sweetleaf liquid stevia is better than falling back to eating SAD (standard American diet) food!


That’s it! That’s your paleo foods eating list. You can do this!  Bring on the Payton’s Paleo 30 Day Challenge!



~Here’s what you must avoid for the 30 day challenge~



No maple syrup, honey, agave or any sugar substitutes nor sugar alcohols, except birch xylitol, (to avoid GMO corn exposure from non-birch derived xylitol) and Sweetleaf liquid stevia drops. The powdered stevia has fillers that can cause some people problems, so it is to be avoided. However, water processed, liquid stevia such as SweetLeaf Liquid Stevia SweetDrops, or your own homemade water processed liquid stevia from stevia leaves is allowed. The birch xylitol has minimal to no effect on insulin and blood glucose levels, and is the only sugar alcohol which is beneficial for your microbiome, so it is allowed. Here is an extensive info page on xylitol.



No types at all. Do not drink it, nor cook with it.



This includes any cow, goat, sheep milks and cheeses, or anything made from them: (hard or soft cheeses, cottage cheese, yogurt, kefir, sour cream, whipped cream), with the exception of ghee and butter.



This includes corn, rice, oats, quinoa, teff, kamut, spelt, barley, rye, wheat, sorghum, buckwheat, millet, bulgar, amaranth, even gluten-free grains.  Tuber root starches, such as arrowroot and tapioca starch are allowed on the 30 day challenge. After your 30 day challenge, you may eat white rice and white rice flour (preferably cooked in resistant starch fashion) and baked goods made from them.



No beans of any kind. No peanuts, chickpeas, soy beans or any soy product, tofu, edamame, nor soy sauce or soy lecithin, which is used as a stabilizer in innumerable processed foods. (Use coconut aminos to substitute for soy sauce.)



  ~Helpful tips and tricks for your first 30 days~


1) Make sure you don’t run out of paleo food!  I can’t over emphasize this enough. Plan, prepare and shop ahead of time. Have no-cooking needed meal ingredients ready for those days you may be stressed, pressed for time and tempted to give in to old eating habits.


2) Fresh, organic, pastured, wild caught is best, but, you could manage the entire Payton’s Paleo 30 Day Challenge with canned and frozen items if you had to. Do the best you can with what you have access to. It will be okay, much better than going on as you have been, making up excuses not to try paleo eating. Conventionally grown is better than eating processed out-of-a-box food. You don’t have to be perfect, just unprocessed. Canned peaches in water vs. Fruit Loops. Do you get me?


3) Remember, this initial time frame is only 30 days.  This is a drop in time in the big scope of your life. Foods you used to eat are not going away forever. If you really want them, they will be there in 30 days. Remind yourself you are doing this to find out how your body feels when it is not bogged down by grains, sugar, toxic food-like substances, chemicals, preservatives and additives. You may have forgotten how good a healthy body feels. Now you will rediscover your best self. This healthy way of eating can be life changing if you give it an honest chance.


4) Make things ahead of time on your days off.  You can roast or boil several white and sweet potatoes, and rutabagas, ahead of time, and keep them in the fridge for re-heating with various other foods on days when time is precious and you may not be able to cook. Shape grass-fed hamburger into patties that can easily be taken out of the freezer one at a time for quick prep. Frozen, pre-cooked shrimp need no cooking at all, and don’t forget all the other types of canned fish that are easy and portable. Shake frozen spinach into anything for a quick easy veggie serving. See my Fitting Paleo Into A Busy Schedule post for more ideas on this subject.


5) Beginning paleo eating doesn’t have to be difficult, complicated or expensive.  Eat simple foods with few ingredients. e.g. Sauteed fish (eat the skin, this is where so much of the omega 3 fats are), steamed veggie, baked potato with butter. Single ingredient foods, cooked simply are a great way to start out. If you must have a packaged food, as long as all the ingredients are on the paleo food list, it’s okay. If you find yourself eating in a restaurant, the easiest paleo things to order are roasted or broiled meats or poultry without sauces. Steak, fish cooked in butter, baked chicken, and buttered veggies and salads. Ask for olive oil and vinegar dressing on the side so you can check out the bottles they bring you to make sure it is real olive oil. Skip the bread basket of course, and desserts would only include fresh fruit.


6) Don’t go to extremes on your fat, protein and carbohydrate intake, neither high nor low.  Contrary to urban legend and sources you may read, paleo eating is not necessarily low carb or all meat. It can be, and it can also be high carb, no meat, high or low-fat, more fish and less meat, no meat at all, high fruits and veggies, etc. Remember the basic idea of the Payton’s Paleo 30 Day Challenge is to simply get you into the habit of eating real, whole food, as unprocessed and close to “how it grows” as possible. Eat what you are hungry for, don’t restrict your choices. Don’t count calories. Try to stick to a little bit of every type of the foods listed above. If I have listed any maximum and minimum quantities, try to stick to them. This is done so you will be hungry for all different types of items and not overeat just one. There will be plenty of time later after your first 30 days to fine-tune your diet in ways that work for your own body.


7) Try to find a partner or group to do the 30 Day Challenge with you.  Not only is it easier if others around you are eating the same way, there is power in solidarity, and strength to be found, from your friends with similar goals. Text or email each other in moments of weakness. Have support meetings or meals. The positive peer-pressure can greatly help you stay on track. If you’d like to send me an email of your commitment, I answer every email to my site, personally, and I can cheer you on. You can do this!


      ~ FAQs~


Hah!  My readers are so great! The how-to-paleo post is up only a few days and I am flooded with questions and interest. Love you all. I will answer them here as they hit my in-box. If you would like to add a question, just email me at:


1) Do I have to avoid all sugar, dairy, grains and legumes? Could I just have a little humus?

Various forms of this question have been asked because peeps don’t want to go without one of their favorite foods for 30 days. Be it cream in coffee, agave in baking, gluten-free oatmeal, rice cakes, black beans, etc. there seems to be a LOT of resistance to the idea of going all in for 30 days. I would ask you to consider what this says about the hold those certain foods have on you. If you can’t forego them for 30 days, it would seem like they are in control of your life. Like an addiction, maybe? Be honest. You cannot expect change if you keep doing what you’ve always been doing, yet expect a different result. That is crazy making. These 30 days are a detox of sorts to see how you feel with non-nutritious, processed foods and sugars out of your system. It is a like a nutritional re-boot of your system. If you have terrible withdrawal symptoms and feel like crap during this phase, that is your body telling you how badly it was suffering under the load of all those substances in food that you thought you couldn’t live without. The worse the withdrawal, and the harder these 30 days are for you, the more you needed to clean up your diet. Give your body a chance to heal and re-set itself away from the damage the substances and food of your old diet may have been causing it. After the 30 days are over is when you could try reintroducing a substance or food to see how your body reacts to it. Maybe you can tolerate a bit of whatever it is that you are wanting, without problems. That is what you get to experiment with after the first 30 days. Save it for then, be strong. Do this the way you know in your heart you should do it.


2) My eating isn’t so bad, why would I want to try paleo?

Your body can be experiencing reactions and symptoms that you don’t even realize are connected to your food intake. Things that you may have experienced all your life and take for granted that you will always have, may actually be caused by  persistent inflammation caused by foods you have been given since you were a baby. Sinus problems, seasonal allergies, skin rashes and eczema, “a bad-back”, muscle and joint aches, chronic fatigue, low energy, a low or anxious mood, negative thinking, social withdrawal, poor sleep, poor focus and concentration, all these can be directly linked to something you are currently ingesting without realizing the effect it is having on your physical or mental health. Children especially can display huge mood and behavior swings, and asthma related reactions, after ingesting certain foods and substances. I would hope any adult or child who has been given a mood associated disorder such as ADHD, ADD or anxiety/depression or a respiratory diagnosis such as asthma, would try a paleo diet before they let themselves think there is no hope of life without prescription drugs. You will never know if your diet is causing these things, unless your try changing your diet. Remember true change means going all-in. None means none. No dairy means not even a drop of cream in your coffee.


 (I recommend running this eating plan by your health practitioner so they can support and guide you in your efforts.)


photo credit: Adriaan van Stalbemt. Allegory of the Month of August, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons