by Beverly Meyer
It’s the month to get back to school, which means transitioning into new eating, sleeping and activity routines. It’s a great time for teens (and parents of teens) to take a closer look at eating for top academic and athletic performance. That’s where the Paleo Diet comes in.
Paleo is not so much a diet as a way of eating, a way that goes all the way back in history to the days when humans were primarily hunters and gatherers.
With the Paleo Diet, we avoid eating calories from sugary or starchy carbs such as grains, juice, jam, bread, rice and sugars. We only started eating those foods a few thousand years ago when we first settled in villages.
Hunters, Not Grazers
Grains and grass are the correct food for grazers like cows or deer. Grains are the seeds of grass, and corn, rice and wheat are grass. Cow and deer convert the starchy carbs in that forage to the protein and fat that our hunting ancestors evolved to track and eat. The animal eats the grass and grain, and we eat the protein and fat that the animal becomes. The majority of our human diet should be composed of the foods a hunter would eat, not what his/her prey would eat.
Like a Car or Guitar
When we treat our bodies the way they were designed to be treated, they’ll respond correctly. Put the wrong strings on a guitar or the wrong gas in a car and it doesn’t work right. It might work OK, but not the way it was really meant to. Same with our bodies.
Blood Sugar Crash
Bread, juice, cereal, pasta, rice, corn, tortillas and beans (and alcohol) cause a huge blood sugar crash about two hours after eating. It feels pretty awful, and we get spacy, angry, anxious, depressed and can’t sleep. I used to suffer horribly with sugar crashes, and I did not know what was happening. I thought that since I was thin, I could drink sodas and eat dessert and pasta. Eating that way made me feel hungry, anxious and really selfconscious. The great news about eating Paleo is the fact that proteins, fats and veggies don’t let you crash. You stay satisfied, strong and feel good.
Feed the Brain
When the brain is hungry, we feel bad. The brain wants fat (the right kind – from animals and coconuts, not from canola or other vegetable oils).
How to Eat Paleo
For an older teenage male, the goal is 3,000 calories a day (up to 5,000 if training athletically). Older teen girls need less – about 2,400 calories (up to 3,200 if athletic). Most typical teens are getting their calories from starchy carbs rather than the fat and protein our brains need and prefer.
Here’s what approximately 3,000 Paleo calories looks like:
- 800 calories: a pound of beef, seafood or poultry
- 750 calories: 6 Tablespoons pure liquid fat such as butter, ghee, coconut oil, olive oil or macadamia nut oil
- 450 calories: 1 cup of canned coconut milk
- 280 calories: 4 eggs
- 150 calories: 3 pieces bacon
- 225 calories: 1 avocado
- 175 calories: 2 pieces of whole fruit
- 200 calories: 2 medium sweet potatoes or 2 cups of winter squash
- 150 calories: 7 cups of cooked vegetables (about 10 cups before cooking)
- 200 calories: 2 tablespoons of almond or cashew butter
Note: If doing lots of athletics, increase all these equally by 30 to 50 percent. The proteins and fats will keep you feeling well-fed and stable for many hours and won’t let you crash. The sweet potatoes, veggies and fruit give you more than enough carbs, even in training.
Beverly Meyer, MBA, CN, is a holistic and clinical nutritionist in practice since 1985. Her popular podcast, “Primal Diet – Modern Health,” is available on iTunes or her website at www.ondietandhealth.com. Follow her blog and Facebook community for her latest in natural health news from “Beverly Meyer on Diet and Health.” She can be reached for consults at 210-826-0034.