Sunday, April 11, 2010

What Would a "Real" Dietitian Say About Paleo?

I recently recieved an email from Karl, a strength and conditioning coach in Edmonton, Canada.  Here's what he wrote:

Hi Amy,

I am a strength and conditioning coach in Edmonton who has recently (9 months) transitioned to a Paleo Diet and have experienced many wonderful changes in the process.  I have also helped some of my athletes/colleagues move away from the food guide and closer to our genes, which is exciting.

Recently, I had someone comment on a friend's blog as a skeptic, wondering what a 'Real' dietitian would say about the Paleo Diet...which is why I am emailing you.

If you could spare a few minutes, I would love to hear what you have to say about eating Paleo.  I have read your blog and haven't come across a specific post on this subject.  I have linked your most recent post in the hopes of promoting some common sense in the scientific world.

Thanks for your time,

I get this type of question A LOT!!  Since I am a Registered Dietitian, and a member of the American Dietetic Association, people tend to think that I am a pro-food pyramid, anti-fat, whole grain pushing professional.  Well, that's not the case and here's why...

In college the Ancel Keys' studies, China study and many others were hammered into my brain.  I will be the first to admit that I WAS sold on the whole low-fat, high carb, food pyramid way of thinking.  I ate the text book 'dietitian' diet for a LONG time (7 years), and guess what it got me.  Uuuhhhh....  nothing.  I take that back - a whacked out thyroid, overtrained, train wreck of a body.  With the constant prodding of my friend Scott, I started thinking about the Paleo way of eating.  I saw him doing it and watched his performance get better and better while mine seemed to ebb and flow in between injuries.  I started digging into the research to see what the pros and cons of this 'Paleo' thing were.  (A little background here, I got my bachelor's and master's degrees from Colorado State University, home of  "The Paleo Diet" author Loren Cordain.  Now, back when I was at CSU general consensus in the nutrition department was that Dr. Cordain was a "little off his rocker".)  Once I actually read "The Paleo Diet", "The Paleo Diet for Athletes" and a whole lot of research papers, I was left with one conclusion.  I needed to try this 'Paleo thing' for myself.

That leads me to where I am today.  I know that the Paleo way of eating makes me feel GREAT, perform better than I ever have, and I rarely if ever get sick.  There are a lot of people that think I'm a "little off my rocker", but I'm alright with that.  I know how I feel.  I also know all the benefits I am getting, from a health and disease prevention standpoint, by eating this way.  When I am questioned by others in my profession I simply stick with the facts.  It is extremely difficult to argue a diet that promotes eating lean meats, vegetables, fruits and heart healthy fats.  It's all there; (carbs, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc.), it's all unprocessed, and it's all backed up with research and most importantly 'real life' experiences - not just mice and monkeys!! 

So, what does a 'real' dietitian have to say about the Paleo lifestyle?  "Try it, you'll like it!"



  1. Amy, thank you for taking the time to post this. I will link this to my blog in my next post so that my friends and colleagues can read for themselves.


  2. I certainly did a lot of self experiment to "prove" Paleo to myself. Must've spent $300 on NMR Lipoprofiles and other such blood work. But after reading all the Pro/Con I could, I implemented Paleo and tested it out. I'm certainly SOLD, now!

  3. Hey I love this post! I graduated with a Nutrition degree and was always preaching the food pyramid to my friends and family. Now that I am a Personal Trainer/ Coach and after reading "Paleo Diet for Athletes" I have "switched" sides. I am now hounding one of my old professors and trying to convince as many people as I can! I love your blog and cant wait to send it to friends, clients, and family!

  4. I'm an RD in southern GA. I have not had a chance to read the Paleo diet yet but out of curiosity, what does it say about about whole grains such as steel cut oats, barley, brown rice, bulgar...?

  5. Freshour Fitness - Thank you so much for the feedback!! And keep spreading the 'AWESOMENESS' of Paleo!!!

    Brenna - All grains are out on Paleo, and there are several reasons for this. Grains contain lectins which contribute to leaky gut, there are also issues with auto-immune diseases. Additionally grains, when processed in our bodies contribute to a net acid load. Carbohydrate in the form of fruits and vegetables contribute to an alakaline environment. These are just a few of the draw backs to grains. I highly suggest reading Loren Cordain's book 'The Paleo Diet'!! Let me know if you'd like to learn more!!

  6. I'm definitely interested. There are so many "diets" that claim to be right and have lots of research to back them up (the atkins, mediteranian, paleo, Dean Ornish) I just feel overwhelmed at the moment and don't know where to start reading. I just know the current food guide pyramid is a bunch of BS so I've already started trying to cut out a lot of processed. Too bad I love toast as much as I do...

  7. I too tried the Paleo diet for athletes, but as an athlete in endurance mountain bike racing (24 hour races), I found I could not get enough. Yes, the ideas are great to follow, and for a serious athlete (or at least endurance athletes), you may need to eat some of the "forbidden fruits." I had to reincorporate yams, rice, and noodles into my diet.
    Liz with

  8. Liz,
    Paleo for endurance athletes looks a little bit different than straight up Paleo. It allows for certain "forbidden" foods at certain times - pre/during/post exercise. This allows the body to adequately refuel and still reap the benefits of a Paleo lifestyle! Let me know if you'd like to know more! I am the consultant dietitian for the Training Bible Coaching and have had many successful Paleo athlete clients!!

  9. So interesting to hear your thoughts on this as a dietician, and how you feel about the food pyramid, etc. Thanks for sharing!

  10. I have started to read about the Paleo diet....all of it makes intuitive sense. I am a little overloaded with info right now....does anybody KNOW of a RD that specializes in prescribing Paleo diets? If of you should take the plunge! I need help and reading is just one step....following a prescribed regiment for awhile would really help me get into a rhythm.

  11. Paul,

    I would love to help you!! I am an RD!!! send me an email at

    I'll talk to you soon!! :)

  12. Amy,

    Do you have any advice for those who have microscopic (lymphocytic) colitis that are following the paleo diet and need to *gain* weight? It's difficult, especially when your intestines aren't that great at absorbing and digesting fat, raw fruits and veggies, and too much fruit in general. Any help is appreciated!


  13. Ashley,

    YES!! I have worked with several colitis clients - there are definitely some things we can do!! Send me an email and tell me a little more about your case/current diet/symptoms, etc. My email is

    Talk to you soon!

  14. Out of all your posts, why haven't I seen this on sooner? It's awesome.. I sent it to a friend, hopefully she decides to take the challenge.


  15. Having Problems FOLLOWING with the Paleo Diet?

    Want to munch on some tasty recipes TONIGHT?

    Check out this book: Paleohacks Cookbook.