My daughter and daughter-in-law heartily subscribe to the Paleolithic Diet, also known as the Paleo Diet, the Caveman Diet, or the Stone Age Diet. Of course, Paleolithic humans did not need to diet. Their hunter-gatherer existence required a great deal of physical exertion, and if humans of that prehistoric time saw us exercising on a treadmill, they would probably laugh!
What I like about this food plan is that it is very simple. No need to count calories, carbohydrates or portions. The harder part for most people is that the program recommends eating nothing from a can or box, that is, nothing processed by machines. The foods that are allowed are: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, seaweeds, spices, eggs and all lean animal meats. What is to be avoided are: sugar, salt, dairy, potatoes, corn, legumes (peanuts, all beans, peas) and grains. While early humans had no oils in a jar or brewed coffee, this diet does permit some good oils for cooking, with walnut oil having the best ratio of Omega 6s to Omegas 3s.
As my younger daughter explained to me, there are “Open Meals,” that is, meals which include some of the above foods to avoid, that is, what you ate before starting the Paleo Diet. There are three levels of the diet, which allows three, two, or one open meal each week, depending on which level of compliance is chosen. For example, you can pick two Open Meals a week, perhaps a weekday meal and one week-end meal. In this way, one is not predisposed to binge on a favorite, non-Paleo food. Also, my daughter explained that there are different levels of compliance. Some people on the program may avoid all the non-Paleo foods except cream in their coffee (coffee is an allowed food).
In Loren Cordain’s book, The Paleo Diet, author of The Paleo Diet Cookbook, he notes that to lose weight, Level III is recommended, that is, one Open Meal per week with Paleo Snacks listed on p. 144, which contain such items as: (The entire list has 12 items)
Fresh fruit of any kind
Cold, skinless broiled chicken breast
Avocado or tomato slices
Unsalted sunflower seeds (limit to 4 oz. if trying to lose weight)
2 oz. dried fruit per day
What I like about this book’s approach is that he Dr. (PhD) Cordain discusses the Paleo Diet from a health viewpoint, spending many pages on insulin resistance, exercise, diet-related diseases and other topics besides weight loss. The idea is to eat basic foods that are our genetic predisposition, before agriculture and before highly processed foods such as sugary soft drinks, white bread, factory meats, farmed fish, and deep fried foods.
Since I do not eat meat, but have been experimenting with fresh fish, I am always working my way towards the idea of only fresh, organic whole foods with as little processing as possible. To experiment with this diet, I am adding tempeh* and sprouted chickpeas* for additional protein sources. I am eliminating dairy, potatoes, corn, and grains, except as possibly part of my Open Meals. (*While legumes are not part of the Paleo Diet because they are considered to cause inflammation, tempeh is fermented and I sprout my own chickpeas. I believe that fermentation and sprouting eliminate some of the issues that this diet has with beans.)
I like the premise behind this diet, that is, you can stay slim and healthy by eating the foods that Mother Nature intended. Wild animals did not create the problem we have today of processing the meat with huge amounts of water, fossil fuels, and grains that could be used for human consumption. (If you Google or Bing “Environmental Impact of Animal Production,” you will find many articles on this topic.) As a vegequarian+, I do not readily endorse a meat-based diet, but if you can obtain meat from free-range animals that are not treated with cruelty (ex. baby calves kept in stalls to keep their meat tender for veal), then this may be a good plan for you to explore further.
My daughter-in-law lost 35 pounds on this diet, coupled with her exercise program. (Dr. Cordain explains how exercise alone is generally not enough to lose weight.) Her blood profile is “pristine,” according to her doctor, so I know the diet works as a weight loss program and probably as an overall healthful food plan, because all the food is fresh and prepared with additives, preservative, sugar, etc.
+ My older daughter eats no meat and very little dairy or eggs, but she does eat fish & seafood, so she calls herself a vegequarian. I borrowed this term from her.
Personal Research Note: If you are familiar with the Blood Type Diet, you will know that early humans were blood type O. After Agriculture was developed, the next blood type to develop was A. I believe O blood types do well on meat, while A blood types fare well of a vegetarian or near-vegetarian diet, so I feel comfortable with my diet because I have an A blood type. Most people have O blood type, so they would probably do well on the Paleo Diet.