“If you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it.” This little piece of wisdom comes in quite handy when buying high-end merchandise and dining in fancy restaurants whose menu lists -‘market price’ as the cost. Now, many of you have probably been in situations where you or someone with you did the unthinkable and actually asked. The result – rude looks, perhaps chuckles from those that may have overheard, and in the end no fancy diamond necklace or $1000 bottle of wine ends up getting bought. What does this have to do with Paleo?
Now that Paleo eating is becoming ‘cool’ everyone seems to have their own version and opinion of what is and isn’t allowed. You see it on paleo forums and blogs and hear it at the gym. If you are a working as a trainer or nutrition coach the emails and questions are never ending… “Is (insert food item here) paleo? Options include: soy milk, oatmeal, agave, honey, quinoa, vinegar, tamari, Italian dressing, canola oil, chocolate, wine, hard alcohol, potatoes, coffee, Splenda, coconut ice cream… These questions are asked over and over again until finally, someone, somewhere, in their very own version of paleo considers the item fair game. This makes the asker of the question happy and all is well; until… “Paleo stops working” for them. What’s next? The questions start again -usually with a new food victim this time.
Generally speaking the “if you have to ask” rule is going to apply in most paleo food question situations. If the food in question is not on the list in Robb’s book or listed on the website it’s probably NOT truly paleo. That being said, if you are losing sleep at night because you used some tamari in your stir-fry or had vinegar and olive oil dressing on your salad then it’s time to relax. On the other hand if you can’t sleep because you just ate a bowl of oatmeal with agave, had a cup of coffee and polished off a pint of coconut ice cream you may want to revisit the ‘list’.
So, how do you figure all this out without looking like a complete idiot? Here are a few easy rules to follow:
- If you are asking because the food is something that you ‘want’ someone to tell you is okay to have even when in your mind you know it’s not paleo – don’t ask. This often applies to items such as coconut ice cream, oatmeal, wine, etc.
- Consider the dose. A good rule of thumb is if you can easily consume 100 or more calories worth of the item it’s not paleo. You would be hard-pressed to use an entire bottle of vinegar or tamari (still not even 100 calories) but a couple drinks, honey in your tea, or a side of quinoa and you’re out.
- If the question could be compared to asking if steak is allowed on a vegan diet – it’s not going to end happily. Don’t go there!
Follow these simple rules and you’ll avoid embarrassment, disappointment, and perhaps a cheap shot to the gut.