One of the biggest questions I was asked after the first edition of Practical Paleo released was this:
“Diane, I've got a lot going on that I want to try to heal, so which meal plan do I follow?!”
The meal plans that I created for Practical Paleo are designed to support your individual needs, whether you’re managing a diagnosed condition or suspected health challenge or you’re working toward a particular health goal.
You may look at the list of goals and conditions that each plan supports and be either overwhelmed or confused. I get it! For example, many of you have Hashimoto's and adrenal fatigue and you want to lose some body fat.
This section right in the book, and detailed in this post, will walk you through the thought process required to select where to start – meaning which plan to approach first.
Remember this – all of the plans will be helpful, and not every “problem” that you have needs to be addressed first! Foundational plans are where to begin, then moving along from there to target more specific issues.
Trust me, you will get the most bang for your buck if you start slowly and don't try to do everything at once – because inevitably that's too darned hard!
A look inside of the Adrenal Health meal plan in the book:
A note on the foods in the plans: If you find that the food choices in a particular 30-Day Meal Plan don’t suit your tastes, or your family members have varying needs while you want to follow a targeted plan, it’s perfectly fine to make variations to the meals you prepare. You can easily swap out entire recipes or, more specifically, swap out proteins, veggies, or other items for foods you prefer. However, if the diet and lifestyle recommendations suggest adding or avoiding certain foods, be sure to make that a priority—any other swaps are up to you.
A Brief Overview of the Practical Paleo 2nd edition Meal Plans
(Note that the first edition of the book includes 11 of the following 14 plans but all of the plans have been updated with the new edition of the book. If you are going to follow a plan, I highly recommend you grab the new edition, you will be glad you did!)
Adrenal Health (page 162) – new to the 2nd edition
For those with general fatigue or adrenal concerns, such as adrenal fatigue, HPA axis dysregulation, or an otherwise altered adrenal profile. In addition, if you’ve been experiencing high levels of stress or think that your current ability to handle physical and/ or emotional stress is impaired, this is the plan for you.
Athletic Performance (page 168)
For those who want to maintain or improve their performance as an athlete or sustain moderate to high training volume. While many assume that fat loss is their goal, if you’re training four or more times per week with moderate to high intensity (CrossFit or training for competitive endurance events, for example), then focusing on supporting your performance is a good idea. Supporting your performance means supporting your metabolism and physical activity needs, and that often leads to desired fat loss.
Autoimmune Conditions (page 174)
For those with chronic illnesses in which the immune system a acks the body’s own cells, such as Addison’s disease, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes, among others.
Blood Sugar Regulation (page 180)
For those who have any unwanted variation in blood sugar levels, including dysglycemia (unbalanced blood sugar), hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), type 1 diabetes, and type 2 diabetes.
Cancer Recovery (page 186)
For those recovering from any type of cancer.
Digestive Health (page 192)
For those with problems in the large and small bowel, such as leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease (including Crohn’s disease and colitis), and celiac disease.
Fat Loss (page 198)
For those interested in losing body fat who are otherwise in good health. However, for most people, fat loss doesn’t need to be the focus: supporting your body’s needs naturally supports fat loss. If your instinct is to select this plan first, I recommend that you dig a bit deeper and ask yourself what your real goal is, and look at the other plans available to see what might better support your health.
Healthy Hormones (page 204) – new to the 2nd edition
For men with low testosterone and women who have hormone-related problems of the reproductive system, including PMS, amenorrhea, PCOS, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or infertility.
Heart Health (page 210)
For those with concerns about cholesterol levels or high blood pressure.
Liver Detox Support (page 216) – new to the 2nd edition
For anyone who wants to support the liver and its work in removing toxins from the bloodstream, as well as for those who still have unresolved concerns after trying other 30-Day Meal Plans.
Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue (page 222)
For those with these conditions, which can cause, among other symptoms, fatigue, muscle pain, and weakness.
Neurological Health (page 228)
For those with conditions affecting the brain and nervous system, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Squeaky Clean Paleo (page 234)
For anyone who wants to try a strict Paleo diet that incorporates only whole foods and doesn’t allow for grain-free “treats.”
Thyroid Health (page 238)
For those with thyroid conditions, including both hypothyroidism (such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) and hyperthyroidism.
Selecting a Meal Plan
After you read the descriptions of the meal plans above, you may know immediately which you want to try.
If you haven’t eaten Paleo before, I recommend starting with the Squeaky Clean Paleo 30-Day Meal Plan (page 234) – regardless of specific health challenges or goals you may have.
Once you’ve tried the Squeaky Clean plan for thirty days, you may find that you want to switch to another plan that’s more specifically designed to address your needs.
And as you know, making swaps within the food choices for each plan is certainly an option.
I’ve created the flow chart of sorts below to show you one way of moving through various meal plans, in order from most generally helpful to most specific and restrictive.
This isn’t meant to be prescriptive—you can always do whatever works best for you!—but starting at the top and proceeding through the following levels it may help you achieve be er health with fewer rules or restrictions.
Let’s consider one possible example. If you’re new to Paleo and your goal is to improve your athletic performance, you’ll want to start—just like everyone!—with the Squeaky Clean Paleo plan.
After thirty days, you can try the Blood Sugar Regulation plan, which has fewer restrictions than the Athletic Performance plan, or you can go straight to the Athletic Performance plan.
Here’s another example: if you want to address your hormone health and you’re new to Paleo, you can start with Squeaky Clean Paleo and then try Blood Sugar Regulation; if you’re not seeing enough improvement on that plan, you can try the Adrenal Health plan, and if you’re still not seeing the improvement you want, you can try the Healthy Hormones plan. Or you can go straight from Squeaky Clean Paleo to Healthy Hormones.
But keep in mind that the higher level plans have fewer restrictions, and you may find that following one of these is enough to resolve your health concerns.
If members of your family are experiencing different health challenges, I recommend cooking according to the most restrictive plan and then adding back in off-limits foods for those who can tolerate them.
It may not be easy at first, but once you get the hang of it, this is the best way to meet everyone’s needs!
More questions? Post them to the comments below and I'll do my best to help you out.
And, if you don't already have a copy of the new, updated and expanded 2nd edition of Practical Paleo, don't forget to grab one! I promise you'll absolutely love this book! Pass your original on to a friend if you have it and “paleo-it-forward” as I like to say!