“New Year, New You.” Many of us greet the new year with the desire to kick-start a new diet, either to help shed unwanted holiday pounds or to live a cleaner, healthier lifestyle. In fact, most (67%) Americans will be prioritizing healthy or socially-conscious food purchases in 2018, according to a recent survey of American adults conducted by Wakefield Research for Label Insight.
With a large swath of Americans planning to shop within a new diet in January, we’re diving into how convenient it will be for consumers to “shop their diets.” In the coming weeks, we’ll publish a series of blog posts that explore how easily consumers will be able to shop for their new diets this January. The first diet on the menu is Paleo, also known as the caveman diet.
Shopping the Paleo Diet: Shop like a caveman?
Interest in the Paleo diet has risen dramatically in recent years; Paleo product sales are forecasted to reach $300 million this year (according to Nutrition Business Journal). A quick search in our database found that more than 65,000 food products qualify for the "Paleo diet" based on their ingredients alone. While this accounted for 20% of total food products, only about 680 food products make a claim about being Paleo or have a Paleo certification on the package.
The diet should be a relatively easy one for consumers to wrap their minds around: “Just eat like our hunter-gatherer ancestors.” A Paleo diet should be high in fat, moderate in animal protein and low to moderate in carbohydrates. Calorie counting is not encouraged, neither is portion control. Dairy, processed food, refined sugars and oils are off-limits though.
What Makes Shopping Within the Paleo Diet Challenging?
Because of this and other nuances it can be hard to shop for a Paleo meal in the grocery store. For instance, while meat and fish was a staple of our caveman ancestors’ diet, not all meat is ‘Paleo approved.’ While meat is a staple of the diet, shoppers may find the deli tricky to navigate.
Eating Meat While Eating Paleo
For example, only grass-fed beef is Paleo-compliant: only 1,269 products in the Label Insight database make a claim about being grass-fed.
Cured and preserved meats are sometimes allowed, but with regulations. Because most are cured with salt and sometimes sugar, and they often include additives like nitrates and nitrites, finding “Paleo-approved” meat might be challenging at your local grocery store: only 1,733 of the nearly 10,000 products on the shelves could even be considered, depending on how religiously the diet is being followed. Certain Paleo gurus suggest shoppers stay away from sausage that doesn’t use a particular casing, for example.
The Paleo Diet's Rules on Oils and Sugar
Oil is a particularly confusing food category for the Paleo diet. Soy, canola, corn, peanut, sunflower, safflower, and cottonseed oils are generally discouraged by the Paleo diet because they are considered refined. While oils such as avocado, coconut, flaxseed, macadamia, olive, and walnut are allowed -- but not for cooking -- these oils are encouraged for use in salads and to drizzle over food. Luckily, olive oil is allowed, which makes up nearly half (45%) of cooking oil products.
Those eating Paleo are urged to eliminate all added sugar, soft drinks, packaged sweets and juices (including natural fruit juices). This conflicts with the FDA’s description of “added sugars,” which allows 100% juice and whole and dried fruits. Folks with a sweet tooth can instead turn to honey and maple syrup, which again conflicts with the FDA’s definition of “added sugars.” These two natural sweeteners are on the rise thanks to the ‘back to natural’ and ‘clean label’ movements. More than 14,500 products contain honey ingredients and over 2,000 products contain maple syrup or sugar ingredients.
So, How Hard Is It?
The consensus? Shopping for a Paleo diet is doable, but shoppers must pay close attention to labels throughout the store, even in the meat aisle.
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Stay tuned for our next post in the series where we explore how “shopable” vegetarian/vegan diets are.