So I've been doing this paleo thing for 4.5 days and am trying to figure things out as I go... I think I've been doing well, but not perfect. But who is, really?
Sweeteners: I know that honey and pure maple are OK. But what about others, in moderation? Stevia, Agave?
I see a lot of Paleo people talking about Dark Chocolate. How does this really fit?
Slipping up... this is something I really can't figure out. I know some diets / lifestyles are all or nothing, meaning if you slip you are really ruining everything. Is paleo like that? What if someone (yes, we'll use me as an example) says, "tonight I am having sushi, rice an all"? Does this "ruin" everything or do you have the non paleo item and then just pick back up with paleo eating?
Thanks, in advance!
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Sweeteners: after experimenting with a few different ones I finally just quit them all. There is a fair amount of evidence that artificial sweeteners trigger hunger and insulin responses as much as sugars and in many ways are just as bad for you. Quitting all artificially sweetened things sounds impossible until you do it for about a week and realize it is not a big deal. I think the cravings for sweets only last a few days. And once you adjust your palate away from sugar you find and appreciate a bunch of other flavors. Cream for example now tastes every bit as sweet as sugar used to, and actual sugary foods taste disgustingly cloying.
Raw cocoa is good for you, it is an antioxidant, it satisfies appetite, and contains many important minerals that are otherwise a bit hard to get elsewhere in the Paleo diet. However, cocoa usually comes with a lot of sugar and dairy which more than offset the benefits. So dark, like very dark 75-99% chocolate has the cocoa and not much sugar and is good for part of the diet. Some people overdo it and eat a big bar of it every day which I don't think is good, but in some moderation I think is great. I am to the point that I can eat 90% or higher chocolate and enjoy it.
Cheats: I don't think anyone eats 100% paleo every day unless they have a specific health issue like a legitimate allergy to something or true celiac disease. At the same time, for some people there can be a big difference between eating something seldom and not at all. In my case, I had not been eating a lot of wheat when I went Paleo, maybe a few servings a week. However I can't tolerate it more than once or twice a month. So quitting it was a big deal. However, I seem to have no problem with dairy for example so eat it freely, even though for some it is a cheat. I am strict about not eating sugar, but am not willing to quit wine and booze, which doesn't seem to be a problem for me. I started by dropping everything non-Paleo and being 100% strict and slowly added one thing or another that was a cheat but from which I derived a lot of pleasure or made my diet much easier, and figured out what worked from there.
Here some info that may help you out:
“Eat Like A Predator, Not Like Prey”: The Paleo Diet In Six Easy Steps
Slipping up -- It depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you just want to eat healthier, then slip-ups are fine and normal. If you are going paleo for weight loss, you may find that slip-ups hold you back. If you are paleo for auto-immune / inflammatory reasons, then you have to be 100%. (Even with weight loss, a small slip-up may have a huge effect if you are prone to inflammation).
For myself, I have to be 100% because I suffer with auto-immune issues. For example, after Christmas, I started to pick up some bad habits trying to get back into a routine. I was stealing a cracker or two every day from my kids (yep, that's it). I started having huge brain fog, exhaustion (sleeping 9+ hours and still unable to wake easily), and unable to do easy lifts at crossfit. It finally dawned on me that I was letting gluten back in. I cut it out, and only 48 hours later the effects were gone.
Sweeteners -- I stick with just honey and maple syrup. Over time, you will find yourself eating even less of those as your taste buds adapt. Find a good quality, raw, local honey that is yummy and you won't need much else!
Dark chocolate -- I really wish I could eat this stuff! I love it. Like above, if you are eating for health, go for it. If for weight loss or autoimmune, not so sure. Even the small amount of sugar affects me. Try it and see how you do.
Melissa, I started on the Paleo diet in February of 2012 and did not cheat for the first 6 months at all resulting in a weight loss of around 35 pounds. I now live by the 80/20 rule however, my weigh loss has slowed down considerably but that's okay because I am only about 20 pounds from my ideal weight and BMI so even if it takes me another two years to get there, fine by me.
My wife makes a wonderful Xylitol cheese cake to satisfy my sweet cravings. There are lots of recipes on line for that so try it if you wish. I only use either Xylitol or Erythrol in my tea and coffee. I am not much of a chocolate fan so can't give you advise there. I think its been over a year since I have had chocolate.
Dan, being on the PHD diet are you still able to be fat adapted?
Sweeteners: In addition to maple syrup and raw honey, stevia and sugar alcohols (e.g. xylitol) are acceptable. However, agave nectar is most likely not a good idea, since it's mostly fructose, which is treated like a toxin in the body.
Dark chocolate (70% or higher) is good in moderation because of the antioxidants, magnesium, among other nutrients.
As for slip ups, they are perfectly acceptable. A lot of people on paleo abide by the 80/20 rule, that is, if you eat clean 80% of the time, it's okay to deviate 20% of the time, such as when you don't have access to paleo foods.
Personally, I do the Perfect Health Diet and rarely find myself even wanting to cheat.