Ana and I were recently interviewed on our view on the Paleo Diet, which has become quite popular these past couple years. I have seen this first hand working in and being apart of the CrossFit community for 3.5 years now. I followed a Paleo Diet for about 2.5 years but did not find it was sustainable for me and have found the same for many other people I encounter. While we were preparing for the interview we began by looking at the similarities that our nutrition principles have with the Paleo Diet and also at the differences between the two lifestyles. It gave us great perspective and was a nice reminder of what it means to be healthy and how important balance is.
Similarities & Areas of the Paleo Diet That We Value:
- The exclusion of processed foods. At Practical Nutrition we encourage our clients to avoid processed and prepackaged foods as much as possible. The focus should always be on food in its most natural form possible as often as possible. If your great great grandmother wouldn’t eat it… neither should you!
- The source of our food matters. Many people that embrace a Paleo lifestyle begin to learn about the source of their food and try to get cage free eggs, grassfed meat, and wild caught seafood. We think everyone should be aware of where their food comes from and try to choose the healthiest and most sustainable source.
- The Paleo Diet tends to be higher in protein and fat than the Standard American Diet (SAD), and it sure is sad. The average American gets more than 55% of their calories from carbohydrates, which are most likely from added sugar and refined processed carbs (bread, chips, baked goods, soda). We believe a healthy diet needs a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat that fit your goals and activity level. This higher level of protein helps reserve muscle tissue and also increases gut absorption of Calcium.
- Gut integrity and health is a major focus of the Paleo approach. The entire point of restricting grains, dairy, and legumes is the premise that they can cause inflammation in our digestive system. The majority of our immune system is found in our digestive tract, which is a pretty good reason to make sure it is healthy.
- Fermented foods are a staple in a healthy diet. Many people have never heard of fermented foods and are unaware of their benefits. Fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut all contain healthy bacteria that are needed by our gut. These bacteria provide a balanced and healthy environment in our digestive system and improve immune system health.
- We especially appreciate the fact that the Paleo lifestyle doesn’t just focus on food but also places emphasis on sleep, stress, and exercise. We always try to encourage our clients to include regular exercise into their schedules, which can be hard with busy lifestyles but we know how important it is for energy, sleep quality, and long term health in general. Sleep is always a big topic in our offices. We stress the importance of getting adequate sleep and often come up with different nutritional protocols and lifestyle factors to improve sleep.
What Sets Us Apart:
- At Practical Nutrition we encourage eating every 2-3 hours to maintain stable blood sugars. This also allows us to eat smaller meals and not overload our systems with too many carbohydrates, protein, or fat at once. Most Paleo programs encourage eating 3 meals a day without snacking. We have found that this does not work for many people, however, meal frequency is always based on the individual. We experiment and find what works best for them and helps them meet their goals.
- We put more of an emphasis on getting a variety of foods in order to get a variety of different nutrients. We do not exclude all grains, dairy, and legumes so this helps our clients achieve a variety. We do avoid gluten so we encourage gluten free grains such as all types of rice, quinoa, millet, spelt, and buckwheat for people that are active. We always encourage people to pair their gluten free grains with a protein in order to keep blood sugar levels stable. We recommend getting the majority of your carbohydrates from fruits and starchy vegetables like beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and carrots.We also emphasize buying organic dairy products that are at least 1-2% fat if you tolerate dairy.
- One practical tip we share with our clients to provide balance is to eat twice as many vegetables as fruit.
- At Practical Nutrition we also focus on portion sizes. We help people learn how much food their bodies need to support their lifestyle and goals. This creates a balance of macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat that improves energy, mood, sleep, and overall long term health.
- Another major difference between our approach and the Paleo Diet is the importance that we place on detoxifying the body on a regular basis and making sure the liver is healthy. We understand the vital role the liver plays in overall health and promote foods that improve and maintain proper liver function. Liver friendly foods include: beets, brussel sprouts, leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and swiss chard, asparagus, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower.
- Lastly, we leave room for enjoying food. We live in modern society with food and beverages that are apart of our culture. We give people the tools they need to be successful in everyday life. We all are put in difficult situations to make food choices during the holidays, warmer months when there are always a lot of parties and events, and especially on vacation. We believe that being able to have a balance of healthy eating and indulgence while still working toward your goals is the key to long term success and health.
Ana and I had a great time discussing all of the areas we appreciate from the Paleo Diet and lifestyle and comparing them to our own. We both agreed that the Paleo approach can be a great place to start a new healthy lifestyle but that it is not always the best place to stay for everyone. It was great to be reminded of how different nutritional approaches can benefit people in a number of ways so we wanted to share this with all of you.
As always, stay well, eat well and have a beautiful day!
Amanda and Ana