Implementing healthy meal plans for your family can be a bit of a complicated journey. What foods should you include? What should you exclude or eat in moderation? Recent research indicates that many of the things we’ve always thought were good for us, really aren’t.
Since the 1950s, nutritionists and the government have told us to base our diets on whole grains, with smaller amounts of fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meat, while severely limiting our intake of fats and sugars. Unfortunately, it now appears that eating large amounts of grain-based food, whole grain or otherwise, is strongly correlated with several metabolic diseases caused by insulin resistance, such as diabetes, heart disease, and, of course, obesity.
Low carb diets like the Atkins diet and the paleolithic or “caveman” diet are a direct response to this new information. Both are touted as natural weight loss solutions that allow you to get your metabolism back in sync and lose pounds without feeling hungry all the time. The Atkins diet can best be described as a moderate protein, high fat, extremely low carbohydrate diet, and the paleo diet can be described as a high protein, moderate fat, moderately low carbohydrate diet.
Both diets promote weight loss. However, the Atkins diet– at least in its most stringent form– is not suitable for lifelong adherence. Indeed, Robert Atkins, the diet’s founder, suffered a heart attack in 2002– not exactly a resounding success story. The Atkins diet allows for nearly unlimited consumption of salty, processed meat products like hot dogs and sausage, and closely curtails the intake of healthful fruits and vegetables. Weight loss is due to caloric deficit… not something that should be a nutritional strategy for children, to be sure.
The paleolithic diet, on the other hand, is founded on the idea that humans evolved to eat a hunter-gatherer diet based on unprocessed meat, vegetables, fruit, and nuts. Our ancestors didn’t rely heavily on grains, since they required large amounts of labor to harvest by hand from the wild, for very little nutritional return. In fact, after the introduction of agriculture during the Neolithic period, the general health of humans, measured by average adult height, life span, and dental health, declined significantly due to the reduction in high-quality nutrition.
By returning to a diet based on meat, vegetables, nuts, and fruit, practitioners of the paleo diet are often able to reverse chronic health conditions, return to a healthy weight, and even improve mood and energy levels. Unlike the Atkins diet, the paleo diet is ideal for growing children, and may prevent common modern childhood problems like ADHD. So, if you’re looking for low-carb meal plans suitable for your entire family, look no further than the paleo diet, and eat the foods you were designed to eat.