The Caveman Guide to Good Eatin'

Joe Lavin's Humor Column

The Caveman Guide to Good Eatin'

September 13, 2002

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It wasn't my plan to see a nutritionist, but after my last physical, my doctor suggested that it might be a good idea. That's because he thought I could stand to lose about 15 pounds, which was something of a coincidence since I thought he too could stand to lose 15 pounds. "Have you tried cutting out the midnight snacks?" I almost asked him.

Honestly, I'm not sure if I trust my doctor. He's nice enough, but, after I told him I write a humor column, he spent my entire appointment talking about the value of humor to society as well as his great love for "The Carol Burnett Show." I barely had a chance to ask any medical questions. Note to any budding doctors out there: When putting a rubber glove on in front of a patient, it's best not to be discussing Harvey Korman. This will not relax the patient.

At any rate, my doctor wanted me to see Charlie the nutritionist because "Charlie has a lot of interesting ideas." Only later did I realize that he never said "good ideas." I soon learned that these ideas mostly revolved around the Primal Forest Food Diet, in which you're supposed to eat exactly like cavemen ate thousands of years ago. You see, according to Charlie, cavemen ate a much healthier diet than we do today. Sure, they tended to keel over around age thirty, but upon death, their cholesterol was immaculate.

Following this diet means cutting down on processed foods, eating little bread, no pasta, and probably no double stuff Oreos -- although I didn't specifically ask, so maybe the Oreos are okay. Instead, you should eat lots of nuts and vegetables, just like cavemen did. "Back then, dinner usually meant two big piles of spinach," he told me, which was tough to believe. I suspect this was true only for the unsuccessful cavemen. The successful ones were probably dining on a giant carcass, while the unsuccessful ones hoped desperately for a dinner invitation.

Strangely, Charlie spent most of his time talking about nuts. He suggested a handful of nuts for breakfast, as part of lunch, in the afternoon, and even for a nighttime snack. He talked so much about them that I started to wonder whether he might be getting a kickback from the Nut Harvesters of America. I almost expected Mr. Peanut himself to wander in with a free coupon.

Next, Charlie handed me a list of foods split into five categories -- protein, vegetables, fruits, starches, and oils. Everything on the top half of the page was generally good for you. Towards the bottom was food you should avoid. You can probably guess where all my favorite foods were listed. Some of my favorites were so bad they didn't even make the page.

There were many surprises. For example, when exactly did bread become so bad for you? And what's wrong with rice? According to Charlie, cheerios are actually better for you than rice or bread, prompting me to wonder whether he might be getting some money from the cheerio people too.

Over in oils, lard was rated higher than butter, which had to be a bit of coup for the Lard Producers of America, though neither is as "healthy" as tub margarine. Tofu is the best protein you can eat, ranked slightly ahead of something called tempeh. I've never heard of tempeh, but I'm not eating it, and you can't make me.

Later, Charlie handed me another page detailing a 1600-calorie diet. Much to my dismay, I learned that these 1600 calories were earmarked for an entire day, rather than for one meal, as I had hoped. When I complained, Charlie said I could splurge and have 2200 calories, but his idea of splurging meant another serving of broccoli or an extra handful of nuts. Here clearly was a man who needed to expand his palate.

For breakfast, Charlie suggested using a blender to make protein shakes -- you know, just like the cavemen used to do! Never has something with the word "shake" in it ever sounded less appetizing. A protein shake contains fruit and protein powder, a substance I refuse to eat on the grounds that I don't believe it's food. Start eating protein powder, and you're one step away from having a pill for dinner.

Later, he discussed lunch and dinner options, but by then I wasn't really listening. This was my lunch hour, and with all this talk of food, I was starving. The longer the appointment, the hungrier I became. When I finally escaped, I headed straight for the sandwich shop across the street where I ate an Italian sandwich on focaccia bread with sour cream and dill spread. What the hell, I figured. Why not get my 1600 calories out of the way, so I won't have to eat later?

You might wonder whether I'm following any of his advice. While I've opted out of the 1600-calorie starvation diet, I am at least cutting down on carbohydrates and trying to eat more nuts. That night, I even went to the supermarket and bought a can of Planter's Mixed Nuts. It's probably not what he had in mind for the caveman diet, but I have to admit that they are kind of tasty. Get some potato chips and beer to go with them, and you've got yourself a nice little meal.

I don't know why, but while shopping, I also had a peculiar craving for some buffalo meat. Strangely, I couldn't find any. It must have been out of season.

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