At first glance, it’s easy to see why many people would immediately write off the paleo diet as unsuitable for vegetarians. It is, after all, a diet that focuses on a basic protein and fat intake (read meat and more meat) combined with a balanced, “caveman” diet. However, with a few alterations here and there, there is no reason that vegetarians can’t follow a version of the paleo diet. The important thing is to strike the right balance between what your body needs to function and what you fuel it with. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the considerations vegetarians need to keep in mind when planning for a paleo diet.
The biggest issue is perhaps not the fact that meat makes up such a huge portion of the paleo diet, but that those foods that vegetarians often look to as substitutes are also forbidden. Soy based foods? They are off limits. Grains are out and so too are beans and quinoa. That doesn’t really leave a lot of options. This is where you have to be a little creative with your paleo approach, and need to accept that a diet that is founded on the concept of eating meat is going to need a little creative in being vegetarian friendly!
The first thing that you will want to consider is allowing certain grain-like seeds into your diet. Quinoa is not allowed by the paleo diet, but if you are to break one simple rule of the diet, then quinoa is certainly far from the worst. You could also combine this with increasing the number of eggs you eat. The paleo diet generally says to eat eggs in moderation, but you could increase your protein intake by increasing your egg intake.
The other choice would be to relax the restrictions on beans and legumes. The main issue that the paleo diet has with beans and legumes is the presence of anti-nutrients which are harmful to the body’s digestive system. However, this research is unproven, with plenty of studies indicating that cooked beans and legumes have more beneficial qualities to them these anti-nutrients have the potential for harm. The paleo diet has been challenged by many scientific minds, particularly over its stance about legumes and beans. With this in mind, this might be the easiest and least contentious way of “cheating”.