Seems there has been nothing short of a deluge of paleo diet books coming out lately and most of them are quite good, but one came across my desk that I think will prove exceedingly helpful to folks trying to adopt the paleo lifestyle in a modern world. It’s called Practical Paleo and the name says it all.
Here’s why I think it stands out.
Back when we wrote Protein Power (in 1996) and Protein Power LifePlan (in 2000) we felt that we had laid out exactly why it is important to human health and fitness to follow a diet more in sync with our paleolithic biochemistry. And particularly with the LifePlan, we thought we’d presented a low-carb diet in a way that would allow people to individualize their levels of commitment to making the change from the high-everything-American-diet to one ever closer to the paleolithic ideal, by laying out not just the whys, but the hows in our three levels: Hedonist (only carb restriction), Dilettante (paleo-lite–ie, allowing alcohol, some non-gluten grains, organic dairy, and a little artificial sweetener), and Purist (true paleo low carb.)
We got mountains of letters (email and snail) singing the praises of these two books. People would invariably say ‘Now I understand! I’m convinced! I believe! So tell me what to eat!’ Oddly, we thought we had.
Granted, we didn’t offer specific meal plans in Protein Power; I resisted doing so for years, because treating thousands of patients taught me that one size rarely fits all where personal taste is concerned. I can’t tell you how many ‘I don’t like that’ and ‘I can’t eat that’ comments we’ve gotten over the years, when we worked to help patients devise meal plans for themselves in our practice. For instance, we had one patient years ago, who would eat no sources of protein except shrimp and egg whites.
Bowing to the requests for plans–although I still wanted to give people freedom of choice in what they ate–in the LifePlan, we presented mix and match meal suggestions. Here, the dieter was directed to combine a protein of choice with any of various bundles of fruits, veggies, and (depending on which level of commitment) grains that we had scaled in portion to add up to the recommended carbohydrate intakes for intervention (treatment level), transition, and maintenance living. But the letters kept coming requesting specific meals. Clearly there are many people who want to be taken by the hand and told step by step, meal by meal, what to eat, especially when becoming acquainted with a new way of doing something.
So, in response, in 2003, we wrote The 30-Day Low Carb Diet Solution, which was truly a few pages of science (just the merest gist) and 30 days worth of low carb breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks and the recipes to cook them. (Heads up disclosure: the approach laid out in 30-DLCDS is not paleo. It’s purely and only low carb, which is a great step in the right direction of getting healthier, but not the non plus ultime diet for humans, since it contains neo foods as well.)
But as we have written so often over the last 15 or 20 years, our firm belief is that the closer you come to the paleo diet your ancestors thrived on, the better you’ll thrive. So, for those of you who have been considering going paleo, for those of you who are trying it but not sure about how to make it work for a family, for those who want the practical how-to-do-its, Practical Paleo offers that and more. Diane Sanfilippo gives you 30-day meal plans tailored to meet specific goals, whether you’re aiming for fat loss, to enhance athletic performance, adopt a squeaky clean paleo life style, or recover from illness. The book offers how-to instructions for making your own pro-biotic (fermented) foods, ghee, and bone broth; it includes tear out guides for shopping, and over 120 gluten-, grain-, legume-, dairy-, and refined sugar-free recipes.
All in all it’s a very good book. If I have a quibble with it, it is this: After a couple of decades of hands-on treatment of thousands of overweight and metabolically unbalanced patients (those with diabetes, fatty liver, and the other sequelae of insulin resistance) in our clinics, I firmly believe that the absolute number of carbohydrates–regardless of how ‘natural’ and ‘wholesome’ or ‘paleo’ they might seem–still matters in resolving these issues. Based on that I would argue with her inclusion of sweet potatoes for diabetics, because although there are some nice vitamins and minerals in there, 60 grams of carb at a sitting is still 60 grams of carb and while it might not cause much of a blip in the young and healthy and athletic, my experience is that it will derail blood sugar and insulin control in the metabolically challenged. I might be skeptical of including such concentrated sugar sources as black-strap molasses or pure maple syrup as acceptable sweeteners for folks trying not just to prevent but to turn around a metabolic Armageddon. But these are small points in a really good and helpful resource and one that will do a world of good for people who take it to heart. So give it a look. I think you’ll find it worthwhile.