Thursday, August 30, 2012

Do I Follow The Paleo Diet?

No, I do not follow the Paleo Diet, because I don't like having rules to follow.

I'll admit it, I do not eat the "perfect diet" based on my personal ChooseMyPlate recommendations. I do, however, follow the USDA Dietary Guidelines very well (I eat 5-6 cups of fruits and vegetables every day, I get at least 3 cups of dairy or dairy alternatives each day, I always choose whole grains, I enjoy a variety of lean meats, fish, and vegetable proteins, I watch my added sugar intake and drink mainly water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages). So what's stopping me from following my personal guidelines based on ChooseMyPlate? In my opinion, the grain recommendation is too high.

I'm not saying the USDA is wrong, and that the supporting research is inaccurate, but for me personally 6 ounces of grain is just too much (I typically eat closer to 2-3 ounces). And why do I think 6 ounces is too much for me?

  • I've been diagnosed as "gluten sensitive" and therefore many of the foods I used to eat have been basically eliminated from my diet (mainly whole wheat bread). I can choose to eat whole grain gluten-free bread, but I'm cheap and I've yet to find one that is worth spending a lot of money on.
  • I would rather get my carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. They make me feel more energized than a bowl of pasta.
  • I love what I eat, and feel great on my current diet. I really don't know how I could fit in anymore grains.....
  • I'm a healthy weight (yeah!) and I do notice that I put more weight on (mainly in the dangerous and not-so-attractive belly) when I eat more grains. Whether this is just from bloating or whether it's because my body more readily turns carbohydrates into fat, I do not know.
The only problem I see in not getting enough grains is the lack of B-vitamins, but let's be honest, most gluten-free breads and pastas are pretty low in B-vitamins anyway, so by adding those to my diet I doubt it would make much of a difference. I do supplement my diet with a B-complex (hence the name "supplement". I am "filling in the gaps", not simply making up for an unhealthy diet). Some might argue I'm also missing out on fiber by not getting enough grains, but I beg to differ. I get close to 25-35 grams each day, based on my calculations (ummmm, hello 5-6 cups of fruits and vegetables!).

As it turns out, my diet is very similar to the Paleo Diet. I was checking out this latest fad diet to see what I thought about it, and it turns out the ratios of fat:carb: protein are very similar to my own. The only difference between the Paleo "FAD DIET" and my own is that that nothing is "off limits" on my diet (the first clue that something is a "fad" is that it makes certain foods and food groups off-limits). If you haven't heard of the Paelo diet, the premise is that you eat like a caveman, or a hunter-gatherer (as we did prior to the Agricultural Revolution). On this diet you feast on animals, eggs, nuts, seeds, vegetables, herbs and spices, and you neglect grains, dairy, and a few other things.

So what are the recommended macronutrient distributions on this diet? The following is from Wikepedia:

According to certain proponents of the Paleolithic diet, practitioners should derive about 56–65% of their food energy from animal foods and 36–45% from plant foods. They recommend a diet high in protein (19–35% energy) and relatively low in carbohydrates (22–40% energy), with a fat intake (28–58% energy) similar to or higher than that found in Western diets.

So, the Paleo diet suggests 19-35% protein, 22-40% carbohydrates, and 28-58% fat.
The USDA DRI Guidelines suggest 10-35% protein, 45-65% carbohydrate, and 20-35% fat for adults. The main differences are more fats, less carbohydrates.

Here are my totals for a typical day, based on MyFitnessPal.

32% protein
37% carbohydrate
35% fat

(I know this doesn't add up to exactly 100%....but I did the math and this is correct.)

Here are my totals on a typical weekend (I eat out more on the weekends, and typically drink one to two alcoholic beverages).

25% protein
34% carbohydrate
35% fat

Based on this I have decided to create my own "Fad Diet" (aka, my typical diet) where nothing is off limits.........

Gina's Fun and Fabulous FAD DIET
(Servings are based on ChooseMyPlate)

1 ounce of whole grain
1/2 cup of vegetable (non-starchy) or fruit (I do pumpkin)
1 cup of Greek yogurt
2 ounces of nuts/nut butter

1 ounce low-fat cheese
1 ounce nut/nut butter
1/2 cup fruit

1 cup vegetable (non-starchy)
1 ounce dehydrated vegetable chips
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 ounce nut/nut butter
1 ounce whole grain

1 cup vegetable (non-starchy)

3-4 ounces protein
2 cups non-starchy vegetable

Night Time Snack
(Or you can add some of this to your afternoon snack)
1 ounce of whole grain
1/2 cup of dairy (I do unsweetened almond milk)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup fruit or vegetable
Dark chocolate (one piece)

TOTALS:3 ounces whole grain, 5.5 cups fruit/vegetable, 3 cups dairy/dairy alternatives, 11-12 ounces protein
(**my ounces of protein are mainly from nuts/nut butters, fish, chicken, pork, and lean beef but I also get a lot of protein from my dairy (Greek yogurt), which doesn't count towards my ounces of protein, it counts towards my dairy intake. My Greek yogurt does count towards my daily protein grams, which is depicted below**)

Macronutrient Breakdown:
32% protein
37% carbohydrate
35% fat

Nothing is OFF LIMITS! Wahoo!
You'll feel GREAT!

Ok, I'm joking, this is not something I recommend, necessarily. It works for me, but it may not work for you. You may read this and think I eat like a crazy women. But hey, I enjoy my diet and everything I eat!

Have you ever done a fad diet? Have you ever tried to follow your personal guidelines from ChooseMyPlate?

Please check out my Food Label Guide "iPhone App" that I am now selling (see the top right corner of my blog). I've been working on this project for a year now and I really hope you find it helpful as you peruse the aisles. Let me know if you have any questions.

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  1. I don't think I've done a fad diet, but I have learned about them and picked out things I like or that really make sense and work for me.
    I think the grain/carb recommendation of the choose my plate is super high for what most people need (sitting at desks all day), so I definitely have that in common with paleo!

    Personally, I don't eat grains because it makes my skin break out instantly (overnight) and gives me brain fog. I miss bread, but I've found substitutions, so I know the consequences of enjoying grains is no longer worth it for me...

    I think the fad diet stuff out there is's kinda like the Dr. Oz supplement thing!!

  2. Hmn, I'm not sure if I think Paleo is a "fad". I think of it more of an eating style. To me a fad is a flash in the pan baby food diet etc. If leaving out a food group is a fad then maybe gluten free is a fad but again it's more than that. Maybe we don't have to set things off limits, as you said, but we can, as you (and commenter above), sort out what works best for us. I'm with you too many grains isn't great I stick to gf oats and starchy veg (some rice). And you're right it doesn't need a label.

  3. I've been doing crossfit for close to a month now and I know they recommend the paleo diet. I am pescetarian and allergic to all nuts and seeds so this is something that isn't for me.

    That being said, I have been trying to increase the amount of fruits and veggies I eat - by a lot! I figure that is the best way to fill me up - I can't imagine giving up beans and grains.

  4. Your "fad diet" looks like one I could actually get behind :-)

    I tried South Beach in college...and it lasted about two days, ha. I'm just not a dieter-- the minute you tell me I can't have something, I want it ALL the more :-)

  5. The only diet that has ever cleared my skin of acne is the paleo diet. If I have a little corn, next day I have major breakouts. Same with wheat, and to some extent, dairy. Butter is fine. Not sure about brown rice, yet.

    I followed similar diet to you for about a year...acne would not go away.

  6. when I was teenager I followed many fad diets, the soup diet as the most extreme one. Nowadays I do my own, just as you, I find what works the best for me. I tried eating more meat but my digestive tracks seem not so friendly with it, so I keep meat at minumum and supplement it with a lot of tofu and soy milk (homemade kind). If I do the calculation, I'd say, I eat 55% carb (mainly vaggies and whole grains), 25% fat and 20% protein. I feel the best this way! :)

  7. Interesting post- I am not into fad diets either. Do you find starchy vegetables bother you or do you avoid them for another reason? Just curious because I love potatoes :)

  8. I really dislike fad diets. They corrupt a person's mind!

    I debate with this guy in church EVERY week. Not because I want to, but well, I can't stop arguing and he can't stop preaching about how carbs is bad for you. He doesn't exactly follow the paleo diet, but the restrictive diet or something like that where he believes carbs is what makes people fat and that it's unnecessary. He now eats like 5% carbs only or something like that and he plans to eat like that forever.

    Kind of forgot about the B-vitamins in grains...I guess they are not the same as the B-12 in meats, right?

    Anyway, I don't even know what and why I'm typing this but it's just the first thought that came to my mind. But I resonated with what you said about how you are happy with the way you eat and feel good doing so. Guess I should just lay off that guy! :-p

  9. You said it best,when you said you love what you eat, and you feel your best on your current diet. I think I eat a little bit more cabs than you, but not as many as I used to eat. Plain carbs do little to fill me up-add in some fa and protein, and my energy is good and my stomach is full. I think the best diet for everyone is a very individual thing!

  10. I've read up on paleo as well. I like a lot of things about it, so I've just adapted it for my lifestyle. More stuff that grows and lives. Less stuff that needs cultivation.

    Reducing my grain based carbs though, has reduced a lot of gassy bloat and uncomfortable bathroom experiences.

  11. The USDA is in the pocket of the grain lobby and that is the reason why the catastrophic Food Pyramid and the slightly-less-worse Plate were/are so grain-heavy. Food subsidies make $$$ for the government and I would take nutrition advice from Roseanne Barr before I'd take it from Uncle Sam.

  12. Thanks for sharing. I agree with you that the grain recommendation is generous. I think what's most important is to listen to our bodies..if something doesn't feel right it might be causing us more harm than good... gluten in the case for people with sensitivity or allergy.

  13. I like your 'fad' diet! Your a good RD :) I rarely get my grain intakes in...I'm a bad RD...and my carb ratio is lower than their recommendations too but it works me. Good post Gina!!!

  14. Great post Gina. I've been meaning to do one on Paleo. I get so irritated with the diets that eliminate food groups. Anyway, I definitely get more carbs in my diet but it works for me. :) I haven't kept track of my diet in so long...I'd be curious to see my percentages.