Hi, I’m Erin. Eating Paleo while on the 21 Day Fix is kinda my thing.
My health journey began in October 2014 when I went “all in” for my health. I started the 21 Day Fix program with Shakeology and decided to go Paleo at the same time. Talk about taking a leap, right?
I’ve been doing them all together since then with amazing results… I lost 20 lbs in about 6 months and have kept it off to this day (that’s kept it off for over a year as of the writing of this post). I’m in the best shape of my life physically, mentally and spiritually. The many nagging symptoms of my thyroid disease and nearly all of the digestive problems I was suffering through due to my multiple food sensitivities are GONE. Without medication! All through proper nutrition and exercise.
I will never know what exactly did it. Was it more the Paleo diet? Was it more the 21 Day Fix program? Was Shakeology the missing piece I needed all along? It’s too hard to tell. I like to think of it this way… those three components came together to give me the perfect recipe for success. That’s my magic formula. My sweet spot. My body responded and everything in my life improved. Everything. So I’m not questioning it and I am darn sure not changing it!
For those of you who don’t know, the 21 Day Fix is a program of 30 minute daily workouts and a simple but explicit nutrition guide. You’ve probably seen the 21 Day Fix color coded portion control containers online. You can learn more about the 21 Day Fix program, read my full review and see my results here.
And while we’re at it, Shakeology is an all-natural, superfood-packed meal replacement shake. I have mine for breakfast everyday with a cup of coffee. You can read my love letter to Shakeology over here.
So how do you eat Paleo while on the 21 Day Fix? I’m glad you asked!
To begin, it’s important to understand what foods are considered “Paleo” in the first place. You can look all over the internet and read different books on the subject (I read and recommend “It Starts With Food” by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig) and you’ll find that the definition of Paleo can vary depending upon who you ask.
I’m actually OK with that because I believe in bio-individuality. Every body is different and foods affect every body differently. There is no one “right” answer. There is no one “right” definition of Paleo.
But for my purposes, Paleo means GRAIN FREE, DAIRY FREE and LEGUME FREE.
The 21 Day Fix eating plan comes with food lists that list out the foods meant to be eaten for each colored container.
- Green = Veggies
- Purple = Fruits
- Red = Proteins
- Yellow = Carbs
- Blue = Healthy Fats
- Orange = Seeds & Dressing
So to eat Paleo while on the 21 Day Fix you just go through those color coded lists and DITCH THE GRAINS, DAIRY and LEGUMES. Pretty simple, right?
The color coded containers really push you to eat whole foods rather than processed crap anyway, and that is what Paleo is all about too. When you eat simple foods straight from nature (like vegetables, fruits, protein, nuts and seeds) it’s easy to figure out what container they go in.
Heads up! Grain free is broader than gluten free, so don’t think you can pull a fast one! Grains are not just wheat, but also include rice, corn, all your cereal grains, all forms of bread or baked goods. That stuff has to GO if you’re eating Paleo on the 21 Day Fix. That wipes out almost all of the Yellow/Carbs foods.
To go grain free on the 21 Day Fix DITCH these foods, go ahead and cross them right off the list that comes with your 21 Day Fix:
- quinoa (Yellow)
- brown rice (Yellow)
- wild rice (Yellow)
- corn on the cob (Yellow)
- amaranth (Yellow)
- millet (Yellow)
- buckwheat (Yellow)
- barley (Yellow)
- bulgur (Yellow)
- oatmeal, steel-cut (Yellow)
- oatmeal, rolled (Yellow)
- hominy (Yellow)
- pasta (Yellow)
- couscous (Yellow)
- crackers (Yellow)
- cereal (Yellow)
- bread (Yellow)
- pita bread (Yellow)
- waffles (Yellow)
- pancakes (Yellow)
- english muffin (Yellow)
- bagel (Yellow)
- tortilla (wheat or corn)
- masa flour or cornmeal
Goodbye grains! No more empty carbs on this plan. The Yellow/Carbs list is vastly different for those of us eating Paleo. It is a much shorter and more wholesome list of grain free paleo-friendly carbs.
You will note there are peas on the carbs list. I have a confession to make about peas. I think of peas as tiny green sweet veggie balls. I eat peas in two recipes that are in constant rotation in my house, I’ve been eating them weekly throughout this whole journey. Come to find out when making this blog post, peas have been on the Carbs/Yellow Container List this whole time. OOPS!
In hindsight I’m not surprised, peas are carb-y because they are so sweet. The real forehead slap moment for me was in researching whether peas are considered Paleo. The short answer: botanically they are legumes and thus not Paleo, however most Paleo people think peas are way better than other legumes and allow them on the paleo diet. So there you have it. Peas are permitted in my Paleo 21 Day Fix and are to be treated as a Yellow. Aren’t you glad I figured this out for you?!
All dairy is off limits for Paleo. No milk, no cream, no coffee creamer, no cream cheese, no cheese, no butter, no food products that contain dairy. Check your nutrition labels, dairy is often a sneaky ingredient added as a filler or thickener. Also stay away from health foods/protein supplements that contain whey, because why protein is derived from dairy.
For the record, eggs are not dairy. They might be in the dairy section of the supermarket, but that’s the only connection. Eggs are not vegan because they are derived from an animal, I think that’s what gets people mixed up. Rest assured, eggs are not dairy. Eggs are fair game and you’ll be eating lots of them if you’re eating Paleo.
To go dairy free on the 21 Day Fix DITCH these foods, go ahead and cross them right off the list that comes with your 21 Day Fix:
- greek yogurt (Red)
- yogurt (Red)
- ricotta cheese (Red)
- cottage cheese (Red)
- protein powder containing whey (Red)
- feta cheese (Blue)
- goat cheese (Blue)
- mozareela (Blue)
- cheddar, provolone, jack cheese (Blue)
- parmesan cheese (Blue)
- cojita cheese (Blue)
- oaxaca cheese (Blue)
- queso fresco (Blue)
- milk (special Yellow replacement permitted 2x per week)
When you ditch the dairy, you take a good chunk out of the Blue/Healthy fats list. What’s left on the Blue/Healthy Fats list after the removal of all that cheese? Good stuff only. The Blue/Healthy Fats list is considerably shorter paleo-style: avocado, raw nuts, and coconut milk.
Legumes (think lentils, beans, soy and peanuts) are not Paleo, so those come off the list too. You have to be especially careful with soy. That includes all of the soy products and variations like edemame, soy milk, tofu and all the processed foods that have soy lurking in the dark corners of the ingredient list.
To go legume free on the 21 Day Fix DITCH these foods, go ahead and cross them right toff the list that comes with your 21 Day Fix:
- tempeh (Red)
- tofu (Red)
- protein powder containing soy (Red)
- veggie burger (if it has soy or legumes and it probably does) (Red)
- beans (kidney, black, garbanzo, white, lima, fava, pink, pigeon) (Yellow)
- lentils (Yellow)
- edamame (Yellow)
- refried beans (Yellow)
- hummus (Blue)
- peanuts (Orange)
- peanut butter (Teaspoon)
- soy milk (special Yellow replacement permitted 2x per week)
Later legumes! I’m honestly not that sorry to see you go. You were always a poor substitute for real meat. Sorry (not sorry) vegetarians! This girl’s a proud carnivore! The only legumes I thought I might miss were hummus and peanut butter and happily I’ve found paleo-friendly alternatives for both! You can read more about my favorite paleo-friendly alternatives and substitutions here.
I make these itemized lists to be explicit. I want to take the guess work out of it for you. It might seem like there is a lot of stuff you CAN’T have while eating Paleo on the 21 Day Fix, but it’s really not bad at all. I like to think of it more big picture than this list of “no no” foods.
Big picture is just 3 simple things: grain free, dairy free and legume free. That’s really all you need to keep in mind.
Eating Paleo is all about eating from nature, so there is an abundance of natural foods you CAN eat. All vegetables, fruits, animal proteins like meat, fish and eggs, potatoes, avocados, coconut, coconut milk, nuts and seeds, nut and seed oils and butters, nut and seed milks like almond milk, and an abundance of herbs & spices.
Here is a little glimpse at what beautiful, delicious, healthy meals I’ve enjoyed while eating Paleo on the 21 Day Fix… You can see tons more in the Paleo tagged section of my blog.
It is super simple to tweak the 21 Day Fix to work with a Paleo lifestyle. The main tweaks involve keeping an eye on your Yellow/Carbs and Blue/Healthy Fat containers in particular and making sure they are paleo-friendly. Since I was already eating low carb before going Paleo this was a really easy transition for me. Most of my Yellow containers are used for almond milk in my Shakeology smoothie or the occasional sweet potato or potato side dish. And of course wine. (More on that later!) My favorite ways to use my Blue/Healthy Fat container is definitely avocado and nuts.
As you can see from taking a look at some sample meals, eating Paleo is not just meat meat meat. In fact, it’s actually a LOT of vegetables! Get ready to explore the wonderful world of veggies! I’ve fallen in love. There are sooo versatile, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised.
So it’s relatively simple, it looks good and it sounds good in theory… but you still have questions. Most people do! In fact, here are some of the most frequently asked questions I get on eating Paleo while on the 21 Day Fix:
Q. What does Paleo mean?
A. “Paleo” is short for Paleolithic. It is a way of eating that mimics our ancestors, who suffered from fewer chronic diseases than modern populations. This way of eating is also sometimes called “Primal”, “Real Food”, “Whole Food” or “Ancestral”. The Paleo lifestyle is about eating whole foods that provide optimal, nutrient dense fuel for your body and avoiding processed, refined, nutrient-poor factory foods. Paleo people and myself included believe that the foods that are the best for the body are the foods that have always been food: wild-caught or properly raised animal products and seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.
Q. Why go Paleo in the first place? What are the health benefits?
A. I decided to go Paleo after learning of my many food sensitivities and reading the book It Starts With Food. According to the blood test I took through my doctor’s office, the foods I am most sensitive and reactive to include gluten and dairy. Plus I knew from two separate allergic reactions that soy really pushes my buttons. The Paleo way of eating seemed like the perfect fit since it omits everything that hurts me. The health benefits would be different for each person, but for me personally I saw a tremendous improvement in my digestive health, my skin cleared up, my hormones balanced out, my energy level and mood soared, inflammation dropped in my whole system and everything just started working as it was supposed to. You can read up on the health benefits of the Paleo lifestyle and the science behind it in this great article from the Paleo Diet Evolved.
Q. Why do I need to do the 21 Day Fix too, can’t I just eat Paleo?
A. You could just eat paleo, but you won’t necessarily lose weight that way. The 21 Day Fix adds the crucial element of portion control. The program tells you exactly how much of which types of food to eat. Many people who eat clean (myself included!) think they are doing well because they are eating the right foods but aren’t eating them in the right amounts. Too much of a good thing was a problem for me. My concept of portions was outrageously wrong and I had no clue. The 21 Day Fix trained my brain, stomach and eyes on what is the proper portion and proportion of the foods in my diet.
Q. How is doing the 21 Day Fix Paleo style different than doing a Whole 30?
A. Let me start by saying I have never done a Whole 30. I read the book It Starts With Food by the creators of the Whole 30 program and I was inspired to eat paleo style. But I didn’t want to commit to a full Whole 30 because it requires that you cut out coffee and alcohol, something I was unwilling to do. The other main difference is Whole 30 is about detoxing your system with a very strict 30 day nutrition plan and then reintroducing foods to see what your body can tolerate. The 21 Day Fix isn’t about detoxing your system so much as it is about setting you up for a lifestyle of healthy, portion controlled eating.
Q. Do I have to shop in specialty stores to find Paleo foods?
A. Nope! With the exception of Shakeology which comes in the mail, I’ve gotten my food from the same places I’ve always shopped: Publix, Sam’s Club and Trader Joe’s. True, I’m staying more on the perimeter of the grocery stores now, focusing on whole foods like produce and meat. I don’t need to go up and down the inner aisles as much since they are full of processed foods and those aren’t coming home with me.
Q. What if I miss a day or eat something that’s not Paleo approved?
A. It happens to the best of us. Don’t sweat it. Just get right back on the horse! You don’t have to be as strict or think that you would have to start over for one slip up. That would matter a bit more if you are doing a Whole 30 for detox purposes, but on the 21 Day Fix Paleo style you are just eating cleaner in the right amounts and don’t have to stress about being 100% strict. I’ve never been 100% strict with it, I don’t think it’s practical or sustainable. I’ve been eating paleo while on the 21 Day Fix this whole time following the 80/20 approach. 80% of the time I am “ON” and 20% of the time I’m more lax. You have to leave a little room for exceptions and for life to happen.
Q. Is Shakeology Paleo?
A. No, but it’s close. Shakeology has a Vegan formula (Vegan Chocolate is my favorite flavor! Vegan Tropical Strawberry is available too) which is pretty rare to find in the market. Almost every meal replacement product out there gets its protein from whey (dairy) or soy (legumes) and is packed will all kinds of processed and artificial ingredients. Shakeology aligns with the Paleo philosophy because it is all natural. No artificial anything. I love that. The Shakeology Vegan formula is dairy free, soy free and gluten free. There are gluten free grains like quinoa and amaranth in the mix, so it’s not fully grain free and therefore not fully Paleo. But it’s pretty dang close.
Want to do this with my help, with the full 21 Day Fix program (daily workouts and Shakeology) and with the support of my online fitness challenge group where you’ll have daily coaching from me, daily motivation and accountability, access to my favorite meal plans and the opportunity to ask me questions as you go? Then join the party! You’re invited! I run private online fitness challenge groups every month. Click the banner below to register for my next group.
If you already have a Beachbody coach that you are currently working with, or if you are already a coach outside of the Arrow Girls Tribe, you are unfortunately not eligible to join my challenge groups. But please feel free to connect with me here, on Instagram, and on Facebook for more Paleo 21 Day Fix inspiration!