Make No Mistake About It! Common Paleo Mistakes You May Be Making
Over the last decade, I’ve seen more interesting permutations of the Paleo Diet than I care to remember.
The idea of this outstanding manner of eating is simply to mimic what our ancestors ate with foods readily available to us in our farmer’s markets, grocery stores, and even our own backyards. It’s an anti-inflammatory, balanced plan with a focus on what is in season, what’s local, and what’s wild, fresh, and unadulterated.
But when you look at all the information out there from all the blogs, websites, and mainstream media, Paleo can get really, really confusing.
It may have started out as a misinterpretation or exaggeration of the idea of being 100% Paleo, 85% of the time. It may have then grown by leaps and bounds because, as with anything labeled as a hot, new eating approach, there’s a huge opportunity to jump on the bandwagon. We saw it first with a vegan diet and then with gluten-free eating, and now we’re seeing it with the Paleo approach; as if by slapping on those labels, the packaged cookies, brownies, and breads are suddenly something to partake of each and every day.
When someone truly follows a true Paleo diet and then chooses to test one non-Paleo food at time to gauge reaction (I recommend after at least one month), this allows them to create their own version of a mostly Paleo diet. And mostly Paleo is a lot better than not Paleo at all!
They key, however, is the principles of true Paleo living must be implemented for that critical first month, otherwise you’ll never really know what Paleo did for you because, in effect, you never really tried it.
And, when a new client approaches me and cries in desperation that they tried Paleo and it didn’t work, chances are they likely made one of the following very common mistakes:
1. FOOD SWAP
Working backward from the Standard American Special, trying to replace ingredients to create foodstuff that’s simply not good for us.
A day starting off with Paleo pancakes with honey, a mid morning snack of a homemade date and cashew bar, a lunch of a BLT on Paleo bread, another homemade date bar in the afternoon and a dinner of almond-flour noodles and chicken breaded with coconut flakes does not count as a Paleo day. Gluten free and dairy free, yes, but still not fresh, not unprocessed, and not helpful with weight loss, mental focus, clearer skin, or anything other than trying to fool yourself that you’re not implementing an eating approach that’s too different from what you’ve been doing…which is what got you into trouble in the first place!
2. BALANCING ACT
You may not be balancing macronutrients.
Are bananas Paleo? Yes, but eating three as a snack when you’re sitting at your desk makes zero sense. High in sugar, with no fat or protein, this is indeed an extreme example of not making sure to eat all three macros (protein, fat and carbs), the latter of which should come primarily from leafy greens. While there’s a time and place to skew the macronutrient ratios, such as when implementing more of a ketogenic approach, the single most important thing is to train the body to be better equipped to use fat as its fuel. Downing fruit all day long is a huge Paleo mistake. Up the fat, up the greens, up the proteins and keep the fruit with its sugar, natural as it may be, on hold for a dessert now and then or as part of recovery from a long workout.
3. STUCK IN A RUT
How much variety is in your diet?
Love your kale? Great! Eating it every day, at every meal? Even I, someone who may very well be one of the biggest kale pushers ever, must advise clients that there is such thing as too much. Eating too many crucifers and not eating enough iodine to balance out the high sulfur content can compromise thyroid function over time. Because of this, eating seaweed is key, as it’s an excellent source of iodine. This is simply one example of why not to make the Paleo mistake of letting yourself get stuck in any type of food rut where you’re eating the same two veggies, proteins, and fats day in and day out. Go for variety as much as possible and make it a goal to have all the colors of the rainbow grace your plate over the course of a day, or at least over the week!
4. SWEET TOOTH
Overdoing the ‘treats’ and nuts.
Anniversary? Make some truffles! A child’s birthday? Sure, go ahead and bake that gluten-free cake. Given the plethora of Paleo recipe sites and cookbooks, it’s far too easy to go nuts with nuts or treats. Reserve treats for special occasions, as they’re still high in sugar and still rather refined. And nuts! They’re easy; no preparation is needed and they taste good. But chomping away handful after handful from that vat of Costco mixed nuts is a Paleo mistake. Remember, all nuts are high in Omega 6s, low in Omega 3s and simply not meant to be a go-to fat source. Focus on wild fish and fish oil, avocado, coconut oil, olive oil and fat from wild animals as your main sources of fats.
5. WORKING AGAINST THE CLOCK
Not giving it enough time.
For some conditions, like acne, you may see improvements in a very short period of time – even within a week! And for those with a significant amount of weight to lose, the first week can also be tremendous. But for anyone with an autoimmune condition, changes can take significantly longer to take effect, making the process even more challenging. Don’t make a Paleo mistake and fall prey to some of the newer supplements whose advertising suggests that ‘if Paleo isn’t working for you, you may need X tablet.’ Give it time, make sure you’re following the True Paleo approach and know that it’ll all be worth it in the end!
If you’ve read the work of the real experts, such as Dr. S. Boyd Eaton and Dr. Loren Cordain and need just a little bit of clarification of ‘how to’, you must check out my meal planning app. Spelled out for you to the letter, it’s like having an expert on call right on your smart phone!
I would like to find out more about your app – how it works – info shared – but firstly am interested in how seasonal the menu/food suggestions are. I am a stickler for seasonality and I don’t like to see strawberries and cucumbers on a fall menu or butternut squash on a spring-summer menu (which I recently had as an experience on another Paleo menu plan that was supposed to be seasonal).
Thank you. I would love to hear a response!
Thanks for your interest. The meal plans are sold using the mobile and web app and are specific to all the different demographics as indicated by the plans. It’s meant to be a guide to show how to combine proteins with veg and fat in order to achieve the proper macro nutrient ratio and food timing as it relates to exercise in those plans. Seasonal plan coming soon but for the moment, one can easily exchange veggies, fruits and proteins with whichever are available in their area using the food log function. Hope that helps!