Rather than calling it the latest trend in dieting (as some people consider it), I prefer referring to the Paleo diet as the latest trend toward an overall healthier lifestyle. What sets Paleo apart from other diet fads, like Atkins or South Beach, is its extreme focus on positive changes in eating habits instead of focusing on selling a line of “miracle weight-loss products.”
Going Paleo is simply defined as only eating foods that our prehistoric ancestors had access to. If this guideline confuses you about what you can and cannot eat on the Paleo diet, ask yourself this question, “Would a caveman have been able to find and eat this in the wild in its natural, unprocessed form?” If the answer is yes, you’ve got the green light to devour; if the answer is no, drop it and run. Vegetables, fruits, most nuts (peanuts are not Paleo), and meats are all acceptable Paleo food options while dairy products, processed foods, and refined sugars are not tolerated by this diet.
After hearing about this new trend in eating I was immediately interested in trying it out. I loved the idea of focusing my meals and snacks around clean, whole foods and distancing myself from anything processed or prepackaged. In my opinion, it sounded like it should become the new standard of eating for everyone.
Unfortunately, though, Paleo ended up not being for me. The restrictions that accompanied adherence to this diet led me astray and ultimately ended in my choice to abandon it altogether.
Let me explain: During my trial run of eating like a caveman, I learned that in addition to not being able to eat dairy, processed foods, or refined sugars, I was also unable to eat beans or any wheat products – regardless of if they were whole wheat or not. This was my deal breaker. Up until that point I had agreed with the guidelines and constraints of this diet, but cutting out beans?! And whole grains?! I couldn’t wrap my head around justifying their complete removal from my diet. They’re nature-made whole foods that have researched and proven health benefits. How is not eating them an advantage to my health?
I, instead, developed my own eating plan that I follow to this day. It’s very Paleo-esque in that it focuses on avoiding highly processed foods and consuming minimally-processed whole foods: lots of fruits, vegetables, and the occasional slab of meat. It’s Elaine-esque in that I can still eat beans, oatmeal, and ice cream to my heart’s desire! And it’s these little cheats that help tremendously in keeping me sane and on nutritionally on track.