People who adopt paleo or primal diets focus on what our ancestors ate millions of years ago: meat, seafood, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. While avoiding processed foods can be healthy, dietitians say that the paleo menu falls short because essential vitamins and nutrients are found in whole-grain and dairy products that are not a part of the diet.
Mark Bittman, author and columnist for The New York Times, is a strong advocate for a mostly plant-based diet. He switched to a "vegan before 6" diet when he saw statistics about the environmental impacts of large-scale livestock production and was told by his physician to try the diet to lose weight and reduce his high cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Nutritionists say when people cook for themselves at home instead of eating out they can better control what they eat, particularly in terms of portion size and healthy substitutions. Dietitian Jessica Baye advises people to do most of their grocery shopping on the outer ring of the store, where fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy and lean meats are found.
School officials in Chicago are offering healthier choices in the cafeteria and have been enlisting the help of nonprofit groups that provide programs on food and nutrition for students in the classroom as well. "The tastings part of the curriculum has been extremely popular and effective," the executive director of one advocacy group said, "and local farm expeditions where children have had the opportunity to eat broccoli and other vegetables off the plant have been absolutely transformative."
Adding certain nutritional supplements can help maintain eye health, especially in older adults, experts say. Lutein and vitamin A may help with night vision, zeaxanthin may protect against ultraviolet damage, omega-3 oils prevent retinal damage and zinc may help protect against macular degeneration.