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Modern Caveman Culture: the Paleo Diet

plate of food with meat, potatoes, and vegetables

You’ve heard all about it, from the Whole Foods girl next door to the CrossFit gym junkie: the Paleo diet.

This recent fad focuses less on caloric counting and more on the types of food people consume. The Paleo diet seeks to reconstruct the food intake of prehistoric humans. This tenet limits dieters to meat, fish, eggs, nuts, healthy oils, fruits, and vegetables; no processed grains or dairy allowed.

A cut of corned beef is one example of an entree that adheres to the paleo diet. Broccoli, cauliflower and roasted potatoes are great options for sides. Individuals on a paleo diet may only consume food products that a caveman would have eaten. Photo by Jenna Fischer.
A cut of corned beef is one example of an entree that adheres to the paleo diet. Broccoli, cauliflower and roasted potatoes are great options for sides. Individuals on a paleo diet may only consume food products that a caveman would have eaten. Photo by Jenna Fischer.

The diet was originally published by a former professor at CSU. Loren Cordain, Ph.D., wrote “The Paleo Diet” in 2002.

Cordain describes most diet books as “dwarf stars – they burn hotly at first, but then fade away.” His book, however, sold steadily. In 2009, it became a New York Times best-seller, and the Paleo diet was the number one searched diet in 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Diets become increasingly popular in January, as many resolve to eat healthier in the new year.

Biomedical sciences freshman Isabel Brown adopted the Paleo diet over winter break, and sometimes struggles to adhere to many restrictions in the dining halls.

“There are a lot of options. I just love bread and pasta and cornbread,” said Brown. “It’s definitely possible to adhere to the diet here, you just have to be willing to do it.”

However, for many, the diet is simply part of a larger lifestyle.

“My mom has been Paleo for several years, so that’s the food that she cooks at home,” said Kathryn Wible, mechanical engineering sophomore. “I’ll probably eat a lot closer to Paleo [when not in the dining hall].”

Cordain jokes, “I haven’t lived been in dorms since 1969, but my oldest son told me that it is much easier to follow the Paleo diet today. Seek out fresh, living foods and avoid processed [foods].”

“The more creative you are, the more sustainable the diet is.” — Rebecca Kallet, nutrition junior

Students off-campus find it much easier to adhere to the diet, because they purchase and prepare their own meals.

“I have been on strict diets before, so it wasn’t too difficult for me to switch to Paleo,” said Rebecca Kallet, nutrition junior. “The big concern I’ve heard is that it’s too high in protein and low in carbs. However, you can alter the diet to include less protein and you still get plenty of carb from fruits and vegetables.”

Mohammed Mohammed, a biomedical engineering freshman, describes the Paleo diet as “just a fad.”

“People just try it out since it’s cool, but find out really quick it doesn’t work for them and go back to their old ways,” Mohammed said.

However, Kallet simply emphasized the importance of variety and balance.

“It’s just about not restricting yourself too much,” she said. “You’ll get sick of chicken very fast if you eat it every night of the week, especially if you aren’t preparing it differently. The more creative you are, the more sustainable the diet is.”

The Paleo diet can be modified for beginners. Cutting out some processed foods, and replacing them with lean protein creates a healthier lifestyle and a sample of the full diet.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I expect the concept to generate such a massive, worldwide dietary movement,” said Cordain.