The Paleo Diet and the Nutrients You’re Missing

Every few years, a new fad diet comes on the scene, claiming to solve all our health problems. Remember the Atkins diet? How about the Zone, or even South Beach? Unfortunately, rather than promoting balanced food choices, fad diets tend to eliminate entire food groups, leaving our bodies without essential nutrients. 

Today, everyone seems to be “going Paleo.”

What is Paleo?

  • The Paleo diet encourages lots of vegetables, meats and some fruits.
  • Like other diet plans, going Paleo also means there are restrictions.
  • No refined sugars, junk food or soda. Even foods that are normally considered healthy are restricted, such as whole grains, beans, legumes and dairy. That’s not a lot of variety! 

The Problem with Paleo

  • Omitting nutrient-rich dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt is concerning because the food choices we are left with tend to be low in calcium and vitamin D. Both are incredibly important for bone health.
  • Other foods like spinach and kale contain calcium, and I encourage people to eat them as part of a balanced diet. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t absorb calcium from these sources as well as they absorb the calcium in milk and dairy products.

Finding the Balance

Because of the critical role calcium and vitamin D play in maintaining bone health, some in the Paleo community have shifted to a Lacto-Paleo diet, and incorporate three daily servings of dairy as recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. 

Even though the Lacto-Paleo diet has incorporated dairy into a regular eating plan, the diet still lacks key nutrients from whole grains, beans and legumes. When we restrict these foods, our gut lacks friendly fibers and our body lacks essential B vitamins important for regular cell function. Rather than eliminating entire food groups from what we eat, I recommend choosing a balanced meal plan that incorporates at least 30 minutes of activity a day.

With our hectic lives and busy schedules, it is hard to forget that eating should be a fun experience to share with family and friends. We shouldn’t omit entire food groups from our regular eating patterns, but focus on balance and variety. When choosing meals rich in fruits and vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, healthy fats, and yes, dairy, you can be sure you are making healthy choices for you and your family. Life is hard as it is. Feeding your family shouldn’t be. 

For fun family recipes, visit the Dairy Discovery Zone. Happy, healthy eating! 

By Katie McKee, MCN, RDN, LD

Katie has always loved teaching others about the power of nutrition. She has a background in journalism as a reporter, writer and editor and has been part of the Dairy MAX team since 2015. When she's not working, Katie enjoys cooking and spending time with her young son and family. Learn more about Katie

Get Content Like This in Your Inbox.