At first glance, a return to caveman-era dining doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors survived off meat, fish, seafood, fruits, veggies, eggs, nuts, seeds and healthy oils, so why can’t we?
And cutting out Doritos, McDonald’s and Haagen-Dazs is bound to make anyone healthier — and a little lighter around the middle.
Devoted followers of the popular Paleo Diet are touting weight loss, clearer skin, better sleep and reduced risk of several diseases.
But is it worth giving up a few food groups for?
Probably not, said Susan Kopins, a registered dietitian at The Women’s Healthcare Group in Spring Garden Township.
“The Paleo Diet is considered a fad diet,” she said. “When you have to restrict so many food groups, it’s really not a sustainable diet — not in today’s society”
Those following the Paleo Diet can say goodbye to cereal grains, legumes (including peanuts), dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, processed foods, salt and refined vegetable oils.
“The premise is that the Americanized diet contributes to obesity, heart disease and diabetes,” said Kopins, who noted that most diseases are caused by a combination of diet and lifestyle factors.
And she said there are definitely some concerns with making such drastic diet changes. Kopins said dairy is a good source of calcium and Vitamins D and B. Grains are also fortified with vitamins that contribute to good health.
“I have talked to a number of patients who have done extreme things in their diet without doing research … and they end up with major vitamin deficiencies,” said Kopins. “You have to be willing to take supplements to cover the gap.”
She said the biggest adjustment for those looking to take the plunge into caveman-style eating, though, is going to be more meal planning.
“If people choose to do the Paleo Diet, there’s no way you can dine out,” she said. “You really have to have a plan to have all your meals and snacks planned ahead and cooked from home.”
A better alternative, she said, is to build a healthy diet on fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy and protein.
“You can incorporate a whole variety of food groups and still lose weight or maintain a healthy weight,” Kopins said.
Try this, not that
Step away from Dr. Loren Cordain.
“People are looking for something drastic to do in their diet,” said Kopins.
But she said there are plenty of good alternatives to the tough-to-follow caveman lifestyle — which ranked last in U.S. News & World Report’s list of best overall diets.
Here are some tried-and-true tips from Kopins:
- “You shouldn’t be eating a big bowl of rice or a big bowl of cereal … need to learn to eat in moderation.”
On fruit: “Eat fresh fruits. Don’t drink them. … Fruit is high in sugar, so you can’t eat unlimited amounts.”
On protein: “It’s really important to get good, quality protein.” Lean beef, lean pork, chicken breast, fish and seafood — that’s not breaded, nuts, natural nut butter, beans, eggs and soy are all Kopin-approved.
On meal planning: “A lot of people just don’t take the time to plan their meals at home. If you don’t have a menu, you’re going to be forced to go to fast food and what’s convenient … and your options are going to be limited.”