Paleo treats make me sick… Literally: 2 reasons to keep them, 3 reasons to ditch them

Paleo treats make me sick… Literally: 2 reasons to keep them, 3 reasons to ditch them


I always thought that my paleo baking attempts left me with a tummy ache because they contained eggs, or butter, or nut flour. Turns out it wasn’t. My body simply doesn’t handle the concentration of ingredients found in baked goods, even if they are totally compliant with the autoimmune protocol. I have learned this the hard way…a few times. I always try to blame it on something else…. but I have finally had to admit the truth: BAKED GOODS HURT MY TUMMY A LOT (especially if I eat more than one).

As the REAL FOOD movement has grown (by real food I mean: paleo, primal, ancestral and Weston A. Price based diets) so has the availability of pre-made treats and recipes for baked goods. You can buy frozen “Paleo” meals and grain free granola bars at even the most mainstream supermarkets. While I think it is great that eating real food with real ingredients is becoming easier and more accessible, it is a double edged sword. The whole point of eating real food is exactly that: eating real food, meaning food in it’s most natural form. However, even a grain free granola bar with totally recognizable ingredients is processed… and a few more steps from it’s natural form than it really needs to be. I am not saying that all grain-free granola bars are bad and that you shouldn’t eat one if you are really hungry, but they should not take the place of buying real fruits and vegetables and making a really real meal.

When I first started following a whole foods diet to control my Crohn’s disease symptoms I lived in rural Brazil with no grain free flour options or pre-made paleo anything. I couldn’t even buy maple syrup or canned coconut milk. I made coconut milk from coconuts and was dying to get my hands on some arrowroot flour, almond meal or at least some grass-fed gelatin! It turns out that my lack of resources actually was probably helpful. I was on a “whole 24/7/365” instead of a “whole 30” (read more about the whole 30 here) and my body seemed to like it.

The autoimmune protocol is now becoming increasingly popular… just like these other whole foods movements.  When I began following the autoimmune protocol, not even 2 years ago, you could count the websites with AIP information on one hand and the AIP baked goods recipes on your nose. Now you need at least the hands and feet of two people to count them (maybe a whole village)!  I am happy that more and more people are finding the autoimmune protocol and solving their chronic health problems.  I am also shocked, awed and thrilled that there are wizards out there who can make cookies and cake with the ingredients available on the autoimmune protocol! Making cake without: grains, nuts, dairy, sugar, eggs, or seeds (yes this includes chia and flax seed egg replacers) is not just baking or chemistry. It is magic. The amazing people who think up these recipes deserve a prize! Their recipes make an extremely difficult diet a lot more approachable and give us the opportunity to have celebratory treats without the consequences of gluten and processed sugar (or in my case even eggs and nuts). Unfortunately as the autoimmune protocol becomes more mainstream and these recipes become more common, I fear that we are going to see more AIP “failures.”  We have to be really careful when replacing our breakfast toast with “AIP toast” and not changing our real habits. Treats are treats and we have to treat them as such!


Blowing out the "candles" on my AIP Birthday Pie
Blowing out the “candles” on my AIP Birthday Pie


So here you have it:


1) Even the paleo grain substitutes are processed

Take coconut flour for example, a great, grain free flour substitute full of fiber! Making coconut flour isn’t as simple as grinding up a coconut. You have to grind up the coconut and blend it with hot water before squeezing out all of the fats, oils and juices. This process is repeated until the coconut flour is almost fat-free. The remaining pulp is then toasted and ground even further until it is fine and powdery, like wheat flour. There is definitely a lot of processing in the process of turning any whole food into flour, and as with any industrial processing, the food is altered and often damaged as a result.


2) Whole foods stop being whole when we take them apart


It is one thing to cook a sweet potato, mash it up, add some ghee and eat it. It is entirely another thing to change it’s form completely and remove some of it’s elements. A coconut without it’s fats is no longer a whole food. As I mentioned in my article about vitamins and nutrients: whole foods often come conveniently packaged with all of the enzymes, vitamins, minerals, amino acids etc. that we need to properly digest them and optimally absorb their nutrients. We are not smarter than nature…odds are that if there are more than a few steps between the original food and what you put in your mouth, it has lost some of it’s original nutritional value and/or digestibility.


3) Sugar is sugar even when it isn’t sugar


Humans didn’t use to eat a lot of sugar. The average sugar consumption during most of human history was less than 20 grams and usually straight from a bush or tree. Natural sugars (honey, maple syrup, dates) are better on a nutritional level because they still have all of their original nutrients, but this doesn’t stop them to from being sugar. On the autoimmune protocol the recommended daily sugar intake is about 10- 20 grams.To give you an idea about the actual quantity of sugar we are talking about 100g dates = 75 grams of sugar, a half a large plantain = 30 grams of sugar, a cup of carrots = 10 grams of sugar, a cup of yam = 27.9 grams of sugar, 1 TB maple syrup = 15 grams of sugar. You get the idea, right? The amount of honey, dates or maple syrup needed to make a sweet cake is enough to make my tummy feel like a hot air balloon taking off.




1) They make changing your diet less scary


The more people who eat healthy food the better and I am thrilled by anything that helps people get off the doritos and beer. When you see a recipe for “pizza” or “cereal” the thought of giving up processed food is less intimidating. Whole foods versions of your old favorite foods, to enjoy on occasion, are not bad things… and definitely won’t do the same number on your health as pulling through the drive-through window of your ex-favorite, fast food establishment.


2) They give birthday cake back to the people who otherwise couldn’t have it


There are a lot of people (myself included) who found a whole foods diet not because they wanted to lose the last five pounds or look better in a bikini, but because they have a potentially life threatening illness or disease and nothing else is helping. I had all but given up on having cookies again before I found some of these fabulous autoimmune protocol recipe wizards. We don’t have the option of having a donut without severe consequences. These recipes give the chance to indulge in celebratory treats back to a lot of really sick people. Hats off to all of you who are making life on the autoimmune protocol a little bit sweeter (pun intended).



Remember that whole foods treats and convenience foods are exactly that, treats and convenience foods. They should be enjoyed as occasional treats and not to replace nutrient dense, whole food meals.


If you are initiating the autoimmune protocol to heal from an autoimmune disease, any recipe that calls for more than a spoonful of sweetener is not AIP approved, rather AIP friendly. If you are noticing a plateau in your healing, be honest about how much sugar you are eating. Once you have improved significantly you might be able to eat some of these autoimmune protocol treats…. but they should probably be reserved for special occasions that happen once a year, like your birthday, and not used to curb your monthly sweet tooth.

This last one is for me…. never, and I repeat NEVER, make a whole batch of autoimmune protocol friendly baked goods if you are the only one around to eat them. Just one cookie has concentrated sugar, so imagine how I am feeling after eating the whole batch? For those of you who have great self control and are able to eat one cookie a day this might not be a problem but if you are like me, save treats for days when you have company or are going to a party! These delicious treats from He won’t Know it’s Paleo will be a hit at any special event.


Party friendly AIP treat, just don’t make them when you are home alone (advice from my own experience)

As far as I am concerned my plan from here on out is to follow my own advice. While it has been fun and tempting to dabble in autoimmune protocol friendly baking, I will have to leave it for JUST my birthday… when there are plenty of people around to help me eat my sugary treat. I won’t feel deprived, I can still eat lemon hibiscus jello and blueberry gummies or frozen berries with coconut milk.


You can eat the whole batch of these delicious gummies without too many consequences :)
You can eat the whole batch of these delicious gummies without too many consequences 🙂


What about you, how do you tolerate “whole foods” treats? How do you feel about all of the “paleo” convenience foods on the market these days?


31 Responses

  1. Great post, Mika! I think what gets lost for many people is the implication behind the word “treat,” which means something out of the ordinary or an infrequent occurrence. I know that I can afford to eat treats very occasionally (I recently wrote about this on my blog). If I make treats (like I will for my husband’s bday this weekend), I do so when we are having company so that there are no leftovers. I agree with you: too much of anything, even the so-called “clean-eats-treats,” is not a good thing. 😉

    • Slightly Lost Girl

      YES!!!!! That is exactly what I wanted to say…. not that the treats are bad, but that we have to be really careful with them (and also that not all treats are created equal). Thanks for reading 🙂

  2. Another great post, Mikaela, and something that needs to be said more and more as AIP goes “mainstream.”

    • Slightly Lost Girl

      Thanks Eileen! It seems like everything that goes “mainstream” starts to lose its potency…. hopefully we can avoid that with the AIP!

  3. I could never figure out why all the baked things and treats made me sick. It turns out I have fructose absorption and now that I’ve identified it, it’s so obvious. Within twenty four hours of eating too much fructose I get diarrhea and by day two, horrible sinus inflammation and chronic headaches. then the Fatigue hits. I’m so glad that I’ve finally figure it out. Oh how I miss dates though 🙂

    • sorry, that’s “fructose Malabsorption”

    • Slightly Lost Girl

      Sounds like me…. but for now I seem to be OK as long as I control myself 🙂 I am glad you found out what it was!!!! And sososoooo sorry about the dates 🙁

  4. Such a great post, Mika! I agree 1,000,000%! When I first switched my diet I ate lots of paleo friendly baked goods – that was actually made me feel ok about making the switch, ha! I was like “I can eat all these paleo pancakes and cookies and feel great?” ummmm, no. I learned over time that I just don’t feel well eating treats, so now I only make them for a special occasion. My real favorite treat these days is a yummy piece of summer fruit 🙂
    I’ve also noticed so many companies marketing products as “paleo” – like one company that made a “paleo” cereal in a brightly colored box, that looks like any other grain filled cereal. Now I think this could be great for kids that need to make a diet change, and could really help them adjust, but at the same time I feel like it’s also taking advantage of what is meant to be a really great thing. Kinda like how the gluten-free movement could have been a super healthy change to the food industry, but then all these companies jumped in and started producing gluten-free junk.
    And that’s my short rant for the day, haha 😉

    • Slightly Lost Girl

      Perfect rant. You understood exactly what I was trying to say….

  5. Naz (@CinnamonEats)

    Thank you for this post! I couldn’t agree with you more! I don’t follow an AIP protocol but I think this whole thing can be said across the board for the real food diet movement. I think it’s great that there are options out there for the occasional treat but when it becomes a daily occurrence then it becomes a problem.

    • Slightly Lost Girl

      I am so glad you enjoyed reading! I definitely agree with you about the treats….they will make more people end up “failing” with whole food diets.

  6. Yes, yes, yes! My body also hates when I bake – I love eating baked goods though, and I’m damn good at thinking up recipes that work! I need to get over that though and save the desserts for special occasions, not my afternoon snack each day… my health and happiness are worth it!

    • Slightly Lost Girl

      I know it is so hard!!!! But you are right on, your health is more important…. and will last so much longer than that cookie! The paleo mom has some plantain pancakes that you might be able to tolerate all they are is plantain, egg, and baking soda. I can’t eat them because of the eggs and sugar from the plantains, but they are whole foods!

  7. excellent points! Maybe I should consider it a blessing that my body doesn’t tolerate even the AIP approved starches -or FODMAPS either, for that matter…I was so depressed when I had to face the fact that the things I was making -like plantain pancakes- tasted wonderful, but made me miserable. I am learning (slowly but surely) that simple is good -lol

    • Also, when you are calculating your 10-20 grams of sugar for the day, is this added sugar/sweeteners only or should sugar grams from whole fruits etc also be included in that total? Thanks -from a gal that is 8 weeks in and still trying to figure this all out -lol!

      • Slightly Lost Girl

        Great work Kathy! Sounds like you know quite a bit already despite only being 8 weeks in! The 10-20 grams of sugar is EVERYTHING including fruits and veggies…. if you have The Paleo Approach there are tables showing the sugar content of different foods at the back of the book, or you can find most foods on google. I was dismayed to see how much sugar is in carrots and sweet potatoes. That said after you are feeling better you might be able to handle more fruit after a while! A couple of low sugar fruits that surprised me are: papaya and cantaloupe… and berries are also a great choice 🙂 Good luck and I hope that things go well for you as you continue working on your health!

  8. Fantastic post! When you’re playing with addictive, low-nutrient substances – including highly processed starch, natural sweeteners, high-sugar fruit – moderation becomes very, very tough. I like the Whole30 concept of “no brakes” foods, which vary by individual. If you can bake AIP cookies & enjoy one, not blow up like a balloon and/or crash, and be done with it, great. But that’s a rare person, both in willpower and reaction. Being honest with yourself – like you are! – is so key.

    • Slightly Lost Girl

      So true!!!! I am one of the whole batch of cookies kinds of girls…. best to save them for my birthday 🙂

  9. An “aha” moment when reading this. Subbed

  10. Hi Mika!
    Just found your blog, and I am so happy. There are not that much autoimmune recipes available online.
    I am a student with autoimmune, and I’ve just started following AIP. Of course I was like – ehh eggs are probably fine, etc. And the baked paleo goods turned out to be a complete failure for me. I prepared a pumpkin bread thinking that it was okay, and then I totally overate on it. This made me really sick.
    But it is really hard to stick to it. Plus – when everyone in your family and friends are unsupportive, and think you are crazy – then it is sad and hard.
    Hopefully, I will get some nice inspiration, motivation and recipes from the blog.
    Thanks a lot.

    • Slightly Lost Girl

      Thanks for reading Alex! Hopefully when you start getting healthier your family and friends will be more supportive… my family (especially my husband) used to think I was crazy too, but now he is the first to make sure I don’t eat anything off limits!
      Feel free to ask any questions you might have, or even just complain if you need to 🙂

  11. Thank you for writing on this topic. I am just facing the fact that after eating an AIP treat my RA will begin to flare a bit and I get super fatigued. I think I can handle plantain crackers (green plantain, coconut oil, salt), but the sweeteners (honey) definitely affect me badly. Thanks for helping me face the truth.

    • Slightly Lost Girl

      Hi Tiffany, thanks for reading! I am sorry that AIP treats make you flare…. it is a sad truth but knowing it might save you some pain and suffering in the future 😉 The more we learn (even about ourselves) the more there is to learn!

  12. […] At first I felt upset and left out but I realized later that while difficult, the “disadvantage” of not being able to buy these foods was actually an advantage for my health. A dear friend sent me a care package with a bunch of specialty flours and I promptly went crazy making “AIP treats” and ended up with a tummy ache. Moderation is definitely important when using processed ingredients and natural sugars even if they are on the AIP yes-list. Now I know to save my specialty flours and treats for occasions like Christmas and my birthday, when I want to have something special (and also have company to help me eat everything). You can read more about my take on “paleo treats” here. […]

  13. We keep paleo baked treats to a minimum–these days, they’re a once-every-couple-months thing. Even once a week can be okay for some of my patients…but more than that tends to derail (or at least not support) goals around weight, health and wellness.

    Was pleased to find your balanced post on this…and to share it on our clinic FB page. Thank you!

  14. […] her symptoms began to improve somewhat but she plateaued in her healing. She had been indulging in a lot of AIP treats and experiencing recurrent yeast infections. She went to a functional medicine doctor, who tested […]

  15. […] on the AIP are something that are important to moderate (I wrote about this here) but this recipe for AIP pumpkin pie parfait manages to be rich, satisfying and completely […]

  16. What a great post! I can commiserate with you on your inability to enjoy a baked treat as is. I am a profound nosher (or at least used to be 🙁 ) and in my current state cannot enjoy any baked item.

  17. Thank you so much for this! In an effort to add more fiber to my diet I was eating a half a cup of coconut flour a day. Needless to say I was starting to become very nauseated and I didn’t know what it was from a quick search came up with your site and a marvelous explanation of how coconut flour is not just dehydrated coconut ground up. Thank you for saving my stomach I will try and find somebody heartier to donate my coconut flour to.

Leave a Reply