Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Paleo Dilemma

Let me start off this post with a disclaimer. I am not a “paleo guy” by any means. Nutrition is not only an extremely complex issue, it is a highly emotive subject as can be seen bythe online spats between the different food camps (vegans vs paleo vs vegetarians vs high carb low fat vs atkins vs zone etc etc).

Why must it all be so confusing?

As a member of the CrossFit community, I have had a lot of exposure to the paleo diet. I think a paleo diet makes great sense for health, can be very effective for weight loss and teaches people the value of eating real food as opposed to processed junk, but I’m not 100% convinced that it is the optimal solution for the performance athlete.

I also don’t want to be one of those paleo nazis. I’m really not bothered what anybody else eats and I will never be the guy shooting daggers at colleagues or clients if they order a beer or dessert at a restaurant. I just don’t care that much and I’d rather see people think for themselves, experiment and find out what works best for them.

Just like strength and conditioning, I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all solution.

I'd like a steak cooked in olive oil please, not vegetable oil. I'll have that with a side of veggies instead of potatoes, but please don't chop them with the same knife you used to cut bread and I don't want the veggies to be contaminated... DON'T BE THAT GUY!

Nonetheless, I have a 4-month old daughter who will be weaned soon, and I would like her to follow paleo nutrition principles for as long as possible. This has posed a little more tricky than I anticipated, both in terms of finding good alternatives to breast milk and communicating my plan to the family.

My daughter is currently being nursed, so no problems there. I don’t think you can get any more paleo than good old breast milk. My partner will return to work in a few weeks and won’t breast feed any more, which brings problem number one. We will have to put her onto formula for a while, and my partner has been looking at various options. She came back home the other day with some organic formula, which according to the lady in the shop is the “best stuff on the market”.

I had a quick look at the ingredients, which were chesnuts (organic of course), maltodextrin and maltose. I could rant for pages about food companies and how they sell to the public, but this organic stuff is beyond a joke. Maltodextrin and maltose are basically sugars, and whether they are organic sugars or not, they are still pretty much crap.

Thankfully Nabisco have our health interests at heart, which is why they released this range of low fat and reduced calorie oreos

The Weston Price Foundation have some interesting recipes for making home made formula using raw cow’s milk, which is readily available in the area, but that leads to problem number two which I didn’t anticipate, communication.

There is no way in hell that my partner would let me give raw cow’s milk to our daughter, because it is “dangerous”. The argument goes that all milk is pasteurised for a reason, so raw milk must be dangerous. I don’t believe that there is a significant risk in giving her raw milk, but I admit that making home made formula is complicated and I wouldn’t want to mess it up, so we will use formula until she is weaned. It’s not the best solution, but it will have to do as a stopgap.

The raw milk issue has proved to be the tip of the iceberg in terms of informing various family members of the paleo plan. I have had several conversations with family members that go something like this:

Me: I want to wean her as soon as possible so we can get her onto real food, meat, fruits and vegetables.

Family member: You should start off with rice. That is what doctors recommend and how we did it.

Me: Actually I don’t want to give her any grains. I think she will be fine with meat, fruit and veggies.

Family member: I don’t think that is a good idea. If you don’t give her rice or something similar, she will not be getting all the nutrients she needs. Plus, that is what doctors recommend and everyone does it.

Me: I disagree. In fact, I can show you a comparison of a diet with and without grains (courtesy of Robb Wolf) and the diet without grains provides far more nutrient density, well in excess of daily recommendations.

Family member: You want to put her on that paleo diet, don’t you? I think it is a bad idea to put a child on a low carb diet.

Me (starting to get slightly irritated): It is not a low carb diet. Have a look at how it works out in terms of macronutrients. It is far from low carb.

Family member: Yes, but she is not getting all the nutrients she needs, plus she needs energy from carbohydrates.

Me: Have a look again at this example. Plenty of energy in the form of calories and carbs and more (!) nutrients than in the grain based version.

Family member: Well, I think this all sounds quite dangerous. Everyone else I know gives their children rice when they are weaned and they are just fine.

Me: I’m sure they are, and I’m sure she would be fine too. But I want her to be better than fine and give her a diet which is optimal, not a diet on which she can just be fine.

Family member: It still sounds dangerous to me, I don’t like it.

Me: All I’m proposing is to give her real food. What can be so dangerous about that?

Family member: She will miss out on nutrients. It’s like that protein powder and creatine you take. It’s not natural at all and I’ve read in (insert generic fashion/lifestyle magazine name here) that it is very dangerous and leads to kidney failure.

Me: aarrrgghhh!

I may be exaggerating slightly for comic effect, but that’s more or less how the conversations go. I never would have anticipated that I would have a fight on my hands to give my daughter nothing more than real food.

How dare you want to feed this to your daughter!!

I’m really not an expert on nutrition by any stretch of the imagination. But I am very interested in the subject, have done some reading and personal experimentation, and consider myself to be reasonably well informed. But up against the “well everybody does it so it must be ok” argument, that all counts for nought. 

If anyone has any tips on how to best inform people of this crazy plan on how to feed my daughter, all advice would be welcome!