The Caveman Diet: A Dietician Explores Its Benefits
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Have you ever heard of something called the “caveman diet?”
Plenty of people have heard of the idea to eat the way a caveman would have. However, this is no joke. Readers of Consumer Reports have ranked it one of the best diets out there and a local expert has some simple ways to make it make even better.
It’s called the caveman, or Paleo Diet.
While it’s clearly popular with women and men, it’s not always as popular with nutritionists. We’ve all seen diet commercials where someone holds up their old jeans and shows how much bigger they were. Some people could definitely do that with this diet. However, a local dietician said there are few things the caveman could improve on.
On “The Flintstones,” they ate bronto burgers and ribs. Now, that’s just a cartoon, but try for a second to channel your inner caveman.
Stay calm and think about what cavemen really would have eaten.
Lean meat, fish and seafood are all on the diet. So are eggs. Green leafy vegetables are on it as well. In fact, many vegetables are along with fruits like berries, apples and citrus. In addition to that, nuts and seeds, such as almonds, cashews, and pistachios are included.
“The premise of this diet is that this is the way our bodies are genetically designed to eat,” UPMC Dietician Leslie Bonci said. Bonci said it’s based on what a caveman could have hunted or gathered, but that means there’s plenty not on the diet.
“You can’t do dairy,” Bonci said. That means no yogurt or cottage cheese, but you could have coconut milk instead.
“You can’t use any beans or any legumes,” Bonci said. That goes for soy beans too and this category also includes peanuts. That means no peanut butter, but the more expensive almond butter is allowed. Starchy vegetables and grains are also a no-no. That means no bread, rice, pasta or oatmeal.
However, Bonci has a couple concerns with the diet.
“There isn’t any one food group that provides all the nutrients we need and by eliminating entire groups of food, are we necessarily healthy people? I don’t think so,” Bonci said.
She also thinks Paleo is pricey because the meat is supposed to be from grass-fed animals, which is more expensive.
Bonci believes some simple additions will improve the diet.
Take a caveman breakfast of scrambled eggs with spinach and some fruit for example. She suggests adding oatmeal even though it’s not supposed to be allowed.
“That truly doesn’t disrupt from how good that this is. It actually makes it a little better because we added some fiber,” Bonci said.
To a chicken salad lunch she recommends another forbidden food — a whole wheat pita.
And for a caveman dinner of meat and vegetables she suggested adding rice.
“This is not a huge quantity to add. But it makes it complete. Complete to the eye, complete to the gut,” Bonci said.
Yogurt is not allowed on the diet, but she suggests adding fruit to it for a snack.
Her other suggested snacks were a platter with hummus, or popcorn, which are both technically Paleo no-nos.
“Not a big deal calorically, but this provides the crunch and that’s one of the things people want,” Bonci said.
Proponents of the diet criticize the idea that you’re missing out by skipping dairy or grains. They claim excluding processed foods, dairy and grain actually make the diet more nutrient dense.
Bonci believe it’s a good framework, but she just wants to add to it. She also said this diet would be hard to follow for vegans.