Seven Billion Hot Dogs: How much meat is too much?

This summer, Americans are will eat around seven billion hot dogs, not to mention the other bbq options: burgers, ribs, brisket, brats, etc. This trend is in part because it’s barbecue season, and we’re all firing up our grills, but some of it does have to do with the fact that more and more people are subscribing to the Paleo Diet (what’s Paleo?). I’ve been experimenting with the Paleo lifestyle here and there, and overall I’ve been happy with it. But sometimes when I’m cooking up my cave man dinner, I wonder, how much meat is too much?

Paleo has been a part of my life for the past year. I’m not strict with it (although sometimes I’d like to be), and I go on month long Paleo challenges, trying to eat as strictly as I can. At first, I was skeptical because Paleo does have the same popularity as a lot of fad diets I’ve read about. I decided to give it a try after reading about the health benefits that come with reducing the amount of (or fully eliminating) wheat from the diet: no more blood sugar spikes or stomach pains, clearer skin and healthy hair, more energy, and a better night’s sleep, to name a few. That all sounds good, but the problem I kept running into was that eliminating wheat from an American diet is hard. Wheat is in almost everything you can buy at the grocery store, the exception is raw meat and fresh vegetables. This is what lead me to the Pelo diet.

When I started the Peleo diet, I found that all the recipes I came across called for more meat than I could ever eat. The cavemen had to have access to vegetables, berries, nuts, and fruits, right? The recipes I found were helpful for instructing me what is included and excluded from the Peleo diet, but not very helpful with finding something a little more balanced. I started reducing the amount of meat that was called for, and increasing the amount of greens.

I believe that fad diets fail because dieters can be too prescriptive with them. Paleo seems to work for me, and so many of my friends because we treat it as a lifestyle, adjusting it to our needs instead of following the recipe. Too much meat can mean an excess of saturated fats, which leads to health troubles including heart disease. Knowing when you’ve got too much on your plate is just as important as why you’re not putting any wheat or grains on it. Here’s a rule I learned today from Marjorie McCullough, ScD, Nutritional Epidemiology: 2-3 servings of red meat/week, and the portion should be about the size of your palm. The rest of your plate should be greens and veggies. On the other nights of the week I like to eat fish and chicken, keeping the same portion size of meat and vegetables.

As for being on of those Americans eating one of the seven billion hot dogs? I’m sure I’ll make an exception this summer, what’s a bbq without brats?

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