Modifying the Paleo Diet

Published:  08/17/2015

I received a great comment from Dan regarding my blog on the Paleo Diet Review. Dan wrote:"Interesting that this came up. I started what I called a 'modified' Paleo diet on July 1. It's not truly Paleo but for me it's 'no starches, no milk products, no processed foods or refined sugars' - ever. I have never really dieted before but this works for me, and I get to each all the fruits, vegetables and lean meat that I want. I have to say though, I miss my cheese quesadillas."

My response to Dan:

It is always a good idea to minimize processed foods, white flour products and refined sugars. Getting rid of those foods will naturally decrease a person's caloric intake by eliminating unnecessary (and typically additional) empty calories. By eliminating those foods you are decreasing the amount of calories you were eating which results in a weight loss. Do you know it takes only 200 additional calories a day for 18 days above your body's caloric needs to pack away one pound? That's a 20 pound weight gain a year.  And the reverse is true, if you decrease 500 calories a day for 7 days that theoretically results in a one pound weight loss.

Eliminate additional calories and junk foods but don't eliminate healthy whole grains or dairy foods. Unless you are lactose intolerant there is no need to avoid milk products. (Just be sure to choose low-fat products). Dairy foods are an important source of protein, calcium, Vitamins A and D amongst other nutrients.

You are on the right track by focusing on lean meats, fruits and vegetables. To get the benefits from those healthy foods there are serving recommendations. See my article on how to evaluate the data from an online food journal to review your diet just like a dietitian would. This will help you to see if you are eating optimally for good health. /blog/2012/07/how-to-evaluate-the-data-from-your-online-food-journal/

I recommend using MyFitnessPal online food and exercise journal. Studies have found that self-monitoring predicts success in long-term maintenance of weight loss. Self-monitoring is essential to your success!! MyFitnessPal will help you track the two main math variables in weight loss. Calories in and calories out.  And it will enable you to evaluate the nutritive value of your diet.

No need for you to give up your favorite cheese quesadillas. Make them with corn (a whole grain) or whole grain tortillas instead of flour tortillas. Incorporating whole grain foods into your diet may help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. A University of Minnesota meta-analysis reviewed and compiled scores of studies on whole grains and health, to show how whole-grain intake is protective against cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. In fact, the benefits of whole grains most documented by repeated studies include: stroke risk reduced 30-36%; type 2 diabetes risk reduced 21-30%; heart disease risk reduced 25-28%; and better weight maintenance.

So get these benefits by choosing corn or whole grain tortillas. The healthiest corn tortillas are made with whole corn kernels and include the natural nutrient-rich bran, germ and endosperm. Look for corn tortillas that contain only stone ground whole corn, water and lime. Whole grain tortillas are not made with refined flour. A whole grain tortilla is full of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Most of the benefits come from bran, germ and endosperm; the parts of the grain that are reduced or lost during the milling and processing necessary to produce white flour tortillas. The first ingredient on the label should say WHOLE.

There are many delicious low fat cheeses you can use in your quesadilla. I like to use reduced fat SHARP cheddar. Sharp cheese has a bold, rich flavor and you won't miss the fat. To add flavor and nutrients to your quesadillas you can add cooked chicken, chopped green onions, mushrooms, diced red pepper, green pepper slices, olives, etc. Serve with a side of beans.

Beans make the list of foods highest in antioxidants. Ronald Prior, PhD, a chemist and nutritionist with the USDA's Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center in Little Rock, Arkansas authored a groundbreaking antioxidant measure study and found that beans were at the top of the charts. One-half cup of red beans has 13,727 antioxidants; red kidney beans have 13,259; pinto beans, 11,864; and black beans, 4,191. Not to mention beans are an excellent source of fiber and protein.

And don't forget the salsa on that quesadilla. Tomatoes are another excellent source of antioxidants, particularly lycopene. Frequent consumption of tomato products is associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.

So, if the general plan for the Paleo Diet is working for you, keep doing it with a few modifications.

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