My Paleo Shopping List
This morning I got an email from a reader who is new to Paleo, enthusiastic about her commitment to better eating, but who is also unsure of where to start. Like many others, she has some health concerns and lots of fatigue so she was looking for guidance on what are some must haves for her shopping list. I realize I have talked about this a lot and recommend products regularly, but also thought an updated list might be helpful, especially for new-to-Paleo eaters who just aren’t 100% confident in their shopping choices just yet. The great thing about eating grain free, dairy free, and cleaner in general is that you automatically can rule out certain areas of the grocery store which host primarily processed foods. Knowing what NOT to buy is just as important as knowing what to buy. You’ll want to avoid most packaged foods like most granola bars, candies, snack foods, and “middle of the store” options because they typically are made with gluten, grain, refined sugar, GMOs, soy, and dairy, all things we try to avoid while eating a Paleo lifestyle. Because there can be so much gray area, I thought I’d make a post with suggestions that I consider to be acceptable and recommended. I am including both in store and online options as product availability varies so significantly.
Produce Here most foods are up for grabs! If you can make organic fit into your budget, it’s a great option. If you can avoid the dirty dozen that’s a great start! All plants in the produce section are typically green light for paleo. The exception would be corn which is not a veggie, but rather a grain, is typically GMO and is a very moldy food. Other exceptions, depending on your personal needs, may include potatoes, eggplants, and tomatoes (or other nightshade vegetables), which can cause inflammation in some autoimmune patients. If you are not sensitive, potatoes are considered Paleo and Whole 30.
Dried Fruits Dried fruits are a green light for me as long as they do not have added sugars. I don’t eat a ton of dried fruits but raisins, dates, and dried cranberries are all options I keep in the house to cook with and for my kids’ lunches. Fruit sweetened dried cranberries are the only ones I’ll consider if they need to be sweetened.
Salad Dressings Most salad dressings use vegetable oils not typically considered to be Paleo. Homemade dressings are so easy to make and really so quick to boot. If you are dead set on buying store bought dressings, look for those like THIS brand which do not contain canola oil, preservatives, or poor quality sweeteners in them.
Cooking Oils Your best options for cooking fats include ghee, high quality olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil. If you can tolerate grassfed butter, which is more Primal than Paleo, that is another option as well.
Other Condiments Condiments like mayo, ketchup, and bbq sauce often have poor oils, lots of sugar or corn syrup, thickeners which can include corn or wheat, and preservatives galore. Fortunately now there are many choices out there for better quality condiments if you know what to look for. Here are a couple options I like: Mayo, BBQ Sauce, Ketchup.
Meat Meat can be tricky and not all grocery stores will have the best quality. Meat for me is sort of a non-negotiable and I typically shop only the stores where I can find meat that is humanely raised (Certified Humane) and pastured. After watching a few food documentaries on how most animals are raised, this is just a commitment I’ve made to myself. Grass fed and finished is preferred and pastured for chickens. Chickens are not vegetarians so marking chicken packaging “vegetarian fed” is not a selling point and is actually a deterrent for me. There are ways to also get meats from local farmers from THIS website. You can look for eggs there too. Additionally you can order from online such as through THIS website and have high quality meats delivered to your home (you can also get free bacon and shipping when you purchase through that link).
Snack Foods Some Paleo eaters choose to avoid snack foods, which is certainly an option. For my family, some foods of convenience help us stay on track. Some examples include these simple ingredient snack bars, these avocado oil potato chips, these fruit sweetened 100% fruit snacks, and this higher quality beef jerky. Keep in mind not all convenience foods are necessarily awful for you, but it is a good idea to really learn how to read labels.
Eggs When looking for eggs, I prefer Certified Humane and Pastured. This means the welfare of the animals is of utmost important and that the chickens are allowed to hunt and dig for grubs and other critters in the earth. This is what chickens are supposed to eat and it produces a much more favorable end product! The yolks are more yellow and the flavor more rich. Brands will change from state to state depending on the local farms but you can look for brands like THIS which are distributed all over the country.
Seasonings + Spices Most people assume seasonings and spices are pretty harmless, and sometimes they are. The problem is that many spices are irradiated, losing quality and potency. Additionally many seasoning blends are cut with wheat flour or corn starch to prevent the ingredients from sticking to each other. For both of these reasons, it is encouraged to look for higher quality spices like THESE which can be found online and also in many stores.
Flours Many Paleo eaters prefer to avoid baked goods and specialty flours, but for those of us who enjoy the occasional treat, high quality Paleo approved flours are a lifesaver! Common ones include Almond Flour, Cassava Flour, Sweet Potato Flour, Potato Starch, and Arrowroot. Some of these can be found in the gluten free aisles of your mainstream grocery store, otherwise can be easily purchased online through the embedded links above.
Bread Bread is the Lambada (forbidden dance) of Paleo but fortunately there are few options out there to satisfy that need, want, hope. My favorite of course, is Legit Bread, not just because I developed it, but also because I think it is really the best textured and flavored Paleo bread on the market. You can find it in stores as well as online. You can also choose between mixes which are available HERE too.
Dairy Dairy is technically not part of Paleo but some people do eat cheese, drink milk, or eat yogurt and ice cream. If you tolerate dairy, it is best to look for organic, grassfed, and/or raw dairy products as compared to mainstream dairy products.
I am still confused when it comes to ghee. I cannot do cow’s milk dairy products (per food-sensitivities blood tests), but I have read several places the ghee is fine if you are avoiding dairy. I know that all the milk solids are removed, but is ghee generally a “dairy-free” option or not? I have never been a milk drinker, but have always loved cheese and yogurt until I was told to avoid it. I don’t think it’s the lactose that is a problem. Ghee is often listed in Paleo baking so I just wondered. Thanks for any guidance.