The Paleo diet has been around since the late 1970s, but it hasn’t gained much traction until now. These days, you’re likely to find Paleo-inspired products in the supermarket, a newly opened restaurant with a Paleo-themed menu as well as handfuls of celebrities endorsing the diet. So, what exactly is Paleo? And is it something you should pay attention to?
Paleo: The Diet of Our Ancestors
The Paleo diet, or popularly known as the “caveman diet,” is a modern take on eating in which diet proponents try to mimic the way our ancestors ate back in the Paleolithic Era about two millions years ago. The diet is heavy on protein and low on carbohydrates; it bans foods that weren’t available in that long-ago time — things like legumes, grains, dairy products, processed foods and most starches.
So, Should I Eat like a Caveman?
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding Paleo. It’s a fad diet after all. Some supporters of the diet believe that it can help with weight loss and improve satiety because you’re increasing your intake of proteins and fats when on the diet. However, there’s an equally vocal camp that doesn’t support this diet at all. For instance, U.S. News & World Report ranked the Paleo diet at the very bottom of all diets, reporting that “experts took issue with the diet on every measure.”
At Foodsmart, we believe there’s a balanced way to eat no matter if you’re following a specific diet. For those folks following the Paleo diet, here are a few recommendations:
- Eating like a caveman doesn’t mean you should turn into a heavy meat eater. Make sure you still fill at least half your plate with an assortment of fruits and vegetables.
- Keep the skin on when it comes to fruits and vegetables to increase the fiber intake, since grains — another good source of fiber — are omitted from the Paleo diet.
- Choose leaner animal proteins like seafood and poultry, while enjoying lean cut red meats sparingly.
- Be mindful of portion size when it comes to eating animal products to avoid excessive saturated fat intake.
- Don’t forget to continue to eat the rainbow and include foods with color in each and every meal.
We’re also big proponents of following the 80/20 rule. What this means is 80% of the time you stay true to your diet while giving yourself about 20% wiggle room. Here are a couple food items that you might think are Paleo no-nos, but should and do pass muster in terms of keeping in your diet:
Quinoa comprises the edible seeds from grain crops so is technically Paleo-friendly. Also, it’s one of the very few plant foods that makes up a complete protein. It’s also a good source of fiber, which helps with blood sugar regulation.
Sweet potatoes are a nutrient powerhouse in the tuber family. The orange-colored root vegetables are a great source of beta-carotene, which is the precursor of vitamin A. Meanwhile, the purple varieties are rich in anthocyanins, which are antioxidant flavonoids that help protect against heart disease and cancer.
Looking for a few Paleo recipes that are big on flavor and nutrition? Try one or all of the following:
- Steak Fajita Salad
- Cauliflower Steaks with Chimichurri
- Grilled Chicken Thighs with Cucumber Mint Salad
- Salmon Cakes with Olives, Lemon & Dill
- Easy Nicoise Salad
Jason is Zipongo’s registered dietitian and product manager. During his off hours, you’ll find him browsing the local farmer’s markets or hosting dinner with friends. For more nutrition tips, follow him @jasonlauRD and @zipongo.