What can you eat as paleo?

The paleo diet, also known as the paleolithic diet, caveman diet or stone-age diet, is a way of eating that tries to mimic what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate in the paleolithic era. The idea is that the human body is best suited to eat real, unprocessed foods that have been around for thousands of years, rather than modern processed foods that have only become common in the last century or so. The paleo diet eliminates grains, legumes, dairy, refined sugar, salt, processed oils and all processed foods. Instead, the paleo diet focuses on eating lean meats, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Some versions of paleo also avoid nightshade vegetables and encourage people to eat a large amount of animal protein. Overall, the paleo diet provides a template to optimize your health by providing the right balance of lean proteins, healthy fats and nutrient-dense vegetables. By eliminating processed and inflammatory foods, the paleo diet can help improve digestion, increase energy levels, reduce inflammation and promote weight loss. Here is an overview of the key foods you can eat on paleo:

Meat and Poultry

Lean cuts of beef, pork, lamb and poultry are staples in the paleo diet. Meat provides important nutrients like protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins. Choose grass-fed and pasture-raised meat whenever possible. Good paleo meat choices include:

  • Beef: Steak, ground beef, roasts, brisket
  • Pork: Chops, ribs, tenderloin, ham
  • Lamb: Chops, leg of lamb, shoulder
  • Chicken: Whole chicken, thighs, drumsticks, wings
  • Turkey: Ground turkey, turkey breast
  • Other game meats: Bison, venison, elk, boar

Fish and Seafood

Fish and other seafood are extremely healthy, providing lean protein, omega-3 fatty acids and essential nutrients. Aim for at least two servings per week. Good paleo seafood options include:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Cod
  • Halibut
  • Snapper
  • Shrimp
  • Lobster
  • Crab
  • Clams
  • Mussels
  • Oysters


Eggs are a versatile protein source perfect for paleo. They provide nutrients like riboflavin and selenimum. Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. Try to purchase pasture-raised eggs when possible.


Vegetables should make up a big part of the paleo diet. Focus on all varieties of vegetables, especially leafy greens. The one exception is to avoid high-starch tubers like potatoes and sweet potatoes. Low glycemic, nutrient-dense veggies to eat include:

  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Cabbage
  • Green beans
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes


Fruit can be part of a well-formulated paleo diet, but you want to be mindful of portion size and blood sugar control. Stick with low glycemic fruits in moderation. Good options include:

  • Berries: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries
  • Stone fruits: cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums
  • Citrus fruits: lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges
  • Melons: cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Kiwis
  • Grapes
  • Olives
  • Avocados

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are great sources of healthy fats and protein. They also provide minerals like magnesium, selenium and potassium. Stick to raw, unprocessed nuts and seeds without any added sugars or vegetable oils. Good choices include:

  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pecans
  • Pine nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Hazelnuts
  • Cashews
  • Brazil nuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds

Healthy Fats and Oils

Contrary to outdated beliefs, healthy fats are essential for hormone function, brain health, vitamin absorption and energy levels. Make sure to get enough healthy fats from olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, ghee and avocados. Animal fats like lard, tallow and duck fat are also great for cooking.

Herbs, Spices and Condiments

Don’t underestimate the importance of herbs, spices and condiments for adding flavor to paleo meals. Things like garlic, sea salt, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, mustard, basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary are all paleo approved. You can also make paleo mayo, salad dressing, marinades, pesto and salsa without any issues.


Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Unsweetened coffee and tea are fine too. For something different, try bone broth, herbal tea, fresh vegetable juice or coconut water. Avoid soda, fruit juice, energy drinks, alcohol and milk since those aren’t paleo.

Foods to Avoid on Paleo

Certain foods are not allowed on paleo because they either did not exist in the paleolithic era or are harmful to health. Key foods to eliminate include:

  • Grains: wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, etc.
  • Legumes: beans, peanuts, lentils, peas, soybeans
  • Dairy: milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream
  • Refined sugar: table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, etc.
  • Processed foods: chips, cereal, candy, cookies, snack bars
  • Refined vegetable oils: canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, etc.
  • Artificial sweeteners: aspartame, saccharin, sucralose
  • Trans fats: partially hydrogenated oil
  • Highly processed meat: bacon, sausage, salami, hot dogs, pepperoni
  • Sodium-heavy foods: canned soup, frozen meals, condiments

As you transition to paleo, read ingredient labels carefully and do your best to eliminate these foods from your pantry, refrigerator and meals. Focus on eating fresh, high-quality real foods instead.

A Sample Paleo Diet Daily Meal Plan

Eating paleo doesn’t have to be complicated. A day of paleo meals can be as simple as:


Scrambled eggs with sautéed veggies


Chicken salad wrapped in lettuce leaves


Grass-fed beef stir fry with broccoli and peppers


Carrots and guacamole

Apple slices with almond butter

Here is a more detailed paleo diet meal plan example with recipes:

Meal Recipe
Breakfast Fried eggs with sautéed kale and mushrooms
Lunch Tuna salad lettuce wraps with mixed greens salad
Snack Turkey jerky and raw carrot sticks
Dinner Chipotle lime shrimp with roasted broccoli and cauliflower rice
Dessert Fresh mixed berries

As you can see, it’s easy to put together balanced paleo meals using simple foods like eggs, veggies, meat and healthy fats. The key is planning ahead and having paleo-friendly ingredients on hand so you aren’t tempted to eat something off-plan.

Tips for Starting the Paleo Diet

Transitioning to the paleo diet can take some adjustment, but these tips will help you stick with it:

  • Clear out pantry items that aren’t paleo so you aren’t tempted by them.
  • Meal prep on weekends to have grab-and-go paleo foods ready.
  • Come up with 10 easy paleo recipes you can rotate each week.
  • Buy paleo ingredients like meat and produce in bulk for cost savings.
  • Find paleo sauces and condiments to flavor up meals.
  • Stay hydrated and drink herbal tea if you have cravings.
  • Focus on how good you feel eating paleo rather than restrictions.

The paleo diet does involve eliminating some common foods like bread, pasta and dairy. But the inclusion of fresh, whole foods provides amazing health benefits. Within a few weeks of eating paleo, most people report improved energy, sleep, digestion and body composition. Once you adjust to paleo and fine-tune the diet to fit your needs, you’ll likely find it’s a sustainable lifetime way of eating.

Potential Health Benefits of the Paleo Diet

Many people adopt a paleo diet to improve health by:

  • Promoting weight loss
  • Regulating blood sugar
  • Improving cardiovascular health
  • Decreasing inflammation
  • Optimizing digestion
  • Boosting energy levels
  • Improving mental focus
  • Correcting nutritional deficiencies
  • Reducing risk of chronic diseases
  • Lowering triglycerides and blood pressure

Research on the paleo diet confirms many of these benefits. Studies show paleo can lead to better glucose control, increased weight loss and reduced abdominal fat compared to control groups. People with diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome are most likely to see dramatic improvements from adopting a paleo diet due to decreases in blood sugar, body weight and triglycerides. Athletic performance may also improve on paleo by reducing inflammation and promoting leanness. Overall, paleo is an extremely healthy way to eat to prevent – and even reverse – chronic disease.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is paleo effective for weight loss?

Yes, multiple studies show paleo is effective for weight loss and reducing belly fat. Reasons include lower calorie intake, reduction in sugary foods and optimized nutrient intake.

What if I have dietary restrictions or food allergies?

The paleo diet is very customizable to food sensitivities. You can modify it to be gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, etc. It’s also suitable for vegetarians by emphasizing plant-based proteins.

Can I eat paleo long term?

Yes, paleo is safe to eat long term because it focuses on nutritious whole foods. Many people report feeling their best when they eat paleo for years. Monitor your health with your doctor and make adjustments as needed.

Is paleo safe during pregnancy?

Paleo can be followed during pregnancy, but you may need to modify it based on your doctor’s advice. Ensure you are getting adequate calories, protein and nutrients for you and baby. Some paleo modifications may include higher calorie intake, more carbohydrates and inclusion of dairy.

Don’t I need grains and dairy for calcium?

No, you can get all the calcium you need from leafy greens, bone-in fish, nuts and seeds. If needed, consider a calcium supplement derived from food sources. Eliminating grains and dairy prevents anti-nutrients and allergens.


The paleo diet focuses on unprocessed, natural foods that promote good health by optimizing nutrition. Research shows paleo is effective for weight loss, diabetes, heart disease and other conditions. For most people, paleo leads to improvements in body composition, energy levels, blood sugar regulation and cholesterol. There is no single best paleo diet, so customize it based on your own health goals and needs. Overall, paleo is a great template for eating real food that nurtures the body rather than harms it.

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