Paleo Diet Food List

paleo diet food list

In a nutshell, Paleo lifestyle and diet 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 but instead it’s fueled by modern scientific and medical research and common sense.

The diet focuses on unprocessed, whole foods, lots of healthy fats including saturated fat, grass-fed, free-range meat and eggs, lots of fish and seafood, vegetables, fruit, berries, nuts, seeds and some natural sweeteners. It excludes grains, legumes, processed sugar and most dairy. Some include healthy dairy foods like kefir, full fat natural yogurt, some aged cheese and butter of course – it really depends on your sensitivities. I love this way of eating because it also focused on local, organic produce and good farming practices.

The paleo or primal lifestyle also promotes healthier sleeping habits, stress reduction, functional fitness, adequate sun exposure, avoiding environmental toxins and so on. Above all, paleo is not a set of strict 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. Read more about my practical approach to paleo here.

Here is a summary of what’s in and what’s out on the Paleo food list (well at least my Paleo food list):

What’s In:

  • 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 was fed and raised. I have a great little interview with a cattle farmer talking about the benefits of grass-fed, pasture raised cattle meat here.
  • Fish and seafood – try to choose sustainable, wild fish and seafood when possible
  • Eggs – free-range, pasture raised whenever possible
  • Vegetables – non-starchy and starchy tubers and root vegetables
  • 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.
  • Nuts and seeds – these guys are 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 out 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.
  • 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 like coconut oil, coconut milk and cream, ghee, butter (yep, it’s mostly fat so no problems with lactose), duck fat, olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, fish oil, sesame oil as well as from grass-fed meats, poultry and fish.
  • Condiments like mustard, fish good, quality vinegars such as Apple Cider with mother in it or 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 ok every now and again but it’s better to try something like coconut aminos.
  • For baking – nut meals, coconut flour, tapioca and arrowroot flour, sweet potato flour, chestnut flour – use in moderation as these guys are either still high in carbohydrates or may contain high amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids.

Out

  • Grains - especially wheat and anything with gluten. White rice is the least harmful of all grains and is often added to dishes on occasions for variety but it’s still very high in carbohydrates and should be kept to ‘occasional’ use. Learn more about why grains are avoided in the paleo diet 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 like I do.
  • Refined sugars and carbohydrates – bread, pasta, cookies, white sugar, artificial sugar, high frutcose 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 cooking oils and fats such as canola oil, soybean oil, vegetable, rapeseed and sunflower oils and margarines and spreads made with such oils. Read my post on healthy cooking fats and oils here.
  • Gluten containing products

Ok, on occasion:

  • 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’s got high GI unlike cheese or yogurt. Better options are goat’s and sheep’s milk products, A2 cow’s milk and cow’s milk fermented products like kefir, unsweetened yogurt, 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 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.
  • 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.

Need some help with paleo shopping? Check out my ultimate paleo shopping list here. Not sure what Paleo is all about? Read a little bit about it here.

This eBook guide to paleo is a fantastic resource that is beautifully designed and easy to follow. Lots of fun graphics to get complex concepts and science across.

Your Guide to Paleo

Looking for additional reading on Paleo or Primal nutrition? Check out these guide books:

Optimal Health The Paleo Way by Claire Yates

Personal Paleo Code by Chriss Kresser

The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf, a must read!

The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson

Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo

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Check out my Eat Drink Paleo Cookbook -  a fantastic addition to any kitchen, filled with exclusive recipes, cooking tips and easy guide to paleo. Also just out, the new Rejuvenate program, which I co-authored with a medical nutritionist Claire Yates – it will teach you how to achieve radiance, wellness and longevity through food and holistic living. 

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8 Comments

  1. Alice
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 1:00 am | Permalink

    This is a great list use to when grocery shopping! Your list keep will keep me focused on my goal to lead a healthy lifestyle through paleo. Thank you for this article.

  2. TeaJae
    Posted September 18, 2013 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    I’m just finding you blog and learning how to use pintrest I pin everything now LOL and I LOVE what you have done here all your hard beautiful work. With some recent health revelations from my physician I’m being forced to change the way I eat and loose weight once and for all or else… we don’t wanna go there. I was told to get rid of the carbs since I’m carb dominate eater that is the root of my health issues. I struggled for a few days trying to understand life with no bread, rice and pasta seems unreal, its all I know. Until your blog. I’m so happy to learn that I can eat real food, get this weight off and not eat salad 24/7 and I won’t starve. I’m happy to “know” you and thank you♥
    TeaJae Georgia, USA

    • imacri
      Posted September 19, 2013 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

      Welcome to our little community! There is plenty to eat besides pasta, bread and rice :)

  3. Posted September 4, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    This list about paleo foods will help me keep my pantry paleo friendly. I’ve just started on paleo a few weeks back and your list keep will keep me focused on my goal to lead a healthy lifestyle through paleo. Thank you for this article.

  4. jeannie
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    totally new to paleo , i am overweght and pre diabetic, i discovered your site, blog seems awesome, can someone guide me wht to begin easy with, what receipes but easy easy, i am already the opposite of a good cook

    thnaks all

    • Pat
      Posted November 9, 2013 at 3:05 am | Permalink

      Google a recipe for paleo bread. That is what most people miss in the beginning. It is very easy to make.

  5. Posted January 5, 2013 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Great and helpful post! E & c from The Merry Maker Sisters

  6. imacri
    Posted March 7, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    This is me personally and my usage has evolved over the years as I discover what I tolerate and it will vary for everyone depending on their current health and goals (and age). I drink wine a couple of times a week , a glass or two with dinner (maybe more if I’m on holidays or over the festive season). I might have dark chocolate couple of times a week or a smoothie or some paleo friendly banana bread and I might have something like gelato every few weeks – it’s seasonal as well. I’ve become more flexible with dairy and will have some yogurt once a week and some halloumi and Parmesan maybe twice a week. I don’t ever drink plain milk or eat low fat dairy. I hope that helps.

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    eatdrinkpaleo: "Eggs. Broccolini. Kefir. Breakfast. 
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    eatdrinkpaleo: "Breakfast fry up! Total cost £3.35 for 2 people. I'm preparing a talk for Health Unplugged conference in London in October and my topic is Paleo On The Budget. I'm recording all my budget meals and will share them, together with my tips and tricks with the audience. Find out more about the event on Facebook.com/healthunplugged or click the link under the name above. It will be lots of fun with many cool presenters including @fitnessexplorer #paleo #paleouk #paleobritain #primal #primaluk #primalbritain #paleolondon #healthyeating #healthyliving #budgetpaleo #food #yum #eatdrinkpaleo #ancestralhealth"
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    eatdrinkpaleo: "Gut health mission! The last two months have been busy, a little stressful and filled with various indulgencies, lots of flying and not having a routine. This often (more like 100% of the time) leads to disrupted gut flora and generally poor gut health, which in turn compromises out immune system. 😷😰😣 So on top of getting my diet back to normal (I eat mostly paleo) and getting into my usual sleeping and fitness routine, I'm stocking up on probiotics. I made a batch of kefir (way too easy) and  got some ready made raw sauerkraut (I should really make my own but that's for next week). If you feel like you often come down with colds, flu or just feeling off, look at your gut health first. Always helps me 😃 #guthealth #healthyeating #healthyliving #paleo #nourishing #kefir #jerf #westonaprice #fermentation"
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