Pinners Beware: Paleo Recipes on Pinterest Can Be Deceiving

Oh the Pinterest phenomenon….  How many of us have pinned recipes or crafts and then never actually done them?  I’m raising my hand.  Yes, that’s me.

It’s a pretty awesome concept though – that’s why it’s so popular!  It is a much more efficient way to organize ideas, than clipping magazine articles… which I used to do as a kid, back in the (ancient) 1990’s.  I loved cooking magazines and I would sit for hours in our living room, writing and glueing recipes from Taste of Home on index cards.  Pinning is a lot more efficient.  Pinning makes sharing so much easier – remember photocopy-ing in the days of yore?

But the easy exchange of idea has a down side.

Anyone can pin and anyone can tag and you can’t tell who knows what they are talking about and who doesn’t.  For example,”Pinterest Fail” cakes and crafts have become a thing for a reason – just because it’s on pinterest doesn’t mean it can easily be replicated.

And – another somewhat painful lesson – just because it’s on pinterest doesn’t mean it’s Paleo.  Even if it’s marked Paleo.  And if you search Paleo on pinterest, you are likely to have a very big misunderstanding of what it means, because many of your search results will be recipes for desserts and baked goods.  Does this “paleo diet” mean I can eat whatever I want as long as it’s only made of certain things?

Well no, that’s not what paleo is about! Can you eat those treats? Sure! Technically the ingredients might be paleo (ie: only sweetened with honey or maple syrup, grain free, no processed additives, etc) Should you eat these types of treats every day? No. Especially if you want to lose fat. Especially if you want to feel awesome. For those who are new to paleo, seeing those pins can lead to a misconception of what paleo is, and that annoys me.

This is why researching the principles and the science behind the diet is so important. If you take the time to learn, you will understand the main goal of a paleo diet: to eat in a way that mimics a hunter-gatherer diet, a diet which was common among humans before agriculture, still exists in some societies today, and varies greatly depending on location (terrain, seasons, distance from the equator, etc).

Note that I’m using the word ‘diet’ as a noun. A diet should not be an action word (verb) – because that implies that you can ‘stop’. You cannot stop eating, you can only adjust the contents of your diet (definition: the sum of the food consumed by an organism) to reflect your goals. It was incredibly helpful for me to start thinking in these terms – because all kinds of food (and combinations there of) are ‘legal’ within paleo… But the types of foods and nutrients you are ingesting should reflect your personal goals.

For example: Nuts are commonly used in paleo ‘baking’. Almond flour is often a key ingredient. However, for hunter gatherers, nuts would be a relatively rare commodity. They couldn’t go down to the grocery store and buy bulk bags of almonds, cashews and pecans. So nuts, and products made with nut by-products, should make up a small percentage of the food you eat, to mimic the availability of nuts in nature. The same goes for ingredients like honey and maple syrup. Yes, honey is eaten by hunter gatherers, but not every day. The availability of such sweeteners would have varied greatly, and acquiring them would not have been a priority over other foods like meat and vegetables. This behavior has been proven by those who have studied modern hunter-gatherer societies. (I can find you the book if you want!)

Now, there is the other side of the coin – many people eat a paleo diet because it helps combat auto-immune disease, others don’t have a goal of fat loss.  For these people, eating more nuts and sweeteners may not hinder their goals.  It really is up to the individual.  I try to keep my paleo treats to a minimum – if I bake, I like to share the treats  so they don’t sit in my apartment.  When I’m cooking for myself, I stick with meats/veggies/some fruits.  Other people who are paleo are very strict about their dairy intact… I am more leniant.  I’ve found that I can tolerate dairy in the form of butter, heavy cream and cheese (not every day, but when I’m making certain recipes, I will use it).

So figure out what works for you.  Some people who eat paleo can tolerate white rice or white potatoes.  I haven’t given these things a try really, so I can’t speak from personal experience.  But if you’ve been doing paleo for several months and want to see how different additions will effect you, give it a try.  The point is you are in control, you make the decisions, and only you can know what foods make your body feel good.

So – as with anything, look at the ingredients when you are pinning. The best paleo recipes are made with a few simple ingredients that fit in the categories of meat, fish, eggs, a variety of vegetables and some fruit. Stick with those items as the staples of your diet and you will be able to reap all the benefits of a Paleolithic diet.  Make a decision – Is this a recipe that can be a staple in your diet? Or is is something to roll out for a birthday party or other once a year holiday? Learn to differentiate and perhaps make 2 boards if need be – paleo treats and paleo meals!

I should follow my own advice… because if you want to look at my pinterest page, all of my paleo things, including recipes, motivational quotes and other visuals are all pinned on the same jumbled board…. hmmm.  Maybe I should work on that 🙂


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