Getting Started with a Real Food Diet


getting started with a real food diet by

We seem to have a lot of new readers here on My Heart Beets and I’m guessing that’s because so many of you have made the decision to switch to a real food and/or Paleo diet. If that’s you, congratulations on making your health a priority. If you’re a long time reader, thank you for sharing my website with your friends and family. I recently asked my readers to share their advice to those just starting out on a real food journey and below is a compilation of what they have to say as well as some tips from yours truly, me (I’m Ashley by the way. You can read all about me/my story here).

If you want to know what you need to stock your new Real Food Pantry, be sure to check out my Real Food Resources page.

Here are some tips for getting started with a real food diet:

1. Prepare For Success (Meal Prep)

This is probably one of the most important things you can do to help ensure your success on a real food/paleo diet. When a craving strikes, it’s easy to eat whatever is convenient. By spending just one day a week preparing for the week ahead, you can avoid being in a situation where you feel like you have no choice but to grab something from a vending machine or a fast food drive-thru. Chop vegetables, roast a chicken, and make sure you have healthy foods that are easily accessible for when hunger strikes. Get rid of processed junk food and replace those things with healthy emergency snacks.

here’s what readers have to say:

“Prep is very important, especially as you begin. Have food ready for that first challenging week or so, breakfast is big. Empty the house of all other temptations. Chances are having to get in the car to go to the store just to cheat is too much effort without rethinking:) You can do it!” – Kelly S.

“Devote a bit of time to planning out a cook up framework for the week that will suit your family. That way each week you can plan one cook ahead day to prep veggies, meats, crockpot meal and maybe a soup that will last all week. That one day keep crockpot, stovetop and oven busy so that in just a couple hours you can have it all done (except for what’s simmering in the pots).” – Sheri P.

“Meal prep is key, always be planning your next meal. I follow a lot of “paleo” people on Instagram and get so many great ideas! There is so much good information out there and wonderful cookbooks that tell you everything you need to know. Again, you have to plan and prep, eventually it becomes second nature.” – Sherri M.

2. Make More Than You Need

By cooking more than you need you’ll have one or two fewer meals to cook later in the week. If you get tired of leftovers, you can use them to create something “new” by adding them to another dish – or just put them in the freezer for a lazy day.

here’s what readers have to say:

“COOK! I take one or two days a week to make BIG batches of meat and veggies dishes I can eat during the week. If you don’t cook you’ll start relying heavily on nuts and almond butter. Ashley has AMAZING recipes for food that will make the Whole30 a piece of cake (so to speak).”  – Colette M. (thanks for the plug, Colette!)

“Cook twice as much as you need so you can eat the leftovers another day. Everything tastes good on top of a pile of leafy greens. All vegetable are good roasted.” – Lois H.

“I bought several e-cookbooks and started making extra food to fill the freezer and fridge to be sure I had plenty of food on hand to prevent the temptation to cheat by running to the grocery store for a candy bar or ice cream or getting fast food. I also ate an extra piece of bacon throughout the day when the cravings got bad. This tasted great and was satisfying while keeping me from doing something I would regret… I made a chicken every few days to keep fresh chicken on hand to eat with all the yummy vegetables. I have been doing this since the first of October and I love it. I have lost 40 lbs and feel so good that at times now I feel sorry for people who don’t eat the way I do.” – Michelle M.

3. Go At Your Own Pace

We’re all different. Some of us take an “all or nothing” approach and others go about things with more of a “slow and steady” mentality. Think about what you need to do in order to set the stage for a lifetime of eating real food. Going cold turkey/strict paleo for the first month helped me get on the right track, but I’m also the type of person who succumbs to an entire chocolate bar after taking one tiny nibble. After eating clean for one month and seeing the amazing benefits, I knew I could never go back to eating the way that I used to. That said, a strict diet may deter some of you from continuing real food altogether so be honest with yourself and decide what’s best for you. If that means making one swap at a time (unrefined sugar for white sugar) then so be it.

here’s what readers have to say:

“Do the Whole30  That gears you up for the real food lifestyle. It’s hard to start with but once you feel the health benefits of it, you’ll never want to go back!” -Brina S.

“Cut out one not-so-fresh thing at a time, and add in the fresh, whole stuff as you go. The first week, cut pop or alcohol and add in fruits and veggies just for your snacking. Second week, cut the sugar too and change your breakfast too… and so on.” – Chantal S.

“It’s ok to mess up once in a while and eat something non paleo! It helped me realize how terrible dairy and gluten make me feel and kept me moving forward!” – Lilly H.

“One meal at a time. Start with breakfast do it for a week then incorporate lunch etc. I think you are more successful if you go slow.” – Lisa C.

4. Keep it Interesting

You will learn to love using spices and fresh herbs in your cooking. Ditching processed food can help you become more adventurous in the kitchen and it will definitely make you a better cook. Before starting a junk-free diet, I didn’t appreciate the sweetness of a grape or a ripe peach. I didn’t use fresh herbs in my cooking. You’ll notice a difference in your palate. I taste more, which means I also experiment with flavor more. While it’s important to learn to love leftovers (so you’re not constantly cooking), it’s also important to add some variety to your diet. Try something new, maybe you’ll like it.

here’s what readers have to say:

“Keep a well stocked spice rack and learn how to use it  by shopping for fresh/frozen ingredients only, you don’t need bland food. And don’t skimp on the healthy fats!” – Margaret K.

“Learn to use fresh herbs, and various spices. Fresh garlic adds so much to dishes! I think experimenting with seasonings can elevate the simplest of dishes.” – Jessica G.

“Spices and herbs are your friends! Your food might taste bland at first if you are used to boxed or processed food that have a lot of MSG or Sodium. But once you get used to your spice cabinet, your food will taste amazing!” -Meaghan B.

“Treat yourself to different types of protein and new recipes to keep yourself interested. If you eat chicken and veggies for every meal you will fizzle. I’ve kept this up for the last 2 years and I’ve shed 70lbs. It becomes easy and second nature after a while and you won’t miss the old foods you were eating that contributed to your failing health and additional fat accumulation.” – Dawn S.

5. Stick With It

Food is an addiction and it can be so very hard to break bad habits. I never thought I’d be able to ditch diet soda. I used to have it with my breakfast every single morning and even though now  the thought of it disgusts me… the truth is that it took me a couple years to stop craving it. Now is the time to create new habits, healthy habits. It takes time, so stay strong and don’t give up.

here’s what readers have to say:

“You’ll probably get headaches for the first two weeks as your body adjusts from carb/sugar burning to fat burning. Hang in there you will be surprised when you find that lunch rolls around and you’ve forgotten the time and don’t feel hungry and no more headaches from not eating on time and less blood sugar problems. There would be less diabetics if more people ate Paleo/Primal. Once in a while bake some Paleo muffins, bread, make desserts, etc so that you don’t feel deprived. When eating out substitute some extra veggies for the usual carbs. – Roslyn

“Just do it! You’ll probably make “mistakes” and refine what works for you over time, but there’s no silver bullet – just jump in by committing to something that seems reasonable to you. Ex: Buy a paleo cookbook and try a new recipe/week, stock some basic paleo pantry ingredients, commit to cooking 5 nights/week, do a Whole30, etc.” – Meredith B.

If you have a tip, please leave it in the comments below. We’re a community here on My Heart Beets and helping each other is just what we do. Because we’re nice people. 🙂

In the meantime, here are a few more gems from readers:

“My advice is to start by introducing new foods and vegetables instead of immediately eliminating your old favorites. Once you’ve accumulated new favorites it will be easier to eliminate the stuff that’s not good for you. I also dumped all my processed junk at a food bank.” – Marjorie Z.

“Make lists. A lot of paleo snacks. Easy dinners, lunches, etc. then when your hungry, you don’t have to think. Just look at your list, like a menu.” – April M.

“Enlist a friend to help you. Things go better if you keep each other accountable. Get going yourself and then after a month or so encourage your family to join you! Avoid gluten free items since they often contain junk carbs like potato flour/rice flour etc. Get some new cookbooks and have fun! This is a new adventure!” – Lisa L.

“Don’t try to substitute gluten free baked goods for wheat ones. They don’t taste right, they’re horrendously expensive, and they’re still not good for you. Go through your cupboards and get rid of all packaged foods. If it’s not there, you won’t eat it. Always have packaged salad mixes in the fridge and learn to make a simple vinaigrette dressing from oil and lemon juice or vinegar.” – Deborah K

“Eggs for breakfast instead of cereals/oatmeal, big salads with protein for lunch, switch out cauliflower “rice” for rice at dinner and keep dates and almonds to snack on for emergencies.” – Hana A.

Good Luck!


Related Recipes


Find out more about my cookbooks Indian Food Under Pressure and South Asian Persuasion.

About Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley. Thanks for being here! I truly believe that food brings us closer together. Gather around a table with good food and good people, and you’ll have the ingredients you need to create some happy memories. My hope is that you find recipes here that you can’t wait to share with family and friends.


Subscribe to get our latest content by email. We won't send you spam. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Reader Interactions

Leave a Comment & Rating

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. James says

    Hey Ashley, I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and just wanted to tell you I think it’s great. I’ve been having some health issues lately and this article has really inspired me to jump into a real food diet. Do you have a favorite paleo meal?

paneer lababdar

Ashley's Secrets



Favorite tips & tricks to

easy & delicious Indian cooking