Food for paleo diet


Paleo Diet Food List

In this article, I cover Paleo diet foods with a handy list of what to eat, what to avoid and what to enjoy occasionally. Plus, you can use this paleo food pyramid for quick, visual reference. Below you will find overview paleo diet rules: which foods to eat, which foods to avoid, what to consume in moderation.


Paleo diet and lifestyle take inspiration and cues from our ancestors and the way we used to eat and live. It’s not about re-enacting the caveman era; nobody runs around in loincloths and sets fires to cook their food (only occasionally). Paleo is about learning from ancestors but it is mostly fuelled by modern science and some common sense.

The paleo diet focuses on unprocessed, whole foods: healthy fats including saturated fat, grass-fed, free-range meat and eggs, lots of fish and seafood, even more vegetables, some fruit, berries, nuts, seeds and natural sweeteners.

It excludes grains, legumes, processed sugar and most dairy. Some people include healthy dairy foods like kefir, full-fat natural yoghurt, aged cheese and butter. That, of course, really depends on your sensitivities.

I love this way of eating because it also focuses on local, organic produce and good farming practices.

The paleo lifestyle also promotes healthier, more natural living: better sleeping habits, stress reduction and management, functional fitness and movement, adequate sun exposure, spending more time outdoors, avoiding environmental toxins and so on.

Above all, it’s not a set of strict paleo diet rules. It’s more of a framework that you can adapt based on your own goals, health, gender, age, location and current lifestyle. It’s a very holistic approach to wellbeing. You can learn more about the paleo diet basics here.

Here is a summary of paleo diet foods (well, more like my personal Paleo food list):

Foods to eat on the paleo diet

  • Meat and poultry (including offal) – grass-fed, free-range meat is not only a kinder and more ethical way to consume animal products but it is also much higher in nutrients because of the way the cattle were fed and raised.
  • Fish and seafood – try to choose sustainable, wild fish and seafood when possible.
  • Eggs – free-range, pasture-raised whenever possible.
  • Vegetables – all non-starchy and starchy tubers and root vegetables. A caveat should be made about white potatoes, which some of you might want to eliminate for a period of time due to the high glycaemic index and some sensitivities you might have to nightshade vegetables. Having said that, it is real food and very nutritious so don’t snub the spud.
  • Fruit and berries – stick to low-sugar fruit and berries and keep high-sugar fruit like bananas and mangos for days when you need a higher carbohydrate intake or when in season and tasting delicious. For me personally, I eat most fruits and don’t worry about the fructose because I am fairly active but there are days when I don’t eat any fruit at all, so it balances out.
  • Nuts and seeds – these guys are very nutritious but many nuts and seeds are high in omega-6 fatty acids which can be pro-inflammatory if consumed in large quantities and when your diet is not balanced by an equal amount of omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish like salmon and sardines, eggs and leafy greens. Basically, don’t gorge on buckets of nuts and seeds every day. The same goes for nut meals and flours such as almond meal. Whenever possible, try to activate nuts and seeds by soaking and then dehydrating them back, which makes them easier to digest.
  • Spices and herbs – go to town, the more the better! As for salt, use good quality sea salt or Celtic salt to get beneficial minerals and be sensible with it. I love spices and herbs so much, I wrote an e-Book about it.
  • Healthy fats – coconut oil, coconut milk and cream, ghee (suitable for Whole30), butter (it’s mostly fat so no big problems with lactose but might have to be out for some of you), duck fat, olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, fish oil, sesame oil as well as from grass-fed meats, poultry and fish.
  • Condiments – mustard, fish good, quality vinegar such as apple cider, aged Balsamic, olive oil mayonnaise, low-sugar tomato sauces and paste, anchovies, olives, gherkins, capers, salsas and pestos – are all fine, just make sure no nasty chemicals and preservatives are added. Wheat-free soy sauce such as Tamari and naturally derived oyster sauce are okay every now and again but it’s better to try something like coconut aminos. You can make a lot of your own paleo sugar-free salad dressing and try my go-to paleo stir-fry sauce.
  • For baking – nut meals, coconut flour, tapioca and arrowroot flour, sweet potato flour, chestnut flour, hemp seed flour, banana flour – use in moderation as some of these guys are either still high in carbohydrates or may contain high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids.
  • Protein powder can be added in a form of a smoothie or as a post-workout snack, especially if you can’t or don’t want to consume too much meat or fish. I have a handy guide to paleo protein powders here.

Foods to avoid on the paleo diet

  • Grains – especially wheat and anything with gluten. White rice is the least harmful of all grains and is added to dishes on occasions or for variety. It’s also part of the Perfect Health Diet protocol, which is what I follow. Rice is very high in carbohydrates and if you’re not active or trying to lose weight, it should be kept to ‘occasional’ use. Read more about the paleo diet and white rice here. And, learn more about why grains are avoided in the paleo diet here. Many people ask about oats and oatmeal, read about them here.
  • Legumes – beans, lentils, chickpeas and so on. Cashews are not legumes! There are some debates over whether some legumes are safe to consume in moderation if prepared properly (soaked for 12 hours and then cooked really well to remove the phytic acid and make them easier to digest). You can read this article by Dr. Chris Kresser and this article by Dr. Loren Cordain and make up your own mind as I do. I include green beans and peas but avoid the rest.
  • Refined sugars and carbohydrates – bread, pasta, cookies, white sugar, artificial sugar, high-fructose syrup, sodas, fruit juices and so on.
  • Dairy – especially milk and low-fat dairy, and for those with damaged gut or gluten/lactose intolerances. If you’re concerned about calcium intake on a paleo diet read this post.
  • Processed vegetable oils and fats such as canola oil (rapeseed), soybean oil, vegetable (Is it really made from vegetables? We don’t think so), and sunflower oils, as well as margarine and spreads made with such oils. Read this post on healthy cooking fats and oils here.
  • Gluten-containing products

Consume on occasion & if tolerated

  • Dairy should mainly be avoided, especially if you suffer from gut problems and gluten intolerances, but if you’re in good health and have no sensitivities to lactose (sugars in milk) or casein (protein in milk) then a little healthy dairy can go a long way. Avoid cow’s milk as it has a high glycaemic Index, unlike cheese or yoghurt. Better options are goat’s and sheep’s milk products, A2 cow’s milk and cow’s milk fermented products like kefir, unsweetened yoghurt, aged cheeses, full-fat cream, butter, and ricotta.
  • Natural sweeteners – honey, maple syrup, molasses, dried fruit, dark chocolate, palm sugar, rice malt syrup for those avoiding fructose.
  • Alcohol – dry wines, clean non-grain based spirits.
  • Fermented soy such miso, tempeh in small amounts, wheat free soy sauce
  • Pseudograins like quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat are less harmful but they are still dense sources of carbohydrates and contain similar antinutrients to grains. They should be prepared carefully to remove some of the anti-nutrients such as phytic acid. Soak such grains in salted water for 8-12 hours, rinse and then cook well before consuming. Chia seeds also fall in this category. Buckwheat is the safest out of these, read about it here.
  • Fresh corn, green beans and green peas fall into grain/legume category but in my eyes, they are totally fine to use every now and then and especially when in season and local. Read whether you could include green peas in the paleo diet here.
  • White rice is often added back in as it seems to be the least problematic grain for most people. Find out if you should add white rice to your paleo diet here.

Need some help with paleo shopping? Check out our ultimate paleo shopping list here. Not sure what Paleo is all about? Read about the paleo diet here.

Feel like you still don’t know where or how to start? Looking for a plan or program to help you reset and recharge? Check out my free paleo program here.

Additional reading on Paleo nutrition

Eat Drink Paleo Cookbook by Irena Macri

Optimal Health The Paleo Way by Claire Yates

The Perfect Health Diet by Paul Jaminet & Shou-Ching Jaminet

The Paleo Cure by Chriss Kresser

The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf, a must read!

Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo

366 likes – View Post on Instagram Seedy PALEO CHICKEN TENDERS & SWEET POTATO FRIES 😍 Tag someone who would love this! . . . By @fitandwellmedgal . #paleo #eatinghealthy #paleodiet #cleaneats #wholefood #dairyfree #cleaneating #glutenfree #organic #organicfood #healthyeating #foodismedicine #healthyliving #foodie #eattogrow #healthy #healthyfood #healthychoice #healthyrecipes #healthymeals #healthyeats #whatsonmyplate #nutrition #foodblogfeed #foodblogger #foodie #foodblog #healthycooking #health

The Paleo diet – also known as the hunter gatherer or caveman diet – is an eating plan based on foods similar to what might have been eaten during the Paleolithic era, which took place between 2.5 million and 10,000 years ago.

Followers of the Paleo diet primarily consume whole foods such as lean meats, fish, seafood, poultry, eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

Food stuffs and ingredients which are to be avoided on the Paleo diet include processed sugars, legumes, grains, most dairy and anything else that became readily available when farming was introduced roughly 10,000 years ago.

This includes processed vegetables oils like soy, canola and peanut – and as Everyday Health remind, you can’t drink any alcohol on the Paleo diet.

The premise of the Paleo diet is that eating whole foods and leading a physically active lifestyle will reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, arthritis and diabetes.

Several studies indicate the diet boosts metabolic function to enable significant weight loss without calorie or macro counting.

It is also said to boost sleep quality, reduce stress and eliminate toxins in the body.

1,953 likes – View Post on Instagram Taco Stuffed Zucchini Boats 😍 Tag a friend who loves Zucchini boats! . – – By @choosing_balance – Healthyfood details 👉🏻 Adding this to my blog asap also for reference. So I actually made 6 zucchini boats and had leftover meat. So what you need: 3 zucchini 1 lb ground beef 1 onion 3/4 cup your fav salsa Then either taco seasoning or I made my own: 1tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp chili powder. How to do it: heat a skillet over medium heat. Cut your zucchini in half and take a spoon to scoop out the middle. Put in a bowl for use later. Dice your onion and add to the skillet with a little oil to keep it from sticking. Reheat your oven to 400F. Sauté the onion for 3-4 mins then add in ground beef. I used organic beef (linking a discount code for free meat in my stories!) and sauté until brown. Then add spices and 3/4 cup salsa plus the leftover zucchini from the middle (cut it up). Sauté another 2-3 Minsk Then transfer your beef mixture to the zucchini boats. Spray a pan or oil it then add the zucchini. Bake for 20 mins. Enjoy! 😄 . . #paleo #eatinghealthy #paleodiet #cleaneats #wholefood #dairyfree #cleaneating #glutenfree #organic #organicfood #healthyeating #foodismedicine #healthyliving #foodie #eattogrow #healthy #healthyfood #healthychoice #healthyrecipes #healthymeals #healthyeats #whatsonmyplate #nutrition #foodblogfeed #foodblogger #foodie #foodblog #healthycooking #health

Okay, so what food can I eat on the Paleo diet?

Meat and Poultry

According to Eat Drink Paleo, all forms of lean, grass-fed meat is suitable for Paleo adherents.

Chicken is a great option thanks to its low calorie content.

Shred Happens, a US-based healthy eating Instagram account, shared a quick and easy recipe for a Paleo-friendly stuffed chicken breast packed with delicious dairy-free cheese and cauliflower filling and served with rocket, tomato, radish and olive oil – pictured here!

576 likes – View Post on Instagram Tag someone who would love this! 😍 Chicken looks perfect! . . . By @shredhappens . I used a chicken breast and stuffed it with a bacony-cheesy-herby cauliflower filling. Served with some arugula, radish, and fresh herbs tossed in olive oil and lemon juice. . To make the chicken: . 1.Grab a raw chicken breast and make some deep slices/incisions over the top. Alternatively, you can cut down the middle and stuff it that way. . 2.Season the chicken with your favorite kind of salt and pepper, then set to the side. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly. . 3.In a food processor, throw in 1/4 head of a small cauliflower, 1/2 small jalapeño (if you like it spicy), 1/2 clove garlic, handful of fresh parsley, and 1/4 cup of your favorite kind of cheese. I used gruyere, but use a dairy-free cheese if you are on Paleo or have an allergy. Pulse everything finely and set aside. . 4.Dice up a slice of bacon and cook on medium heat, then add your pulsed cauliflower mixture and just mix everything around well. . Now the fun part: I cooked this in 2 steps. I put the chicken in the oven for a bit first, took it out, scooped in the filling, and put it back in. But you can do it however way you want. . 5.I put the chicken on an oven-safe rack and put in the oven at 425F for 15 minutes, took it out, then scooped in the filling and put back in the oven for about 15 minutes. Cook the chicken based on your oven…temperatures vary. . 6.Removed and served with some greens & fresh tomatoes. . . . . #paleo #eatinghealthy #paleodiet #cleaneats #wholefood #dairyfree #cleaneating #glutenfree #organic #organicfood #healthyeating #foodismedicine #healthyliving #foodie #eattogrow #healthy #healthyfood #healthychoice #healthyrecipes #healthymeals #healthyeats #whatsonmyplate #nutrition #foodblogfeed #foodblogger #foodie #foodblog #healthycooking #health

Simply cut a raw breast of chicken with deep slices and fill the space with your cheese and cauliflower filling, blended beforehand in a food processor.

Add a quarter of a green jalapeno if you feel like some extra zing and bake in the oven for 15 minutes!

Vegetables and Healthy Fats

An assortment of vegetables including broccoli, kale, capsicums, onions, carrots and tomatoes are all great choices suitable for the Paleo diet.

Tubers, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes and turnips are also allowed on the caveman meal plan provided they are the whole food, unprocessed variety.

Likewise, healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocado are permitted for Paleo dieters.

Paleo followers are free to consume – more or less – as many vegetables as they like.

A Loaded Veggie Salad like the one shown below is a simple and delicious option for Paleo dieters with limited time and budget.

6,499 likes – View Post on Instagram Tag someone who would love this Loaded Veggie Salad 😍 This meal is ready in 10 minutes and packed with simple, easy veggies. Frozen Brussels and 1 small sweet potato that I broiled for 10 mins on the bottom shelf. Everything else was no cook- more vegan pesto and avocado 😍 – #healthyrecipes 👉🏻 Bed of spinach topped with broiled Brussel sprouts and sweet potato (heat oven to broil or 500F then place frozen veggies and sweet potato cut into whatever shapes you want on a pan and cook for 10 mins on bottom shelf) + 1/2 avocado sprinkled with chipotle spice for flavor + vegan pesto . . #paleo #eatinghealthy #paleodiet #cleaneats #wholefood #dairyfree #cleaneating #glutenfree #organic #organicfood #healthyeating #foodismedicine #healthyliving #foodie #eattogrow #healthy #healthyfood #healthychoice #healthyrecipes #healthymeals #healthyeats #whatsonmyplate #nutrition #foodblogfeed #foodblogger #foodie #foodblog #healthycooking #health . . Credits to @choosing_balance

All you need is a packet of frozen Brussels sprouts, fresh spinach, fresh broccoli, sweet potato – roughly chopped – and an oven.

Heat the oven to broil and place all veggies on a tray to roast for 10 minutes.

If you’re extra hungry, add half an avocado and season the lot with sriracha, pepper or paprika.

Fish and Seafood

Good news for Paleo dieters: essentially all wild-caught fish and seafood is suitable to eat on this particular meal plan.

Salmon, haddock, prawns, mussels, crab, trout and barramundi are all tasty and nutritious whole food options suitable for the diet.

It’s important to remember that eating Paleo does NOT mean eating plain or boring.

Seafood lovers should try this recipe for Mango BBQ prawns served with lashings of vegetables and avocado.

Seriously, how good does this look!

1,914 likes – View Post on Instagram MANGO BBQ SHRIMP (no added sugar!) plus veggies and avo. Tag someone who would love this meal! * * * Deets: cauliflower rice quickly sautéed and mixed with cilantro and red pepper, sautéed broccolini, sautéed red cabbage, avocado, greens and wild caught shrimp (sautéed and then tossed in this sauce). Sauce: 1 Mango chopped, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 3 tablespoons coconut aminos, 2 tablespoons water, 1/2 teaspoon Onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon Chili powder, salt to taste, Red pepper flakes to taste, juice from 1/2 large Orange, Chopped onion 1/4 cup. Heat all ingredients over medium high until onion becomes soft, stirring every couple minutes. Then use blender or immersion blender to purée the sauce. * * * #paleo #eatinghealthy #paleodiet #cleaneats #wholefood #dairyfree #cleaneating #glutenfree #organic #organicfood #healthyeating #foodismedicine #healthyliving #foodie #eattogrow #healthy #healthyfood #healthychoice #healthyrecipes #healthymeals #healthyeats #whatsonmyplate #nutrition #foodblogfeed #foodblogger #foodie #foodblog #healthycooking #health

For the mango BBQ sauce, all you need is a full mango (finely chopped), a tablespoon of organic tomato paste, two tablespoons of water, a chili powder and a quarter of an onion (diced).

Heat all ingredients over a medium heat, stirring every so often until soft.

Blend the mixture in a food processor and use to marinate the prawns for a couple of hours before cooking.

Add some broccolini and substitute cauliflower rice for traditional processed white grains on the side and voila – you’re good to go!


Free-range, pastured or omega-3 enriched eggs are all a Paleo dieters best friend!

Dubbed “nature’s perfect food” by Paleo Leap, eggs are essential for proper functioning brain, cell and nervous system health as well as aiding bone growth and general energy production.

Eggs can be cooked in a variety of ways – boiled, baked, poached or fried.

They are also great to use as the focal point of a meal in place of heavy, refined carbs.

Take the loaded sweet potato and egg recipe from Star Infinite Food below.

1,177 likes – View Post on Instagram Tag someone who would love this LOADED Sweet potatoes with Asparagus, kale, avocado, egg and 4 INGREDIENT NO SUGAR PICKLED ONION! 😍 * * * . . By @starinfinitefood . Deets: pressure cooked sweet potatoes (22 mins on high in pressure cooker on wrack above water) or you can bake them, steamed kale, sautéed asparagus, mashed avocado, hard boiled @vitalfarms egg, Tahini and these delicious pickled onions. Onions: slice red onions thinly, heat 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup apple juice, 2-4 tablespoons beet juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt…bring to a boil, add onions and reduce heat for about 5 minutes. . . #paleo #eatinghealthy #paleodiet #cleaneats #wholefood #dairyfree #cleaneating #glutenfree #organic #organicfood #healthyeating #foodismedicine #healthyliving #foodie #eattogrow #healthy #healthyfood #healthychoice #healthyrecipes #healthymeals #healthyeats #whatsonmyplate #nutrition #foodblogfeed #foodblogger #foodie #foodblog #healthycooking #health

Packed with goodness, all you need are two sweet potatoes, asparagus, fresh kale, avocado, egg and some chili flakes to garnish.

Bake the sweet potatoes – skins still on – for 22 minutes and steam the vegetables.

Mash the avocado and hard boil two or three eggs to fill the potatoes with.

Season with salt, pepper and chili for a simple, easy Paleo lunch.

The Paleo diet sounds a bit tricky – what snacks can I eat on the go?

Sonya Angelone, spokeswoman for the US Academy of Nutrition and Dietitics, admitted “snacks can seem like a challenge” on the Paleo diet.

But for every challenge there is a solution, and Women’s Health have helpfully created a list of Paleo-approved light bites to keep you going throughout the day.

Some of the favourite snacks among Paleo dieters include deviled eggs topped with paprika, sriracha, lemon or avocado; baked chicken tenders with a (Paleo-friendly) honey mustard dip; crispy sweet potato fries cooked with natural oil; and low-carb hummus made from cauliflower, lemon and tahini.

You can read the full list here, which includes delicious Paleo desserts like gluten-free, dairy-free lemon bars, homemade grain-free protein bars and more-ish apple and almond butter bites.

Banana pancakes made with unsweetened almond milk are another favourite in the Paleo community – just like the ones below!

1,051 likes – View Post on Instagram Tag someone who would love this Sweet and Savory pancake plates paleo banana pancakes 😍 Easiest pancake recipe ever 👌 . By @choosing_balance – Breakfast details- made 2 servings of paleo pancakes: 1 cup of the mix + 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk mixed with an immersion blender to get it nice and smooth. Cooked the pancakes over low medium heat in ghee . 1 plate: a fried egg + 1/2 avocado + kale. 2nd plate: organic Pb from (not paleo- use another nut butter if you’re paleo) + chocolate chunks + yogurt and cinnamon. . . . #paleo #eatinghealthy #paleodiet #cleaneats #wholefood #dairyfree #cleaneating #glutenfree #organic #organicfood #healthyeating #foodismedicine #healthyliving #foodie #eattogrow #healthy #healthyfood #healthychoice #healthyrecipes #healthymeals #healthyeats #whatsonmyplate #nutrition #foodblogfeed #foodblogger #foodie #foodblog #healthycooking #health

If you simply haven’t got time to rustle up Paleo treats, you can always opt for some naturally Paleo snacks like..

Fruit, nuts and seeds

Apples, bananas, oranges, pears, strawberries, blueberries and plenty more are all acceptable light bites for Paleo dieters.

Likewise, nuts including almonds, macadamias, walnuts and hazelnuts are great simple solutions to hunger pangs.

Organic sunflower and pumpkin seeds are another easy snack that won’t add much to your waistline.

Are there any other treats I can enjoy on the Paleo diet?

A glass of good quality red wine is A-OK for Paleo dieters thanks to its rich nutrients and many antioxidants.

Dark chocolate – provided it is at least 70 percent cocoa – is also permitted in moderation.

Eating a paleo diet incorporates an array of natural, healthy foods which can be beneficial for people with diabetes.

A well-formulated paleo diet typically resembles a low-carb diet as it removes processed foods, dairy grains, starches and refined sugar. The focus is on eating fresh foods with a high consumption of vegetables to keep blood glucose levels stable and lower the risk of health complications

A healthy paleo diet should have:

  • No processed food
  • High intake of non-starchy vegetables
  • Strong protein intake, such as meat and fish
  • Strong intake of fats from nuts, avocado, meat and fish
  • Low intake of starchy or sugary foods

What does paleo diet plan look like?

There are two categories of food on the paleo diet: in and out. Pre-agricultural/animal foods such as red meat and fish are i, but Neolithic era foods (the time when cereal cultivation and animal domestication was introduced, around 4500-2000 BC) are not.

A paleo diet will usually be:

  • Lower in carbohydrate
  • Higher in protein
  • Moderate or higher in fat

There is no one recommended portion size on the paleo diet.


Non-starchy vegetables are generally free to eat on a paleo diet. These include lettuce, spinach, kale, green beans, cabbage and celery. Some starchy vegetables are allowed every now and then, such as sweet potato and butternut squash, but their higher carb content means they are best eaten in smaller quantities.

Fruits are recommended but it’s advised to stick to low-carb fruits such as berries, plums and kiwi fruit in small quantities. Some of the higher-carb fruits which are best avoided include bananas, grapes and mango.


High protein consumption is core to a paleo diet, and there are many options available. Fatty meats and fish can be a key part of your diet. Options include:

  • Meat (such as chicke, turkey, pork and beef)
  • Fish, shellfish and other seafood
  • Nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans and pistachios (but no peanuts)
  • Seeds, such as pumpki, sunflower and flax
  • Eggs


Fat can come from animal, fish or plant sources. Generally, dairy is not part of the paleo diet, however, some people may choose to make an exception and include dairy foods such as yoghurt, cheese and grass-fed butter. Fatty meats are fine to eat on the paleo diet.

Plant-based fats can be found in foods such as avocados, nuts and coconut (which is technically a fruit rather than a nut).

Plant-based oils can also be a source of fat on the paleo diet. This includes olive, avocado, coconut, and macadamia oils. However, refined vegetable oils such as corn oil, sunflower oil and peanut oil are not allowed.

What can’t I eat?

There are dietary restrictions on the paleo diet, with several foods off the menu. They include:

  • Cereal grains (such as wheat, oats, barley and rice)
  • Starchy vegetables (such as potatoes and corn)
  • Legumes, including beans of any kind and peanuts
  • Dairy
  • Refined sugar
  • Processed foods (including meats such as salami, ham and hot dogs)
  • Overly salty foods (such as chips, crackers or soy sauce)
  • Refined vegetable oils

Some paleo diet sources will also advocate against consuming alcohol and coffee , however these can be consumed as treats every so often. It depends how strict you wish to be.

The 9 Essential Whole Grain Foods You Need in Your Diet

Are you eating enough whole grains? Chances are you may not be—MyPlate, the most recent nutrition guide released by the USDA, recommends six 1-ounce servings of grains each day. Most importantly, at least half of these servings need to be whole grains. Prized as the ultimate nutrition package, whole grains taste absolutely delicious when mixed into salads, soups, breads, and more. If you think that consuming grains means a carb-overload, worry not. Whole grains fall into the “good” carb category along with fruits, veggies, and legumes.

An archeological finding from the University of Calgary evidenced that humans have relied on grain as a staple crop for least 100,000 years. Today, staple crops such as rice, wheat, and corn feed the majority of our planet. Yes, whole grains make the world go round, but how much do you actually know about them? Our comprehensive guide answers all your questions, and shows you just how easy it is to work more whole grains into your diet.

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What are Whole Grains?

Grains are the edible seeds of plants. A grain is a “whole grain” if it contains the three key parts of a seed: the bran, germ, and endosperm. Whole grains fall into one of two categories, cereals and pseudocereals. Cereal grains come from cereal grasses such as wheat, oats, rice, corn, barley, sorghum, rye, and millet. Pseudocereal grains are cooked and consumed in a similar manner, but they do not come from grasses—grains in this category include quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth.

In effect, all grains start as whole grains, but they don’t all end up on the shelf as such. Key parts of the seeds are stripped away during milling, a manufacturing process that increases the shelf life of products such as flour. Unfortunately, most of the essential nutrients are lost in this process. Consuming whole grains is the only way that you can be 100% sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck nutritionally.

Image zoom Photo: Jennifer Causey

Health Benefits of Whole Grains

Whole grains abound with heart-healthy soluble fiber that controls appetite while regulating blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In fact, a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a diet rich in whole grains significantly decreased the risk for heart disease. Whole grains also pack a wealth of antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting benefits. In terms of how much of your diet should consist of whole grains, MyPlate recommends that at least half of all grains consumed daily should be whole grains. Ideally, if you’re consuming six 1-ounce servings of grains each day, three of these servings will be whole grains. MyPlate offers several common one-ounce equivalents as a resource. For example, one slice of whole wheat bread would count as one 1-ounce serving.

Are Whole Grains Gluten-Free?

Absolutely—there are plenty of fantastic gluten-free grains out there, such as brown rice, quinoa, corn, and more. Grains to avoid are wheat (such as wheat berries, spelt, kamut, farro, and bulgur), rye, barley, and triticale. Oats are technically gluten-free, but they carry a higher possibility of cross-contamination during manufacturing. To be safe, choose gluten-free oats such as Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Rolled Oats.

See More: The Gluten-Free Guide to Whole Grains

Image zoom marekuliasz / Getty

Best Whole Grains to Eat

While all whole grains are superstars, many pack unique characteristics and health benefits not found in other grains. Here are the nine that truly shine.

1. Bulgur

Most often seen as the key ingredient of the Middle Eastern staple tabbouleh, bulgur is a type of wheat that needs only a few minutes to cook. It also contains the most fiber out of any grain.

2. Rice

This extremely versatile grain is widely available, inexpensive, and gluten-free. Opt for brown rice, which is made from whole grains, and avoid white rice, which is made with refined grains.

3. Corn

Often categorized as a vegetable, corn is actually a grain. While it may attract skepticism because of its use in unhealthy products such as high fructose corn syrup, corn in its purest form is packed with antioxidants. Look for it in an assortment of colors—yellow, white, blue, and even purple—and eat it straight from the cob or toast the kernels for popcorn.

4. Oats

From old-fashioned to steel-cut, oats are a staple breakfast food that are guaranteed to be whole grain even if they are quick-cooking. While all grains are high in fiber, oatmeal contains a special variety called beta-glucan that’s especially powerful in lowering cholesterol.

5. Farro

This light-brown colored, medium-sized ancient grain is a type of wheat and is similar in appearance, texture, and taste to wheat berries. Restaurant chefs especially prize farro for its delightfully chewy texture and sweet taste.

6. Teff

Don’t let the small size fool you—this gluten-free ancient grain packs massive health perks. Teff, a type of millet, has significantly more calcium and iron than other grains. Its small size makes it ideal for baking into energy bars and breads such as injera, a spongy flatbread popular indigenous to Ethiopia.

7. Sorghum

Largely grown in the United States for livestock feed, sorghum has recently been embraced for its versatility by the gluten-free community. Cooked sorghum has a chewy texture similar to Israeli couscous, while popped sorghum is a pint-sized version of popcorn. Sorghum flour is also commonly used in gluten-free baking.

8. Quinoa

Quick-cooking, gluten-free, and available in a range of colors from white to red, quinoa is a protein powerhouse. This ancient grain is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa is also popular for its mild flavor, subtle chewiness, and versatility.

9. Buckwheat

Don’t be mislead by the name—buckwheat is actually gluten-free and closely related to sorrel and rhubarb. However, its seeds are carbohydrate-rich and lend themselves to the same uses as wheat. Use buckwheat flour as a base for pancake and waffle mixes or whole buckwheat for salads or soups.

Image zoom Amazon

How to Buy Whole Grains

Look for whole grains at your local grocery store, either in the bulk foods section or in the rice or pasta aisle. Some stores keep products in the “health foods” or international aisle as well. Bob’s Red Mill is a widely available brand that makes just about every whole grain in existence. If you can’t find a specific product in stores, considering ordering it from Amazon.

To make sure you’re purchasing 100% whole-grain foods, check the package label. First and foremost, scan the ingredients list. Look for the word “whole” before grains (such as whole wheat) and watch out for flours that are refined or enriched. Some products may display the Whole Grain Stamp, an indicator created by the Whole Grains Council to show consumers the total amount of whole grains in a product.

See More: Decoding Whole-Grain Food Labels

Image zoom Photo: Grace Elkus

Whole Grain Recipes and Ideas

Whole grains lend themselves to a plethora of savory and sweet applications from breakfast to dinner and beyond. Here are the best ways to incorporate them into your diet.

Top with fruit or nuts and enjoy as a comforting breakfast: Quinoa with Strawberries and Buttermilk and Overnight Breakfast Bulgur Bowl

Toast as a crunchy snack or topper for salads: Popped Amaranth

Make DIY snack bars: Cranberry-Pistachio Energy Bars

Make whole-grain breads: Superfast Injera and Whole Grain Irish Soda Bread

Build your own superfood bowl with leftover cooked grains. Simply combine with veggies, proteins, and herbs: Chicken, Mushroom, and Bok Choy Bowls and Tuna Poke Bowls with Brown Rice and Kale

Make a gluten-free pizza or pie crust: Quinoa Pizza Crust and Spinach and Feta Quiche with Quinoa Crust

For more tasty ideas, check out Everyday Whole Grains: 175 Recipes from Amaranth to Wild Rice by Cooking Light Executive Editor Ann Pittman.

Gluten-Free vs Grain-Free PLUS a free printable list of grains to avoid. Some might surprise you. Which is healthiest? Remember this – gluten-free junk is still junk!

Gluten-Free vs Grain-Free + Printable List Of Grains To Avoid

So we’ve all heard about going gluten-free. Is it necessary? Is it the latest fad diet? Is it for everyone? What about healthy whole grains? And what is so wrong with gluten anyway, surely we’ve been eating bread for thousands of years right?

Gluten-Free Junk Is Still Junk

To get your FREE printable A-Z List Of Grains & Foods To Avoid –

So what is gluten?

Gluten is just one of the proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. It can also be found in makeup, medication, sweets, ice cream, sauces, paint, sunscreens and even lipstick. Many people have to avoid gluten because they have Crohn’s disease, are a coeliac or suffer from irritable bowel syndrome.

These are conditions that when gluten is eaten it inflames the gut. Symptoms include pain, discomfort, bloating, skin rashes, weight loss, stomach cramps, diarrhoea and/or constipation.

What is an allergy?

A true allergy is where your body protects itself from an allergen such as peanuts or shellfish. Reactions can be mild or cause an anaphylactic shock that requires emergency treatment with adrenaline, otherwise, it can be fatal.

An autoimmune disease is where the body protects itself from an allergen by attacking its own healthy tissues. Symptoms can be take days, months or years to show such as arthritis, thyroid.

An intolerance is where someone cannot tolerate a type of food such as lactose. The immune system is not involved, but symptoms are just as severe.

So what about the rest of us who have no symptoms and no problem whatsoever eating gluten?

Even without obvious symptoms (I never had any) gluten affects the permeability of the stomach lining. This porous lining now allows toxins, bacteria and large proteins to pass through the walls and enter the bloodstream, causing inflammation.

It is inflammation within our bodies which are now understood to be the basis of many adverse health conditions.

Gluten Free vs Grain Free – which is healthiest? Remember this – gluten-free junk is still junkClick to Tweet

The Gluten-Free Market

This is now a multi-billion dollar industry that has sprung up because of the marketing surrounding gluten-free goods. You can now buy gluten-free bread, cakes, biscuits, cakes, pasta, sauce, soups and pretty much any other baked good you can think of.

Gluten-free does not always mean wheat free. “Some manufacturers use wheat that has had the gluten removed to make gluten-free foods. Therefore you need to exercise a bit of caution, as all gluten-free foods are not necessarily safe for you to eat if you have a wheat allergy or intolerance. Some products help by actually saying “wheat & gluten free” on the label.” Source:

Gluten-free products and flours are generally based on high carbohydrate alternatives such as rice flour, potato and tapioca starch. Gluten-free products have almost zero nutrition.

Take a look at the nutrition panel, you will see how high the carbohydrate content is and any vitamins or minerals it contains, are usually added because it is fortified. Gluten-free products are incredibly expensive and some may say, akin to junk food.

Sadly advertisers and marketing gurus (“who base their careers on fluff and wonder” – Nigel Latta) give us nutritional advice and sell them to us as being healthy. Gluten-free products swap gluten for high carbohydrate alternatives. There is even gluten-free, wheat-free weet-bix! It is marketed as low in sugar (yes, this is true) but it is 75% carbs – which raise your blood sugar!

Don’t be fooled by marketing and hype. Don’t read what a product doesn’t contain, read what it does.

Healthy Whole Grains

Look at the nutrition panel of most bread and they will proudly state they contain fibre, vitamin B’s and folic acid to name a few. These vitamins and minerals are fortified to the bread because the milling process removes most of the nutrients and healthy fats from the wheat.

Wholegrain bread is better than refined white bread if you have to choose but try no bread as often as you can. It’s cheaper and healthier. Eat more sandwich fillings (the nutritious element).

You’ll gain far more nutrients this way than any lost by missing out the 2 slices of bread.

Why is wheat so bad now? People have been eating it for thousands of years!

Modern wheat is not the same as the wheat our grandparents and ancestors ate. Wheat used to be 6ft tall but has been genetically modified to a shorter semi-dwarf plant that it is easier to harvest, bred to be resistant to viruses, contains 20-30% fewer nutrients, and contain more gluten. Wheat still contains phytates which are indigestible, making the trace vitamins present unusable. So the wheat today is not the wheat our ancestors ate.

Aren’t whole grains the base of the healthy food pyramid?

Take a look at the video showing where it all started. US Senator McGovern in the 1970’s changed the food pyramid to what it is today.

It was an easy solution to feed America on cheap grains and food stamps. Wheat lobbyists pushed for more wheat consumption and subsidies.

America was facing a malnutrition crisis. Fast forward to today, obesity is at its highest rate and so is T2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

What changed? Wheat, grain and sugar consumption.

To see the full article “How carbs affect blood sugars” –

So what is a grain and how does it affect my blood sugar?

Grains raise your blood sugar as much as table sugar. So eating bread, pasta and rice leaves you just as much at risk of developing diabetes as eating sweets and sugary foods to excess.

Recommendations for diabetics were always reducing sugar, bread, rice and potatoes. These are good practices to live by. The most common examples of grains are wheat, oats, corn, rice, quinoa, millet, sorghum, bulgar.

To see the list of grains to avoid, download your free printable PDF above.

How else do grains affect my body?

Grains may cause leaky gut (with or without symptoms) which allows toxins such as bacteria, viruses and larger proteins to bypass the protective lining and enter the bloodstream. This causes autoimmune conditions and inflammation which are related to asthma, depression, migraines, PCOS, arthritis, fatigue,

Advertisers hope if they add a “gluten-free” label or “contains healthy whole grains” slogan on the box, they may convince consumers they are buying a healthy alternative, regardless of what else has gone into the product. And by labelling products as gluten-free or healthy whole grains, studies show that people will consume more.

Is going grain free restrictive? Aren’t you giving up entire food groups?

Vegetarians give up entire food groups, all we do is give up grains.

It may appear to be restrictive purely because grains are now found in just so many ‘products’. Those products are modern inventions.

Most of what we see on the supermarket shelves just wasn’t available 10 or 20 years ago. By eating real food and have a balanced, varied approach, you eat far more nutrients than ever before.

What my family eats is similar to what our grandparents ate. Meat, fish, vegetables and plenty of healthy fats. No bread or pasta is required to bulk up our meal anymore. All these do is crowd out the nutrition.

So to say a product is healthier because it is gluten-free or contains healthy whole grains is misleading and naïve.

Gluten-free products are incredibly highly processed food ‘products’ which are more a product of industry than real food. Don’t swap real food for gluten-free foods.

Yes, you remove gluten from your diet but are replacing them with high carb high substitutes which will make your blood glucose skyrocket, cause weight gain, increase fat storage and poor lipid results.

How To lead a healthy lifestyle and take charge of your health –

By eliminating grains, sugar, refined carbohydrates and seed oils, we are setting the foundation for reducing inflammation in our body and our risk of all the major diseases associated with old age. Alzheimer’s, T2 diabetes, arthritis, cancer, heart disease, hypertension, stroke.

Making the change to grain free, sugar-free and no seed oils can be difficult. I always recommend starting slowly. Don’t go hardcore and remove everything at once.

Begin by removing the obvious sources of sugar (cakes, biscuits, sweets, drinks), then start to remove the bread and pasta, then remove the rice and so on. Make it easy on yourself and your family.

If your children find this change too hard, you won’t continue. And it doesn’t have to be all or nothing either.

Don’t think because you can’t eliminate all these foods entirely, you may as well not do it. Every little step you take, allows you to gain better health. Be proud of any changes you make. Keep going. Read labels.

And remember this: Grains are used to fatten animals before slaughter and grains are force-fed to geese to produce fatty liver disease which is used to make foie gras. Do you want to either of these to happen to you?

Healthy oils include:

  • Avocado oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, lard, macadamia oil, butter.

What to eat:

  • Base all your meals on the simple guide of meat, fish, veggies, berries, nuts and healthy oils
  • Avoid the bread, cake, biscuit, cracker aisle.
  • Buy ingredients, not products.
  • Buy food that your grandmother would recognise
  • Avoid cereals
  • Avoid processed food and takeaway food
  • Avoid low-fat foods, they are high in carbs and heavily processed
  • Read, read, read labels. You soon get to know what to/not to buy
  • Make it simple

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In 2003, the Human Genome Project showed that most of the time our genes are not the cause of the diseases we see in modern times. It was believed that there had to be 100,000 genes to encode our DNA, one gene for each of the 100,000+ proteins in the human body. This had been the holy grail of human molecular biology for nearly a century.

However, the results of the project showed that there are only 20,000-25,000 genes, each of which contains information for assembling or producing the functional molecules we call proteins. (1) Simply put, researchers found that information is transferred to RNA in a cell’s nucleus, which then interacts with ribosomes to read the sequence and translate the code to create an amino acid. This transcription and translation is known as gene expression.

Even with this knowledge, modern misconceptions about the role of genes and how they express are difficult to break. It’s now known that diseases that result from errors in the sequence of a gene are extremely uncommon, with less than 1% of diseases falling into this category. Contrary to what you may believe, celiac is not one of them. (2)

Disease is not written in our genetic code. So why is humankind plagued with so many diseases? It’s not the genes, but what they’re exposed to that forms disease, and that includes our food and our environment.

A chronically elevated level of the hormone insulin is the number one problem we now have as a society. Insulin’s main job is to regulate sugar levels when glucose is present in the blood. When too much glucose is present, insulin stores it as fat, and when glucose levels are consistently high, cells become resistant to insulin because they’re overloaded. The pancreas begins to produce more insulin to bombard cells, and a vicious cycle begins. This new epidemic in westernized countries is called “metabolic syndrome”, and it comes from eating too many carbohydrates, refined carbohydrates in particular.

Epigenetics (the study of genes) has changed the way we think about eating. The changes that occur in organisms as a result of dietary or environmental toxins has made some researchers look at metabolic syndrome, celiac, cancer, Alzheimer’s, dementia, ADD, autism, autoimmune diseases, and even allergies as conditions that may someday be prevented or healed through the use of food rather than through any modification or alteration of genes themselves.

The history of wheat

Wheat is the third largest crop in the world after rice and corn mainly because it can withstand severe climates. Its earliest known existence is found to be about 9,000 years ago, and today, many experts still believe that, should disaster strike, few nations could survive for even a year without it.

  • Wheat is used mainly as a human food because it can be stored for years in kernel form, is easily transported and can be processed into a wide variety of foods.
  • The per capita consumption of wheat in the United States exceeds any other single food.
  • It’s high in carbohydrates and is still believed by many to be nutritious, with valuable proteins, minerals, and vitamins.
  • It’s a major ingredient in breads, rolls, crackers, cookies, biscuits, cakes, donuts, muffins, pancakes, waffles, noodles, pie crusts, pasta, ice cream cones, pizza, and cereals. Wheat flour, germ, bran, and malt are also added to packaged foods, baby food, soups, gravies, and sauces as a fillers, binders, and thickeners.

Although grain has been consumed for thousands of years, stored in kernel form and ground fresh, modern wheat is making people sick. Spelt, Kamut, Einkorn, and a few other related grains which are the result of ancient natural crossings also contain gluten, but do not have adverse affects on many who believe they’re “gluten sensitive”. So what’s different about wheat today that didn’t exist in ancient wheat? Just about everything.

The downfall of the modern diet: Modern industrial milling

Modern grain milling (the steel roller mill) is fast and efficient. It gives a great amount of control over how the kernel is separated. It allows for a barren “flour” to be made that lasts indefinitely, can be shipped over long distances through the seemingly endless distribution chain, and provides food for the masses. It remains virtually pest free because there’s nothing in it that pests want. In fact, with regard to nutrition, there’s nothing in it at all.

  • Modern milled wheat was the first processed food.
  • It allows shelf stable foods to be manufactured many months in advance of distribution, often thousands of miles from the end user.
  • It eliminates the richest source of nutrients including proteins, vitamins, lipids, and minerals found in the bran, germ, shorts (fine bran particles, germ and a small portion of floury endosperm particles), and red dog mill streams (the middle grade into which flour and meal are classified and which are the richest in proteins, vitamins, lipids, and minerals. Ironically, “middlings” are used in animal feed).
  • Decades of current research have proven white flour to be harmfully devoid of nutrients, but it’s still the most widely used product in the world.
  • Manufacturers replace natural nutrients with just a few manmade replicas, all of which are without their whole food complex.

According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, here’s what’s lost by modern industrial processing.

Excessive input farming and genetic alteration

The 20th century has brought a new monster to the “advancement” of food technology. While previous decades and advances in milling destroyed and voided wheat of all of its nutritional value, radical techniques in farming have changed the vital structure of the plant itself.

  • The Green Revolution of the mid 1900s saw the development of a system that gave high yielding varieties of grains.
  • Irrigation technology was modernized
  • Management techniques were changed
  • Hybridized seeds arrived
  • Synthetic fertilizers were developed
  • Chemical pesticides began to see regular use

All of this revolutionized the way grains were “created”.

The new species of wheat was “weather resistant” and this, coupled with the elimination of insect blights, gave us more than enough wheat to supply hungry people everywhere. Companies such as Dupont and Monsanto grabbed hold of this opportunity and, with no regard for nutritional value, began to “feed the world”.

  • Wheat is now resistant to drought, pests and blight through the use of chemicals
  • It’s easy to harvest which has given farmers a dramatically high yield per acre
  • Biological manipulation (hybridized but technically not genetically altered) has made it higher in gluten (so it bakes into a fluffier end product)
  • We’re eating seeds that have been grown in synthetic soil to make a wheat that’s macerated to flimsy dust, then bleached and chemically treated, a “food” that no other animal will touch.

Genetic engineering alters the genetic blueprint of living organisms by splicing genes to create specific characteristics or functions. For example, scientists can mix a gene from a cold-water fish into a strawberry plant’s DNA so it can withstand colder temperatures. (3) Roundup Ready Wheat is a patented product of Monsanto that resists the deadly herbicide, Roundup, another Monsanto product.

Ironically, exports of genetically engineered products are not accepted in many countries and Monsanto has made the decision to put the development of GE wheat on temporary hold. Currently, there is no genetically modified wheat available for human consumption.

We may not be safe from genetically engineered foods, though. “In 2000, Iowa, farmers planted only 1% of their corn crop as Starlink, a genetically engineered corn approved only for animal consumption. By harvest time, almost 50% of the crop tested positive for Starlink. Product recalls, consumer outcry and export difficulties have ensued. This mistake resulted in the recall of hundreds of millions of dollars of food products and seeds”. (4)

Here’s what experts are saying about modern wheat.

Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly: “This thing being sold to us called wheat is this stocky little high-yield plant, a distant relative of the wheat our mothers used to bake muffins, biochemically light-years removed from the wheat of just 40 years ago.”

Neurologist Dr. David Permutter, author of Grain Brain: “The problem with gluten is far more serious than anyone ever imagined. Modern…structurally modified, hybridized grains contain gluten that’s less tolerable than the gluten that was found in grains cultivated just a few decades ago”.

Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Blood Sugar Solution: “This new modern wheat may look like wheat, but it is different in three important ways that all drive obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia and more. It contains a super starch, amylopectin A, that is super fattening, a form of super gluten that is super inflammatory, and a super drug that is super addictive and makes you crave and eat more”.


Wheat was the one of the first foods approved by the Food and Drug Administration for irradiation as a way to control insects. The idea was to eliminate pests that found their way into grains and flours during the long storage process. Today it kills fruit flies, prevents mold from growing, delays ripening, prevents sprouting, and extends the shelf life of meat and fish.

In 1963, the consequences were as yet unknown.

In a 1975 study (5), children who were fed recently irradiated wheat were found to have abnormal cell formation and polyploid lymph, the same type found in patients who were undergoing radiation treatment. A dramatic increase in these cells showed up in blood samples, and because of the potential danger, the study was ended. For verification, the study was continued on both monkeys and rats with the same results. The children, monkeys and rats all returned to normal after the wheat was discontinued.

  • Irradiated food lowers immune resistance, decreases fertility, damages the kidneys, depresses growth rates, and reduces vitamins A, B complex, C, E and K.

Chemicals, for the betterment of our food supply

For every synthetic chemical insecticide used in farming practices today, there is at least one species of insect that has developed a resistance to it.

Say hello to disulfoton (Di-syston), methyl parathion, chlorpyrifos, dimethoate, diamba, and glyphosate, the chemical pesticides and fertilizers that are approved and considered safe for human consumption. They’re designed to create neurological fragmentation in insects.

  • They’re seen as foreign estrogens in the human body.
  • They can cause severe hormonal imbalance, particularly in pre-pubescent teens, causing them to reach puberty at much earlier ages.
  • They’re linked to hormone-dependent cancers.

Some farmers apply cyocel to wheat, a synthetic hormone that regulates growth, time of germination and stalk strength.

  • Cyocel acts as an endocrine disruptor in humans.

Next are chlorpyrifos-methyl, cy-fluthrin, malathion and pyrethrins. These are sprayed into storage bins and added while the bin is filled. They’re then re-added to the upper four inches of grain to protect against moths and other insects that enter from the outside.

  • Malathion interferes with the normal function of the nervous system.
  • Pyrethrins are neurotoxic in humans
  • Cy-fluthrin is highly toxic to marine and fresh water organisms, is a skin and eye irritant, and causes kidney damage and low growth rates in humans

In the standard threshold test, one live insect per quart of sample calls for fumigation. The goal of fumigation is to “maintain a toxic concentration of gas long enough to kill the target pest population.” (6) Methyl bromide and phosphine-producing materials are allowed to penetrate the entire facility.

  • Methyl bromide is highly toxic. It’s a skin and eye corrosive, affects the nervous system, caused malformation in embryos of test animals.
  • Phosphine is acutely toxic and can cause respiratory, speech and motor disturbances, and spontaneous fractures. It induces damage to genetic material in vitro.(7)

Organophosphates create the same action as nerve gases such as sarin, and are one of the most widely used classes of pesticides in the U.S. and around the world. They inhibit cholinesterase, an enzyme in the human nervous system that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which carries signals between nerves and muscles. When cholinesterase is inactivated, acetylcholine builds up in the nerves. Victims die from suffocation because they’re lungs are paralyzed and they can’t breathe. (16)

A study published in the journal Pediatrics showed that legally permissible amounts of organophospates have extraordinary effects on brain chemistry. The findings concluded that children with above-average pesticide exposures are 2x more likely to have ADHD, (8) indicating the build-up of acetycholine in the nerves that causes over-activity.

The myth of gluten-free

Spelt, kamut and other related ancient grains contain gluten, but some people who claim to be gluten sensitive can eat them without having digestive problems. Why? It’s not the gluten alone; it’s a combination of all the things done to modern wheat and other industrialized grains.

The amount of gluten in modern wheat has been dramatically increased by biological manipulation and is now about 80% of its total protein content.

For the increasing population of celiac sufferers, even minute traces of gluten can cause terrible discomfort, but symptoms of gluten sensitivity are generally much milder and health minded individuals who are honing their diet are turning to gluten-free products.

The food “industry”, never one to miss a good opportunity, is responding with “gluten-free” foods by the dozens and, staying true to the nature of industrialized foods, most of it is junk.

Modern grains and modern disease

Increasing numbers of scientists and medical professionals are beginning to make the connection between modern wheat and chronic digestive and inflammatory illnesses. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to pathogens and wounds, but persistent low grade inflammation (LGI) or continual activation of immune cells through incessant exposure to triggers is associated with a host of diseases including cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, cancer, autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and depression.

  • Inflammation in response to injury is good, but a low continuous burn from constant triggers can be deadly.

Phytates, gluten and lectins – three poisons we can live without

Phytates – Phytates, also found in lesser quantities in nuts and seeds, are not inherently damaging, but they do bind to dietary minerals and prevent their absorption. They’re not as harmful as gluten and lectins if the rest of your diet is mineral rich. To help break down phytates, you can soak food in yogurt, buttermilk, or water combined with lemon juice or vinegar.

Gluten – Gluten is a protein which enables bread to rise by forming gas cells that hold carbon dioxide during fermentation. Modern technology has increased the amount in wheat so that it now contains about 80% gluten.

Lectins – Lectins are so small and hard to digest that they tend to bio-accumulate in your body. They damage the gut lining which leads to leaky gut and other disorders. Lectins also cause leptin resistance, which means that your hunger signal is suppressed and that you’ll be hungry even when your body has had more than enough calories. They’re resistant to heat and digestive enzymes and can bind to almost all cell types, causing damage to tissues and organs.

All seeds of the grass family are high in lectins which cause agglutination.

  • Here’s the Merriam Webster definition of agglutination – “a reaction in which particles (as red blood cells or bacteria) suspended in a liquid collect into clumps and which occurs especially as a serological response to a specific antibody”.

What agglutinin is capable of doing to us is this:

  • It stimulates the synthesis of chemical messengers that are responsible for inflammation in response to some injury or invasion.
  • It inhibits nerve growth factor which keeps neurons alive and thriving (9), and sticks to the protective covering of nerves (the myelin sheath)
  • New research is showing that it may disrupt endocrine function and interfere with other genetic expression. (10)
  • It shares similarities with certain viruses (10)
  • It induces platelet aggregation (11)
  • It stimulates pro-inflammatory cytokines and causes gut permeability (12) which allows bacteria and large particles to enter the bloodstream
  • Gliadin epitopes in modern wheat contribute to gut-permeating activity that moves dietary antigens into your blood stream. It’s believed to be causative in autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis), asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome and depression. 30% of the population has noticeable amounts of anti-gliadins in their stools. Anti-gliadins are antibodies secreted when the body sees gliadin, a constituent of gluten, as an intruder. Having the antibody in your stools means that your body is actively fighting an intruder and that you already have low level inflammation.
  • Gluten triggers the over-abundance of zonulin, a protein which is responsible for the permeability of tight junctions between cells of the wall of the digestive tract. Too much zonulin production disrupts intestinal barrier function
  • Aggliglutin binds to the outer coating of human cells, can cross the blood-brain barrier allowing bacteria to enter cells (14)

What are some healthy alternatives?

The Paleo eating protocol revolves around whole foods including meat and plants, but not industrialized plants such as wheat and other grains. Don’t be fooled by products that claim to be whole wheat. In some countries, whole wheat products contain nothing more than white flour with some bran added back in. The whole grain is not used and it’s processed the same way as barren white flour. If you can’t live without baked goods, make sure you read labels thoroughly.

Try some of these healthy tips.

Replace grain flour – Use almond or coconut flour. There are hundreds of online recipes using these flours.

Soak and sprout nuts and seeds and grind into flour – Nuts and seeds contain enzyme inhibitors that stop them from sprouting too early. This works out in nature, but for us, when enzymes are blocked, we can’t make use of them.

To soak: Soaking releases the enzyme inhibitors so they help us digest these foods. It also neutralizes phytic acid, a component of plant fiber in grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds that reduces mineral absorption.

  • Use raw nuts or seeds. Cover with filtered water to about 2 inches above and let them soak overnight. Make sure the bowl is big enough to accommodate the swelling that will take place. Drain and discard the soak water.
  • Use right away or store soaked nuts and seeds in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

To sprout: Sprouting increases the total nutrient density of a food.

  • Use raw presoaked nuts or seeds. Spread them out on a plate giving them a bit of space and cover lightly with cheesecloth or clean unbleached muslin. Rinse twice a day.
  • A tiny white tail will appear from the narrow end when they begin to sprout. Use them right away or store in a jar in the refrigerator.

Make your own sprouted granola – Soak almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts, and chia seeds in water for 8 hours then set them out for a day on a paper towel. Toss them in a small amount of raw local unpasteurized honey, and add organic raisins, coconut flakes, cinnamon and sea salt. Place them in a dehydrator or oven and you have a great tasting metabolism boosting snack.


Grains, a food group that we didn’t eat for 97% of our human existence, are now at the base of the USDA food pyramid with 6-11 servings a day recommended.

New science is shedding some light on the problems caused by this popular food group, but of all the habits that you can develop regarding your health, dropping the grains from your diet is probably the one that will pay off the most.

Below you’ll find a list of common Paleo-approved foods by category. Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive, but instead aims to cover the most popular food items available in grocery stores today.

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Beef, pork, lamb, veal, rabbit, goat, sheep, bison, wild boar.

Game meat

Deer, pheasant, bear, moose, woodcock, elk, duck, rabbit, reindeer, wild turkey.


Chicken, turkey, duck, quail, goose.



Crab, lobster, shrimp, scallops, clams, oysters, mussels.



Chicken eggs, duck eggs, goose eggs, quail eggs.


Green leafy vegetables

Root vegetables

Carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, sweet potatoes, radish, jerusalem artichokes, yams, cassava.

Winter squash

Butternut squash, spaghetti squash, acorn squash, pumpkin, buttercup squash.

Summer squash

Zucchini, yellow summer squash, yellow crookneck squash.


Nuts and seeds


Button mushroom, portabello, oyster mushroom, shiitake, chanterelle, crimini, porcini, morel.

Fresh and dried herbs

Parsley, thyme, lavender, mint, basil, rosemary, chives, tarragon, oregano, sage, dill, bay leaves, coriander.

Spices and others

Is it Paleo?

The following articles cover foods that often raise questions: honey, maple syrup, potatoes, tea, butter, dairy, vinegar, cured meat, sausages, chocolate, coffee and alcohol.

Foods to avoid

Here’s a list of foods that should generally be avoided on Paleo, by category.


Wheat, Corn, barley, rye, oats, brown rice, millet, spelt, bulgur, couscous,…


Soy beans, lentils, pinto beans, red beans, peanuts, chickpeas, kidney beans,…

Added Sugar

Sodas, baked goods, pastries, fruit juices, cane juice, cane sugar, high-fructore corn syrup, agave, aspartame…

Vegetable seed oils

Soybean oil, peanut oil, corn oil, canola oil, margarine, sunflower oil, safflower oil, cottonseed oil,…

Processed foods

Most foods that have ingredients that don’t seem to come directly from nature. This will include most commertialy packaged foods.


Milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream…

Note that some people still like include forms of dairy like cheese, heavy cream and/or yogurt into a healthy Paleo diet template. In other words, dairy falls into a gray-area. While a lot of people do better without dairy products at all, others tolerate them perfectly well. You can read more about dairy and Paleo here.

Additional food lists

You can consult our FODMAPs food list for a list of foods to avoid if you’re trying to limit the amount of FODMAPs in your diet. Not sure what FODMAPs are? Have a look at our introduction here.

Surprising Things You Can’t Eat on a Paleo Diet


The premise of the Paleo diet seems simple enough: if the cavemen didn’t eat it, you shouldn’t either. Hello meat, fish, poultry, fruits, and veggies. Goodbye refined sugar, dairy, grains, and beans. It sounds so easy, you can’t possibly screw it up. But you can and probably are. (See The Athlete’s Plan for the Paleo Diet.)

What many Paleo followers fail to understand is that certain Paleo food categories include foods that aren’t really “Paleo.” These foods, when consumed in excess, may actually reverse any benefits derived from a grain-free, ancestral-type diet. (Oops. Should you even be eating Paleo? See The Paleo Diet Leaves Athletes Powerless.)

Paleo Diet Know-How

Before farming and organized agriculture, humans ate few grains and no sugar. They consumed only what they could hunt or gather. Their “Paleo foods” consisted mainly of wild vegetation, game, and fish, with very little fruit or sugar (save for the occasional berry, raw honey, or tree sap).

In a nutshell, a Paleo diet is one that abstains from all grains (wheat, rye, corn), processed foods and refined sugar—and most high-sugar fruits like bananas and melons.

Refined sugar, processed foods and restaurants did not exist during this time in human history. Perhaps not surprisingly, some vegetables that we eat today were not around in the Paleolithic era. In fact, if you look at a detailed Paleo diet food list, you will see that some of the most popular vegetables consumed in today’s society are “forbidden,” or at least dramatically restricted.

Surprising Foods That Aren’t Considered “Paleo”

To get a better handle on a true Paleo food diet—what it is and what it isn’t—let’s take a detailed look at the Paleo food list. By examining all Paleo food categories, we can break them down to determine which ones contains foods that aren’t considered Paleo and why.

Vegetables: Potatoes and Corn

Our ancestors were highly adept at eating large amounts of leafy greens, which provided bulk and sustenance when other foods became sparse. Many of the vegetables they consumed resemble the green, leafy, fibrous vegetables we eat today, like lettuce, spinach, kale and broccoli.

These are generally low-starch vegetables, which are also low on the glycemic index. Vegetables that were not consumed in amounts like they are today include potatoes and corn. These are high on the glycemic index (they raise blood sugar quickly) and actually are considered grains. They were relatively sparse during the Paleolithic era.

Meat: Processed Meats (Sausage) and Lunch Meats

Most meat is considered Paleo—as long as it is grass-fed beef, lamb, or free-range poultry. Processed meats, such as lunch meats and processed pork, are not true Paleo foods. They did not exist in the diets of our Paleo ancestors. These foods often contain sodium nitrates and other unnatural preservatives. Many Paleo enthusiasts find a way around this, especially when it comes to bacon, by finding nitrate-free varieties of their favorite processed meats.

Nuts and Seeds: Peanuts and Peanut Butter

Nuts and seeds were consumed sparingly during the Paleolithic era. Yet since they are low in carbohydrates and high in energy, they are often consumed by individuals following the Paleo diet. Nut and seed butters are not true Paleo foods, yet are often considered Paleo in our modern society. Peanuts and peanut butter are categorized as legumes, and are not considered Paleo.

Fruits: Banana and Melon

Low-sugar fruit, such as the fatty avocado, are considered Paleo. Again, the majority of fruit consumption during the Paleolithic era consisted of small berries, and only when they were in season. Berries are lower in sugar and higher in antioxidants than other sweet fruits. Bananas and melon are not considered true Paleo foods; however, many people who follow the Paleo lifestyle consume them in moderation. Paleo diets seem to vary based on each individual’s needs and taste preferences.

Despite the limited number of categories in this Paleo diet food list, there really is an abundance of things you can eat! Simply put, to avoid confusion, the next time you are making out your Paleo shopping list, avoid processed foods and unpronounceable ingredients. Steer clear of sugar, grains, and high-sugar products. In other words, think like a caveman. (See also How to Customize A Diet Plan to Meet Your Specific Needs.)

What is the Paleo Diet?

The Paleo diet is based upon the idea of eating the foods our bodies were designed for through thousands of years of evolution. These foods were available to early people through hunting and gathering . During modern times, advances in technology have made other forms of food available for consumption , which are not as easy for our bodies to digest. The foods recommended in the Paleo diet generally provide our bodies with more efficient, long-lasting energy that also aid in burning fat. The Paleo Diet is considered to be optimal for digestion, blood sugar regulation, metabolism, and sleep.

What is the difference between Paleo and Primal?

‘Primal’ generally refers to Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint way of eating which is very similar to Paleo, but allows some leeway with certain types of dairy and has fewer restrictions on saturated fat intake. Throughout this book, we use “Paleo” and “Primal” as interchangeable terms. Generally speaking, the Paleo Diet is a high protein, moderate fat diet, and the Primal Blueprint is considered to be a high fat, moderate protein diet. Many people who follow this way of eating consider the terms to be one and the same. How ever you personally decide to “title” the ancestral diet that you abide by, both stem from the core principle of eating the foods our bodies were designed to eat: plants and animals.

What types of food are included in the Paleo diet?

We eat a wide variety of meats, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Colorful Fruits and Vegetables, Healthy fats from coconut, avocado, pastured fatty cuts of meat, grass fed butter, olive oil, and some nuts and seeds. The options are endless, and our plates are always filled with something new and interesting to challenge our palates!

Which foods do you avoid?

All Grains, Pasteurized dairy, Soy, Legumes, Refined Sugar, and Alcohol





Fruits & Vegetables


Nuts & Seeds


Healthy Fats

Processed Foods

Herbs, Spices & Seasonings


Other Key Ingredients


Why do you avoid healthy, whole grains?

Contrary to popular belief, whole grains are not so healthy to human beings. We simply have not adapted to be able to digest grains. Grains contain toxic anti-nutrients, lectins, gluten, and phytates, and we as human beings are not wired to be able to properly digest these anti-nutrients.To quote Mark Sisson: “Lectins are bad. They bind to insulin receptors, attack the stomach lining of insects, bind to human intestinal lining, and they seemingly cause leptin resistance. And leptin resistance predicts a “worsening of the features of the metabolic syndrome independently of obesity”. Fun stuff, huh? Gluten might be even worse. Gluten, found in wheat, rye, and barley, is a composite of the proteins gliadin and glutenin. Around 1% of the population are celiacs, people who are completely and utterly intolerant of any gluten. In celiacs, any gluten in the diet can be disastrous. We’re talking compromised calcium and vitamin D3 levels, hyperparathyroidism, bone defects. Really terrible stuff. And it gets worse: just because you’re not celiac doesn’t mean you aren’t susceptible to the ravages of gluten. As Stephan highlights, one study showed that 29% of asymptomatic (read: not celiac) people nonetheless tested positive for anti-gliadin IgA in their stool. Anti-gliadin IgA is an antibody produced by the gut, and it remains there until it’s dispatched to ward off gliadin – a primary component of gluten. Basically, the only reason anti-gliadin IgA ends up in your stool is because your body sensed an impending threat – gluten. If gluten poses no threat, the anti-gliadin IgA stays in your gut. And to think, most Americans eat this stuff on a daily basis.Phytates are a problem, too, because they make minerals bio-unavailable (so much for all those healthy vitamins and minerals we need from whole grains!), thus rendering null and void the last, remaining argument for cereal grain consumption.” Read more:

Paleo Success Stories that will blow your mind

-Other frequently asked questions-

Aren’t you worried about cholesterol?

The idea that eating foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol will cause heart disease is a myth. You’re body cannot function properly without adequate levels of cholesterol (this does not mean low cholesterol), not to mention your brain needs fat. Your brain is mostly fat and needs fat to really thrive. People at risk for heart disease often are on a low fat, high carb diet, and statins not only do not save lives, but come packaged with many harmful side effects. Just more reason to ditch the grains, and up the fat! For more information on cholesterol in a Paleo Diet context, check out these links: Weston A. Price Foundation: Chris Kresser: Mark Sisson:

What’s the deal with dairy?

Often people see recipes of ours that include dairy, and their comments are, “I thought dairy wasn’t Paleo?” All dairy is not created equal. Paseurized dairy is a processed, dead food, and raw dairy is a whole, live food. When animals are fed a diet of grains and soy, they are inflamed, fat, toxic, and sick. Animals thrive on a diet of grasses. They are meant to roam freely and graze. Milk from grain fed animals is also toxic, so it then must be heated to kill bad bacteria. Unfortunately when you kill the bad bacteria, you also kill the good bacteria that helps assist in digestion. This is why people often have problems digesting pasteurized dairy. Raw dairy from a healthy animal raised on pasture, is a living food. Raw dairy is a great source of vitamin’s A, D, and K, and can be incorporated into a Paleo diet in moderation. We often include butter and cream in our day to day eating, but it is rare that you will see us eating cheese. When choosing dairy items, we suggest opting for high fat dairy, ie, butter, or cream. Of course, as with any food, it is always best to see how you feel. Just because one person can tolerate dairy, doesn’t mean you will. Listen to your body, and choose wisely. Resources: Weston A. Price: Mark Sisson: Chris Kresser:

Where do you get your calcium from?

We get all adequate calcium from dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, and broccoli. We also get calcium from mineral rich bone broth. Resources on calcium with The Paleo Diet: Balanced Bites: Cave Girl Eats:

Where can I find palm oil / coconut aminos / other obscure ingredients?

We often can find most of our pantry items at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or our local Food Coop. If we cannot find an item we are looking for in a specialty health food store near us, then we often will order it online from Amazon.

How does the Recipe Filter work?

We created the recipe filter on this website to allow people with food allergies and special dietary restrictions to quickly and easily identify those recipes which are not suitable for them. By turning on the filter in the sidebar, you are highlighting the recipes which do not work for the given condition. For example – if you check the “nut-free” box, all of the recipes which contain nuts will be highlighted. Within those recipes, you will be able to see which ingredients do not follow the special allergy or dietary restriction.

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That’s less than 50 cents per day for our foolproof 60-day meal plan and 180+ recipes. If you’re not ready to buy the guide, no problem. Sign up for our free emails anyway – our gift to you!

Learn more about the 30 Day Guide to Paleo program here.

The Complete Paleo Diet Food List

Need a quick go-to Paleo guide? Here’s the complete Paleo diet food list of what you should avoid – and what to load up on.

Are you new to the Paleo diet and worried it’s too restrictive? Or are you a seasoned Paleo enthusiast in need of food inspiration? Either way, we’ve got you covered. Here’s our complete Paleo Diet Food List – our comprehensive guide of what to eat & avoid on your Paleo journey.

It’s divided into neat, accessible categories, so Pull this guide up when in doubt of an ingredient, or when you’re not sure what to make for dinner.

Want to learn more about Paleo and how it can help you?
Grab our FREE “What Is Paleo?” Guide by Clicking Here!

I. The Short Paleo Diet Food List

Here’s a quick reference guide to what’s considered Paleo and not. In general, a balanced Paleo diet includes foods high in protein and fiber not derived from grain products, and it excludes foods high in carbohydrates, refined sugars and those that are heavily processed.

Paleo-Friendly Foods:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Poultry
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Seafood
  • Animal fats
  • Unrefined oils

Non-Paleo Foods:

  • Refined sugars
  • Dairy
  • Grains
  • Legumes (including beans and peanuts)
  • Processed foods
  • Sugary and caffeinated beverages
  • Vegetable oil
  • Canola oil
  • White potatoes

II. Paleo-Friendly Foods

Paleo-Friendly Meats

For many, the Paleo diet calls for a significant increase in their typical protein consumption. According to Paleo expert Loren Cordain, protein accounts for only 15% of calories consumed in the average Western diet.

The Paleo diet counts meat and seafood as staples and thus increases considerably the average individual’s protein intake. This lists the many high-protein meats available to you on the Paleo diet.

Be adventurous with the various cuts and preparations of meat (even organ meat!) to identify your favorites, and remember: happy animals make happy meat! Opt for grass-fed and wild meats whenever possible, and avoid processed meats.

Paleo-Friendly Seafood

Like land animals, sea animals serve as a healthy source of protein as well as a variety of micronutrients. Many fish offer a solid dose of omega-3 fatty acids (to be consumed in moderation and balanced with omega-6 fatty acids) and essential vitamins and nutrients. Be sure to purchase seafood that’s sustainably sourced and try to avoid fish heavily exposed to environmental toxins.

  • Catfish
  • Anchovy
  • Mahi Mahi
  • Mackerel
  • Prawns
  • Cod
  • Bass
  • Swai
  • Shad
  • Pollock
  • Cuttlefish
  • Sole
  • Char
  • Marlin
  • Flounder
  • Lamprey
  • Shark
  • Oysters
  • Mussels
  • Swordfish
  • Halibut
  • Salmon
  • Snapper
  • Barracuda
  • Tuna
  • Scallops
  • Crawfish
  • Whitefish
  • Abalone
  • Trout
  • Basa
  • Octopus
  • Crayfish
  • Bonito
  • Bluefish
  • Haddock
  • Milkfish
  • Squid
  • Perch
  • Roughy
  • Herring
  • Grouper
  • Sardines
  • Shrimp
  • Clams
  • Walleye
  • Tilapia
  • Sunfish
  • Lobster
  • Crab

Paleo-Friendly Vegetables

It’s been pounded into our brains since we first sat at our childhood dinner tables: eat your veggies. Still, the typical Western diet is massively deficient in plant-derived nutrients.

Generally, vegetables are dense in fiber and essential vitamins and minerals and are thus a required part of a balanced Paleo diet. Balance is key here: vegetables, while essential, are best consumed alongside a variety of food groups. They, nor any other food group, cannot alone constitute a healthy diet. More than that, not all vegetables are created equal, nutrition-wise. They are, however, delicious and provide tons of creative opportunities to diversify your diet!

  • Leafy greens: kale, spinach, lettuce, arugula, bok choy, beet greens, chard, mustard greens, radicchio, turnip greens, purslane, watercress, collard greens, dandelion greens, cabbage
  • Cruciferous vegetables: Brussels sprouts, broccoli, broccolini, cauliflower, kohlrabi, broccoli rabe, rutabaga, horseradish, radish, daikon
  • Tubers and safe starches: carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, parsnips, taro, cassava, yucca
  • Squashes: butternut, acorn, zucchini, yellow squash, pumpkin, Mexican gray squash, Kabocha squash, Delicata squash, spaghetti squash
  • Asparagus
  • Eggplant
  • Bell peppers
  • Hot peppers
  • Sweet peppers
  • Artichoke
  • Squash blossoms
  • Onions
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Fennel
  • Leeks
  • Shallots
  • Green onions
  • Cucumbers
  • Beets
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Jicama
  • Seaweed
  • Cactus

Paleo-Friendly Fruits

Fruit: nature’s sugar. As such, it’s far preferable to refined sugars and sugar products, but it’s also chock-full of fructose and therefore meant to be consumed in moderation. Still, fruit makes the basis of some awesome Paleo desserts and snacks. Consume one to three servings of fruit a day and limit high-sugar fruits to special indulgences. It’s also more beneficial to consume fruits in their raw, unaltered form – but we love smoothies, too.

  • Berries: blueberries, blackberries, acai, raspberries, lingonberries, Marion berries, cranberries, strawberries, goji, elderberries, currants, bilberries
  • Stone fruit: peaches, nectarines, apricots
  • Citrus: lemons, oranges, limes, grapefruits, tangerines, pomelos
  • Coconuts
  • Apples
  • Plantains
  • Avocado
  • Watermelon
  • Papaya
  • Bananas
  • Honeydew
  • Mango
  • Lychee
  • Grapes
  • Tomatoes
  • Tomatillos
  • Pineapple
  • Cantaloupe
  • Figs
  • Dragon fruit
  • Guava

Paleo-Friendly Oils and Fats

Many conventionally-used cooking oils are banned from the Paleo diet because of their highly-processed and refined states and low nutrient quality. That’s okay, though, because there are many Paleo replacements with better nutritional profiles.

  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Walnut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Macadamia nut oil
  • Rendered animal fats
  • Lard
  • Tallow
  • Ghee

Paleo-Friendly Nuts and Seeds

With grains excluded from the Paleo diet, nuts and seeds are popular replacements in Paleo versions of bread, cereals, pies, cakes and other baked goods. They form the basis of many dairy-free milks, flours and nut butters. They’re also incredibly popular and sustaining snacks and salad toppings. While nuts open up a range of previously non-Paleo offerings, they’re nevertheless high in calories and undesirable phytic acid. Consume them mindfully.

  • Macadamia nuts
  • Walnuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Pine nuts
  • Flax seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sesame seeds

Looking for Paleo-friendly meals? Start here:
Paleo Recipes
21-Day Meal Plan

III. What to Avoid on the Paleo Diet


Dairy is a touchy subject. It’s widely considered a gray area in the Paleo community. Much of the world’s population cannot tolerate lactose, the sugar found in milk. Mass commercially-produced milk comes from industrially farmed cows, undesirable from both a health and ethical standpoint. That said, grass-fed and pasture-raised cows produce higher-quality milk. Fermented dairy, like yogurt and kefir, also offers the benefits of probiotics. If you choose to consume dairy, opt for the quality stuff. Otherwise, try additive-free nut and coconut milks.

  • Milk
  • CheeseThe Ultimate Paleo Diet Shopping List
  • Ice cream
  • Butter
  • Cream cheese
  • Evaporated milk
  • Condensed milk
  • Yogurt
  • Frozen yogurt

Grains simply don’t measure up nutritionally to meat, seafood, vegetables and fruit. While filling, they are less nutrient-dense when compared to food in the latter categories. In fact, modern milling removes most of these nutrients.

  • Cereal grains
  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Pseudocereals: quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat
  • Enriched flours
  • Pasta
  • Semolina
  • Polenta
  • Grits
  • Oats
  • Barley

While typically considered health foods (who’s ever been angry with a bag of lentils?), legumes have a major downside: phytic acid. According to Paleo Leap, “Phytic acid binds to nutrients in the food, preventing you from absorbing them.” While phytic acid is present in a number of Paleo-friendly foods (like nuts), these foods are generally consumed in smaller quantities. Legumes, however, constitute a staple in many diets around the world, leading to overexposure to phytic acid as well as a host of other antinutrients.

  • Lentils
  • Beans: black beans, pinto beans, red beans, kidney beans, white beans, garbanzo beans, black eyed peas, lima beans, Adzuki beans, Mung beans, navy beans, fava beans
  • Peas
  • Peanuts and peanut products
  • Green beans
  • String beans
  • Snap peas
  • Soybeans and soy products
  • Tofu

Refined Sugars and Artificial Sweeteners

We have a penchant for finding an absurd amount of ways to sweeten our food, as evidenced by our sweetener-laden grocery store aisles. Our many sweeteners also have many names, making it difficult to suss out the added sugars in foods. There are only a few Paleo-friendly sweetening agents: fruit, raw honey, pure maple syrup, and coconut sugar, all of which are low on the glycemic index. Still, these should not be a diet staple.

  • Acesulfame K
  • Aspartame
  • Neotame
  • Saccharin
  • Sucralose
  • Refined white sugar
  • Refined brown sugar
  • Agave
  • Molasses
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Cane sugar
  • Beet sugar
  • Maltitol
  • Mannitol
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Isomalt
  • Treacle
  • Cane juice
  • Xylitol

Highly-Processed Junk Foods

We probably don’t have to tell you this, but a Snickers bar is just about the farthest you can get from Paleo-friendly. Junk foods are antithetical to the Paleo diet premise – and the premise of any balanced and healthy diet. Keep consumption of these to a minimum – or better yet, try some of the many Paleo alternatives.

  • Fast foods
  • Processed candy bars
  • Gummy candy
  • Lollipops
  • Ice cream
  • Sodas
  • Diet sodas
  • Processed meats: lunch meat, hot dogs, Spam
  • Potato chips
  • Cookies
  • Energy drinks
  • Fruit juices
  • Donuts
  • Pastries
  • Processed condiments
  • Processed salad dressings
  • Cakes
  • Pretzels
  • Popsicles

Enjoy amazing walnut muffins… savory omelets… banana cookies… and even chocolate! Eat your favorite foods and stay fit and healthy at the same time.

Get started on your Paleo
weight-loss journey today
with our beginner-friendly PaleoHacks Cookbook

Get started on your
Paleo weight-loss
journey today with
our beginner-friendly
PaleoHacks Cookbook


Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or, ahem, in a cave), you’ve probably heard about the Paleo diet. One of the biggest food movements of the decade, it’s got everyone from clean eaters to CrossFitters and celebs eating like they’re a member of The Flintstones family.

According to Milk & Honey Nutrition founder Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RDN, Paleo’s philosophy reflects the way our (really distant) ancestors ate before agriculture, animal farming, and processed foods hit the scene. The diet’s devotees believe the human body runs best on things that can be hunted and gathered, and that more modern foods, like dairy products, legumes, and grains, aren’t genetically ideal for us. (The validity of this hypothesis, however, has been questioned by some researchers.)

In order to know exactly what our Paleolithic predecessors ate, you’d need a time-machine that sends you way back—like, back before HIIT was hot and spiralized vegetables “passed” as pasta. (From 12,000 to 2.6 million years ago, to be exact.) But since that’s not realistic, modern Paleo creator Loren Cordain, PhD, based the diet around the plants and animals that were found in the wild back in the day.

Intrigued by the prospect of getting ancestral with it? Consider this the beginner’s guide to all things Paleo: its benefits and pitfalls, the foods to eat (cookies included!) and avoid on the program, and how to experiment with Paleo living without diving all the way in. (Paleo-ish—it’s a thing!). See you when we return to the 21st century, whole grains…

Check out the video below to see what a registered dietitian thinks of the Paleo diet:

What can I eat on the Paleo diet?

In a nutshell—but not peanuts, those aren’t Paleo—the idea is to eat only what was available in the Paleolithic era. “The rules are simple: start eating meat, fish, fruits, veggies, nuts, eggs, seeds, healthy oils, and anything else our ancestors could have scoured from the earth,” says registered dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of and author of Read it Before You Eat It – Taking You from Label to Table.

When it comes to eating meat the Paleo way, sourcing is important—after all, ancient animals weren’t eating industrialized food or being injected with hormones. “A super-strict Paleo lifestyle mandates choosing grass-fed, pasture-raised, and organic foods,” says Mary Shenouda, founder of The Paleo Chef and Phat Fudge, a Paleo-based performance food company. But if these options aren’t available to you, that’s okay. “The Paleo diet isn’t exclusive or just for people who can afford those higher-priced eats,” she says.

There are also a few modernized foods that are considered by many Paleo eaters to be okay—namely, ghee, honey, alcohol, bacon, salt, and coffee. “Coffee was definitely not consumed by our Paleolithic ancestors, but a lot of Paleo dieters do drink it black, without dairy or sugar,” says Maggie Michalczyk, RDN, founder of Once Upon A Pumpkin. The Paleo crowd’s not totally anti-booze, either. It’s recommended that if you’re going to drink, to do it in in moderation and choose distilled liquors like vodka, tequila, and brandy. Some also believe red wine is okay due to its high antioxidant levels.

Paleo-friendly foods include:

  • Meat and poultry (beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, pork; choose grass-fed or organic if possible)
  • Liver
  • Seafood (choose wild-caught, if possible)
  • Eggs (choose free-range or pastured if possible)
  • Nuts (but not peanuts—they’re actually legumes)
  • Seeds
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Tubers (sweet potatoes, yams, turnips)
  • Herbs
  • Spices
  • Coconut oil, avocado oil, extra-virgin olive oil

What can’t I eat on the Paleo diet?

This may come as no surprise, but you’ll have to nix a few foods when going Paleo—specifically, those that Stone Age folks wouldn’t have eaten. “You’re omitting gluten, both whole and refined grains, dairy, legumes, soy, sugars, processed foods, and things that can cause inflammation within your body,” says Shenouda.

The guidelines of Paleo eating may seem basic enough—eat this, not that—but successfully going cavewoman takes some savvy when it comes to processed foods. “I tell people if it looks like it was made in a factory or comes in a box, jar, or bag, it’s likely not Paleo,” says Taub-Dix.

Paleo no-go foods:

Why are people so freaked by gluten, anyways? Learn more in our latest episode of You Versus Food:

What’s a typical Paleo meal look like?

Okay, so you’re off to a good start. Your fridge looks like a farmers’ market and you’ve shed your pantry of all grains, peanut butter, and processed foods. What now?

Paleo meals actually don’t look all that different from what you might eat on a program like Whole30. “A typical breakfast for me might be a smoothie, eggs with turkey bacon, or lox,” says Shenouda.

Chicken salad, bunless burgers, salads, stir-fries, and grilled fish are all Paleo-approved lunch and dinner options, Michalczyk says. Just one caveat: When prepping for yourself, it’s important to remember that most sauces, marinades, and dressings are not Paleo-approved, as they often contain hidden sugars or not-so-healthy oils.

What about eating Paleo at a restaurant?

Sticking to a Paleo plan while eating out can be tricky, and that’s what Michalczyk considers its biggest downfall. “In general, very strict diets are harder to follow than more flexible ones, especially if you have a job or lifestyle that involves eating out frequently,” she says. Yes, it’s a possibility at your go-to fast casual chains—like Chipotle and even Olive Garden. You’ll just have to get a little specific—er, “creative”—with your order.

Shenouda says that you’ll get used to advance planning when you’re hitting up a restaurant. “Be patient. Think ahead. Call ahead of time to find out if the chef will be willing to work with you,” she advises. She’s had success using phrases such as, “I have these food requirements and restrictions. I will eat anything that the chef will prepare with those in mind.” When in doubt, she adds, some plain vegetables and a plain piece of meat are pretty safe bets. (And she brings Phat Fudge and an avocado with her wherever she goes, just in case.)

How should I work out on the Paleo diet?

You’ll often hear Paleo types referring to the program as a “way of life.” That’s because movement is another major part of the equation—after all, our ancestors used food primarily to fuel their constantly on-the-go lifestyles.

Paleo exercise is based on the same principle as Paleo eating: Move how you’re designed to move, and do it often. There’s no specific fitness regime recommended on the plan, but the goal is to be as active as possible. You may have heard that the plan is popular in CrossFit communities—and while functional fitness fans may have helped popularize the Paleo diet, you don’t have to go Paleo to try the popular workout, assures Phipps. (Or vice-versa.)

Okay, but is going Paleo actually good for you?

There are a few benefits of the Paleo diet that just about every wellness pro can get behind. “In general, removing processed foods from anyone’s diet will garner health benefits that are endless,” says Chenouda. “Junk food isn’t the way to achieve optimal living and performance.”

It’s also super high in protein, which is great for athletes or anyone trying to put on muscle, Michalczyk says. Plus, since it’s dairy-free and grain-free, the Paleo diet is a good eating plan for people with those intolerances or allergies, she adds.

Phipps and Shenouda believe those suffering from chronic ailments associated with inflammation can benefit most from Paleo. “As a registered dietitian, I recommend this plan as an anti-inflammatory protocol to help alleviate symptoms associated with lupus, MS, or arthritis,” says Phipps. Anecdotally, Shenouda has heard women say they’ve experienced relief from migraines, rashes, bloating, and IBS, among other issues.

Are there any reasons not to go Paleo?

As with any restrictive eating plan, there are a few drawbacks associated with the Paleo lifestyle. “When you’re saying bye to dairy, beans, and grains, you might miss out on some important nutrients, especially calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins, and fiber,” says Michalczyk. That’s why Phipps doesn’t recommend it for people who don’t need to eliminate dairy and grains for health reasons.

Other experts believe that you can still go Paleo and get all the nutrients you need, but you need to meal plan carefully. You’ll need to focus on getting vitamin D from foods like broccoli, mushrooms, and canned fish, and calcium from almond butter, chia seeds, greens, and cauliflower, Michalczyk says. Taub-Dix adds that eating enough liver, seafood, poultry, and vegetables can help combat the loss of B vitamins when you stop eating grains.

“The first few weeks, keep a food journal to track your Paleo food choices and how they are making you feel,” suggests Michalczyk. “Are you hungry? Are you hangry? Are you tired? Are you sad? Your body will help you figure out if this diet is making you feel good or not. If you’re feeling any of the above, it’s time to chat with a dietitian or doctor.” They’re the only ones who can tell you for sure whether you’re deficient in any nutrients.

Can I do Paleo halfway?

The short answer is yes—but it depends on why you’re trying Paleo. If you’re attempting to relieve specific symptoms, Phipps recommends following the diet strictly for at least six weeks, as that will give your body time to get used to it. (And if this is the case, you should also be doing it with the blessing and supervision of an expert.) But if your goal is to simply get away from processed foods, you’ve got some wiggle room. A paleo-vegan diet is a possibility, for example.

Shenouda recommends starting with a “PaleYOU” eating plan—basically, a Paleo diet tailored to meet your personal needs and goals, as opposed to the goals of the Paleo program. Michalczyk recommends going “Paleo-ish,” which involves eating Paleo five days a week, and not the other two.

You can also ease into it, says Taub-Dix—not a bad idea, considering that going from zero to 100 on meat and veggies can cause digestive distress in some people. “If you think the Paleo plan is for you but don’t want to go at it full-force, you can try just cutting some of your carbs,” she suggests.

When it comes to experimenting with different eating plans—whether it be Paleo, veganism, keto, or something else—what’s key, according to Michalczyk, is to do what’s sustainable over the long-term for you.

Originally published on August 22, 2018. Updated on December 26, 2019, with additional writing and reporting by Kells McPhillips.

If you’re ready to get started, try these pre- and post-workout Paleo eats. And learn how to whip up a batch of Stone Age-approved muffins.

Paleo Food List: 100+ Foods You Can Eat on the Paleo Diet (& 50 to Avoid)

The paleo diet is based around the idea of ancestral nutrition, but there’s more to it than trying to emulate a caveman.

This nutritional philosophy asserts that while our bodies can thrive on foods that our paleolithic ancestors ate, it doesn’t do so well with foods our bodies have not yet evolved to tolerate.

But that doesn’t mean only eating foods that were a big hit with our paleolithic ancestors (have you seen a woolly mammoth at the store lately?).

In this article you’ll learn:

Paleo 101: What is the Paleo Diet?

100+ Foods You Can Eat on a Paleo Diet

Processed Food on the Paleo Diet

Where to Find Paleo-Friendly Food Options

Paleo Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive

What Makes a Food “Paleo”?

Paleo 101: What is the Paleo Diet?

The paleo diet focuses on consuming high-quality, whole foods that are as close to their natural form as possible.

The paleo diet encourages the following:

  • Lots of meat, seafood, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds
  • Choosing locally-grown, seasonal, organic, grass-fed, antibiotic-free, pasture-raised and wild-caught food where possible
  • Avoiding processed foods, trans fats and additives where possible
  • No consumption of dairy, legumes, grains, industrial seed oil, sugar, or artificial sweeteners

The paleo diet is macronutrient agnostic, meaning you can eat however much fat, carbs, and protein as you feel suits you. It isn’t a low carb diet, but the absence of grains naturally lends to a lower carbohydrate intake.

There’s also less importance placed on calorie counting and more emphasis on being in tune with how much food (and what kinds) your body needs. This makes the paleo diet less of a weight loss diet (unlike, for example, the ketogenic diet) and more focused on real-food nutrition.

Interested? Let’s take a look at all the delicious paleo foods you can enjoy.

100+ Foods You Can Eat on a Paleo Diet

What You Can Eat

The following foods can be eaten on a paleo diet:

  • Meat and Animal Protein
      • Eggs
      • Beef
      • Bison
      • Venison
      • Chicken
      • Turkey
      • Duck
      • Quail
      • Pork
      • Organ meats
  • Seafood
      • Fish (fresh, frozen, raw or canned)
      • Clams
      • Oysters
      • Shrimp
      • Crayfish
      • Lobster
      • Eel
  • Vegetables
      • Potato
      • Leafy greens
      • Cucumber
      • Pepper
      • Artichoke
      • Asparagus
      • Avocado (technically a fruit)
      • Brussels sprouts
      • Broccoli
      • Cauliflower
      • Pumpkin
      • Carrot
      • Cabbage
      • Yam
      • Mushrooms
      • Okra
      • Swede
      • Tomato (technically a fruit)
      • Celery
      • Onion
      • Garlic
      • Leek
      • Celeriac
      • Radish
      • Sprouts
      • Turnip
      • Beet
      • Jicama
      • Eggplant
      • Zucchini
      • Fennel
      • Squash
      • Seaweed
  • Fruit
      • Banana
      • Dates
      • Berries
      • Grape
      • Fig
      • Apple
      • Melon
      • Peach
      • Pear
      • Passionfruit
      • Dragonfruit
      • Lychee
      • Nectarine
      • Orange
      • Lemon
      • Longan
      • Jackfruit
      • Lime
      • Tangerine
      • Persimmon
      • Cumquat
      • Rhubarb
      • Olives
      • Loquat
      • Dragonfruit
      • Mango
      • Papaya
      • Pineapple
      • Plantain
      • Durian
  • Nuts & Seeds
      • Cashews
      • Brazil nuts
      • Pine nuts
      • Hazelnuts
      • Pili nuts
      • Pecans
      • Tiger nuts
      • Chia seeds
      • Flax seeds
      • Hemp seeds
      • Macadamias
      • Pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
      • Sunflower seeds
      • Sesame seeds
  • Oils and Fats
      • Olive oil
      • Coconut oil
      • Avocado oil
      • Lard
      • Ghee
      • Sustainably-sourced palm oil
      • Sesame oil
      • Hemp oil (not for cooking)
      • Flaxseed oil (not for cooking)
      • Macadamia oil (not for cooking)
  • Beverages and Alcohol
      • Coffee
      • Tea
      • Kombucha
      • Coconut kefir
      • Coconut water
      • Sparkling water
      • Soda water
      • Wine (preferably sulfite-free)
      • Vodka (from potatoes)
      • Rum
      • Non-grain-derived gin
      • Sake
      • Tequila
      • Mead
      • Low sugar hard cider
  • Baking, Cooking and Sweeteners
      • All herbs and spices
      • Tapioca
      • Cassava flour
      • Almond flour
      • Coconut flour
      • Maple syrup
      • Honey
      • Coconut sugar
      • Cacao
      • Gelatine
      • Baking powder/soda
  • Sauces and Condiments
      • Vinegars
      • Unsweetened ketchup
      • Avocado or olive oil mayonnaise

    What You Can’t Eat

    The following foods should not be eaten on a paleo diet:

  • Meat
      • Processed, crumbed or marinated meat (such as hotdogs, chicken wings, and spam) containing gluten, sugar, rice or corn
  • Seafood
      • Fish battered in grain-based flour
  • Legumes
      • Snow peas
      • Peanuts
      • Soy beans
      • Tofu
      • Miso
      • Textured vegetable protein
      • Tempeh
      • Black beans
      • Kidney beans
      • Adzuki beans
      • Pinto beans
      • Mung beans
      • Chickpeas
      • White beans
      • Black-eyed peas
  • Grains
      • Corn
      • Maize
      • Rice
      • Wheat
      • Sorghum
      • Oats
      • Buckwheat
      • Barley
      • Millet
      • Rye
      • Bulgur
      • Faro
      • Spelt
      • Semolina
      • Polenta
  • Fruit
      • Dried fruit with added sugar
  • Oils and Fats
      • Vegetable oil
      • Canola oil
      • Olive oil blends
      • Soy oil
      • Rice bran oil
      • Butter
      • Margarine
      • Dairy spread
  • Beverages and Alcohol
      • Soda
      • Tonic water with added sugar
      • Juice with added sugar
      • Beer
      • Corn-derived vodka
      • Grain-derived spirits such as bourbon, whiskey and some gins
  • Baking, Cooking and Sweeteners
      • Cane sugar
      • Rice malt syrup
      • High fructose corn syrup
      • Honey or maple syrup made from other sugars or syrups
      • Dextrose
      • Aspartame
      • Sucralose
      • Erythritol
      • Maltitol
      • Xylitol
      • Sorbitol
      • Saccharin
      • Stevia
      • Ace-K
  • Sauces and Condiments
      • Soy sauce
      • Tamari
      • Sauces containing sugar, gluten and vegetable oils

    Processed Food on the Paleo Diet

    Paleo’s motto is “just eat real food”, but the rule on processed foods isn’t clear-cut.

    Some might suggest that consuming processed food on the paleo diet goes against it’s natural, wholefoods philosophy. But where’s the line? Are fermented foods unacceptable, as they’re a result of processing? Or foods such as kelp, konjac or sweet potato starch noodles, which only contain one ingredient (vegetables) but have been processed to resemble something pretty far from their natural state?

    It pays to get specific in this case, because processed food is any food that has been altered from it’s raw, whole form.

    That means that if you grind almonds to make almond flour, that’s a processed food. It’s also paleo-friendly.

    Paleo protein powder (such as hemp or egg white) is processed, even if it contains nothing other than hemp or egg white.

    Technically, when you cook, bake, or alter the state of any food, you’re processing it. So even if you make your own paleo-friendly baked goods, they’re still “processed”.

    Here’s a rule of thumb for any diet on whether processing is a yay or nay:

    Eat Real Food with Clean Ingredients

    Cooking and eating only whole foods 100% of the time is unrealistic in today’s world.

    Life happens, and sometimes you need to rely on paleo-friendly “processed” foods (or enjoy a slice of paleo cake on your birthday).

    Thankfully there are a lot more ready-made paleo options available to buy these days. Allowing for paleo versions of formerly unhealthy foods also makes this way of living a lot more accessible to far more people.

    Avoid These Fake “Paleo” Foods

    Following a paleo diet means spending a lot of time reading ingredients lists because sadly, packaging can’t always be trusted. You don’t want to make the mistake of getting that cauliflower pizza base home, only to find it contains wheat.

    Becoming an ingredient detective is an inevitable part of eating paleo, but to save you the trouble, here are some deceiving terms and non-paleo ingredients to watch out for:

    • Pea protein— this is derived from legumes
    • Rice protein— this is derived from grains
    • “Gluten-free”— this label isn’t synonymous with paleo, and is often used in products that contain rice, corn, or soy
    • Rice malt syrup— this is derived from grains

    Always read the label on anything that you buy from the store.

    Where to Find Paleo-Friendly Food Options

    The benefits of eating a whole foods diet is you can shop wherever you can buy real food. That means less convenience stores and fast food chains and more grocery stores and markets.

    Your failsafe options include:

    • Online markets & stores
      • FBOMB: Most of our snacks are 100% paleo-friendly and we ship worldwide
      • Thrive Market (US)
      • Natura Market (Canada)
    • Organic stores
    • Farmer’s markets
    • Butcher stores
    • Bulk food stores

    You can also shop for specialty ingredients, such as baking items and protein powder, online.

    As for ready-made food, hot food bars and salad bars can be a great option. Just be wary of vegetable oils and added sugars.

    Don’t forget to search online for local paleo cafes and restaurants in your area. Eating at a regular restaurant? Stick with meat and vegetables while avoiding the usual non-paleo culprits (especially gluten and dairy) and you should do just fine.

    Paleo Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive

    Following a paleo diet doesn’t have to be healthy. Forget expensive organic grocery stores and spending half your pay cheque on activated nuts. It’s totally possible to keep your food costs down while eating like a caveman.

    Here are some money saving hacks to make paleo affordable for anyone:

    • Be realistic about the quality you can afford. Can’t justify organic produce or locally-sourced meat? That’s okay. Buy the best you can afford and remember that you’re still doing a lot better than the standard American diet.
    • Stick with simple foods. Elaborate paleo meals can be fun, but all those ingredients can add up. You can do just fine with some canned fish and avocado on a bowl of greens.
    • Eat seasonally. Not only are they tastier, but seasonal fruit and vegetables will be cheaper than those that are out of season.
    • Grow (or make) your own. Start a windowsill herb garden. Brew your own kombucha. Ferment your own sauerkraut. Hunt your own meat. Okay, that last one might not be realistic for you— but hey, it’s pretty paleolithic, right?

    What Makes a Food “Paleo”?

    Ironically, paleo itself has evolved from its original inception. Once-forbidden foods such as tubers have since been happily welcomed into the paleo family since the diet’s somewhat dogmatic early days. Many people also consume ghee (made from cow’s milk), green beans (legumes), and pseudo-grains such as buckwheat and quinoa.

    Then there’s the matter of how closely the food we consume today really falls to what our paleolithic ancestors would eat. Apples were once an incredibly sour-tasting fruit. But we now happily enjoy the sweeter, modern-day version with reckless abandon.

    Which begs the question:

    What does “paleo” even mean?

    Despite its name, the paleo diet doesn’t require strict adherence to a typical caveman’s diet. Nor does it strictly ban every single food that falls under the “non paleo” category.

    Some people even choose to follow paleo 80% of the time and allow themselves more freedom for the other 20%. Then there’s the Primal Diet, which is essentially paleo with dairy.

    The point is, paleo is less about adhering to a strict dietary dogma and more about eating in a way that will promote health as suggested by our evolution and biology.

    So what about those specific aforementioned paleo-ish foods? Ghee may come from dairy, but it contains very little lactose, the protein that many people have difficulty tolerating. And much like ghee and lactose, green beans contain hardly any problematic lectins, galectins, or phytic acid found in most other legumes.

    Just as paleo has evolved over the years, so too can you adapt your diet to your interpretation of paleo. That might be a strict no-tubers-zone, or it might allow for the occasional grain-fermented whiskey.

    The point is, eat what makes you feel good— not just the paleo police.

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