Paleo Challenge Rules

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

Hey there!

I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.


An in-depth, 4-week reverse dieting course for women who feel like their metabolism has slowed down, think they might have hormonal imbalance and can’t lose weight no matter what they do.

Hi, friends!

A bunch of you guys asked for additional details about the Paleo Challenge I’m doing with my CrossFit box. I asked my coaches if I could share some of the specifics on my blog and they agreed, so here they are:

The Paleo Diet is an effort to eat like we used to back in the day… WAY back in the day. If caveman couldn’t eat it, neither can you. This means anything we could hunt or find– meats, fish, nuts, leafy greens, regional fruits and veggies, and seeds. Sorry, the pasta, cereal, and candy will have to go! Instead, you’ll be making things like chicken stir fry and Paleo spaghetti. Yum!


The rules of the Paleo Diet are to eat foods with very few and all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re totally natural and unprocessed.

Omitting all of the following foods and beverages will help you regain your healthy metabolism, reduce systemic inflammation, and help you discover how these foods are truly impacting your health, fitness, and quality of life. Obviously, since we are going off of a point system in this challenge, you can eat these foods. However, the more you indulge in them, the more you are limiting the extent of your results.

  1. Do not consume added sugar of any kind, real or artificial. No maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, xylitol, etc. Read your labels because companies sneak sugar into products in ways you might not recognize. However, for the purposes of this challenge, we will allow Stevia as the only approved sweetener.
  2. Do not consume alcohol. It just isn’t good for you and you’re trying to make a lifestyle change, right?
  3. Do not eat grains. This includes (but is not limited to) wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, sprouted grains, and all of those gluten-free, pseudo-grains like quiona. Yes, we said corn”¦ for the purposes of this challenge, corn is a grain. This also includes all the ways we add wheat, corn, and rice into our food in for the form of bran, germ, starch, and so on. Again, read your labels.
  4. Do not eat legumes. This includes beans of all kind (black, red, pinto, navy, white, kidney, lima, fava, etc.) peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts (no peanut butter either). This also includes all forms of soy””soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, and all the ways we sneak soy into foods (like lecithin).
  5. Do not eat dairy. This includes cow, goat, or sheep’s milk products such as cream, cheese, kefir, yogurt (even Greek), and sour cream”¦ with the exception of clarified butter or organic butter.
  6. Do not eat white potatoes. This is somewhat arbitrary, but if we are trying to change your habits and improve the hormonal impact of your food choices, it’s best ot leave white, red, purple, Yukon gold and fingerling potatoes off your plate. But DO eat sweet potatoes! Just go light if weight loss is your goal.


You will have a possible total of 20 points per day. You will start with 15 points. You will add bonus points based on fish oil consumption, mobility, CrossFit, and sleep. You will subtract points based on the quality of foods you eat. Here’s the breakdown:

15 points for a full day of all Paleo-friendly meals and snacks
+2 for CrossFit
+1 for extra mobility (outside of class)
+1 for at least 6 grams of a quality fish oil
+1 for 7+ hours of sleep
20 possible points per day

Deducting points

-1 point off for every serving of: deli meats, bacon, sausage, beans, hummus, peanuts, agave, honey, salt, peas, dried fruit, most salad dressings, red wine

-2 points off for every serving of: dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, butter), soy products, quinoa

-3 points off for every serving of: cereal, grains, wheat, oats, corn, tortilla chips, bread, rice, pasta, noodles, hot dogs

-4 points for every serving of: soda, juice, sports drinks, potatoes, fried food, chicken wings, most restaurant appetizers, pizza, cookies, baked goods, ice cream, frozen yogurt, sweets, pancakes, ketchup, processed marinades, BBQ sauce, sugar-added dried fruit, beer, and ALL alcoholic drinks (besides red wine)

Note: If you are going off the reservation, it’s important to know how many servings you are eating. For example, 1 can of soda is 2 servings. This means that if you drink an entire can, you must subtract 8 points. Moral of the story: don’t do that.

Note #2: There are no portion restrictions in the challenge, but be smart. If you are eating an entire bag of trail mix, you are not eating Paleo; you are doing more of the same stuff you did before. Use this challenge to change your habits.

Bonus points

There is a potential for 5 extra bonus points per day (as shown above). Here’s how to get them:

  1. You get 2 extra bonus points for everyday you participate in a CrossFit workout. The benefits of Paleo are magnified when combined with a training program that combines constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements (i.e. CrossFit).
  2. You get 1 extra bonus point for everyday you consume at least 6 grams of fish oil.
  3. You get 1 extra bonus point for everyday that you do more than 20 minutes of mobility, outside of class. Check out for ideas.
  4. You get 1 extra bonus point for every night that you sleep more than 7 hours.

Ok, so that’s the important stuff. My box actually provided a whole packet of info, so if you have specific questions, just let me know. I’ll do my best to answer or ask my coaches if I don’t know. And, of course, this info is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Paleo. Check out these websites for more info:

I plan to play along with the scoring for the Paleo Challenge, but I already know I’ll veer off course a bit with my food choices. For instance, I understand the potato thing, but I don’t totally agree with it (I need carbs in my life!) and plan to eat them over the next several weeks, even if it means subtracting 4 points every time I do. I’m also planning some wedding splurges (hello, champagne and cake!), so I’m just going to do the best I can with eating Paleo, do what works for me, and not get all caught up with the numbers and little details.



Yesterday’s lunch was a bunch of leftovers from the refrigerator: grilled chicken, chopped up Sweet Potato Wedges, roasted cauliflower, and avocado. Random, yet delicious.

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Once I finished that bowl of goodies, I wanted something more to eat, so I whipped up a smoothie with frozen banana, mango, vanilla egg protein, pumpkin pie spice, and almond milk. De-lic-ious!

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I spent the rest of the afternoon plowing through work (I seriously got a ton done yesterday!) and then took a break around 3:30 PM to walk Murphy. I ate a quick snack of Sweet Potato Wedges with a scoop of almond butter before I took him out.

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After my walk with Murphy, I went to CrossFit with Mal. We both had busy days yesterday, so we were itching to get our CrossFit on. Here’s last night’s workout:


Dead Lift 8 x 3 @65%. Rest 1 minute between sets.


3 Rounds of Complex:

Clean Grip Dead Lift

Hang Power Clean

Front Squat

Reverse Lunge (from front rack)

Bent-Over Row

*6 reps of each exercise. You cannot put the bar down once you begin. Rest 2 mins after each complex.

Rx: (135, 95)
L2: (115, 75)
L1: (95, 65)
Beg: (65, 45)

I used 155 pounds on the Deadlifts for the strength part of the workout. Our coaches came around and helped us with our form while we did them. I have a really bad habit of looking up when I do Deadlifts, so I tried to work on it last night. You’d think it’d be an easy fix (uh, just don’t look up), but as soon as I put my head into neutral, I’d pick it up again. It was actually kind of funny because it was so automatic even when I was trying not to do it!

Last night’s WOD kicked my butt, and it was totally my own fault. I was a tad too ambitious with the weight (I used 75 pounds) and ended up crashing and burning on the third set. I felt really great at CrossFit last night, so I went with it and loaded up my bar with what I thought was a good weight for me, but, on the final set, I dropped the bar 3 or 4 times, which is the exact opposite of what you want to do during a complex. The point is NOT to put down the bar between exercises. I still got a good workout, but it was kind of a bummer that I couldn’t properly do it. I really just need to take it slow and remind myself that it will take some time to get back to where I once was with my fitness. It’ll happen. I just need to be patient.


Last night’s dinner was broiled chicken with sautéed red bell pepper, onions, and green beans in coconut oil with Sunshine Sauce. Holy delicious.

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Mal really liked this meal. He must have said how much he enjoyed it a half dozen times while eating it last night. This one is a keeper (the guy and the recipe).

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P.S.  I’m hosting a giveaway on Trading Up Downtown for some Teddie Peanut Butter!



  1. I just stumbled across your blog and I’m with the Tina cheerleaders. Everyone’s day-to-day diet is and should be different. Keep doing what works for you.

  2. Tina,

    I just wanted to say I love your blog, and I LOVE that you’re trying Paleo. A year ago when I first started living a Paleo lifestyle, friends and family didn’t even take me seriously. I had no idea diet could be as controversial as religion or politics. People seriously can get offended by the fact that you don’t eat grains… as evidenced by some of the comments on here. Keep up the good work by doing what’s right for you, and I hope you get to feeling better soon! 🙂

  3. I don’t agree with this type of diet, but that’s for me and my family. I have seen this diet do well in the life of my SIL who had endometriosis and her inflammation is way down. I think it’s important for us to all remember that not all of these dietary changes are for everyone. I’m struggling to find my own. I have a dairy intolerance, possible IBD, and possibly GERD. For me I can’t cut out carbs because that is what settles my stomach. I hope you get some answers from your new doctor today and am looking forward to you sharing the info with us!

    1. @Stephanie C:

      I’m the same way re: carbs. I have a severe autoimmune disease affecting the stomach and bowel, and white carbs are a life-saver for me. Too many vegetables (and certainly raw fruit and vegetables), nuts, egg whites, etc, all rip my insides to shreds. I think it goes to show that what’s “healthiest” is very different for each individual.

  4. Wow, reading all those comments back-and-forth to each other made me a tad anxious. Do what’s right for you is what I always say. You’re clearly taking a healthy approach, label or not. Good luck with the challenge, Tina!

  5. Hi Tina!
    I commend you on your choices and am interested to hear what your doctor has to say. Haters are gonna hate, but as long as you feel healthy, and get some answers that’s all that matters.
    I’m transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, because I find it works for me. I do it because it helps my digestive system and I try to eat more macrobiotic meals to keep my body balanced and healthy. I used to have a lot of digestive issues, but running and a clean diet have definitely helped. As a runner, I tend to heavily rely on grains and bread, but have found that I feel so much cleaner being vegan and avoiding PROCESSED foods! I rely a lot more on veggies, which to me, is never a bad thing! Occasionally I slip up, but we’re human!

    PS You also got me completely hooked on almond butter.

    Keep up the good work!

  6. Just curious…does anyone know the lifespan of a caveman? How do they know that their diet is better for us?? 🙂

    1. @Debbie: lifespan of cavemen have nothing to do with diet. It has more to do with lack of technology and medicine. That and the fact that they were more likely to randomly be eaten by a saber tooth tiger.

  7. I did a similar Paleo type challenge and it was actually easier than I thought. I never felt deprived and my tummy was super happy. Whole foods sells kelp noodles and I used to add them to all of my stir fry’s, they have a noodle like texture, so you dont feel like your missing out. Good Luck!!

  8. Hi Tina,

    Quick question, (I’m so sorry if this sounds REALLy stupid), does coconut oil actually make things taste like coconut? I’d like to try it for a few recipes, but my husband HATES the taste of coconut. You think he would even be able to tell?

  9. Hi Tina,
    I’ve been reading your blog since 2009, and really loved it at the beginning, and then it just got a little commercial for me so I stopped reading. Recently another blogger linked to you, and I clicked on just to see what was going on on your blog. I started reading again, and have really enjoyed hearing about what Crossfit is like, as it sounds like something that I would like to try, but I live outside the U.S. (I love lifting and being an x-gymnast the handstands and stuff look so fun)

    However, another thing I have noticed is you seem to be having a lot more health problems now, versus when I first began reading your blog. We all go through times in our lives like that, I totally get that. But it seems, from how you used to eat and the foods you used to enjoy that you have really scaled down those things, saying that they are what are causing your problems. But as your diet changes, here on the blog, and you eat copious amounts of eggs, nut butter, and protein powder nothing changes.
    Maybe it’s just me, and I’m not there with you everyday, but aren’t you frustrated. Do you remember when you felt good? Maybe you should go back to eating like that. Who cares about our ancestors…there are reasons why we don’t do things like they used to…imagine our lives.

    Everyone has to do what’s good for them, so I’m not going to say I agree with Paleo or I don’t. All I wanted to say is, I really want you to start feeling better and looking better. Your face says it all, that you are battling physical discomfort, it is evident in all your pictures. That makes me, a long time reader, kind of sad.
    But thanks for sharing your thoughts, makes for an interesting read. Hope your new doctor has some answers for you. I’m rooting for whatever eventually makes you stronger, inside, not just on the outside.

    1. @Pam: when you have colitis it often doesn’t matter what you eat. although i am not tina, i will answer for her: yes, it is wildly frustrating to go from diet to diet and still be sick. and then in addition, be judged for not getting better when in reality, you have an autoimmune disease that is just amazingly, amazingly tough to treat. i have it as well and i have lost a lot of weight and walk around with circles under my eyes and my face is also drawn. i have tried most everything and even more than you could imagine and, unless you walk in that person’s shoes, know that they are doing everything they can do get well. no one likes being sick and feeling bad, trust me.

  10. De-Lurking to comment…..I can’t believe how some people are acting. It’s like you said “you know what guys, I’m going to go on a veggie only diet, only eat 900 calories, and make sure I hit the box 6-7x a week…on top of training for a half marathon”. Instead of “I’m going to do a paleo challenges for a month, but probabley won’t be that strict”.

    Eating “paleo”, or avoiding processed foods and sticking to fruits, nuts, veggies, meats, etc is GOOD FOR YOU. I’ts HEALTHY. You can’re getting vitamin or mineral deficiencies and you’re filling your body with food that is easy to convert into energy. Who cares if you don’t want to eat grains??? For the record, also, who cares if you crossfit every day? So people are going to stop reading your blog because you decided to start crossfitting, instead of running/body pumping? Then why were they reading your blog in the first place?

    Crossfit is a great, scaleable workout…I’m almost 5 months pregnant and I STILL Crossfit 5x a week, and my baby is well developed for it’s GA and all my vital signs are perfect. It’s not too difficult if you’re smart about it, and it’s FUN.

    Sorry…mini vent! But I think you’re on the right track, taking care of yourself while still doing a workout that you love, and nourishing your body with the food it needs to heal. So I am still a fan and LOVE reading your crossfit updates-I’m so there with you and pull ups! I’m still doing kipping ones and dread the day that my belly won’t let me anymore 🙁

  11. Just a suggestion but i had a relative with an IBD and was told to eat low fiber foods and low fat which can cause flare ups. I see you really like your fruits and veggies and nut butters but do yo think that maybe to much fiber is giving you problems/flare ups? Just a thought, i know it can be different from one person to the next. I keep hearing about Paleo diet everywhere but I think the most important thing is to eat more unprocessed foods ( even beans and whole grains) and be able to have a treat once in a while not everyday every meal. And also just get up and move it doesn’t have to be crossfit but just do something that gets you up and moving:) Good Luck finding what works for you!

  12. Thanks for posting this breakdown of paleo. I’ve been curious about it for a while, and the challenge explains the ins and outs pretty well.

    However – and this is not directed at you – but I bristled at the way the challenge description is worded. The challenge is super-restrictive, and the language is condescending as hell. The only reason I bring this up is to point out why some folks’ reactions to Paleo and Paleo enthusiasts is an intense eyeroll. For instance, drinking alcohol in moderation is not bad for you, in fact, it’s part of a healthy lifestyle, and frankly, I’m just insulted by the holier-than-thou attitude coming through on their description.

    Anyway…rant over. I think this might be part of the reason why you’re getting a lot of strong opinions on this particular post! Good luck with your journey.

  13. Tina, you are NOT getting enough love right now. The entire purpose of this blog, and blogs similar to this, is to share one’s life with others, NOT for others to JUDGE one’s life. Tina never once insisted that anyone mimic her lifestyle or attempt to imitate it in any form – she simply puts it out there and it’s up to each reader what they want to do with it. We are all adults and we *must* understand that brainwashing is pretty impossible on a food blog…but maybe I’m completely wrong (although I’m pretty sure I’m not). Additionally, Tina posted the challenge rules at the request of several readers.

    I’m not bashing anyone or looking for a catty fight over the internet – that’s what I said bye to when I graduated high school. I’m simply saying that if you have a problem with what is written on this blog, or any other blog, for that matter, the solution is simple: don’t read it. People change, lifestyles change, and inevitably, diets and ways of eating change (does anyone remember the sugar-free/fat-free/calorie-free craze??). You need to decide for yourself if you want to accept that change and continue following the blog that reflect those decisions.

    So read, or don’t read, but for the love of paleo pancakes, don’t leave harsh or condescending comments that would be more graciously worded by a third-grader.

    that is all 🙂

  14. omg people have a lot to say about what you eat!!! I’m just glad that you eat enough unlike a lot of other blogs out there! Hope you are feeling better

  15. Tina!
    I simply MUST condone you for posting this. Bravery and courage FTW!

    I know it comes as a big surprise to many people, but you are only human after all! It is very obvious to me that you are trying very hard to manage your life in a way that works for you. BUT more importantly, you are being genuine and honest about the fact that it’s actually quite difficult to find a perfect balance or so-called “optimum health.” Your trials and tribulations demonstrate that you are willing to make the effort in order to be healthy (mentally & physically), and you are truthful about the fact that it isn’t easy or straight-forward at all.

    MAJOR KUDOS GIRL 😀 Keep on doin’ what you’re doin’ and I’m CERTAIN that you will be just fine! <3

  16. Hey Tina! Can’t believe that the decision you have made to eat why you want to eat has created so many nasty comments. Surely your diet is better than those people that eat McDonald’s and fast food all the time! Have you thought about using the “label” primal for your diet choices. That way noone can say anything of you eat some cheese 😉 I have managed no sugar throughout sept but I just cannot say no to a little cheese and Greek yoghurt in my diet!
    Thanks for your blog. You’ll always have someone out there that’ll be negative. Please don’t change 🙂

  17. Just found your blog today and I LOVE IT. Thanks for sharing about the paleo diet. I’m just starting it up myself, so I’m still learning. You are awesome I admire your strength. Keep it up! 🙂

  18. I used to really like your blog. However, I don’t think I can continue reading a blog that promotes such a restrictive lifestyle. Whatever you may say – cutting out entire food groups is not healthy. I would really consider consulting with a doctor before arbitrarily eliminating half of the foods in your diet.

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  20. I think we’ve gone a wee bit overboard on opinionated comments here. Ahh tina, much love. Wanted to say Hi and congrats on being proactive and making changes. Whatever works for YOU is what works for YOU!


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  22. I must admit this is one of the more refreshing Paleo posts/challenges I’ve seen. Maybe this challenge is different or maybe I’ve just been clueless (guessing #2 is really the case, haha), but it’s nice to see them discourage bacon & sausage a bit. I love those too, but I didn’t like when paleo people I knew were preaching no oatmeal, but oodles of bacon is just fine. Really?! That, and I love your honesty with what you don’t agree. Overall I think Paleo has a lot of good parts to it, the only I’ve never agree with is subtracting a whole food group.. and like you, I need my carbs! 🙂 Catching up on posts and hope you’re having a wonderful time in Seattle (my hometown, yay!).

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  24. I did well the first week and then all I do is crave sweets. Not grains,and not dairy but sweets. Probably sounds dumb but….has anyone else gone thru this?

  25. I’m almost done with 2 weeks of the challenge and I have yet to eat something that isn’t considered Paleo. I know there’s the point system for a reason so should I stick with the 100% Paleo method all the time or is it good to have days where you’re not 100% Paleo? Thanks!

    1. It’s completely up to you. I was rarely 100% Paleo during the Challenge. I’m just not a diet person. I think you can still get plenty of health benefits eating a Paleo-esque diet.

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