This post was written by Jason, founder of Paleo Plan, entrepreneur extraordinaire, and non-dogmatic Paleo eater.
Packaged Paleo foods. By definition, it’s somewhat of a contradiction of terms. Clearly, there were no pre-packaged jerky snacks roaming the prehistoric countryside. But here we are in 2012, and there’s a whole sub-niche of products springing up offering to make your Paleo journey that much easier.
So, are they a good thing? Bad thing? Unsurprisingly, it depends.
Three years ago when I started Paleo Plan, we’d regularly get people emailing in arguing that “FOOD X ISN’T PALEO!!! HOW DARE YOU HAVE A RECIPE WITH THAT IN IT!!!” We got these a lot as people were very dogmatic about the movement at the time. Since then, we’ve seen the introduction of sub-genres of Paleo, seen the early pioneers in the movement change their minds about some foods, and generally an adoption of more mainstream people who aren’t willing to be legalistic about their food.
One thing I’ve seen specifically is that people are learning that eating Paleo 100% of the time is only possible for a small group of people, and that even if the average person only eats Paleo part of the time, it’s still an improvement over what others are eating with the Standard American Diet (SAD). People have learned that there’s room for dogma, and room for real people to lead their lives however they choose.
This brings us to things like pre-packaged Paleo. In regards to this, I keep going back to the idea of Jerky. On one side, you have people buying half a cow from a local grass-fed rancher and smoking their own meats using Paleo-approved spices. Then, you have ranchers selling pre-smoked jerky, from grass-fed cows but maybe with a bit of sugar or soy sauce in the marinade. Then, a little further down the spectrum, you have jerky for sale at Whole Foods, which promises better than average meats but not grass-fed beef. And lastly, way down the line, you have gas-station jerky (you know what I’m talking about).
Along the spectrum, all of those things are technically jerky, but one is not like the other. And, when is one jerky Paleo, and when is it not. Where is the line? Who gets to draw that line? When are you “cheating?”
To further complicate things, you have to take into account not only content, but context. If I’m driving across country, and find myself in a pinch, is it better to swing into a McDonald’s and get the Big Mac, fries and a coke; or stop at a gas station and get a sketchy apple, some Brand Name Jerky, and maybe a mineral water. One is clearly more Paleo than the other, but does that make it Paleo? No. It doesn’t. But like all things in life, we strive for balance. The balance to live our lives, to not be a slave to food (both in terms of the SAD addicted obese person, and the crazy-obsessed Paleo person), to make the best choices we can when we can make them.
Part of the reason for this post is that Paleo Plan has been asked by several companies lately to review their Packaged Paleo Products. In some cases, we’re big fans, both for taste and convenience. At other times, it’s a poor substitute for things we’ve otherwise taken out of our diet.
As we review these products, we’ll try and be honest about what you’re getting, and what compromises you may be making if you choose to eat them. Hopefully, they’ll be worth it for one reason or another. But not all the food we’ve tried is even good enough tasting to ever justify putting it in your mouth. I’d rather go hungry in some cases.
So, be watching for some of our upcoming reviews. And let us know what you think about packaged Paleo in the comments.