If you are reading this article most likely you are already sold on the paleo diet, and understand the vast myriad of health benefits related to the diet. BUT, you may ask yourself “what foods are paleo?”, “what are the rules?”, “what CAN’T I have?”, etc. This article is for you! We have taken the time to list all the best paleo foods, foods to avoid, and have thrown in paleo tips to boot!
The paleo diet includes all the foods that our ancestors likely ate in the hunter/gatherer period of human evolution. This includes some meats, seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables.
Our complete list of YES and NO foods makes grocery shopping and eating out a breeze. Let’s get started.
What is the Paleo Diet?
The term “paleo diet” makes references to the paleolithic period of human development. In the paleolithic era humans lived in caves and huts and simple dwellings, and ate foods available to them via hunting and gathering.
Our ancestors would hunt wild animals including small game and large game and if the landscape allowed, fish. Meat provided our ancestors with ample protein and fat. No part of the animals went to waste, meats and organs were consumed without discrimination.
In addition to hunting, our ancestors met their nutrition needs by gathering nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables. These foods provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Perhaps during this period of time, the gathering aspect of our ancestors’ diet included wild berries, fruit, and root vegetables, whatever plants that were readily available.
What isn’t a Paleo diet?
The main perk of the paleo diet is what is ISN’T. By following the paleo diet you are automatically eliminating processed foods, junk foods, and fats foods from your diet.
According to a recent study on cell metabolism, the mere presence of processed foods in the human diet encourages the overconsumption of calories. So, not only is processed food bad for you because it promotes weight gain, heart disease and diabetes, it also encourages your body to crave it more! Putting you in a never ending battle of the bulge! You feel hungry, and you are starving for nutrients but overconsuming calories.
In contrast, the study indicated that people who are placed on an only whole foods diet ate less calories overall. This means that merely removing the bad things, results in “effortless” weight loss!
A paleo diet is not donut, sugary snacks, or soda. It is nothing processed or artificial. It includes food created by nature, not a lab.
What can I eat on a Paleo Diet?
There are ample delicious foods that you can eat on a paleo diet. In general you may eat any whole unprocessed food except for grains and dairy. Our ancestors did not have access to pesticides or preservatives, so opting for organic items when possible is always great. Additionally, grass fed and wild caught ocean items are preferred. However, if your budget only allows for conventionally produced whole food items, don’t sweat it! You’re still doing amazing by choosing to follow a paleo diet and to cut out processed foods. In general you may consume the following foods:
- All kinds of meat, including fatty cuts, and organs. It is best if the meat is grass fed, wild caught or cage free
- A small amount of free range eggs
- All types of fish and seafood
- Fruit including apples, strawberries, wild berries, etc, all organic is preferred
- Vegetables such as leafy greens, pumpkin, peppers, etc, all organic is preferred
- Nuts and seeds including macadamia nuts, cashews, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, etc
- Oils such as avocado, macadamia nut, and olive oil
What should I avoid on a Paleo Diet?
It is most positive to think about all the yummy items that you CAN eat. Although having a defined list of foods that are off limits can be helpful when you need to make decisions quickly. Basically, no McDonald’s or donuts! If it is not a whole food, generally it is a no go.
- Foods containing grains; including spaghetti, donuts, and pies
- Food containing vegetables oils like canola oil, sunflower oil, and soybean oil
- Foods containing refined sugars, sodas, candies, and conventional treats
- Foods containing dairy; cheeses, and yogurt
What can I treat myself to on a Paleo diet?
Eating a paleo diet does not mean that you can never have another treat again. Treats are great for mental health. We don’t want to be orthorexic! There are many paleo sweeteners like honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar (my favorite!) Think a warm macadamia nut milk latte with coconut caramel sauce. Chocolate child almond flour cookies, yum! The possibilities are endless. Check out my list of paleo treats HERE: And, enjoy my favorite chocolate chip cookie rec1 egg, at room temperature
- 1 egg at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup coconut oil at room temperature
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
- 1 cup almond flour
- 1/4 cup coconut flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 oz 80% dark chocolate broken into small pieces
Mix wet and dry ingredients separately, combine and cookie in a 350 degree oven! Tasty!
Example day of eating a Paleo diet
Keep in mind I am not a registered dietitian, but this is what I like to eat on a typical day.
Breakfast: For breakfast I love to have baked sweet potato and sausage links without sugar. It is easy, full of flavor and keeps my blood sugar stable throughout the morning. I also enjoy sipping coffee or tea with macadamia nut milk. Sometimes I use a little coconut sugar.
Lunch: I usually like to have grilled chicken on a huge salad with tomatoes., peppers and avocado. We use the primal kitchen salad dressings and have the entire collection! Every single one is paleo friendly.
Dinner: I like to have steak or salmon for dinner if I’m feeling fancy. This is usually accompanied by a low carb veggie such as broccoli or asparagus with grilled onions and peppers.
Snacks: Paleo cookies, veggies and paleo ranch, fruit, nuts. Check out our snack post HERE.
How to live your life as a normal person on a Paleo diet
Remaining on a paleo diet and living a normal life is totally possible. You can try amazing restaurants, go out, go on road trips, all with limited extra planning. Paleo snacks are usually pretty accessible and eating at restaurants is easy as long as you have a general idea of the acceptable and not acceptable foods.
Being paleo doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. If you are invited to a party, bring a paleo dessert to share! You’ll have a healthy treat and can tempt others to try a paleo diet.
I personally haven’t had a lot of trouble eating at restaurants. Fast food restaurants are another story, it is really hard to find paleo options as even the meat in fast food places usually contains sugar and non paleo additives. I think of this as a positive though, because I would like to avoid heavily processed foods anyway. It is easier, more cost effective and healthier to pack snacks rather than attempt to order paleo food at a fast food restaurant.
My favorite on the go paleo snacks can be found HERE, I also like to pack nuts and fruit and veggies with me so I always have snacks available.
Comment about your paleo journey below. What do you like to pack for road trips? What is your go to paleo snack on the go? What is the biggest obstacle for you?