In a recent post, I reminded everyone that despite our closely aligned values with the paleo diet, the goal will always be to determine which foods are optimal for us, not which foods are considered paleo or not. In this post, I want to take this thinking a step further.
First, let me give you 3 reasons why thinking in terms of paleo is not enough.
1) Not all paleo foods are created equal. A handful of almonds and a banana is inferior to a grass-fed sirloin with a spinach salad. Further distinctions need to be made beyond paleo and non-paleo.
2) Everyone defines paleo differently. Is dairy paleo? What about honey? Or how about almond milk or coconut flour? There are so many disputed paleo foods that it just makes things confusing.
3) Certain non-paleo foods are not as bad as others. Sure, gluten-containing grains, insane amounts of sugar, and processed vegetable oils are probably killing us with every bite, but I am less convinced with things like cheese, greek yogurt, rice, potatoes, and other non-paleo foods.
It is also worth pointing out that one of the things paleo represents is a simpler way of thinking about food. If you start to get too caught up in whether a food is paleo or not, it usually means that you are overcomplicating things. The Superhuman Meal Template you see below should provide a simpler framework for thinking about food, and help to bridge the gap closer towards optimal eating.
The Superhuman Meal Template
Before I get too far into the details of the Superhuman Meal Template, it is important to realize that every time you put food in your mouth, you should consider it a meal. Whether you eat 2 times a day, or 6 times a day, all of them should be considered meals. Referring to meals as snacks is just an excuse for you to slack off on food quality, usually choosing packaged foods over fresh ones.
With that being said, this is the template that you should use for all of your meals. I personally use this exact template to design all of my meals, and I have yet to find an easier and more effective way of eating. Later on in this post I will give you more specific guidelines for adding foods to this template, but the foods you add should always be in addition to the elements of this template, never as a replacement.
Without further ado, here is the Superhuman Meal Template:
1) Start by filling about half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables. Things like salad greens, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, peppers, spinach, asparagus, and tomatoes. Non-starchy vegetables are extremely nutrient dense and provide the greatest source of vitamins and minerals of any food on a per calorie basis.
2) Add in a quality animal protein source such as eggs, grass-fed beef, fish, shellfish, chicken, turkey, or pork. This should take up less quantity on your plate then the vegetables but will make up the bulk of your calories. Protein is essential for maintaining and building muscle as well as keeping you feeling full and satisfied.
3) The final component of every meal that you should eat is some sort of healthy fat source. This should come from olive oil, coconut, macadamia nuts, grass-fed butter or ghee, or even from a fattier animal protein source like egg yolks or grass-fed beef. I want to make a special note of the fact that most saturated fats are healthy fats and that we don’t really classify nuts in the healthy fat category, except for macadamias. Fat is essential for transitioning your body away from burning carbs and sugar as its preferred fuel source. Fat also tastes pretty damn good and will keep you full between meals so make sure you are adding some in to every meal.
And that’s it.
Once you have this template in place, you are free to add to it based on your individual tastes or goals. Other paleo foods such as fruit, nuts, seeds, and starches are great foods to add to your meals for variety. Red wine and dark chocolate are healthy indulgences that can be had a few times a week. You can also take it a step further and experiment with healthier non-paleo foods such as high-fat dairy products and relatively safe starches such as white rice and potatoes.
My recommendation would be for more sedentary people who are looking to lose weight to keep their carbs low by adding in nuts, seeds, cheeses, and greek yogurt. For the more active crowd (like your typical CrossFitter), round out your meals with more carbs such as fruit, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and white rice, especially in the hours after your work out, when carbs are going to be utilized best by your body.
I know it kind of goes against the rules of paleo dieting to recommend things like high-fat dairy products and gluten-free grains such as white rice, but all foods pose potential problems for people (paleo foods included) and these are foods that appear to be pretty well tolerated by most people.
The point is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to food so it will take some personal experimentation to figure out what is right for you. Once the majority of your meals are built around vegetables, protein, and healthy fats, you will have a good baseline for measuring how you react to all other foods.