The Paleo-sphere was alive with some feistiness this week between Paleo Parents and Whole9 over this article. The gist of the argument seems to be that some people are okay with making and consuming things like baked goods with ingredients that are Paleo/Primal approved, while others think that making and consuming foods that harken back to our old ways of eating (and failing) is rife with trouble.
(I’m really using this scuffle as a jumping off point, because as far as I can tell, the whole thing is mostly a misunderstanding. Whole9 are not absolutists. The article is specifically about why these foods, like pancakes for instance, aren’t good to have during a Whole30, even if all the ingredients are Whole30 approved. End of my two cents.)
If you’re a semi-regular reader of the Periodical, you know I partake in the occasional baked yummy treat from heaven (see here! and here! and here! and here! and here!). I’ve also talked about these types of substitutions and how to go about incorporating them responsibly (here). One of my favorite food finds since going Primal is Elana Amsterdam and her website and cookbooks.
But. We have to stop calling it Paleo. We can call it grain free, dairy free, gluten free. But we can’t call it Paleo. Sorry, Elana.
After nine months on the Primal wagon, I’ve come to see the designation “Paleo” as being pretty specific and not really open to much interpretation. Sure, we can quibble about whether or not it’s okay to eat green beans occasionally, but baked goods and pancakes are an entire class of foods removed from hunter-gatherer-style eating. Some people draw the line at the addition of baking soda or baking powder.
I see Whole9′s perspective as being more about the psychology than the physiology, about knowing yourself and being able to make food choices with integrity. But many people have trouble with this, and if you’re one of those people, then substitutions will only allow you to groove that rut a little deeper. From my own experience as someone who never battled sugar cravings pre-Primal, that sugar monster has sneaked up on me a few times since, and the answer is never to give into it. In order to keep it under control, you have to break the pathways in your brain that have made it habit: dessert after every dinner, fruit in the afternoon, or whatever your pattern happens to be. Otherwise you may find yourself stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle. Trust me, sugar begets more sugar.
But if you’re not aiming for double/triple digit weight loss or battling food issues, then a few sweet potato almond flour muffins as part of a healthy Paleo or Primal lifestyle probably won’t kill you. Especially for those of us with kids, these treats can go a long way toward making them feel less of a pariah and fend off a full-on gluten- and processed sugar-filled cupcake bomb. Besides, there’s something really cool about the fact that we humans have figured out how to transform such strange ingredients into delicious masterpieces. It ties us to our culture, which is also an important element of human life that shouldn’t be overlooked.