What diet are you on? In today’s popular culture, this has become a very common question. Between Paleo, Whole30 and Keto, how do you decipher between all of the dietary advice that is out there? Are programs like Paleo and the Whole30Ⓡ just another diet fad or are they truly becoming a way of life? Which of your favorite foods (like chocolate, Chixi or wine) will you have to give up and for how long? Let’s be honest, it can be incredibly overwhelming, which is why today we are diving into today’s most popular diets and offering some of our insight straight from our own, personal experience.
The Paleo Diet is a way of eating based off the foods caveman ate during the Paleolithic era, hence the Paleo Diet. Think foods like wild-caught seafood, high quality meats, seasonal vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds and other healthy fats. If a caveman ate it, you can eat it too! That means no legumes, grains, starches, dairy, processed foods, sugars or alcohol. (Yes, you read that right, no alcohol). By making a simple shift towards foods that our bodies were designed to consume, and simultaneously eliminating foods that are disruptive to our systems, we increase our vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, all of which contribute to optimal health.
The Whole30Ⓡ program is similar to the Paleo way of eating in that you can enjoy all foods that are real, whole foods like meat, seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and healthy fats. However, you cannot consume legumes, grains (including gluten-free grains), dairy, sugar of any kind, natural sugars, alcohol and other additives like MSG, carrageenans and sulfites. You definitely need to read your labels on Whole30! Unlike the Paleo Diet, you cannot recreate your favorite baked goods and treats even if they are made from real, whole foods. (Yep, that means Paleo cinnamon pecan pancakes are off the menu – Sorry!) By eliminating foods that are known to cause inflammation within the body, you can help improve your health and even heal chronic health issues.
The Ketogenic Diet, more commonly referred to as the Keto Diet, consists of eating a diet high in healthy fats (about 180+ grams of healthy fats per day), moderate amounts of protein and very little carbohydrates. With an absence of carbohydrates in the body and a larger amount of healthy dietary fat, your body begins to use fat as fuel instead of relying on carbohydrates. When this process happens, the liver begins to produce ketone bodies also known as ketones. When this happens, your body is in a state of ketosis, hence the Keto diet. The Keto diet is all about eating sources of healthy fats and minimizing carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables. Foods like coconut oil, avocado, nuts, nut butter and fatty cuts of meat like chicken thighs and red meat are good sources of food on the Keto diet, while fruits and vegetables should be minimized to about 10-20 grams per day.
Interview with Joyce Longfield, the Founder of Chixi Butter
Which of these diets have you tried and why?
All of them! I am basically a guinea pig. As many people know, no two body chemistries are the same. What works for one person may or may not work for another, so you just have to think of yourself as a science experiment and see what works for you.
Of these diets, is there one or more that you view more like a lifestyle than a diet?
Out of all of these “diets,” I only view the Keto Diet as an actual diet. On Keto, you are intentionally restricting carbohydrates and increasing fats. Like any diet, this restriction isn’t meant to be forever. On the other hand, eating styles like Paleo and Whole30 are neither calorie limiting or macro restricting unless you want them to be! Both of these are intended to introduce more ‘real’ or ‘whole’ foods into your daily diet while simultaneously limiting or restricting processed foods. This can eventually lead to a complete lifestyle change and could be permanent, if you want it to be!
If it is a lifestyle, how did you get to this point where you have eliminated certain foods from your diet? What are these foods? Do you ever have them?
When I was pregnant with my beautiful daughter, Sienna, I was so sick during the first trimester, I could only eat white crackers and rice, anything else would make me sick to my stomach. I couldn’t even look at a vegetable without getting nauseous. However, once I was into my second trimester, I saw a nutritionist who put me on a meal plan of real, whole foods. During my entire pregnancy I only gained about 24 pounds. My daughter, Sienna, weighed 8 pounds when she was born, so after just four days after giving birth, I was already back to my pre-pregnancy weight. (Don’t hate me!) I learned from this experience that eating real, whole foods that are nourishing to your body (and that your body actually recognizes), enables your body to naturally find its balance. You end up eating only what your body needs.
Which would you recommend to someone to try?
I believe that both Paleo and Whole30 are great programs that help individuals break their habits of eating processed foods and the emotional connections we have with certain foods that may not be the healthiest (i.e. chips, sweets, any and all processed foods).
What do you think of commercial food products which fall within the approved guidelines of these diets? Do you look for products with these certifications?
I’ve looked into the requirements for all of these certifications and Whole30 is more authentic with its approved ingredients list. The Whole30 allows for things like ‘natural flavours,’ but it is ultimately up to you to decide how strict you want to be with your lifestyle. On the other hand, the Paleo certification disappointed me because as someone who works in the food industry and develops foods, I am very familiar with which added ingredients are there to make food production easier for food manufacturers and in reality, some of those ingredients don’t really need to be there. For example, silicon dioxide is an anti-caking agent and gums are used as binders to prevent water purging. Both of these are added to enhance the food’s aesthetic appeal, but are really unnecessary. Shockingly, both of these ingredients are approved on the Paleo certification list, but not for Whole30. Both of these diets represent whole foods, but gums, whiteners and even some natural flavours technically are not whole foods. Bottom line, just because it has a stamp of approval doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read your food labels. It’s ultimately up to you to decide for yourself if the ingredients are acceptable for your lifestyle.
A lot of celebrities such as Kourtney Kardashian advocate for a diet which eliminates FODMAPS. Have you tried this and do you feel there is a benefit to this or is it another celebrity fad diet?
Like Whole 30, I see the FODMAPS diet as more of a lifestyle than a diet because if you have a digestive condition or suffer from a food sensitivity eliminating FODMAPS foods helps make you feel better and not bloated. If you think you may suffer from digestive issues or a food sensitivity, contact your physician to discuss the possibility of trying a FODMAPS protocol. On my last round of Whole30, I practiced a FODMAPS diet partially by eliminating things like Brussels sprouts and cabbage and I definitely felt a lot less bloated. When I reintroduced some of these foods again, I had a terrible upset stomach. Now, this totally could have been a coincidence and I should not rule them out altogether just yet, but it did make me more aware that this food or family of foods could be problematic for me and my digestive system. Historically, celebrity diets have had a negative connotation to them because they are typically very restrictive, but we are now in an age of more knowledge, awareness and encouragement of a maintaining a healthy weight and healthy lifestyle. It’s not about being stick skinny anymore, but rather being strong and healthy.
What is your perspective for maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and fitness?
Don’t be afraid of the numbers! Get your numbers checked (i.e. blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and body fat). I highly recommend getting a Dexafit scan if you can. This tool accurately measures body fat, where the fat is distributed and how much of it is visceral fat, which could later lead to heart disease. Once you know your numbers, you can determine what kind of workouts you should be doing depending on whether you are a carb burner or a fat burner. Ideally, we want to be fat burners, but if we aren’t that’s okay because the right diet and exercise regimen can help get you there!
No matter what your body type, I highly recommend building muscle in your workouts, which means focusing on strength training exercises. The more muscle you have on your body the better you are at burning fat, so make sure your workouts build muscle and don’t burn it off with endless amounts of cardio. (We are looking at you elliptical machine). Cardio is great for your cardiovascular system, but not necessarily for burning fat off your abs. Abs truly are made in the kitchen, so that’s why my eating habits are not a diet, but more a lifestyle. (Remember, Paleo and Whole30 are lifestyles, while Keto is more of a diet that should only be implemented 3-4 weeks maximum).
What would you recommend is a good way to start one of these diets or begin to make some lasting changes to prevent relapsing?
Start slow. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Take Whole30 for example. The last time I had my colleagues join in, we met two weeks before starting the program to discuss the food restrictions and how we could be better prepared for the meal changes. Some people started to eliminate certain foods before the actual 30 days started so it wasn’t such a shock to their systems. For me, I had been gluten-free for a long time then after about two years of being gluten-free I went dairy free. After that I started to make an effort to have less meat in my diet and focus on a plant-based way of life by eating more raw vegetables. To this day, at least one of my meals has to include raw veggies or I will drink a cold-pressed green juice. The nutrients provided by a plant-based diet are just too important to miss. Plus, your gut microbiome will thank you for all of the greens you are consuming! Lastly, and I’ll be honest, it took me almost one year to convince myself to do Whole30 because I didn’t want to give up the alcohol. It’s the hardest part for me because, like most people, I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, but once I completed my first Whole30, I was able to reset my system. Now I only drink on weekends and never during the week. It’s sad but, true…Sobriety = More productivity and better results in the gym. Go figure!
How can I eat like this on a budget or afford to feed my family this way?
I hear you on this one because grocery shopping can get very pricey if you are buying all organic produce and grass-fed protein sources. I would approach this in two ways:
First, know your daily caloric allowance. Many of us overeat because it’s so easy to do. I love healthy fats from coconut and avocado, but my body only needs about 1,400 calories a day if I’m not working out and being lazy just sitting around. If I get in my daily 10,000 step goal then that’s another 500 calories I could have that day. If I workout then I can account for an additional 300 calories as well. Basically, if I wanted to maintain my physique, I could consume roughly about 2,000 calories a day, but if I want to lose weight, I need to create a daily caloric deficit by at least 200 calories, but no more than 500 calories. Anything more than 500 is dangerous! My point is that there is a very good chance you don’t need to consume as much as you are currently consuming to maintain or lose weight.
Side note: Remember, everybody and every body is different, so what works for me may not work for you.
The second thing I would recommend is if you don’t want to go all in with Paleo or Whole30, keep some of the more affordable grains in your diet that cause little or no irritation to your system. Foods like legumes, brown rice or quinoa will be gentler on your digestive system than other wheat-associated grains like white rice or white pasta, so keep your favorites as pantry staples.
How do I get my kids to want to eat these foods?
When you figure out the answer to this question please let me know! Sienna is a carboholic, which makes it very challenging to get her to eat protein. She enjoys fruit and vegetables, but if I were to take away carbs all together I would be charged with neglect as she would waste away. Honestly, I approach this by setting an example. I talk to Sienna all the time about the foods I eat and why I eat them. Yes, she turns her nose up (what kid wouldn’t), but I explain to her that one day she might like them too, which is why it is important to always try new things. My thought is that even though she doesn’t eat like me now, she might one day. (Here’s hoping, right?!) Kids are very observant. When we go out to restaurants she says things to the waiters like ‘Oh my mom doesn’t eat pasta’, which tells me she is paying attention and that matters just as much as actually eating the foods I eat. My talks with her (although boring to her) are building her awareness and knowledge of healthy eating habits, which hopefully she will observe herself one day!