It’s not about the numbers

Often when people find out that I’m “Paleo” their immediate response is “oh, that’s like Atkins”. No. No it isn’t. While it is a naturally lower carbohydrate diet, as you don’t eat added sugar and avoid processed starches, it is not a high protein diet. It is also not about how many calories you eat, or how many grams of fat, carb or protein. It’s about eating real food.

Trying to reduce the Paleo lifestyle to a one-liner of “low carb” and purely basing you food choice on whether or not it’s labelled as “low carb” is dangerous. Let me use this example to show why. The US takeaway chain Chick-Fil-A offers a “healthy” low-carb option in their menu. You can have a Chick-fil-A® Chargrilled Chicken Club Sandwich (minus the bun) with Honey Roasted BBQ sauce, all with only 6g Carbohydrates. Wow! Only 6g carbs – that’s, like, really healthy right?

Now, here’s the ingredient list:

Grilled chicken (water, apple cider vinegar, soybean oil, yeast extract, salt, modified corn starch, palm oil, dehydrated garlic, dehydrated onion, corn maltodextrin, sea salt, flavor, sugar, chicken stock, cane molasses, chicken fat, spice, natural flavor [including smoke], chicken meat, dextrose, lemon peel, citric acid, red bell pepper, orange juice concentrate, grape juice concentrate, natural flavor, paprika, vinegar, xanthan gum, ascorbic acid, and spices), tomatoes, green leaf lettuce, Colby-Jack cheese (Colby cheese [pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes and annatto], Monterey jack cheese [pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes]), bacon (cured with water, salt, sugar, sodium phosphates, sodium diacetate, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite).

Sauce: Soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup, water, distilled vinegar, honey, mustard (distilled vinegar, water, mustard seed, salt, turmeric, paprika, spice, garlic), tomato paste, egg yolk, sugar, salt, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate added as preservatives, annatto color, spices, natural smoke flavor, xanthan gum, lemon juice concentrate, dehydrated garlic and onion, caramel color, olive oil, propylene glycol alginate, calcium disodium EDTA added to protect flavour.

Diet Coke only has zero calories; no fat, no sugar, no protein. It’s made with caramel color, phosphoric acid, sodium saccharin, potassium benzoate (to protect taste), natural flavors, citric acid, caffeine, potassium citrate, Aspartame, dimethylpolysiloxane. Phenylketonurics: Aspartame contains phenylalanine). Hardly the elixir of life.

We see this again in, what I like to call, the White-Wine-Spritzer reward. In all of the different industries I’ve worked I have met the same women. Members of [insert weight-loss subscription based group here] will NOT eat at all on a Friday because they are “saving up points” so they can have 3 spritzers in the bar that night. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the intention when their carefully calculated plan was created but, hey, it’s still only 500 kcals!

Moral of the story? Look beyond the numbers on the packet and look at what is actually in the food you are eating. Don’t leave it to the manufacturers of foods and drinks to decide what you consume. Their #1 priority is not your wellbeing, it’s the contents of your wallet. Most of all do the research, choose what’s right for you and take responsibility for your health.