Paleo is Printed on the Label but…

89 Comments

 

(Cartoon by Mike Lynch. Used with permission)

The Paleo lifestyle is getting BIG and so is the market for ‘’Paleo” convenience foods and snacks.  There are paleo bars, paleo treats, paleo cookies, paleo granola – you name it.  Now granted, I wasn’t around to know for sure but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Paleolithic man did not have the luxury of rolling into 7-11 and grabbing a quick snack.  We’ve got it easy compared to our ancestors and while, for the most part, that’s a good thing it can lead to some major problems.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received food logs that look something like this:

Breakfast: Paleo Pancakes (made with coconut flour), Almond Butter (on top of pancakes), Bacon

Lunch: Salad with chicken, dried cranberries, walnuts and balsamic dressing

Dessert: Paleo cookie

Snack: Coconut water, Paleo energy bar or paleo banana bread, Handful of almonds

Dinner: Steak, Sweet Potato with butter, Broccoli

Dessert: Paleo brownie

Okay, so yep, this person is eating a seemingly paleo friendly diet – but he or she is likely not seeing earth shattering results.  Why?  Well, like they say – “You can paint a turd gold, but it’s still a turd.”  A cookie is always a cookie, a pancake is always a pancake, and sugar (whether it be honey, agave, or coconut nectar/sugar) is still sugar; and the body is going to treat it as such.  Now, don’t get me wrong, ingredients matter too – gluten, dairy, and soy free are important, and it’s perfectly okay to indulge and enjoy a ‘treat’ – sometimes.  The problem comes in justifying a paleo snack or sweet as a daily, totally innocent (like meat and vegetables) food, while expecting to see major body composition and/or health improvements.  Nutrient density matters.  Steak and vegetables are going to do a lot more for you nutritionally than any bar, cookie or ‘healthy’ paleo treat.

To help drive this point home below are the nutrition fact labels of two food items.  One of them has ‘paleo’ printed on the label and the other doesn’t.  And yes, the ingredients in one are much purer, but from a nutritional standpoint is one really that much better than the other?  And can you figure out which is which?

Product #1 Product #2
Serving Size 50.7 grams 56 grams
Calories 250 260
Total Fat (grams) 12 g 14 g
Saturated Fat (grams) 9 g 1 g
Cholesterol (mg) 5 mg 0 mg
Sodium (mg) 100 mg 0 mg
Total Carbohydrate (grams) 33 g 30 g
Fiber (grams) 1 g 2 g
Sugar (grams) 24 g 26 g
Protein (grams) 2 g 6 g
Vitamin A (% Daily Value) 0% 0%
Vitamin C (% Daily Value) 0% 0%
Calcium (%Daily Value) 4% 2%
Iron (% Daily Value) 2% 4%

So here’s the take-home message –  80 to 90 percent of the time eat the good stuff: meats, vegetables, good fats, some fresh fruit.  Reserve (paleo or otherwise) pancakes, cookies, bars, etc, for times of indulgence and don’t be fooled by the seemingly innocent appearance of a ‘paleo’ treat.  Gold turds will do you no favors!

** Product #1 = Twix Bar**

**Product #2 = Paleo Cookie**

 

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  1. Chris Pine
    March 2, 2012 at 1:11 am

    So my diet of Paleo Twinkies isn’t going to turn me into a lean tough caveman?

    • Amy Kubal
      March 2, 2012 at 5:48 am

      Not without some divine intervention! ;)

  2. Bill Strahan
    March 2, 2012 at 6:27 am

    Proving ONCE AGAIN the value of a food log. Any time someone tells me they just can’t seem to lose weight, I tell them to keep a food log of everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) that they eat for at least 30 days.

    It seems strange to me that these same people will tell me weeks, months, or years later how they are not losing weight, can’t lose weight, whatever. I ask if they ever kept a food log for 30 days. They say no, and that ends the conversation for me.

    The person described in your article is at least keeping a log, and now they can be made aware that the “Paleo Perfect” gold star they thought they earned is in reality a diet that needs some tweaking. All hail the humble food log.

    And when you get the results you want, chunk the log if you’d like. I’m not advocating an OCD dieting life, just the necessary tool to dial in the diet when it’s not working.

    Thanks for the rant-trigger. ;)

    • Amy Kubal
      March 2, 2012 at 6:35 am

      Amen Bill! Personal awareness and responsibility has something to do with it! And, I specialize in rant-triggers!! ;)

    • Tina
      April 5, 2013 at 4:20 pm

      So true about the food log. Before going paleo i was doing this food log app thing and it broke your calories down into groups so come to find out i was getting equal amts carbs and fats and only 9% protein so no wonder i felt crappy! They are good tools to get started or when you are slipping. The rest of the time shelve the food log and enjoy life!

  3. Andrea@simplylivinghealthy.org
    March 2, 2012 at 7:07 am

    Great information! I LOVE the comparison chart of the candy bar and paleo cookie…things like that can be real eye-openers, especially for those new to this lifestyle. It takes time to learn that just because the ingredients are paleo it doesn’t always mean the end product will be nourishing your body which hopefully is the goal for everyone. But again, there is always a time and place for treats…just NOT three times a day as indicated above in the food diary log!

  4. Brian Smothers
    March 2, 2012 at 8:07 am

    I think there is a natural tendency for people to try to find “substitutes” for the types of food they are addicted to. The problem is not only the food but also the mindset. I LOVE sugar. That love got me to 55 lbs over weight, sleep apnea, chronic back pain and asthma at the ripe old age of 35. Since finding Paleo through Rob Wolf’s podcast and book I dealt with my addictive relationship with toxic food, lost 55lbs in 3 months and haven’t taken ANY medication in 8 months now. Sure I crave a quick sugar snack from time to time but the problem now is, I know what that crap does to me! In my opinion “Paleo” snacks that come wrapped in a need little package and last for months on a shelf are wolves in Sheep’s clothing. People who are eating these things haven’t gotten the message yet and they haven’t truly committed to walk away from their addictions. Kind of reminds me of the “Atkins Bar”. This stuff is just an illusion!

  5. V King
    March 2, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Thanks for this post. I have been struggling with this issue this week. I have been Paleo for 45 days now. I am 5’2 and have gone from a size 12 to a size 8 with limited exercise. While I am happy with this progress I wonder if it could be even better (more visible fat loss/muscle definition) if I eliminate my daily Everyday Paleo Apple Muffin. I make a batch every Sunday because they are a great grab and go snack. My daily menu generally looks like this:
    Breakfast- 2 eggs scrambled in coconut oil and bacon; maybe some blueberries or strawberries
    Lunch – Grass-fed or pastured meat and veggies with rosemary oil
    Snack – Paleo Apple muffin
    Dinner – if I eat…..Grass-fed or pastured meat and veggies with olive or rosemary oil
    I KNOW I could see better results if I get more activity in….but I’m just sayin’, do I need to kick my one-a-day paleo muffin habit?

    • Amy Kubal
      March 2, 2012 at 10:32 am

      If your goal is weight loss and leaning out trade the muffin for some protein, veggies, and fat. Try a once a week muffin instead of a once a day muffin! :)

      • V King
        March 2, 2012 at 10:41 am

        Thanks, Amy. I can do that. I guess I’ll freeze this week’s batch :-)

        • Amy Kubal
          March 2, 2012 at 11:18 am

          Good call!! :) Let me know how you progress!!

  6. Jerry Nolan
    March 2, 2012 at 10:20 am

    This is great information. What we already knew with the necessary details. Thanks

  7. Terese
    March 2, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Great article, Amy. Sticking to whole foods with only 1 ingredient (like “contains grass fed beef”) or you can tell what it is by looking at it (broccoli) is the way to go!

  8. hellz cool
    March 2, 2012 at 10:37 am

    sweet, Twix is health food!

  9. Eric anondson
    March 2, 2012 at 10:44 am

    So you’re saying a twix bar is a little more “Paleo” than a Paleo cookie?

    Kidding!

  10. M
    March 2, 2012 at 10:47 am

    “Sugar is still sugar.” So true! I learned this after hitting a plateau and doing a little macro nutrient logging. Lo and behold, once I got rid of the paleo cookies and sugar laced treats, I was good to go again.

  11. frugalportland
    March 2, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Also, it’s simply easier to make a roast and veggies than to figure out how to make something with coconut flour taste… good.

    • Amy Kubal
      March 2, 2012 at 2:32 pm

      GREAT POINT!!! :)

    • YouSaidIt
      March 2, 2012 at 4:41 pm

      “how to make something with coconut flour taste… good.”

      Absolutely. If I wanted to eat dry flavorless fiber, I’d go out to the part and munch on the dead leaves.

  12. AN
    March 2, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Interesting, I guessed #1 was the paleo product from all the saturated fat!

  13. sophie
    March 2, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    yes, me too! you’d think that a paleo cookie would not be afraid of saturated fat. but then it’s the twix- probably thinking that’s an image problem because boohoosaturatedfat.

    i have to say, i don’t see the problem with pancakes.. or maybe you’re thinking of something different than i do. i actually think eggs scrambled with shredded coconut and fried in ghee or coconutoil is the perfect breakfast.

    but there’s always room to follow the instructions but get it all wrong..

  14. Jen
    March 3, 2012 at 8:05 am

    Love the info…great wake up call. My question is are you just referring to the premade stuff or the kind of treats you make at home? I sweeten a lot of the time with dates or ripe bananas. I try not to over do it but, I am a woman and have my PMS moments. I have been paleo since Oct. and lost about 6 pounds. I would like to shed about 6 more. I am very active and fit. Any suggestions? How do you feel about fasting and how should I do it correctly?

    • Robb Wolf
      March 3, 2012 at 11:00 am

      Jen-
      We have a post on intermittent fasting coming up. If you want to lean out the suspects are carbs and sleep.

      • Jen
        March 4, 2012 at 8:18 am

        Sleep is difinitely the one thing I need to improve one. On average, I only get 5 to 6 hours. I am realy going to work on this and watch my carb intake.
        I love this site and what all of you are tring to achieve here. You humor is a great plus as well. All of you guys are a wonderful inspiration. I am looking forward to the intermittent fasting post!

        Thanks again,

        Jen

    • Amy Kubal
      March 3, 2012 at 11:01 am

      Jen, all of the above – a cookie is a cookie, made at home or in a factory. Again, every once and a while is most likely fine, just don’t fall into the trap of believing that it’s all innocent. A cookie and spinach will never be on the same level… As far as your weight goals – stick to protein, veggies and good fats. Fasting is complicated – it’s great in some situations but not for all. If you need some help figuring it all out let me know! http://www.robbwolf.com/consulting/amy-kubal-consulting/

      • Jen
        March 4, 2012 at 8:06 am

        Thank you for the quick reply. I just need to start a food diary and see what I can improve one. If I don’t see the results that I want, I definitely will be contacting you for one on one consulting. I am at normal weight now (5’7″ 136# with a muscular built)…just want to shed a few more pounds of body fat.

        Thanks again,

        Jen

        • Amy Kubal
          March 4, 2012 at 12:11 pm

          Sounds great Jen! Really work on that sleep piece! It’s a huge factor – unfortunately you can’t fix everything with food – close but not quite! ;)

  15. Robert
    March 6, 2012 at 7:26 am

    What about artificial sweeteners? I know they are not kosher for cavemen, but they are my only weakness. My current goals are limited to controlling my blood sugar, and improving my depression. I want to ramp it up soon to trim down my 140 lbs of weakling body. I eat a couple of cookies made with splenda nut butter, and eggs, or nut bars made with mixed nuts,nut butter, coco powder,and splenda. They don’t appear to mess with my sugar as much as squash or potatoes which I eat less often.

    • Richard Terry
      April 5, 2013 at 4:20 pm

      Splenda is not a good choice, try stevia or truvia.

  16. Marie
    March 6, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    When I have a sugar craving, I have a spoonful of coconut oil instead. It will often alleviate the cravings. Sometimes I’ll prepare a mug of stevia flavored hot chocolate.

    I’ve done Atkins, but what derailed my progress was the inclusion of processed low carb foods, such as Atkins shakes, candy bars, etc. Though low carb, they contained many additives, coloring, artificial flavors and such. The addition of these exitotoxins made me feel anxious, irritable, and “not quite right”, even though the carb count was correct.

    That’s what hit the mark with paleo for me. The minimal amount of processing and whole foods approach is what made the difference.

    • Helen
      April 5, 2013 at 10:13 pm

      Marie, I’ve done a high protein diet in the past similar to Atkins, and they recommended when you have a sugar craving, to try protein instead, as our bodies confuse protein cravings for a sugar craving. I thought it all sounded kooky, until I had PMS and was craving sugar – had a lovely steak and the craving was all gone.

  17. rob
    March 6, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Its like the whole “organic” and “natural” label, most of the time its bunk

  18. Christina
    March 8, 2012 at 3:20 am

    I must admit, your reaction made me LOL. :)

  19. Maryann
    March 8, 2012 at 9:30 am

    lmao @ Gold Turd!

  20. Anne Fava
    March 8, 2012 at 11:14 am

    I am dealing with the same issues, but can not lose the weight! What was your daily menu? Any tips? I can not figure out why I have not lost 1 pound in 2 months. Thanks

    • Amy Kubal
      March 8, 2012 at 2:18 pm

      Anne!! There are a lot of factors that play into weight loss!! Yes, tweaking the food – portions, etc often is huge, but also consider your sleep, stress, training and overall health status. I would love to help you get it all figured out!! Let me know what I can do! http://www.robbwolf.com/consulting/amy-kubal-consulting/

  21. Helen
    March 9, 2012 at 8:05 am

    I make paleo treats mostly for my child who is on a ketogenic paleo diet for epilepsy and ADHD, but we are both low-carb/paleo. I make sure treats are low carb and high in fat. Low carb friends and Atkins for Seizures yahoo group are good sites to find healthy snack recipes (or ones that can be tweaked to be paleo). My child also gets some Xylitol gum instead of candy from his treasure box at school. We use a lot of flax to get texture and fat in. Not ideal but the best way I have found to deal with the situation. I also make and freeze green smoothies and add fats like coconut cream for a quick breakfast.

    I also find it necessary to log all new foods. If it’s a food I have logged before and I know it has good macronutrient ratios then we can just eat it. And I also use urine ketone strips after eating new foods to make sure they are not getting rid of our hard-won ketosis, which is easier when I don’t have time to log a new food.

  22. Teri
    March 9, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Great article! I think the rule should be… if you look at your food and you have to rely on a label to tell you what’s in it, you don’t eat it. You never have to guess if you eat protein, fresh vegetables & fresh fruit.

    Paleo cookies…lol Just sayin’.

  23. Armida Beierschmitt
    March 15, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    I enjoyed reading this article, thanks for all the great information. I’m not a great wakeboarder but I like to do it when I’m out on the water. I don’t last very long because my quads and back really start to hurt. I will have to work on my hips and core for more balance and flexibility to help overall.

  24. Samson
    March 16, 2012 at 3:14 am

    Am i wrong or was my link showing that paleobrands in which robb himself is involved sells cookies deleted?
    http://store.paleobrands.com/store/pc/home.asp

    Not that there is anything wrong with this but i thought in the interest of full disclosure it should be mentioned.

    • Robb Wolf
      March 17, 2012 at 9:51 am

      this is in my BIO…what’s you point on this? Not aware of anything being deleted. When I check your ISP this is the only post I have for you.

      • Samson
        March 17, 2012 at 4:51 pm

        no point. just was surprised because i thought i posted it. probably i didn’t.

        the paleo brands products where the first thing i thought of reading the post.and i thought it was kind of interesting and might spark some more discussions on the use of this kind of products in a certain context.

        i realize my post sounds kind of unfriendly and accusing. i didn’t mean to be unfriendly.

        • Amy Kubal
          March 17, 2012 at 7:07 pm

          Samson – context definitely has something to do with when/how these ‘treats’ are used. Once and a while is fine, once every meal is not so great!

  25. omar
    March 16, 2012 at 5:17 am

    la paleo dieta funziona davvero come dimostrano i miei esami del sangue.
    ero sempre stanco affaticato dormivo male mangiavo tanta pasta .
    dopo aver letto il libro ho tolto subito i cereali poi con calma lo zucchero e successivamente legumi e latticini .
    ogni giorno la situazione globale migliorava quindi chi prova e ottiene subito dei vantaggi come me (direi gia dal primo giorno)piano piano va verso il perfezionamento del tutto.
    la cosa che vorrei sapere e se chi soffre di malattie autoimmuni in forma lieve o piu grave con la paleo dieta riesce a ritornare come prima di tali
    malattie
    grazie

  26. Steve Coleman
    May 18, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    I’m so very new to Paleo. I’m going to try to shed off the 25 pounds of comfort fat I’ve gained since quitting smoking (for 30 years). I’m smoke free for over 2 years now but gained 25 lbs. Now it’s time to lose it and become healthier.
    I would’t imagine peanut butter is ok in this diet? I would guess not since the cave man didn’t have access to Jiffy (and it’s very processed)

    • Amy Kubal
      May 19, 2012 at 4:46 am

      You’re right – Paleo is “Jiffy Free”!! Peanuts are legumes, so peanut butter falls into that category!

  27. Melissa
    July 1, 2012 at 5:29 am

    Ok so hopefully someone sees this. So I found a Paleo recipe for Chocolate Balls which is organic cocoa, pecans, dates, almond butter. That’s it. So…tell me, is this what you are referring to as well? I.e. the dates have sugar?
    I’d appreciate any clarification on whether this is a healthy daily snack/treat…as I really enjoy it.
    (New to Paleo).
    Tbanks

    • Amy Kubal
      July 1, 2012 at 11:35 am

      Yep! That’s what we’re referring to. Enjoy them in moderation and as a treat.

  28. Tom Nadeau
    July 2, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    I have been following the Paleo diet for 60 days.I am 75 years old and am wanting to lose10-15# I have lost 2#.I exercise a lot,Mountain and Road biking,weight lifting,gardening,golfing,cross country skiing.I have kept a eating log twice for 3o plus days.My average caloric intake was 1450 per day.Iam now taking testosterone cream,prescribed by my M.D.I have tried the atkins and then gained all weight back.I have tried the HCG diet and have gained most of it back.The only thing I do wrong is that I like to have some alcohol at the end of the day.Does that one naughty thing keep me from losing weight? Tom

    • Amy Kubal
      July 2, 2012 at 2:22 pm

      It depends on your definition of ‘some’ AND take it out – see what happens. It’s also VERY possible that you aren’t eating enough – it sounds weird, but too little food can kill your metabolism. Let me know if I can help you get it figured out! http://robbwolf.com/about/team/amy-kubal/

  29. Virginia Vankampen
    October 11, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    I agree that just because its ‘paleo’ doesn’t mean that its healthy and good and going to keep you from gaining weight. But I think there’s a bigger difference between the paleo bar and the twix bar.. its not all about grams of this or that or number of calories, its where those calories are coming from. Its like saying 500 calories of ice cream is no different than 500 calories of chicken and potatoes and veggies.. may end up the same breakdown of grams of whatever but a complete difference in how your body processes it

  30. Thomas
    October 19, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Are you only referring to the sweeterns or do you also think that coconut flour should be an occasional indulgence?

    • Amy Kubal
      October 19, 2012 at 2:39 pm

      Coconut flour is an occasional food for most folks.

  31. Kim
    April 5, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    Advice please. I have been doing Paleo for almost two months, and it’s now a lifestyle I enjoy and could do for the long haul. I was hoping to lose weight – 15-20 lbs. It is difficult for me to find grass-fed beef and pastured eggs in my town, so I’ve been eating grocery store lean beef, vegetable grain fed pork, lots of chicken, nitrite free bacon, and free run eggs. Also eating some organic fruits and veg. In the first 3 weeks I lost 8 lbs but have since stopped losing weight. I’ll admit that I do partake in a couple glasses of red wine in the evening, and I don’t exercise. I did have an issue with my thyroid a few years ago, but I don’t feel any symptoms at present. Disheartened that I’m not leaning out anymore. Is this because I’m not eating grass-fed? Thanks for any advice.

  32. Jan Rendek
    April 6, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Sometimes, when reading about paleo at US sites, I feel like an idealist just wanting a fairer society (let’s call him idealistic communist) who found himself, say, in 1930s Soviet Union. Same roots, such different outcomes.

    Why people need those substitute foods? Why bother with a paleo version of the current way of eating? Paleo pancakes, paleo snacks, vitamin supplementation? Everyone seems to be talking about “thinking out of the box”, but not many do.

    I strive for time-independent paleo. My test is: would this be possible (even) 200 years ago? Or 1000 years ago? E.g. is the knowledge of vitamins so important when eating real human food when people have been aware of vitamins for only last 100 years? Or: do I have to make a paleo version of pancakes when 3 generations ago, my village predecessors would not dare to use flour unsoured? Is it so necessary?

    Is the root of the problem that the people in the “West” have no idea what the traditional way of preparing food looked like?

  33. Angeli Yuson
    April 11, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Dammit! I completely thought I knew which column was the “paleo” treat! I was wrong

  34. FoolishCop
    November 6, 2013 at 3:17 am

    Ouch! Just came across this post and the food log could have been one of mine that I’ve been posting.

    While I haven’t indulged in snacks like “paleo cookies” or bars, or eaten “paleo bread” and such, I have had those pancakes and had a spoonful (or two or three) of almond butter, and thought, I had a good, healthy meal day. I came across this post because I was doing a search to see if stevia was acceptable because I had just seen a recipe for a “paleo milkshake” made with coconut milk and using stevia as a sweetener.

    Okay, I’ll go hang my head in shame now for thinking I could skirt the rules a bit and have my “paleo cake” and eat it too. Thanks for the wakeup call.

    Rich

  35. Dana
    March 6, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Call me crazy, but this is true……artificial sweeteners are poison(100% chemicals) and more addictive than real sugar. You are better off going with a natural sweetener (sugar, honey, stevia, fruit juices, etc), if you must have something sweet.

    Artificial sweeteners, like sugar, raise blood sugar. I don’t know if it does for everybody, but I know for a fact it does for me and all the others I know who have tested with a blood glucose monitor.

  36. Robert
    March 7, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    I agree they are poisonous chemicals, but for 18 years I have used them to fix my bored taste buds, and have never known them to raise my blood sugar. Since they are chemicals I want to eliminate, I plan on trying Stevia, and replacing my Diet Coke with tea.

  37. Wifezilla
    March 11, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Blood sugar spikes due to artificial sweeteners do happen, but not to all people. Several people on a low carb forum with glucose meters tested themselves and only about 25% had a negative reaction. Yes, they are chemicals. Yes, you will save money by not using them. Yes, their safety is questionable. No, they don’t raise everyone’s blood sugar. As for me, the fruit juice and sugar screw me up way worse than splenda or equal. I do use honey when only a small amount of sweetener is required. My favorite sweetener is erythritol, but I can’t always get it.

  38. Richard Terry
    April 5, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    diet coke is deadly

  39. Richard Terry
    April 5, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    splenda is deadly

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