Here are some thoughts I have about what I think I know about food. I say that because apparently at any one time 50% of what scientists “know” is wrong and so, inevitably, much of what I “know” may well not stand the test of time. I try to be mindful of this and therefore to remain open to new knowledge and research. (I don’t succeed 100% of the time, but I do circle back to this place… .)
Do we “eat Paleo”?
I usually say, when asked how we eat, that we follow a “Paleo template” or that we “just eat real food”. The problem with the latter is that it can mean so many different things to people that it sometimes seems virtually meaningless. And of course the problem with using “Paleo” is that people will jump to conclusions and assume you do or don’t do things based on what they understand of that term.
Nevertheless, at the present time, using a combination of these terms (“Paleo” and “Real Food”) are the best ways I have to describe what we’re doing on the nutrition side of things.
What is “Paleo” and Paleo 2.0?
For me – “Paleo” is a template, a base from which we experiment to figure out what works best for us. Much of the actual food we eat now was not available in Paleolithic times. Eating Paleo – particularly what is referred to as “Paleo 2.0” therefore for me means eating a sustainable, nutrient dense, toxin-free, whole-foods based diet that emphasizes animal protein and fats, starchy & non-starchy vegetables, fermented foods, raw dairy (when tolerated) and fruit, nuts & seeds (in moderation).
But it’s just easier to say ‘Paleo’.
When I say “Paleo” I don’t mean that we’re particularly “low carb” or necessarily LCHF – low carb high/healthy fat. (Although in comparison to to a standard western diet we’re certainly eating more fat and less carbohydrates.) Nor do I mean that we’re eating a high meat diet. Rather it’s a diet that emphasises vegetables. Not for nothing is the hashtag “more vegetables than a vegetarian” popular in the paleo-sphere. We also eat some fruit – we just don’t go overboard with it.
So do we eat dairy, grains and legumes?
We’re currently experimenting with dairy, but in principle I would advocate for eating full fat dairy (if tolerated). We don’t eat legumes or grains at this time but I’m not going to say to anyone that it isn’t possible they could not survive or even thrive on these foods. What I would say is though is that:
From all I’ve read, removing grains, dairy and legumes from your diet for a period of time and then potentially reintroducing them to see how they affect you makes sense to me.
But we’re all different – that’s why it’s called a “template” – so it’s not about rigid rules for everyone but rather about experimenting and figuring out what works best for the individual.
What about fasting and ketogenic diets?
I believe that using tools like intermittent fasting or following a ketogenic diet can be extremely helpful in assisting with various conditions but that these methods are not a good fit for everyone and that even for those that they do work for – they’re likely to work optimally when used as a temporary tool rather than a way of eating each and every day for the long term. But again it’s an individual thing.
What’s a good starting place?
Now of course, I’m not formally qualified in food. I’m a lawyer so you probably want to run a million miles! But for what it’s worth here are my thoughts on a good starting place for health and wellness in respect of nutrition:
1. Do your very best to limit your intake of processed foods.
2. As much as you can increase your intake of unprocessed foods.
3. If anything isn’t working for you then take steps to understand the issue and make changes !
4. Enjoy your food. Make family mealtimes about more than just the food.
5. Don’t get caught up in dogma. There is no one way. No one truth.
6. Keep questioning. Keep learning. Keep an open mind.
7. And remember: It starts with food but it’s impossible to achieve optional wellness without good sleep and stress management. You might have heard the expression “you can’t out exercise a bad diet” which I consider accurate. But equally true is that a great diet cannot make up for poor sleep and chronic stress. Check out our page on Our Whole9+ for more on this!