FAQ: “I’m New to Paleo – Where Do I Start?”

iStock_start SmallI’m woking through trying to answer some of the most frequently asked questions I receive from people about eating a Paleo or Primal diet. Up next is for those who are just starting to shift their eating habits. I’m often asked “What are the easiest and most important changes I can make?”

AKA “I’m a newbie, where do I start?

Switch Fats – One of the easiest changes you can make is switching from unhealthy oils and ‘frakenfats’ to healthy, real food fats. Without going into too much detail, ditch vegetable, man made overly processed oils and switch to stable fats like ghee, coconut oil and olive oil. Diane over at Balanced Bites has an awesome free guide for this very purpose. She also breaks down which are best to cook with.

Easy Swaps – It can be really tough for those who feel attached to bread & pasta or rice and beans (or both) to eliminate grains & legumes. One of the ways we can get headed in the right direction at the beginning is to look for simple swaps to lessen the burden. We call these lateral shifts as they seem to be easier for us to make. For an extended version and great reference – I recommend 3 Phase Paleo by the Paleo Parents. Their first phase is swap!

A few simple examples to get you thinking:

Your get the idea…

Shop(right) – You can’t eat junk if it doesn’t end up in your cart. Healthy eating starts with buying real food. Changing shopping habits is vital to a big change in eating habits. Start by looking for better choices in the places you already shop. Then start looking for other ways to acquire healthy food. Utilize farmer’s markets, community supported agriculture, co-ops, cow/pig shares and grow a garden if you have the space.

Food Quality & Cost – One of the toughest parts of switching to whole foods based eating is the expense of eating well. It’s a shock to our wallet and there is no sense in pretending it doesn’t cost more to eat well. I’ve briefly addressed the underlying cultural implications of this concept, but basically we need to pay more for healthy habits. It hurts at first, but as our priorities change, we find ways to cover the expense. One of my favorite graphics in Practical Paleo is Diane’s food quality choice breakdown. Using the standard of “Good, Better, Best” – figure out what you can afford and shop accordingly. Prioritize based on what the most healthy version of your shopping list would be. We’re looking to maximize nutrients per dollar spent. You can also use the dirty dozen and clean 15 chart as a quick reference that can help you figure out which foods would be better to buy organic based on pesticide contamination.

Resources – A lot of people who are just starting Paleo get lost in the pandora’s box of internet resources and information swirling everywhere. I think it’s important to have variety in our information intake, but I’m a big fan of picking a few trusted go-to sources to minimize my wasted time. Here’s a subjective, yet effective list of my favorite Paleo resources.


  • Practical Paleo – If you have to pick just one book, make it the best selling, best reviewed Paleo book to date. This has the background science in an easy to read format. It contains condition specific meal plans and a bunch of great recipes. Sidebar – I recommended it to my patients before I was engaged to the author 😉
  • Against All Grain – I’ve reviewed this book in detail, and it’s still one of my favorites for grain free recipes.
  • Make it Paleo and The 30 Day Guide to Paleo Cooking – One of the first and biggest Paleo recipe books out there was Make it Paleo and it consistently ranks as a newbie favorite because of the sheer volume of recipes. Bill and Hayley of Primal Palate crushed it right from the start. They also saw a need for a beginner’s guide, which is where The 30 Day Guide fits in. Both are great options to jumpstart a Paleo eating plan.


  • Balanced Bites – It’s probably how you found me! Tons of FAQs, forums, great blogs, free 1 page guides that go with Practical Paleo, and much more.
  • Mark’s Daily Apple – One of the first, and certainly most trafficked paleo/primal sites, Mark Sisson’s team has done a great job bringing together science, practical application, forums and more into the Paleosphere. It’s a great place to get clarity.
  • Chris Kresser – For the folks who really want research based info, Chris does a great job of tackling some of the toughest topics with ease. He’s a functional medicine practitioner and has an awesome clinical perspective.
  • Primal Palate – I adore Bill and Hayley, it’s no secret. I use their website on a weekly basis. It has been recently updated and I love their meal planner, recipes and app which help guide my shopping and cooking.


  • Robb Wolf – The Paleo Solution – Robb’s knowledge, wit and attitude make for a true hit.
  • Balanced Bites – I know, I know…I’m super biased on this one. Set aside the fact that I recorded the music and voiceover for the intro, because this podcast is seriously awesome! Diane and Liz Wolfe (of Real Food Liz) have a style that is funny, informative and current. They answer TONS of listener’s questions and interview the best in the field.

Well, I’d say that’s about as much as we should tackle for this FAQ. I hope that gets you started off on the right foot. Feel free to chime in on the comments if you have helpful suggestions!

Yours in Health,

Dr. Scott

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