Committing to eating a paleo-inspired diet like the Dr. Brown diet or the Whole30 can feel a lot like learning a whole new language. Considering these diets consist primarily of meat and vegetables, it’s surprising how hard it can be to shop for these simple foods. I mean, meat is meat, right?! Actually no. Turns out that not all “real” food is created equal. And that’s why you need to know these 5 phrases when grocery shopping on a paleo-inspired diet.
1. “Wild-Caught” Fish
Wild-caught fish refers to fish caught in its natural habitat as opposed to fish that has been “farm-raised.” Some concerns regarding farmed fish include high levels of PCBs, a potentially carcinogenic chemical, the use of antibiotics and pesticides in fish farmed outside the U.S., the use of GMO soy and canola oil in some fish feed, and the improper treatment of fish waste which leads to water contamination. So for these reasons, wild-caught fish is believed to be the cleaner and more natural choice of the two and therefore more in line with the philosophy of paleo eating.
[That being said, though, just because a fish is “wild-caught” doesn’t mean it is absolutely free of toxins or metals. For example, tuna is wild-caught and one of the handful of species known to be high in mercury so should be eaten sparingly.] For more info, click here.
2. “Grass-fed” Beef
Grass-fed beef refers to beef from cows that were allowed to graze freely on a pasture and eat grass, their ideal diet, as opposed to cows that were sent to feedlots and fed a diet full of genetically modified grains and soy. Some of the concerns of modern feedlots include inhumane treatment of the animals which leads to stress, the use of hormones, antibiotics and other drugs, and ultimately meat with less nutritional value. For more info, click here.
3. “Pasture-Raised” Poultry and Eggs
Similar to grass-fed beef, pasture-raised poultry comes from chickens and turkeys that were allowed to roam free in their natural habitat and eat their natural diet vs. poultry raised in confinement fed a diet of low quality feed full of grains, GMOs, soy, and possibly even unnatural byproducts like garbage and candy. More info can be read at this link.
As for eggs, don’t be fooled by the phrase “cage free.” In reality, this just means the chickens live in multi-level aviaries and don’t even have access to the outdoors. It’s really just as unsanitary and inhumane as caged chickens. “Free-range” isn’t much better as the only requirement for that claim is that the chickens have access to the outdoors, but there is no requirement for how much time they actually spend out there. What you are looking for is “pasture-raised.” And many of the farms that use this label go as far to tell you how many square feet they have per chicken as well, so you can rest assured that the chickens are actually free to roam in their natural habitat eating their natural diet. For more info on how to read egg labels, click here.
4. “Pasture/Grass-fed” Butter and “Clarified Pasture Butter/Ghee”
As you might suspect by now, pasture or grass-fed butter is butter that comes from cows that have been allowed to graze in the pasture and eat grass vs. cows that have been fed GMO filled grains and soy. Butter has finally made a come back after falsely being vilified for its saturated fat content during the “low fat” craze of the 90’s. In truth, butter, and even more specifically pasture butter, is full of Vitamin K2 and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which are very critical for heart health. Check out more on this topic here.
Clarified butter or ghee is butter that has had all the milk proteins, sugar, and waters removed. While most understand that butter is the concentrated fat formed by churning cream, many don’t realize that it isn’t comprised of ONLY fat. It is in fact, only 80% fat, while the other 20% still contains milk solids (i.e. proteins and salts). Many paleo-like diets (specifically the Whole30) suggest to eat butter that has gone through this clarification process in order to completely avoid the consumption of any milk products. And of course, it needs to come from pastured cows. Read up on clarified butter here.
5. “Organic” Produce, Meat, and Packaged Foods
In an effort to increase yield and ultimately profits, conventional farming uses many harmful products that should be avoided. Organic produce refers to crops that were harvested from farms that do not use these harmful products ( i.e. genetically modified seed, synthetic pesticides, or fertilizers). Organic meat also has similar standards that must be met in order to obtain this title. And you can rest assured when buying packaged food such as nuts or dried fruit, an organic seal means that the product contains no GMOs, pesticides, or fertilizers either. Going organic when possible really is a foundational step to cleaning up your diet. You can read more about it here.
Paleo-inspired diets are all about getting back to the most natural foods you can find in order to achieve maximum health. The phrases, “wild-caught,” “grass-fed,” “pasture-raised,” and “organic” may seem like marketing ploys, but in fact they are actually indicators that the food is nutrient-dense and clean as opposed to their toxin-filled counterparts. So be sure to look for these on your next grocery trip!