Essential Versus Optional in Paleo

When I developed my list of Modern Paleo Principles in early 2010, I’d hoped to be able to sort out the essential principles from the optional tweaks. So forgoing grains would be essential to eating paleo whereas intermittent fasting would be just an optional tweak that a person might never even try. Sounds reasonable, right? Perhaps so, but the attempt was a total non-starter.

Almost as soon as I sat down to write out my list of principles, I realized that I couldn’t possibly separate them into “essential” and “optional,” except in a few clear cases. Similarly, I couldn’t rank its principles by priority except in a very rough way. Despite the core features of the diet captured in my definition — avoiding grains, sugars, and modern vegetable oils in favor of high-quality meat, fish, eggs, and vegetables — that just wasn’t possible.

But… why not? Why can’t we identify …

Modern Paleo: Modern Paleo Journey

First a bit of personal info. I just turned 40. Married with 2 young children. I work as a Mechanical/Software Engineer for a large company. My family and I are relocating to Greenville, SC this summer from upstate NY. I have been a lifelong athlete, mostly in golf (single digit handicap when I play) and tennis (4.0ish). I played college Rugby as a wimpy but speedy back (wing and outside center).


Before diving into Modern Paleo living I was never much overweight, but suffered from Diseases of Civilization. Myopia, numerous cavities, cancer (bladder) to name a few. I got sick 3-4 times per year. I got especially grouchy around meal times where I couldn’t control my anger at times.

After getting to 203# (at 6′ 1″) I decided I was not going to be the 200#+ guy and starting making some changes. I started jogging 3 times per week

Paleo Recipe: Pork in Yellow Curry

In an effort to expand my diet and get more nutritional variety from the foods I eat, I am going to post a weekly new paleo recipe here at C of P.
The other day I was at Figueroa Produce, and, wanting to try something new, I picked up a 1-1/2 lb chunk of pork cushion meat. It looked similar to a piece of beef chuck roast, in terms of size, shape, and fat percentage. I figured I could at least throw it in the crock pot if I was out of time or didn’t really want to spend that much effort worrying about it. Turns out that the crock pot was an excellent choice.
These diagrams explain a little more about where the cushion meat comes from on the pig. It comes from the shoulder area, and is also called a ‘picnic shoulder roast’ or ‘Boston butt’. (I can’t

Locavorism in the Paleosphere

David Csonka of Naturally Engineered recently released the results of the Paleo Community Survey. The results were pretty interesting to peruse, although I didn’t see any shockers.

I was a bit surprised by the number of paleo-eaters who place importance on eating locally-sourced foods. I regard locavorism as focusing on an inessential — and potentially a waste of one’s limited resources. (It’s also dangerous, in that locally-based food economies incur far greater risks of famine.) The proper focus, I think, should be on finding the best-quality foods within the constraints of one’s available resources — meaning time, energy, and money. That may mean buying at a local farmer’s market — or at a large grocery store.

In other words, the fact that some food is produced locally doesn’t add any extra value in and of itself. Sure, local foods may be fresher, tastier, and/or cheaper. In that case, they’re worth …

Modern Paleo: Why the Paleolithic? (Or “Why Can’t We Just Eat Like the First Cell?”)

Ari on the OEvolve list asked:

Paleo people themselves had ancestors. If our goal is to eat like the Paleos ate, should Paleos have eaten as their ancestors ate (for optimal health)? Moreover, how do we know that any particular food that a Paleo person ate was optimal for that person’s biology? Maybe the Paleo diet was partly or largely non-optimal.

Let’s pose the question in an even broader way: How do we know that the Paleolithic era (roughly 2.5 Ma to 100 ka) should be the template for our diet when our ancestors have evolved for 3.8 billion years since the first life on earth? Why can’t we just eat like the first cell?

I think that the general answer to this is that it was during the Paleolithic era that Homo Sapiens’ most significant distinguishing traits (large brain + consciousness + upright posture) evolved. It was during the …

Paleosita: Nell Stephenson


Nell Stephenson, paleo expert and regular contributor to our own Paleo Rodeo, has a fancy new website: Paleoista.

For those of you who don’t (yet) know her, Nell is the author of The Paleo Diet Cookbook (with Dr. Loren Cordain), and her blog is always good for nuts-and-bolts advice on eating paleo, particularly for athletes.

The new web site is connected with her upcoming book: Paleoista, Get Lean, Gain Energy and Feel Fabulous with the Diet you were Born to Eat. That’s due out in May 2012, but you can pre-order it now. You can find out more about the book here. Nell also offers nutritional counseling and plans.

I love to see the paleo experts upping their game! The basics of paleo seem easy, but the practice is often complex and difficult, and people can have problems that they need help to solve. I’ve certainly benefited from …

Happy Second Birthday, Modern Paleo!

Happy Second Birthday, Modern Paleo! You launched on March 15, 2010… we’ve learned tons since then… and you’ve grown into something pretty awesome!

My particular thanks to Christian Wernstedt of Vital Objectives for editing the Modern Paleo Blog, as well as to the blog writers for their fabulous slew of posts.

Also, Modern Paleo runs six e-mail lists. They’ve tended to be a bit quiet, but I’ve found them to be an excellent resource when I’ve got a question. So my many thanks to the list managers for making the lists run smoothly. The lists are:

  • PaleoBloggers: PaleoBloggers is an informal private mailing list for bloggers who adhere to and advocate a broadly paleo approach to nutrition, fitness, medicine, and supplementation. Its basic purpose is to facilitate communication about matters of mutual interest — such as blogworthy links, the paleo carnival, upcoming events, posts of interest, and best blogging

Colorado Paleo Wanderers

I’m pleased to announce that Erin Ong of Nourished Meadow has organized a paleo/primal hike and picnic for Sunday August 29th at 9 am at Mt Falcon Park, just west of Denver. All the details are posted to Please RSVP if you plan to attend. You should bring a paleo/primal lunch, plus plenty of water.

I’ll be there, and I’m excited to meet some of the local paleos that I’ve been chatting with on Twitter and elsewhere.

Even if you can’t attend this event, you can sign up for announcements of other Colorado paleo meetups by joining Colorado Paleo Wanderers.

I know that New York City has an active paleo meetup, and I’ve heard talk about others lately. That’s a great development, so please post links to any active groups in the comments!

Modern Paleo

Paleo for kids

After reading about the dangers of protein to kids at PerfectHealthDiet, I understood why I have been struggling in feeding my kids meat. I was already coming to the conclusion that there need to be a variety of vegetables on the tables for kids to choose from in order to have a happy and peaceful family meal. Now I understand why.

In brief, breast milk is composed of 7% of protein. Increasing protein to even as much as 9% in formula leads to problems. Cordain recommends limiting protein to no more than 20-25% of caloric intake for pregnant women.

So how much is exactly right for kids? There isn’t enough evidence to suggest a specific number, but it is clear that they should not eat any more than they are willing and happy to do. This means, no brow-beating them into finishing their meat or clearing their plate. Presented with …