Diet fads come and go, but the paleo diet has proven to have surprising staying power. Or maybe it’s not surprising at all. Unlike other diet trends which require dieters to jump through hoops and purchase a pantry full of supplements, the paleo diet is mostly about self-control and common sense. For the uninitiated, a paleo diet promotes the idea that we should eat like our ancient ancestors, relying almost entirely on meats, nuts and berries for sustenance. That means no dairy, grains or processed foods. Although the idea of eating like a caveman has been around … well, since the cavemen, it was popularized by Loren Cordain in his 2002 book “The Paleo Diet.” Like every diet, there are pros and cons to surrendering to the paleo-lifestyle, and even if you aren’t ready to completely abandon milk, bread and sugar, a little knowledge can go a long way. Here are three things you might want to know before deciding if the paleo diet is right for you.
The Paleo Diet Emphasizes Fresh Food
There is an ongoing argument over the purported health benefits of the paleo diet, but most experts do agree about one thing: It places the focus back on fresh, simple food. It’s hard to argue with the idea of eating more vegetables, fruits and raw nuts. This is especially true if you’re replacing a processed snack like a candy bar or potato chips with an apple or a handful of roasted almonds. That said, the absence of whole grains and legumes means you do run the risk of missing out on a whole subset of important nutrients. A vitamin supplement is definitely recommended for those considering strict adherence to the paleo diet. But here’s the greatest thing about any diet plan: It’s a plan, not a law.
It’s All About Balance
One of the biggest complaints about the paleo diet is that it requires a constantly watchful eye on what foods you’re putting in your mouth. If you are the kind of person who likes to cook and is willing to plan your weekly meals in advance, this is less of a problem. But if you like to wing it and eat out a lot, then sticking to a paleo diet can be a bit of a pain. Although restaurants do offer gluten-free options which can meet all of the paleo requirements, it can be very difficult to find menu items that don’t have some dairy (especially cheese) or whole grains. If you are sticking to a strict paleo diet, then you need to have some discipline. Always keep a snack with you to supplement the limited options at local eateries. Better yet, invest in a food dehydrator, which transforms your favorite meats and fruits into delicious, easy-to-carry snacks. It’s the best way to avoid a “paleo-drought.”
An Active Lifestyle is Recommended
The paleo diet leads to weight loss by cutting a lot of carbohydrates and processed sugars out of your daily menu. However, this plan can backfire if you don’t lead an active lifestyle. Carbohydrates provide the body with a readily-available source of energy, so a low-carb diet can leave you feeling sluggish. It’s important to counteract this feeling from day one by staying active. You also want to give your body a chance to process high-protein, cholesterol-rich foods like meat and eggs. Most diets are a balance of conscious eating habits and physical fitness. The paleo diet is no exception.