We have a confession to make. We’re starting to just a little bit hate the word “Paleo”.
The number of Paleo-this and Paleo-that references on web sites, product lines and discussion boards is growing exponentially these days, driven in no small part by the wild success of Robb Wolf’s fantastic new book, The Paleo Solution. And while we’re thrilled that more and more people are hearing the Good Food Word, we’re also more than a bit concerned about the gross overuse (and misuse) of what used to be a very specific label. The term “Paleolithic Diet” as defined by Dr. Loren Cordain represents a very particular way of eating – no grains, no legumes, no dairy, nothing processed or artificial. But in an attempt to cash in on the Paleo bandwagon, the term is now being bandied around by marketers, companies and sales campaigns with little to no regard for the original definition of the word.
Case #1: PaleoBars. The word “Paleo” is right on the label, leading you to believe this is an appropriate “snack bar” for your Paleo diet, right? Flip it over, however, and the first four lines of ingredients (we spared you all nine) include: Maltitol, Nonfat Milk Powder, Whole Milk Powder, Lecithin, Whey Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Concentrate, Rice Protein Concentrate, and Whey Crisps. Not a single Paleo-approved food!
Case #2: This 1996 Le Macchiole Bolgheri Superiore Paleo Rosso table wine. Okay, this one isn’t actually jumping on the Paleo bandwagon, but it was funny so we included it. (This does not mean this wine is Whole30 approved, by the way.)
It’s not just the products that keep popping up – it’s the Paleo-themed web sites and blogs, too. Recipes that promise Paleo fare, but include butter, cream or cheese in their ingredient lists. Blogs that serve up nothing but crappy food choices with shiny Paleo ingredients (like Paleo panackes, Paleo ice cream and Paleo pizza) – meeting your technical Paleo requirements but missing the bus on improving your health. Or sites screaming Atkins-like mantras in an effort to promote the fun side of their Paleo offerings – “Eat all the bacon and almond butter you like, it’s all PALEO!” Good lord, does that even sound healthy?
The trouble here isn’t the occasional splash of heavy cream in a recipe, or the idea of “healthier” dessert options for your next holiday party. It’s that those new to the Paleo concept might just be relying on that word alone to help them make good food choices. And if that is the case, some of these sites, products and marketing campaigns would certainly be steering them in the entirely wrong direction. Our concern? That the word “Paleo” is going to go the way of other food words that sound like they mean something, but are, in many cases, meaningless. Like “all-natural”, “certified humane”, or “organic“. (Click the link, people.)
Of course, not all of the new Paleo products and web sites coming out these days are troublesome. There are some great recipe and resources available on the web – things that will make your transition to a “Paleo” diet easier and more pleasurable. (We’ve got several of them listed on our Resources page, in fact.) But we’d like to caution you – buyer (or reader) beware. Just because a product or web site says “Paleo” doesn’t mean it’s promoting good food choices. Your best bet is to educate yourself on Paleo diet concepts (Dr. Cordain’s site, Robb Wolf’s site and our site are great places to start) and then apply critical thinking when you stumble across a new product, recipe or resource. In addition, we encourage you to practice “mindful eating”, paying attention to not just the technicality of the Paleo diet rules, but the spirit, intentions and goals that are at the root of your nutritional transformation. (Our Whole30 Version 3.0 is a great place to start, by the way… so jump on board today!)
In the meantime, we’ll keep spreading our Good Food Word… but you probably won’t hear us say “Paleo” again for a good number of blog posts. You’re welcome.