7 Day Eating Challenge


This is seven days of specified eating to help deliver you from holiday indulgences. First, a brief history of the people it’s based off.

The Paleolithic Period

The Paleolithic period refers to our ancestors that lived approximately 10 to 40,000 years ago. Their brains were the same size as ours, they walked upright and they were a tad taller than we are (5 feet, 6 inches for women). More importantly they were remarkably healthy. Exhumed remains show that their bones were stronger than the bones of people living today, and they didn’t even get cavities. Furthermore, they had physiques and cardiovascular conditioning of athletes.

While many did not survive to adulthood due to physical stresses such as hunting dangerous animals, infections, or complications in childbirth, those that did make it to old age were relatively disease free—no heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or obesity. In other words they arrived at their “golden” years pretty much the same shape they were in at age 25.

Their Diet

Nutritional anthropologists have several ways of determining the kinds of foods people ate tens of thousands of years ago. Chemical analysis of bone and examination of fossilized human waste are two examples.


Stone Age people hunted and gathered; they did not farm. The only source of pure sugar was honey, and it was available only seasonally, about 2 to 4 months per year at most. Furthermore, honey was not easy to come by. The absence of tooth decay in Paleolithic times is well documented since teeth are the best preserved of human remains.

Americans eat more refined sugar in a single day than our ancestors ate in a lifetime—20 teaspoons. Over the course of a year, that tallies up to 146,000 calories—enough to become 42 pounds of body fat if the calories are not burned via physical activity. Soda pop, cakes, cookies, ice cream, ketchup, barbeque sauce, many breakfast cereals, jarred pasta sauce, canned ravioli, some salad dressings—we eat a lot of foods that contain sugar in one form or another.


Our Paleolithic forebears probably ate fewer than 1,000 mg of sodium per day, as opposed to the 4,000-6,000 mg that most Americans currently average—much of it from all the highly processed foods in the modern diet. A rule of thumb:  the closer the food is to its natural state, the less sodium it will contain.

Saturated Fat

Currently about 1 out of 8 calories that Americans eat come from saturated fat, the kind found in meat and full-fat dairy products and which can contribute to clogged arteries, thus raising the risk for developing heart disease.

The Paleolithic people ate hardly any saturated fat, even in locations where people obtained most of their calories from meat. This is because much of their meat didn’t come from animals fattened before slaughter. It came from such species as mammoths, woolly rhinoceros, and bison who roamed free and were much leaner than today’s meat-producing animals. What fat they did have was largely unsaturated.

The best approximation to the meat back then, at least in terms of fat content, are venison (deer or antelope), elk, buffalo, skinless chicken breast and fish. Other good sources of protein low in saturated fat are nuts and seeds, the occasional egg (or egg white), and legumes like black beans and kidney beans.

Lots & Lots of Vegetables

Ten daily servings of produce more closely approximates Paleolithic produce consumption than the five to nine servings recommended by today’s dietary guidelines. Just about all of the produce chosen should be deep green, red, yellow, and orange in color, because those types contain the most vitamins and minerals.

Water Savvy

Pretty much the only fluid our Paleolithic ancestors drank to quench their thirst was water, which, of course, has no calories. Alcohol didn’t exist back then because humans hadn’t discovered how to systematically ferment grains and grapes. And certainly there was no soda pop, sports drinks, lemonade, fruit punch, or other sugary beverages.


Americans today average about 15 grams of fiber which is still less than the Recommended Daily Allowance of 25 to 35 grams per day. The fiber consumption in Paleolithic times reached 100 to 150 grams a day. Don’t aim for 100 grams of fiber. Your gastrointestinal tract will probably go on strike!  You could, however, easily approach 25 to 35 grams simply by eating more produce and legumes.


The only milk product in the diet of our Paleolithic predecessors was mother’s milk, since cows and goats were not herded. But their plant foods, including their greens, were so high in nutrients that they averaged about 1,900 mg of calcium a day. Since today’s farmed produce isn’t as nutrient-rich, it’s a good idea to include milk and other dairy products in the diet or add a daily supplement of no more than 500 mg of calcium per tablet (can take two/per day AM/PM). Non-fat varieties are the best choice because the fat in dairy foods is largely saturated.


Processed, or refined, grain products—including white bread, pasta, bagels, white rice, and most breakfast cereals—didn’t exist in the Paleolithic era. Our long-ago ancestors didn’t farm wheat, corn, or rice. Instead, their complex carbohydrates came from foods like wild fruits that no longer exist and uncultivated aquatic grasses and wild grains.

Grains in the modern diet that come closest to those are whole grains, such as those in whole grain breads and some cereals. Unlike processed grains, they contain fiber along with a number of trace minerals.


Completely Off Limits

Anything refined!  This means anything out of a package. There will be only two exceptions to this basic rule:  oatmeal or other similar hot cereals and NON-FAT dairy products. Any refined sugar foods such as cakes, cookies, pastries, ice cream, or candy are of course not included in this diet. Foods such as rice, pasta, and refined breads are also not on the list of consumption. Cheese, butter, jams & jellies are off limits too. Remember, this is only for seven days. You CAN do it!

Foods You Can Eat

Vegetables, any and all varieties
Vegetable/fruit ratio should be 2:1
Fruit, any and all varieties
Chicken, no skin and all visible fat removed
Turkey, no skin and all visible fat removed
Low-fat ground turkey
Fish, all varieties
Canned Tuna, Salmon, or Chicken (rinsed thoroughly under hot water)
Wild game, elk, deer or buffalo
Flank steak, all visible fat removed
Ground Beef, extra, extra lean ONLY
Walnuts, 2-3 TBSP per day
Almonds, 2-3 TBSP per day, no more than 3 servings of nuts per day.
Dried fruit, 1-2 oz. per day
Dairy Products, non-fat (e.g., yogurt, cottage cheese, milk)
Egg whites (or artificial eggs)
Beans, kidney, pinto, black, Lima (if canned, rinse thoroughly under hot water)
Cereals, hot or cold oat-based (e.g., oatmeal, Familia, etc.) or whole
wheat (Shredded Wheat, Wheatena, Maltex)
Protein powder, any low-fat, low carbohydrate variety
Whole grain, ONE serving (1 slice whole-wheat, oatmeal, or pita bread)
Whole grain serving must be eaten before 3:00 pm

Breakfast Ideas

Hot or cold oat-based or whole-wheat cereal
Non-fat dairy products
Whole egg (one only)-add egg whites for more protein
One serving of a whole grain (unless you’re planning it for lunch)
Dried fruit
Mixing the latter two items in your cereal helps eliminate the need for

Lunch Ideas

Any meat (from list)
Raw, steamed, roasted, baked vegetables
Beans (if canned, rinse)
Non-fat dairy products
One serving of a whole grain (unless you ate it at breakfast)
Suggestions:  make a salad with all vegetables and top with meat, beans and nuts or mix meat with non-fat cottage cheese and throw over leafy greens. Save fruit for the end of the meal for your dessert.

Dinner Ideas

Any meat (from list)
Raw, steamed, roasted, baked vegetables
Beans (if canned, rinse)
Non-fat dairy products
Suggestions:  make soup with meat, vegetables, beans and defatted, low-salt bouillon or make a salad and combine with potato, yam or sweet potato and a meat source. Save fruit and/or non-fat diary product for dessert.


Raw, steamed, roasted, baked vegetables
Non-fat dairy source
Nuts and dried fruit


All seasonings are permitted with the exception of those that add salt. Be sure and check the label to see if sodium, sodium chloride, sodium benzoate, or monosodium glutamate (MSG) is added. If they are, don’t use them. Vinegar’s are also acceptable if they are pure vinegar (i.e., no salt or sugar added).


Obviously our Paleolithic ancestors had none. However, a fat-free, low sodium salad dressing will be allowed. Use sparingly. Actually measure out the 1 to 2 TBSP serving. No ketchup or barbeque sauce though. Use mustard sparingly and a diet margarine only if absolutely necessary. Again, measure out the margarine to be sure you are not using more than ONE serving.

Cooking Techniques

Baking, roasting, and steaming are the cooking techniques of choice. Deep fat frying is out. Barbequing is acceptable if minimum oil and no sauces are used. Cooking sprays are a good way to minimize oil use. I’ve seen some people hold the sprayer for three or four seconds, which is almost the same as pouring oil into a pan. The trick, hold the sprayer no longer than a second and only spray once (count one-thousand one).


Multi-vitamin (or individual vitamins) and calcium. Our Paleolithic ancestors received almost 1900 mg of calcium in their diet because their plant foods were so high in nutrients. If you are getting less than three servings of dairy a day supplement with 500-600 mg of calcium per day.


Remember, this is only for seven days. For seven days you can do anything. The point here is to prove that it’s possible to change your eating habits, alter your taste buds, and lose weight. You have to ask yourself, “How bad do I really want to lose weight and what am I willing to give up to do it?”  All of us, me included, must make sacrifices to be leaner and trimmer. The satisfaction gained from such an accomplishment is truly immeasurable and well worth every effort you put into it.

Be creative in your meal planning. Try new combinations and experiment with different seasonings and food selections. Try to incorporate 10 servings of vegetables and five servings of fruits a day. A serving of vegetables is usually ½ a cup so it is easy to eat two to three servings per meal.

Also, meal frequency is important. Instead of eating three square meals a day, eat five or six times per day. This keeps your metabolism up and you’ll feel like you’re not starving.

Your attitude will make a tremendous difference in how you go about this. Think of this diet challenge as a worthy and fun and it will be so. Think of it as a grueling task, it will be so. It’s all in how you perceive it. Also, keep in mind this is ONLY temporary. Seven days. Seven days and that’s it.

Would love to know how it went and any changes that were made!


© Samantha L. Madsen, MS, CSCS: LBW 7JAN2024 Newsletter

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