If, like me, you are a person that sees dieting as a way of controlling what is eaten for the purposes of physical and mental performance, rather than reducing the amount that is eaten simply in order to get thinner, then perhaps you have been confused and baffled by the plethora of often conflicting advice found on websites and in magazines.
So, as a thinker, rather than scientist, I thought I’d try and work out a diet plan (for performance remember…) that made sense to me. Probably as good as any other!

So… what makes a healthy diet?
Well as a thinker, not a scientist, I’d like to go back to square one, back to the roots of our ancestral diet and intuitively, the diet that must suit us the most in the natural sense!

Square one:
Humans evolved as a part of the mammalian chain which if you go back far enough (perhaps as far back as 225 MYA) is found to branch off from the reptilian evolutionary path.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I reckon it’s a pretty safe bet to say that weren’t any food stores or fast food outlets at that time, so the available food in this natural state would have consisted of whatever they could forage or scavenge, or catch and kill.

Fast forward to perhaps only 200,000 years ago and the first of modern-day humans (Homo Sapien) appeared… and possibly the ability to control fire and therefore cook food had already been discovered. Certainly there is evidence that the use of fire predates this time.
It is easy to appreciate that the diet of those first humans, and the diets of all other animals surrounding them, will still have only consisted of whatever they could forage or scavenge, or catch and kill… and I still don’t think that there was a drive-in Burger King or similar.
Therefore, it is also self-evident that the diets of the very first modern-day humans would simply be that which they were taught by their parents and peers, and be limited to that which was available in their immediate surroundings and of course, that which was available at that time of year… so as a side note, it can be appreciated that a truly natural diet is also related to the seasons.
Also, much of what was easily available would be limited by how easy it was to gather, so as plant matter would be easier to gather than animal (except insects) because it doesn’t run away, it stands to reason that the majority of the diet of the day would be vegetarian, but supplemented with the occasional meat meal, and perhaps more often with eggs.
I can imagine that the individuals of the day would naturally tend to go for food with a higher calorific value, i.e. foods with fat and natural sugars, rather than leaves or other tougher foodstuffs that was more difficult to digest within the human digestive system i.e. grass or leaves. I’m sure that the unit of measurement of this, would be how tasty it was!

(Incidentally, within our western diets today, this measuring stick of tastiness, is something that can no longer be trusted, as we, as a species, have managed to be ‘clever’ enough to create what I refer to as ‘pseudo foods’. Look at sweets for instance. They appear to be food because they taste great and can be eaten, and if you have enough, then they can fill you up too. But the actual nutritional value is generally limited to that which can be provided by refined and then processed cane sugar. So essentially, all that is eaten is simple carbohydrates. Apart from the energy value, they are of very little use for the body.
All the other false ingredients (colourings, preservatives, etc) are not something that we are evolutionarily equipped to deal with, meaning that our genetically bequeathed knowledge gathered by the millions of generations of our ancestors, has no knowledge base to call upon in order to understand what to do with these ‘synthetic’ materials. So either the body ejects these unnatural chemicals, or it stores them because it doesn’t know what else to do. So those that are stored, now start creating a toxic reservoir within our bodies – doesn’t sound a good thing to me!)

So, to my mind, the food part of life’s pressures that would have helped create our inherent design, would be driven by the combined forces of evolution (changes due to environmental stresses), necessity (hunger driving changes in diet when a part of the staple diet ran out), food flavour and availability (for when there was enough that there were options), and the balance of energy expenditure vs danger vs energy gathered, i.e. hunting large dangerous prey;
…this resultant design then of our species, must be best suited to predominantly vegetarian whole foods as they don’t run away, so fruits, nuts and berries, and other vegetable matter such as cabbage, spinach, fat hen; and root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, parsnips; with handfuls of insects when you can get them, supplemented with meat and innards on the few occasions you can carry out a successful hunt. Not forgetting that none of this would have been washed any more than to get rid of excess soil or similar… so plenty of soil (rotting vegetation and animal matter) would also have been consumed on a meal by meal basis.
So as an example, perhaps in summer and autumn when the abundance of fruits, berries and nuts are at their highest, there would be less hunting and more gathering, but through the changes in seasons, the abundance of certain food types would cycle, so at colder times the risks of hunting would be outweighed by the fight for survival, and so at these colder parts of the year the meat intake may have been greater.

So… back to the present day.
It is generally accepted amongst anthropologists, that we are going to be physiologically similar to our distant Homo Sapien ancestors, so whatever they would eat, we can also eat (putting aside the bacterial resistance of the gut that would naturally grow from being exposed to the harshness of a Palaeolithic lifestyle).

As a result of my own observations over the years, demonstrated by this thought train, my personal recommendations for a healthy diet are simply to eat whole foods, not processed, predominantly vegetarian in the warm months, and more meat based through the colder months of the year.
In this age where food is available ‘on tap’, the only other problem for us is to only eat enough, never too much – a little bit of abstinence becomes key!

I cannot see the need to define diet control any more ‘accurately’ than this.
To my mind, all the scientific studies, and all the expert nutritional advice, should only be required for special cases such as where we are aiming for specific sporting goals, or where today as a community, we try to keep everyone alive, rather than where in the past a person would have died through not being able to be provided for, or being able to provide for themselves.

So, todays Palaeolithic diet fad makes sense in my head as it self-evidently comes from a ‘natural place’, but I think some of the other points above, such as seasonally available foods, and handfuls of insects should also be considered to be truly paleolithic.

Hmm… I wonder what that beetle tastes like…?