Paleo What?

A friend of mine asked me about the Paleo diet or the caveman diet as it is also being called.  The components of the diet seem pretty simple.  Eat foods that would have been available to a caveman.  The idea behind the diet is great because basically what it’s telling you to do is not eat processed foods.  The funny thing is every magazine and health article you have read tells you the same thing.  Why does the paleo diet get such hype then?  Why are people more likely to stop eating their frozen pizzas and lean cuisines on the paleo diet?  Because it is been branded.  It gives you something to belong to.  You can make a statement.  “I’m going to start the paleo diet.”

This is exactly what is wrong with a diet though.  When you “start” something you either already have an end in sight or it will naturally come up to an end when you grow tired of belonging to that particular diet fad.  If you would like to always have a healthy life, you need to establish eating a healthy diet as part of your lifestyle.  I like the paleo diet for it’s basic definitions.  I can easily ask myself before I eat something, “Would a caveman have had access to this food?”  Meaning would I be able to hunt or gather this food from a natural environment.  When you think about the simplicity of this diet you realize there isn’t all that much remarkable about it, however, I bet far more people would avoid a snickers bar if they were following the paleo diet rather than just trying to eat healthy.

The paleo diet recommends having 56-65% of calories coming from animal products (or proteins), 36-45% of calories from plants (or veggies and complex carbohydrates), and 28-58% of calories from fat sources.  If you were to compare these values to most dietician recommendations and other fad diets you would see the same percentages.  When it comes to sustainable diets there isn’t much variation.  The problem that comes in is most of us don’t want to eat healthy.  We want to find the diet that will allow us to have nachos, beer, and chocolate.  The paleo diet won’t allow you to eat these vices; (although their diet is one that allows minimal alcohol intake keeping 2 4oz of wine, 1 12oz beer or 4oz hard alcohol within plan) but if thinking about your food sources as a caveman would: “eat animal I hunt with side of plant gathered” helps you make better choices do it.

Ultimately the key components to diet come down to quality food choices.  What is a quality choice?  It is something that hasn’t been processed and put into a box.  Paleo has developed an awesome niche by putting simplistic terms on it.  In that aspect I think the Paleo diet is great.   Do I think you need to go buy the paleo book?  Maybe-If you don’t know what good choices are the Paleo diet is a great place to start referencing to make quality food choices.  If you do know what quality foods are the question then comes down to, “Are you making these quality choices?”  If the answer is no, you can buy the paleo book; go back to choosing other foods and not sticking to the diet.  If the answer is yes, you can buy the paleo book; but I would be surprised if you learned anything new.

The moral of this long story is The Paleo diet is a great mold to follow if you are looking to educate yourself on healthy food choices.  There are other great books out there too.  One of my favorite is Food & Mood By Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D.  Is the Paleo diet the only diet though?  No—the real answer is taking responsibility for what and why you are putting that food in your diet.  When you start to ask yourself this question before you eat it becomes a lot easier to not diet but to eat healthy for a fit and healthy life.

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