This is a complete list of foods you can eat on the paleo diet – as well as foods you cannot eat.
As a general rule, if you are in a supermarket or at home and you’re wondering if a particular food is paleo or not, just think if this food was alive at some point or not.
If the answer is yes (it was a living thing), then there’s like a 99% chance it’s paleo.
I personally don’t feel you need to eat paleo perfectly in order to be “paleo”. Even if you are only 70% paleo you’re going to see massive health benefits like weight loss, insulin control, clearer skin, have way more energy, and more.
Let’s get into paleo diet foods.
Paleo Diet Foods Approved list
- Fish & Seafood
- Nuts & Seeds
- Healthy Oils
Another great tip to get your head wrapped around paleo foods is to think of a Caveman 50,000 years ago. Imagine what this person ate. You want to eat the same types of foods as the caveman.
Paleo Diet Not Approved Food List
- Refined Sugars
- Bad Oils
- Processed Foods
It’s pretty crazy how much of the foods above we eat every day. It’s such a different diet than what earlier versions of us ate. The whole idea of the paleo diet is to get away from these modern foods at get back to eating like we did when we hunted and gathered foods.
Back then, we were way healthier in terms of having less diseases that plague us today. Paleo proponents say a major cause of autoimmune disease, skin disorders, diabetes, etc is because of the “newer” types of foods we’ve been eating since about 10,000 years ago when agriculture began creating these new types of foods.
And When I asked you to think of a caveman, you probably did not imagine a fat caveman. Probably a fairly slim and fit dude or gal who was very mobile and could hunt something. Remember, humans survived living like this for 300,000+ years.
Whether you decide to go full paleo or not, eating “real foods” will HELP you in so many more ways than the main reason why you think the paleo diet will help.
Complete Paleo Diet Food List
Here is a breakdown of the exact foods you can eat on a paleo diet:
A paleo diet is moderate in meats. I think a really easy way to incorporate meats into your paleo diet is to eat a piece of meat (or fish) with every meal. For example, a salad with a sliced chicken breast or slices of steak. Or just eggs and bacon with tomato slices baby.
All types of meats are paleo. If it was an animal that was alive and running around, it’s paleo approved.
- Cow (beef)
- Guinea Fowl
- Pig (bacon!)
Paleolithic people at ALL parts of an animal (with a few exceptions like the hair or eyeballs). You’re encouraged to eat many parts of an animal, including organs like liver and lungs, and other nutrients like bone marrow.
Fish & Seafood
If it was alive and came from the sea, it’s paleo (assuming it’s not something poisonous or bad for humans in any other way of course).
Fresh fish is always better. Try and buy fish that are not farmed. They will contain higher amounts of high quality Omega-3 fatty acids that a lot of us lack.
Adding a nice piece of fish to a heaping serving of greens is a great way to incorporate protein into your meal.
A paleo diet is heavy on vegetables. It’s ideal to have a heaps of vegetables with every meal. You can eat your heart out with vegetables. Try and vary the types of vegetables you eat. Also, dark leafy green vegetables are spot on some of the best vegetables you can eat.
- Collard Greens
- Swiss Chard
- Brussel Sprouts
- Bok Choy
- Sweet Potatoes
Eating fruits gives you a boost of energy quickly because the sugars are broken down more easily that most types of foods. They go into your blood stream faster and give you energy to use fairly quickly.
There are so many types of fruit as you know. They are loaded with various types of vitamins and minerals we need.
Try and get organic fruits and pesticide free fruits. Sometimes they can be marginally more expensive than regular fruits. I really enjoy farmers markets for in season fruits.
If weight loss if your goal, you’ll likely want to eat less fruits. Though fruits contain natural healthy sugars (carbs), they are still carbs. You want to stick to a low-med carb diet to lose weight.
- Passion Fruit
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds grew naturally in the wild and still do. When I think of nuts and seeds, I think of paleo ladies roaming around collecting them in little baskets to bring back to the tribe.
You can just head down to Whole Foods now and get healthy nuts. Thank god right.
Seeds and nuts are decently high in calories (a lot of them). So while the paleo diet is a diet that does not encourage calorie counting and encourages to eat what you want whenever you want, it’s important to realize that if weight loss is your goal, you don’t want to go overboard on calories. eating an entire bag of almonds is a quick way to do that.
List of healthy nuts
- Macadamia Nuts
- Pine Nuts
- Sunflower Seeds
- Sesame Seeds
- Chia Seeds
- Flax Seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds
Nuts are great sources of fats. Sprinkling a handful of almonds on top of your salad or chowing down on a handful of pistachios while you watch TV is A OK!
Again, be mindful that nuts are higher in calories. Plus they’re easy to over eat. I’d say they’re paleo equivalent of a bag of Lays chips.
There are good oils and bad oils. I think a lot of us see oils as this greasy bad thing but it’s totally NOT the case. On a paleo diet, you will be consuming a high amount of fats (from oils and animal fat).
On a standard American diet, we eat a lot of bad fats along with a lot of bad carbs. Together, that’s a deadly combination for weight gain (among other things).
On this type of diet, your body is used to turning carbohydrates into energy for your body to use. The paleo diet uses FATS as the main source of energy. So the paleo diet is a diet high in fats.
You want to make sure it’s the good fats you consume from now on. Here they are:
- Avocado Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Butter (yes it’s dairy but it’s an exception for many people)
- Olive Oil
- Coconut milk
Fats are really really important on the paleo diet. It’s a bit scary eating a lot of fat because of how vilified fats were in the 90’s (everything was LOW FAT back then). Well, those “experts” were all wrong. You need good fats to be healthy.
With fats in liquid format, drizzle them on your salads and meats (olive oil, avocado oil, etc).
You can also eat fatty animals to get your fat intake. Fatty cuts of beef, duck, lamb, and fatty fishes like sardines and salmon.
Fats are very satiating too (makes you full). When you eat animal fats, really try and eat organic animals, grass fed and free range animals. The fat contained in their bodies will be natural and the most nutritious.
Eggs that come from animals are excellent sources of protein and nutrients. Again, really try and eat eggs from an animal that is allowed to run around freely while eating it’s normal diet of bugs and whatever else it eats (rather than being caged and forced fed grains). The latter is NOT how a real egg laying animal should live and it will NOT be as healthy as a free range animal that’s allowed to roam.
Eggs you can eat
- Chicken Eggs
- Duck Eggs
- Goose Eggs
- Qual Eggs
- Dinosaur Eggs (just kidding)
You’ll want to start getting used to drinking water infused drinks. You’re not going to be able to drink sugar loaded drinks anymore.
Coffee, strictly speaking probably isn’t paleo. Some people also consider tea not paleo. Alcohol as well is not considered paleo for some. In my opinion, coffee, tea, and alcohol that are made from organic processes and fresh ingredients are 100% good to consume. I think putting a label if it’s paleo or not may get a little excessive and nit picky here.
Tea is phenomenal for you when it’s sourced from herbs that came from organic plants. Coffee is great for your diet as well and I am a proponent of drinking coffee daily for digestion and health. Alcohol is also great for you 🙂 … if you know what I mean. A lot of people don’t eat potatoes on a paleo diet and some alcohols are made from potatoes. Alcohols are also fermented from grains, fruits and vegetables. Personally, the odd drink here and there or so is totally okay in my books.
Foods That Are “In Between” Paleo And Not Paleo
There are a few food items that some people consider paleo and some people don’t think it’s paleo. Many people who eat a paleo diet also eat these foods. So it will be up to you of course. Just remember that the more naturally occurring a food item is, the more “paleo” you could say it is.
Butter (has dairy in it)
- Honey (I feel it’s 100% paleo)
- Maple Syrup
- Chocolate (80% or darker)
What You Cannot Eat On The Paleo Diet
I think it’s easiest to simply focus on the paleo approved foods above.
However, I think it will help to see a list of foods you cannot eat on the paleo diet. Gives a little more clarity about how to eat well.
The food group I miss the most is grains (and I’m not alone with this one). Simple foods like mac and cheese, croissants, and pastas are what I struggle with when I’m going hard on paleo.
Grains are man made foods invented roughly 10,000 years ago because population growth started to boom and we needed a way to feed more mouths efficiently. Consequently, we developed foods like wheats and rice. From here, we developed a lot of other variations of foods based on grains.
Here they are:
- Rice (debatable for some)
So so much of the foods we eat today are heavy in grain products. It makes sense, because we learned how to mass produce these foods a long time ago specifically to feed as many people as we can.
It will be challenging to avoid grains. Especially when you’re out with friends at a restaurant or forget to bring your lunch. Do your best.
Humans don’t need dairy to survive. But they’re so damn good aren’t they! Dairy is the one type of food group that paleo people are willing to “cheat” a little (or maybe a not) with. Some dairy products are very high in nutrients and deserve a place in some people’s diets. And did I say dairy tasted great?
- Cheese (omg my favorite)
- Creams (full fat)
- Cream Cheese
- Ice Cream (refined sugar free)
Get used to drinking and enjoying water. Lots of it. I drink lots of fruit infused waters, coffee, and teas along with all the water I drink. I know it’s not fancy and definitely not elegant. I do have a bit of alcohol (wines and shots) from time to time. Hey, I gotta enjoy drinking with my friends sometimes too.
Here are a list of common drinks that are no-no’s:
- All Juices (unless you juice your own fruits)
- Soft Drinks
- Alcohol (strictly speaking, it’s not paleo)
- Energy Drinks
- Any drink with artificial sugars / fructose
Also, all artificial sweeteners are not paleo. Refined sugars are also bad. Aspartame, agave, and cane sugars are also other common sweeteners that are not paleo.
A lot of people are surprised to hear that beans aren’t paleo! They’re super filling and have nutrients. But aren’t paleo. Legumes are also manufactured foods that didn’t exist in primal days.
Here’s a list of legumes:
- Beans (all varieties)
- Green Beans
- Snap Peas
I would say one of the biggest challenges of a beginner paleo dieter is dividing good fats vs bad fats. There is certainly a big distinction between what a healthy fat is and what a unhealthy fat is.
Remember, the paleo diet is a diet high in fats. Fats is what you’ll mainly use for energy instead of carbs.
Here are bad fats you need to avoid:
- Canola Oil
- Corn Oil
- Peanut Oil
- Soybean Oil
- Vegetable Oil
If you’re out and order anything that has been cooked in grease, you can sure as hell bet it was cooked in a “bad fat”. So really try and avoid eating anything deep fried from food joints.
Other Non Paleo Foods
Sweets like candy are high in artificial sugars which are bad for you. Almost every type of chocolate is bad for you as well because they also contain high amounts of refined sugars.
Fast food is also not good for you (as if you didn’t know this already!).
Other condiments like ketchup, relish, and mustard are not paleo. Foods like pickles that have been fermented in salt technically are NOT paleo since prehistoric people were not eating pickles. However – ingredients wise – pickles and other fermented foods are paleo.
How To Succeed On The Paleo Diet
I would say the best advice is to just get started. NO way will you be perfect to begin with. And there’s no pressure to be.
Even if you are 50% paleo, you are well on your way to getting healthier. You can start by being 50% paleo to begin with, and increase that as time goes on.
There will be an adjustment period where your body will transition from using carbs as its main fuel source to fats. This takes time. And it could be a little difficult for you too. Stick with it. But definitely get started.
I jumped in cold turkey. It was tough. But about 1 month in, my body was adjusting really well and it got easier after that.
The one main thing I want to say is that the paleo diet is not really a “diet”. Don’t look at it that way. It’s really a lifestyle. A way of eating for health. It’s a “real food” plan. When people use the word “diet”, they tend to think of it as something they do until they get their desired result – and then they can stop.
That’s not how a real food diet works. The paleo diet is a way of eating forever. And with that in mind, you don’t need to be perfectly paleo or win at it right away. You want to get started and learn something “paleo” every day. Get better and better. And most importantly, be consistent.
It’s totally okay to “screw up” and eat some fries… or party too hard and get wasted. It’s obviously not good for you but as long as it’s not a recurring issue then you are doing AMAZING. Consistency is key. Even if you’re 70% paleo, you’re going to see results that matter!
Need Paleo Recipes?
Unless you’re great in the kitchen already, you’ll need recipe ideas. Get yourself a copy of a few good paleo cookbooks or two.
Here are a few popular paleo cookbooks
21 Day Sugar Detox (if you struggle with eating too much sugar)
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