What is a gluten-free paleo diet?

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. It helps give elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape. It gives bread its chewy texture. Gluten is also used as a filler and stabilizer in many processed foods.

People with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity can’t tolerate gluten. For them, following a gluten-free diet is a medical necessity.

A gluten-free diet excludes all foods and drinks containing gluten. This includes many breads, cereals, pasta, baked goods and beer. Gluten may also be present in less obvious foods, such as sauces, salad dressings and even lip balms.

What is the paleo diet?

The paleo diet is modeled after the diets of our Paleolithic ancestors from the Stone Age. It aims to eat foods that humans evolved eating, before the advent of agriculture about 10,000 years ago.

On the paleo diet, you avoid processed foods, grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.

Instead, the paleo diet focuses on whole, unprocessed foods like:

  • Lean meat
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Healthy fats like olive oil or avocado

The paleo diet also emphasizes drinking plenty of water.

People choose the paleo diet to try to improve health by eating nutrient-dense whole foods. Some evidence suggests paleo diets can promote weight loss, reduce inflammation, and improve cardiovascular health markers.

What is a gluten-free paleo diet?

A gluten-free paleo diet excludes both gluten and common food intolerances from the typical paleo diet.

On a gluten-free paleo diet, you avoid:

  • Wheat and foods containing wheat, barley, rye or oats
  • Dairy products
  • Refined sugars and artificial sweeteners
  • Processed oils like canola and vegetable oil
  • Legumes like beans, lentils and peanuts
  • Nightshades like tomatoes, eggplants and peppers
  • Processed and packaged foods

Instead, you focus on eating:

  • Grass-fed meats
  • Wild caught fish and seafood
  • Pasture-raised poultry and eggs
  • Lots of vegetables, especially leafy greens
  • Some fruit, especially berries
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil, avocados

The gluten-free paleo diet is stricter than either a basic gluten-free diet or paleo diet alone. It aims to eliminate sources of inflammation and gut irritants.

People may choose a gluten-free paleo diet if they:

  • Have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity
  • Want to identify food intolerances beyond gluten
  • Have an autoimmune disease and want to reduce inflammation
  • Want to avoid processed foods altogether

Foods to eat on a gluten-free paleo diet

Here are some of the foods you can eat on a gluten-free paleo diet:


  • Grass-fed beef
  • Pasture-raised chicken and turkey
  • Organic pork
  • Wild caught fish like salmon and halibut
  • Shellfish like shrimp, crab and lobster
  • Eggs

Focus on getting unprocessed meats whenever possible. Grass-fed and pasture-raised animal products have higher omega-3 levels than conventionally raised options.

Non-starchy vegetables

  • Leafy greens like spinach, kale, chard
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts
  • Asparagus, artichokes, celery, cucumbers
  • Onions, leeks, garlic
  • Carrots, radishes, turnips, parsnips
  • Peppers, summer squash

Aim for a rainbow of vegetable colors to maximize nutrients. Buy organic when possible to minimize pesticide residues.


  • Berries like blueberries, raspberries, strawberries
  • Stone fruits like peaches, plums, cherries
  • Oranges, grapefruit
  • Kiwi, papaya, mango
  • Olives
  • Tomatoes
  • Melons

Fruits are great for natural sweetness, but limit high-sugar fruits like bananas and grapes. Most fruits are gluten-free.

Nuts, seeds and oils

  • Almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios
  • Nut butters like almond or cashew butter
  • Chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds
  • Coconut products
  • Olive oil, avocado oil, walnut oil
  • Coconut oil, avocado, olives

Look for raw, unprocessed nuts and nut butters. Healthy fats add flavor and creaminess.

Herbs, spices and condiments

  • All fresh or dried herbs like basil, thyme, oregano
  • Spices like cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne
  • Mustard, tapenade, salsa
  • Vinegars like balsamic, apple cider, white wine
  • Gluten-free soy sauce or tamari

Use herbs and spices generously to add big flavor. Be sure condiments are gluten-free.


  • Water
  • Sparkling water
  • Unsweetened tea
  • Black coffee
  • Nut milk like almond or coconut milk
  • Bone broth
  • Fresh vegetable juice

Stay hydrated with non-caloric beverages like water and herbal tea. Milk substitutes like almond milk are paleo-friendly.

Foods to avoid on a gluten-free paleo diet

Avoid these foods on the gluten-free paleo diet:


  • Wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut
  • Oats (unless certified gluten-free)
  • Rice, corn, millet, sorghum
  • Bread, pasta, cereal, baked goods
  • Beer

All grains are eliminated, even whole grains. This includes gluten-free whole grains like rice and corn.

Dairy products

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Butter
  • Ice cream
  • Whey protein powder

Dairy is avoided due to common intolerances. Exceptions can be made for ghee and butter if tolerated.

Beans and legumes

  • All beans like black, pinto, kidney
  • Lentils, split peas, chickpeas
  • Soybeans, edamame, tofu
  • Peanuts

Beans and legumes are excluded due to lectin and phytic acid content. Green beans and snow peas can be eaten in moderation.

Processed foods

  • Frozen meals
  • Candy, chips, cookies
  • Fast food
  • Cured meat like bacon, deli meats
  • Boxed foods
  • Pre-made sauces

Avoid any food that comes packaged in plastic or boxes. Read labels carefully.

Sugars and sweeteners

  • Table sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Maple syrup
  • Honey
  • Agave
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Artificial sweeteners

Avoid added or artificial sweeteners, even natural ones. Rely on fruit for sweetness instead.

Vegetable oils

  • Canola oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Corn oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Margarine or shortening

Avoid highly processed seed oils. Use olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil instead for cooking.

Nightshade vegetables

  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplants
  • Peppers
  • Goji berries
  • Potatoes

Nightshades contain inflammatory compounds like solanine. Try eliminating them for 30 days to see if symptoms improve.

Non-paleo alcohols

  • Beer
  • Wine coolers
  • Liqueurs
  • Hard ciders

Most alcohol is off limits, especially grain-based types like beer. Dry wines in moderation may be permitted.

Sample meal plan

Here is a sample one day meal plan on the gluten-free paleo diet:


  • Fried eggs with sautéed spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes
  • Side of fresh fruit like melon cubes


  • Chopped salad with romaine, chicken, avocado, nuts and olive oil dressing


  • Baked salmon with pesto over zucchini noodles (“zoodles”)
  • Steamed broccoli on the side


  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Carrots and celery with nut butter
  • Apple slices with almond butter
  • Berries
  • Nuts like almonds or walnuts

Focus snacks around vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Healthy fats keep you satisfied between meals.

Tips for success on the gluten-free paleo diet

Here are some tips to help you transition to and stick with a gluten-free paleo diet:

  • Read labels carefully. Look for hidden gluten or unacceptable ingredients in packaged foods.
  • Watch out for cross-contamination. Gluten can spread from foods during preparation. Use separate cookware.
  • Choose naturally gluten-free whole foods like fruits, vegetables, meat and seafood.
  • Stock up on staples like olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds and spices.
  • Meal prep. Make big batches of paleo foods like cauliflower rice on your day off.
  • Plan ahead when eating out. Many menus have paleo-friendly options.
  • Eat enough calories and fat to stay satisfied. Avocados, nuts and coconut oil are great sources.

It may take some time to adjust to this way of eating. But with proper planning, a gluten-free paleo diet can be delicious and satisfying.

Benefits of a gluten-free paleo diet

A gluten-free paleo diet has several potential benefits:

  • May relieve symptoms of celiac disease or gluten sensitivity
  • Reduces inflammation by removing food intolerances
  • Provides nutrient-dense whole foods for optimal health
  • Helps identify problematic foods like dairy or nightshades
  • Can promote weight loss by reducing high-calorie foods
  • May improve heart health markers like cholesterol levels
  • Excludes processed ingredients linked to chronic disease

However, there are some downsides to consider as well:

  • Eliminates whole grains, beans and dairy, which are healthy for some
  • Makes dining out and travel more difficult
  • Requires careful planning and preparation for balanced nutrition
  • Can be low in fiber, calcium and vitamin D without supplements
  • May be too restrictive for people without food intolerances

As with any diet, speak with your healthcare provider before making significant changes to your eating habits. Make sure you are still meeting individual nutrient needs.

The bottom line

The gluten-free paleo diet aims to provide the benefits of both approaches: avoiding gluten and inflammatory foods while focusing on nutrient-dense whole foods.

It can be a healthy way of eating but requires planning to ensure adequate nutrition. Speak with a dietitian to determine if it is appropriate for your individual needs and health status.

While challenging, a gluten-free paleo diet can be worthwhile for some people, especially those with autoimmune conditions, celiac disease or multiple food intolerances.

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