You've probably heard about the protein-heavy diet called the Paleo diet. Though this diet has only recently become popular—it was barely on anyone's radar a few years ago—the desire and demand to get back to basics is on the rise. If you're thinking about giving this low-carb diet a go, here are a few things to consider.
On a basic level, the Paleo diet consists of foods that our pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer ancestors would have eaten. Simply put: if a caveman didn't eat it, neither should you. But once we started farming, we stopped finding food and started creating it.
The most important thing about starting the Paleo diet is knowing what you can and can't eat. What you're allowed to eat are whole, unprocessed and unrefined foods: fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and healthy oils such as coconut or flaxseed oil. On the other hand, cereal grains, dairy, refined sugar, salt and other processed foods are off-limits.
Health Benefits and Concerns
Low-carb diets like this one have been linked to a decreased risk in health issues like obesity and heart disease. Plus, on the Paleo diet, you'll be avoiding unhealthy processed foods with artificial ingredients—great for anyone who's looking to lose weight. Because you're encouraged to eat more fruits and veggies instead, you'll enjoy the added benefits of nutrients like vitamins A and C and other minerals.
The problems with Paleo? It cuts out whole grains and dairy, which means if you're on this diet, you might not receive enough calcium, fiber and B vitamins. Also, the diet includes a lot more protein, which isn't too bad for a short period of time. But if you're in it for the long haul, it could lead to health problems.
Going Paleo means a little bit more than simple dietary swaps, and it's not always possible to find substitutions for some of your favorite comfort foods. If you're struggling to keep up, consider these tips:
- Plan and prep your meals ahead of time. You're more likely to stick to a lifestyle change and avoid "cheating" if you have pre-planned meals.
- Keep your fridge and pantry stocked with allowable foods so that you don't give yourself the opportunity to cheat.
- Keep it simple. By sticking to simple meats, fruits and vegetables, you reduce the risk of overwhelming yourself and falling off the wagon.
Even though alcohol consumption is not recommended, it's acceptable in small quantities—so go ahead and enjoy that glass of champagne at your friend's wedding. If you enjoy eating out, you'll have to take extra precautions as many restaurant menu items may not be Paleo-friendly (but don't be afraid to ask questions and find a dish that works for you)!
It's not easy going Paleo; it takes motivation and some sacrifice. You might want to think about the Paleo diet as a starting point, while incorporating a few low-fat dairy products and whole (not processed) grains to make up for any missing nutrients. Consider buddying up with a friend or family member for this diet—you'll help keep each other inspired and accountable!