As a registered dietician and certified diabetes educator, Haley Hughes counsels individuals to learn about their environmental factors, cultural beliefs, diet and life goals and health before suggesting any eating regimen.
Here’s her take on how she works the Paleo Diet into her programs.
How often do you prescribe the Paleo Diet for your clients?
I do not prescribe any “one diet” because I feel nutrition should be individualized. The Paleo Diet encourages less processed and refined foods, which can be beneficial. But Keto and Whole30 diets have been more prevalent. It’s important to understand portion sizes, balanced meals and snacks customized to the individual’s body. No food is healthy in excessive amounts. A structured diet like the Paleo Diet can work for people with diabetes who need to reduce refined sugars. Similarly, avoiding dairy and gluten may improve irritable bowel syndrome.
What are some other diet plans you recommend?
I recommend a realistic approach without necessarily restricting any foods unless it’s for medical purposes or preference. A piece of cheese, lentil soup or a slice of whole grain bread can still have a place in a healthy diet. I don’t want people to have an “all or nothing” approach or avoid social settings or events due to their diet. This may lead to binge eating or depression.
Can the Paleo Diet help people with chronic disease?
A Paleo Diet may be helpful with improving energy and reducing gastrointestinal discomfort for individuals with dairy or gluten intolerances, autoimmune diseases or diabetes. By eliminating some of the common food allergens, individuals may experience less inflammation, better bowel health and disease management.
Are there any negative side effects of pursuing a Paleo Diet?
Currently, there aren’t many long term conclusive studies to show any negative effects, although many research studies have shown promising results. Potential side effects include lack of micronutrients by avoiding or not consuming sufficient dairy, grains, legumes, starchy vegetables and beans. The Paleo Diet encourages grass-fed protein, which may be too expensive for some people — resulting in them not meeting their protein needs. Cultural practices also may lead to food restrictions and deficiencies.
Does physical activity play a part in a successful diet?
Diet and exercise are key to achieving health goals and disease prevention. The American Heart Association encourages at least 150 minutes a day, paired with strength activity at least two days a week. Cardio and strength activity should be both sustainable and something to look forward to.
Are there age or health limitations for successfully following the Paleo Diet?
I do not feel the Paleo Diet is appropriate for babies or toddlers. Breast milk and formula should be used for feeding during infancy. Whole grains, dairy and legumes are full of essential nutrients for growth. Athletes should assess whether the lower carbohydrate approach is good for training and endurance. Vegetarians may have difficulty meeting nutrition needs without beans or tofu. Overall, there are benefits to reducing sugar and sodium for all ages.
— Haley Hughes MS, RD, CDE, CF-L1 is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator who provides nutrition coaching, meal planning, diabetes management and nutrient analysis services at RDRx Nutrition in Greeley. She has written for “Women’s Health” and “Shape” magazines. She is passionate about improving our community’s health with nutrition education.