My husband and I switched to a Paleo diet three months ago, and even though I love carbs, we’re still going strong. Yes, the pounds and inches we’ve lost are great motivation to stick to it, but changing what we keep in our kitchen has been key. Because when we’re hangry and need to eat 10 minutes ago, it’s really helpful to have healthy choices on hand.
Here are nine of my essential Paleo pantry items — including foods that you keep in the fridge and freezer — that I think every Paleo-beginner should add to their kitchen stash to stay on track, especially in those early weeks.
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Before we get to the products, fair warning: You’re not going to find some of the more “exotic” paleo ingredients like cassava flour and arrowroot powder on this list. During my first (short-lived) hand at Paleo, I switched to these Paleo-friendly ingredients quickly thinking that they’d help substitute my favorite foods. But when I wanted the “real thing” instead, I caved — and my pantry was full of expensive, unused ingredients.
This time, other than a few key items to help keep me on track (see below), I’ve stayed away from ingredients that you need to whip up “Paleo hacks” for foods you’re supposed to be giving up. Those seem to be best suited for those who are deep in it and committed for the long term.
Paleo Pantry Essentials: Skinny Pop
My biggest late-night craving is a salty snack, so I’ve replaced that high-carb bowl of chips or pretzels with Skinny Pop Popcorn. There’s some debate among Paleo purists over whether or not popcorn is really primal (since, you know, cavemen didn’t have microwaves). But the lower carbs and higher fiber in popcorn make this one a great cheat-snack that’s helped me keep the weight off.
Paleo Pantry Essentials: La Croix
A Paleo diet requires you to cut out all sugars, but drinking only water can get boring. So, we made the switch to LaCroix. I’ll admit, it takes some getting used to, but now it’s my go-to drink when I want some flavor. Of course, you can also DIY with sliced fruit in your water for a less tangy or bubbly version.
Paleo Pantry Essentials: A Paleo Sweet
When my sweet tooth does hit, I’ve been delightfully surprised with how delicious Know Better baked goods are. Because when I heard “Paleo cookie,” I was pretty doubtful. These are big and cakey and full of protein; they could be a whole meal in and of themselves. My kids are hooked too. But at $2.50 per cookie, these are a special treat for mama only. Sorry, kiddos. (Thanks, Know Better, for sending us some samples to try! Their waffles, pictured top, are great too.)
Paleo Pantry Essentials: Ghee
You can’t eat dairy on the Paleo diet, so ghee — clarified butter that has all the milk solids removed — is a great substitute for regular butter in cooking. I use it for sautéing mostly, but my very favorite recipe (from Nom Nom Paleo, of course) involves mixing fresh ginger and scallions into the ghee and stuffing it under the skin on some organic chicken breasts then baking. OMG, it is delicious. You can find it Michelle’s newest cookbook: Ready or Not!
Paleo Pantry Essentials: Avocados
One of the hardest parts of switching to Paleo from the all-you-can-eat lifestyle I had before, is that things seem plain. Burgers with no bun. Scrambled eggs without toast. It gets kind of boring. So, I recommend stocking up on avocados. You can put them on everything from burgers to chili to salads to eggs. The only downside: no avocado toast.
Paleo Pantry Essentials: Almonds
When we need a quick, easy, on-the-go snack, we grab a handful of almonds. In fact, I sometimes divide the larger bag into snack-sized ziploc bags on the weekend so that they are even easier to grab on the way out the door during the week. Almonds are kind of the perfect food: They provide tons of nutrients and antioxidants, help control your blood sugar and pressure, and fill you up with all that protein and fiber.
Paleo Pantry Essentials: Cauliflower
After I’d gone cold-turkey Paleo for a month or so, I started to introduce some “Paleo hacks” into my diet. My favorite: Green Giant’s cauliflower rice. I tried making my own from scratch, and it was a disaster. But the frozen version in the vegetable section at my grocery store has been perfect. Spice it up in any way that matches the cuisine you’re eating that night, for example, a splash of lime juice with cumin and cayenne for Mexican or some ginger and soy sauce for Asian.
And the cauliflower tater tots are so yummy when we’re having burgers for dinner. These creative cauliflower recipes should help too.
Paleo Pantry Essentials: A Paleo Pancake/Waffle Mix
On a lazy weekend morning, I want more than an egg or energy bar for breakfast. That’s when I pull out the Julian Bakery Paleo Pancake and Waffle Mix. You can use pure Maple Syrup on the Paleo diet, or if you’re feeling adventurous, give the Date Lady’s pure date syrup a try too. Add fruit, eggs, and sausage or bacon and you’ve got a great spread for brunch!
Paleo Pantry Essentials: A Paleo Granola
For me, the hardest part of the switch to Paleo was breakfast, because I don’t like to get up early. I used to grab a muffin or granola bar to keep things fast and easy, but those are off-limits now. I found some great recipes for Paleo yogurt in the blogosphere, but I find plain yogurt boring. So, now, I add some fruit and one of these Élan granola packs, which can even make a quick and tasty breakfast on its own in a pinch.