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Is diversity necessary nutritionally?

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  • Is diversity necessary nutritionally?

    I'm starting up again tomorrow, after failing over and over last year due to not realizing that you can't do primal and "almost no fat".

    Every time I've ever had success in any dietary plan, all some form of CW or low-carb, it's been when I limit my choices.

    Remember that scene in The Matrix where on board the ship every meal is a slurry of nutritional goo that "tastes like Tasty Wheat"?

    That sounds great to me. For me limiting food options would change things from "which of these things do I want?" to "Am I going to fall off the wagon or not?" A much easier question to answer in the twisted world of my psyche.

    I became convinced to start again after trying J. Stanton's Paleo Scramble and realizing that it was not only delicious, it was downright decadent.

    So my question is this. How bad an idea is it to do paleo with very few choices? I realize most people need variety to keep from going crazy, but not me. I'm worried about the nutritional impact of eating the same thing over and over.

    What I'm thinking is a diet of eggs, ground 80/20 beef, some onion, some spinach or romaine in a salad. I'm thinking of getting some pemmican for inter meal cravings. As I move along I have no problem adding something here and there to boost up the nutrition.

    From a nutritional standpoint, am I crazy?

  • #2
    Here's a recent post from Mark on the subject.


    • #3
      You do need a variety of foods for better nutrition. Some foods have more of vitamin A and others have more of B, for instance. Then there's the different types of fats, like a steak and an avocado. I think you are stressing too much over nutrition when you could eat just about any fruit, veg, meat, etc.


      • #4
        Originally posted by chris q View Post
        So my question is this. How bad an idea is it to do paleo with very few choices? I realize most people need variety to keep from going crazy, but not me. I'm worried about the nutritional impact of eating the same thing over and over.
        In what way?

        Is it the thought that you may be missing some important nutrients by "kitchen laziness" (or whatever you want to call it)?

        Or is it that you're worried if you keep eating the same few things you may cause intolerance to one or more of those foodstuffs?

        Or is it something else again?

        I think it's generally a good idea to eat a fairly wide variety of foods. I'd suggest just how important it is is anyone's guess. If you look at healthy populations—say people in the Hebrides in the 1930s—you don't necessarily find a lot of variety. What you do find is very high quality foods—better than are easily found in many cases nowadays.

        I guess you could use a tool such as fitday to track micronutrient consumption for a week and see if your chosen foods leave you a bit low in certain nutrients. Those figures are approximate, of course, and the RDAs are not necessarily correct anyway. But that's one thing you could do.

        I don't know a lot about food intolerance. Dr O'Bryan—the guy behind all those Cyrex Labs tests—says if you keep eating the same food day after day you risk a reaction to it. Maybe he's right. But maybe it depends on how good your gut flora is. (This is something very static views about "good" and "bad" foods miss: not to say that some foods aren't really best avoided.) But many of us have some degree of gut dysbiosis anyway—thanks to doctors handing out antibiotics like M & Ms.

        Those are the two issues that occur to me. I don't think anyone could give you a proven definite answer to the second one.


        • #5
          chris q:

          I'm glad the recipe works for you! I still eat the Asian version as a major component of my own diet.

          And I absolutely hear you about making it simple to stay on the wagon by limiting choices: if you have to think about what you're going to eat every time you eat, it's tempting to make a poor choice. Whereas if you simply say "This is what I eat" - especially when you enjoy eating it - you avoid the stress of making a choice. Making a difficult choice takes energy: see Restrained Eating: Willpower and Why Diets Fail

          Personally I wouldn't worry so much. The Irish ate a diet of basically 100% potatoes and were fine...and the Scramble is far more varied and nutritionally dense, being made of fatty meat, eggs, veggies, some butter or coconut oil, and some form of potato as the starch (or white rice, if you're OK with that). It basically contains all the ingredients of the diet of many traditional cultures - and though the default aims for PB-friendly carb content, you can tweak it to be anything from zero-carb to high-carb by adding or removing potatoes/rice.

          Plus, you can add just about any vegetables you want to the recipe, and you can put avocado slices or other toppings on it. As I say in the "recipe", it's really a single skillet cooking technique.

          Recipe in question: “The Paleo Scramble”, A Basic Technique For Real-World Cooking
          Last edited by J. Stanton; 08-14-2011, 11:48 AM.


          • #6
            I read Mark's post and the comments on it, and all the posts in this thread. (Thanks for the input!)

            I went off and thought about it for about an hour while I was doing some housework, and I came to a decision.

            I'm a six foot tall, 42 year old male who weighs 307lbs. Dinner last night was a big hero style deli sandwich followed by an entire bag of Pepperidge Farm cookies. The night before it was burgers. The night before that it was Chinese Lo Mein noodles.

            My problem in every other attempt to transition to primal has been the transition. I need to get over the hump. Is eating the exact same thing every day (meal) the best path for rest of my life? No, probably not.

            But what it will do is help me break through the barrier that's keeping me back. I'm going to do the same food every day. I'm going to supplement. I'm going to exercise. Once I get to that place on the other side that people describe -- "Wow, I can't believe how good I feel!" -- I'll look at incorporating some diveristy.

            The way I see it, I may be lacking some macro/phyto nutrient that's in pharmaceutical grade peruvian purple rutabagas, but I'll be wildly ahead of where I've been. This is a process and I can't think of step two until I've mastered step one.

            Thanks all.


            • #7
              Sounds like a great plan!
              Ancestral Nutrition Coaching
              Pregnancy Nutrition Coaching
              Primal Pregnancy Nutrition Article


              • #8
                Better to do primal the way you can handle it than to end up cheating because you are trying to get diversity and have it not work for you at all.

                Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

                A joyful heart is good medicine

                He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. - Jim Elliot

                Mmmmm. Real food is good.

                My Journal:


                • #9
                  I think you can do it Chris!

                  I've been eating a pretty limited diet since I started primal in March. I'm not bored of it yet and I'm down 37 lbs in total.

                  Eggs & bacon most days for breakfast. Once in a while a protein smoothie (maybe once a week).
                  Big ass salad with half an avocado for lunch. I do switch up the protein component - maybe cold beef, tuna, salmon, shrimp, eggs.
                  Big ass salad with half an avocado for supper. Again, whatever protein is going. Once or twice a week, I switch out the salad for some kale, chard or cauliflower and half a sweet potato.
                  Always frozen berries and coconut milk for dessert.

                  If I need a snack in the afternoon it's usually an apple and some almond butter.

                  I find my diet easy to do - I always know what groceries I need, it's tasty, and I find it satisfying. I supplement with Vit D, fish oil, multi-vit, magnesium and B12.
                  Last edited by belinda; 08-14-2011, 05:29 PM.
                  Newcomers: If you haven't read the book, at least read this thread ... and all the links!

                  Jan. 1, 2011: 186.6 lbs PBSW Mar. 1, 2011: 175.8 lbs
                  CW: 146.8 lbs
                  GW 140 lbs
                  A proud member of PETA: People Eating Tasty Animals


                  • #10
                    You know, you do what you can do. That's it.

                    Would it be better in the long run if you had variety? Sure. But if it keeps you from sticking to good food, then the answer is No. Maybe sticking to a few good foods will work to break the cycle, and then you can add in other foods as you get more comfortable with this way of eating. Make sure you take a GOOD supplement to help make up for whatever you're missing, then check through some of the recipes here and online, and if something looks interesting, go for it. Add it in to the mix or not. It's up to you.


                    • #11
                      Body builders limit food choices when doing hard diets before competitions. But that's a diet. Few people can stay on a diet forever. Better to learn how to eat and live. Life's an experiment to find what works (for awhile). Maybe you can find good foods to eat while also meeting your goals.


                      • #12
                        I am not fond of diversity. I tend to eat roughly the same things over a week, with minor changes here and there. Breakfast is almost always exactly the same.

                        I find if I wander through too many choices, I tend to go for poorer ones. I leave diversity for the occasional night out, or if I feel like cooking something different. Otherwise, I know pretty much which handful of things I'm going to be eating for dinner etc.
                        Fighting fibromyalgia and chronic myofascial pain since 2002.

                        Big Fat Fiasco

                        Our bodies crave real food. We remain hungry as long as we refuse to eat real food, no matter how much junk we stuff into our stomachs. ~J. Stanton


                        • #13
                          Chris q, I've been having a hard time switching to primal mainly because I'm not very fond of the flavors and textures of fatty meats, eggs, oils and butters. I hate fish and have found a way to tolerate it so I can get more omega 3s. Before going primal I preferred 6 tangy light meals per day of chicken or lean hamburg so it is taking some getting some used to and I can understand your concern about the transition. It sounds like you just want to get rolling and then diversify once you get a routine down like me. It can be alot of change all at once.

                          So far I'm at where you are suggesting, eating meats I am familiar with cooking, flavoring a bit with garlic and onions, and trying to get in lots of good veggies. If it helps, given your food choices, I've found that salsa makes a great topping for the ingredients you are suggesting. Don't forget your coconut milk and nuts, we've gotta get those fats up! The nuts make a great go to snack when there's no time to cook and the coconut milk is good in scrambled eggs. I also stock up on easy to grab apples, cherries, berries or whatever fruit looks good at the market and I stick to no more than 2 servings per day but they help me diversify my nutrients. I'm going to try berries in coconut milk next. My goal for now is to just find some meals to sustain me while I am learning to cook unusual meats and recipes. Try a good multi-vitamin for now, too. You are gonna rock this!

                          Belinda, thanks for posting your diet! How much meat do you typically eat with your Big Ass Salad?

                          J. Stanton, uber thanks for the link to the stir-fries. This is how I want to learn to cook, being so lazy and spoiled. I used to get all my meals from our local food co-op deli and all of this new cooking is wearing me out.
                          Last edited by Goldstar; 08-14-2011, 03:21 PM.


                          • #14

                            If you're concerned about vitamin deficiency, pop a multivitamin. It's cheap insurance. At 300# you might also look into magnesium malate and some low-dose iodine, like kelp.

                            But you can throw any veggies you want into the scramble, the fatty meat/egg combination is extremely nutrient-dense, and potatoes are well-balanced enough nutritionally that it's possible to live on a 100% potato diet. So I wouldn't be too concerned about deficiencies...especially compared to what you've been eating.

                            Don't forget the Asian's my favorite! I do that one with refined coconut oil instead of butter, and I use Sriracha now instead of the red pepper flakes. In fact, I'm going to go cook one right now, with some tri-tip on top.


                            I'm glad the concept is of use to you. I love food porn too, but when it comes time to actually cook a meal, "quick and delicious" wins out over "elaborate and delicious" almost every time.

                            Bon appétit!
                            Last edited by J. Stanton; 08-14-2011, 05:08 PM.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by chris q View Post
                              I'm a six foot tall, 42 year old male who weighs 307lbs. Dinner last night was a big hero style deli sandwich followed by an entire bag of Pepperidge Farm cookies. The night before it was burgers. The night before that it was Chinese Lo Mein noodles.

                              My problem in every other attempt to transition to primal has been the transition. I need to get over the hump. Is eating the exact same thing every day (meal) the best path for rest of my life? No, probably not.
                              Maybe you should take some time to figure out what's driving you to eat like that. Is it stress? Have you taken the time to sit back and consider your options before ordering? Considered whether you are really hungry or just thirsty? Is stress making you crave carby foods? Et cetera.

                              When I go food shopping, I would see the box of brownie or cookie mix and go "Mmmm! Brownies!" Then I think about it. "I could make this by scratch for a fraction of the price!" Then I finish shopping and very rarely actually get around to making my own brownies or cookies or whatever.

                              Wherever you are when eating out or shopping for food, you should take a few minutes and ask yourself "Can this meal be modified/can I make my own version at home?" You can still have a Hero sandwich, but tell the employee to hold the bread :P If you want cookies, try making your own and sub out the flour and sugar for things like almond flour and sweet cream. If you want Chinese, you can make stir-fry or use something else instead of the lo mein noodles (like squash spaghetti).

                              You have to find out why you have issues with these kinds of food. If you go Primal and limit your choices, I personally think you are ignoring your food issues. When you do, they are bound to come back meaner later on.