Paleo Smart

Nonprocessed foods and low insulin levels

One of the most popular diet trends in America is the paleo diet, based around the idea that you should eat only food found in the Paleolithic age. The paleo lifestyle has gained a lot of traction as of late, because it’s effective, easy to follow, and generally healthy.


The reason people love this plan is because it has fewer guidelines and almost no measuring—besides, it’s hard to overeat vegetables. The rules are simple: if it comes from the ground or an animal, you can eat it. No processed foods. Nothing that comes in a box.


Paleo also has praise heaped upon it because of the obesity epidemic. There are two main camps when it comes to the causes of obesity. The first and primary cause is excessive calorie consumption, which is why most weight loss programs call for a decrease in overall calories consumed. The secondary culprit is high insulin levels. The same way the hormone testosterone influences muscle growth, insulin influences fat loss. Because the paleo diet cuts out processed food, it removes all processed sugar and high-fructose corn syrup from your diet. This results in much lower insulin levels overall.


However, paleo also gets a lot of flak, because it’s not necessarily a guarantor of weight loss. You can absolutely gain weight on this diet—potatoes, nuts, and animal fats are all calorically dense. But if you follow step one to a healthy lifestyle and eat veggies for half your food intake, you shouldn’t have too much of an issue with maintaining a calorie deficit.


Another common gripe with paleo is that you’d be hard-pressed to find fruits and veggies that look anything like their Paleolithic predecessors. Have you seen the size of apples lately? This is a trivial complaint that can be totally ignored.

Another source of ire among critics is the host of “paleo products,” such as cookies or pasta made with all natural ingredients. To be honest, that criticism is justified—these are simply marketing companies trying to make money, and should also be ignored.


This strategy is great for people who:


·      Like easy-to-remember rules

·      Hate tracking food intake

·      Prefer absolutes to moderation.


How do you do it?

1.     Eat only things that come from the ground or animals.

2.     Avoid processed foods, sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup. 


There are two very controversial issues in the paleo community. The first is dairy. Most anthropologists agree it wasn’t consumed in the Paleolithic era, so the die-hard paleo folks are very antidairy. And absolutely, you will have more weight-loss success excluding dairy, but it isn’t essential. Our diet plans are designed for long-term success, and if you enjoy having dairy as a part of your diet, by all means, go for it. You can eat things like 100-percent organic, no-sugar-added yogurt or all-natural cottage cheese. Stay away from ice cream and processed cheese, though.


The second controversial issue is alcohol. And similar to dairy, you will have more weight-loss success excluding alcohol. But again, this plan should be something you can do indefinitely. If you like to drink, by all means, drink—in moderation. For the record, the most “paleo-approved” choices in that regard are straight vodka and dry white wine, but there’s no need to punish yourself. Just think “no soda mixers, and no beer,” and try to limit alcohol consumption to once a week.


Tips for success


1.     Plan a cheat meal.


Nobody is perfect forever. It’s better to plan to have a cheat meal once a week and look forward to it than accidentally eat an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s because work sucked.


2.     Plan your snacks.


Eating paleo at restaurants is easier than you think—it is hard to find a place that doesn’t have salad on the menu nowadays. Plus it’s 2017, so just tell people you are gluten intolerant, and they’ll make a dish “paleo” for you. Snacks are more difficult, though. You can’t get fresh fruits and veggies everywhere, but you can bring them with you from home.


3.     Don’t panic.


If your weight goes up instead of down, increase your leafy vegetable consumption and decrease everything else. This will always work.


4.     Avoid fake paleo.


Granola, most yogurt brands, and most trail mixes try to market themselves as healthy and all-natural. They aren’t.


5.     Make exceptions, but not too many.


Condiments are the hardest part of the paleo diet. If you need ranch dressing to eat salad, then have it, but be sure to measure out a serving. Remember, the goal of every diet is just to do better than the day before.

Jake Dermer