Pa·le·o di·et

Pronounced: ˈpeɪlioʊ ˌdīət/

noun: Paleo diet; plural noun: Paleo diets; noun: Paleodiet; plural noun: Paleodiets; noun: Palaeo diet; plural noun: Palaeo diets

Definition 1. A diet based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food.

In other words, what you put on your plate is limited to what you can pick off a bush or a tree or what you can chase down and eat before it eats you. Guns are not allowed; a bow and arrow is prohibited. Those tools weren't available to our most ancient ancestors. A hefty club, sharpened stick or a nice sized-rock are permitted, making hunting a true sport.

No standing the length of a football field from your prey and shooting it from a safe distance, you have to get up close and personal. If you're not standing near enough for that mastodon-steak-on-the hoof to send you flying, you're not truly 'paleo,' you're just a poseur, an eating-healthier-than-thou wannabe.

You can eat this: meat from grass fed animals, seafood, fresh fruits and veggies, eggs, nuts, seeds, berries, and healthful oils (olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado, coconut), but not anything else.

The 'eat this but not that' paleo menu bans sugar, salt, prepared foods, and meat from animals that are fed something other than grass. Forget frozen or canned, shelf stable, anything GMO, foods with multi-syllabic additives and, probably, anything that has changed its appearance since cartoon cave man Alley Oop was a boy.

Corn was once just a grain. Strawberries were tiny, wild and bitter. Watermelons were mostly rind and seed. That slab of meat, carved off an ornery long horn that had walked across half the country, north-to-south, was naturally almost chewy enough to be called beef jerky. Rumor has it that strands of the stuff served early pioneers as dental floss.

Yeah, those beasts were grass fed.

What got me started on this rant was a report by Mintel, one of the leading market research firms, that "foods bearing 'free-from' claims, including meat and poultry products, are becoming increasingly important to Americans who perceive those products as more healthy when compared to foods without such claims."

That good old paleo diet seems to be rearing its prehistoric head and biting centuries of food progress right in the hind quarters. Maybe years of food processors making 'ours is better than yours and yours is killing people' marketing claims have finally hit home. A confused population is holding its collective hand up and saying "Enough! A multi-syllabic ingredient pox on all your production houses! I'm only going to eat foods that are 'free from' everything."

Mintel claims that an incredible 84% of consumers buy 'free-from' foods because they want what they think are more natural or less processed foods, an accurate definition not necessary. Forty-three percent of consumers insist that foods with 'free-from' claims are healthier than foods without those claims. Almost 60% believe that simpler products made with fewer ingredients are healthier, too. The anti-science Food Babe is giddy with delight. She's seen a trend, grabbed onto its long coat tails and became a well-paid celebrity in a constellation of similar peddlers of quick fixes dating back to those men of the wild west who stood on the back-of-a buckboard and sold magic elixirs, instant health in a bottle.

Here are three of the top hot button 'free from' claims that consumers believe make foods healthier
• preservatives, 71 percent;
• GMOs, 58 percent;
• sodium, 57 percent.

It's a youth thing, too. Evidently, older folks figure there allotted time is almost over so they're opting to live out their last few years eating well, dining recklessly on sodium-laced trans-fats sucked out of some bizarre genetically modified organism because it just tastes so damn good.

Sixty percent of Millennials and almost the same percentage of Gen Xers, though, are much more likely to buy 'free froms' or worry about potentially harmful ingredients in the food they buy. But the wallet still rules. Slightly more than a third of consumers - the penurious as well as the knowledge-driven - don't think those claims are worth the extra money.

For food manufacturers, marketing foods labeled with one or more of those 'free from' claims might be comforting to their bottom line. With no appreciable difference in raw cost, in most cases, they can sell preservative or fat-free products for a lot more money.

Here's the Mintel finding that should keep food industry CEOs awake at night. It's the worst scream queen horror flick, the spookiness of the next Stephen King novel and the sheer terror of being forced to watch a 24 hour marathon of Keeping Up with the Kardashians all rolled up into one Grand Guignol of fright. One of the most menacing factors behind the rising popularity of 'free from' foods is consumers believe they are healthier for the planet or are produced by companies with higher ethical standards. Cage-free and free-range claims, for instance, are important to 43 percent of 'free-from' consumers.

There is a sobering statistic that might not register with food producers drunk on the successes they've enjoyed while practicing business as usual for the past half century or more. Mintel says 70% of Americans consider a company’s ethics when purchasing products and 56% have stopped buying a company’s products when they have perceived its actions as unethical.

So Mr. American Food Producer, have you been caught short on animal welfare issues? Maybe you're looking at a potential food safety recall? Better get ahead of the game. Playing catch up after the fact does not work anymore. A minor recall that would have been an almost unnoticed toe stub in 1993 could be deadly today. Jack in the Box made sure of that. Consumers are quick to judge, usually before all the facts are in. But, when they do make a judgment call, it often seems to carry a mandatory death sentence.