Paleo Diet Food List: The Ultimate Guide
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Paleo Diet Food List: The Ultimate Guide

Paleo Diet Food List: The Ultimate Guide

Posted 22 days ago

SaVanna Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD

SaVanna Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD

So, you’ve decided to start a Paleo diet. But what’s the next step?

Before you do any planning or prep, it’s a good idea to stock your pantry, fridge, and freezer with Paleo-friendly foods (or at least take a look at a Paleo shopping list to give you some ideas of what you need to purchase).

With that in mind, we’ve created this comprehensive Paleo diet food list with all the ingredients you’ll need to create some seriously delicious Paleo meals.

What Is Paleo?

So, what is a Paleo diet? It’s a way of eating that’s gained a lot of traction over the past 10 or 15 years, but  — although fairly new — it’s roots stretch all the way back to the Paleolithic era.

A Paleo diet is based on foods our Paleolithic ancestors probably ate. It’s thought to be a healthy choice for most people as it’s based on what homo sapiens have eaten for the vast majority of human history.[*]

All highly processed foods and added sugars are out because they weren’t available back in those days. The diet also excludes grains like wheat because the wheat we eat today does not resemble the cereal that our ancestors may have eaten — and many people are sensitive to gluten, a protein found in wheat. Additionally, the diet excludes legumes because they contain lectins that may interfere with nutrient absorption.[*]

However, the diet encourages eating plenty of animal protein, healthy fats, and vegetables. It also focuses heavily on food quality, seasonality, and eating local.

Potential Benefits of Paleo

There are several potential benefits to the Paleo diet, such as:

  • Nutrient density. The Paleo diet is naturally rich in essential nutrients and other healthy dietary components, like antioxidants and probiotics. In addition to including a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, it encourages eating organ meats — which are full of nutrients — and fermented foods, which provide probiotic bacteria. It also excludes foods that may interfere with proper digestion and absorption of nutrients, like grains and legumes.[*]
  • Fewer processed foods and added sugars. Paleo removes most highly processed foods and added sugars from your diet. Processed foods and added sugars have been linked to excessive weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, inflammation and cancer.[*][*]
  • Better digestion. Paleo may be better for your digestion, as well. Things like legumes and grains can be difficult for many people to digest, so removing them could provide relief from some digestive conditions. Additionally, Paleo encourages eating fermented foods and fiber-rich foods, both of which can help create a healthier gut microbiome.[*][*][*]

Paleo also has the potential to improve your overall wellness, as researchers have found that it may help promote a healthy weight and improve blood sugar control.[*][*]

Who Should Try Paleo?

Paleo might be a good fit for you if…

  • You’re interested in eating like our ancestors. Although it’s extremely unlikely that the Paleo diet is an exact match for what our Paleolithic ancestors ate, it’s a much closer approximation than the standard, highly-processed, high-sugar diets we’re used to today.
  • You are experiencing health issues that may be food-related. If you’re experiencing issues like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, skin problems, acne, fatigue, or brain fog, these issues could be related to food intolerance. Paleo may help because it removes many of the most common triggers, like grains, sugar, and legumes.
  • You already eat a high-quality diet and you’re interested in optimizing it. Paleo is all about maximizing food quality and nutrient absorption, so if you’re already eating a healthy diet but feel like it could use some tweaking, Paleo is a an excellent choice.
  • You’re done losing weight and want a diet that will make it easier to maintain your weight. If you’ve lost weight (on Keto, for instance) and want to transition to a diet that will make it easier to maintain your current weight, Paleo may be a good option. It’s lower in carbs than a standard diet, but higher in carbs than Keto. And if you’re not interested in restricting carbs to a Keto level, Paleo may be really useful for weight loss too.

Who Should Avoid Paleo?

On the other hand, some people may not find that Paleo is a good fit for their lifestyle. 

If you don’t think you’d be able to stick to the diet because it would require giving up some of your favorite foods, you may need to find something a little less restrictive — or adopt the 80/20 approach.

Additionally, Paleo will take a lot of time to prep and cook all of your meals or money to pay a meal kit or meal prep company to do it for you. Either way, if one of these options isn’t available to you, it may be challenging to stick to Paleo.

Also, if you have a history of disordered eating, you may want to avoid Paleo. The diet is very restrictive, which may not be helpful for your recovery.

Foods to Avoid

The basic foods to avoid on Paleo include legumes, soy, peanuts, grains, dairy, and processed foods. Here are the specifics:

  • Fats and oils: refined vegetable oils (soybean, corn, canola), butter, most creamy salad dressings
  • Meats: breaded meats (like chicken strips or battered fish), meats cooked in refined vegetable oil, plant-based meat alternatives
  • Fruits and vegetables: breaded vegetables (like tempura broccoli), fruits with added sugar (like sweetened applesauce)
  • Starchy carbs: all grains and grain products (pasta, bread, crackers, tortillas, cereal), refined potato products (like instant mashed potatoes)
  • Legumes: all legumes (beans, chickpeas, peanuts and peas)
  • Soy products: all soy and soy-based products (including tofu and soy sauce)
  • Dairy products: all dairy (milk, cream, half and half, yogurt, ice cream, cheese, etc.)
  • Other: jams, jellies, flavored coffee creamers, processed snacks and meals, frozen meals, boxed meals, fast food

Gray Area Foods

There are also several foods that lie within the “gray area.” Some people on Paleo include them in their diet, while others avoid them. These include:

  • Paleo snacks and desserts. You can find all kinds of Paleo products online — cereal, muffins, cakes, cookies, crackers, you name it. While these products are made with Paleo-friendly ingredients, they are still highly processed packaged foods. Some people choose to include them in their diet, while others don’t.
  • Dairy products, particularly fermented dairy. If you are following a primal diet (a type of Paleo diet developed by Mark Sisson, author of “The Primal Blueprint”), you can include dairy. The best dairy sources include full-fat and/or fermented dairy from grass-fed cows — like yogurt, cheese, and cream.
  • Sprouted grains or legumes. Grains and legumes are excluded from the Paleo diet because they contain anti-nutrient lectins, which can interfere with nutrient absorption. However, sprouting grains and legumes helps neutralize these lectins, making the food easier to digest. Some people on Paleo include sprouted breads (like Ezekiel bread) and other sprouted grains and legumes, but it’s a personal choice.[*]
  • Some starchy carbs. Although most natural, grain- and legume-free carb sources are considered Paleo, there is some debate about white potatoes and white rice. These foods can spike your blood sugar levels quickly because of their high carb content, so some people choose to limit them. However, others include them in their Paleo diet.

For the purpose of this article, no “gray area” foods are included in the shopping list below. You can be certain that the foods on the shopping list are 100% Paleo-friendly.

Comprehensive Paleo Diet Food List

This shopping list will help you stock your Paleo pantry. If you can afford it, purchase the highest-quality version of each item below — like 100% grass-fed beef, cold-pressed coconut oil, organic vegetables, or fair-trade coffee. Additionally, try to purchase fruits and vegetables seasonally and locally if possible. Click here for your own printable version of our shopping list.

Fats and oils

  • Ghee (clarified butter)
  • Lard, beef tallow, or bacon fat
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Coconut cream/butter
  • Cocoa butter

Meats

  • Chicken, all cuts
  • Beef, all cuts
  • Pork, all cuts
  • Turkey, all cuts
  • Wild game meats (ex, bison, venison, elk)
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Organ meats

Nuts and seeds

  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Pecans
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Cashews
  • Sesame seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Nut and seed butters (with no added sugar)

Fruits and vegetables

A note about fruit: most people on Paleo eat fruit occasionally, but not necessarily daily or multiple times per day. Some people on Paleo choose to only eat fruits when they are in season and purchased locally, so most fruit would be eaten in the summer and early fall.

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Lemons and limes
  • Grapefruit
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi
  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Apricot
  • Plums
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Watermelon
  • Honeydew melon
  • Pineapple
  • Coconut
  • Dried fruits (with no added sugar)
  • Tomato
  • Avocado
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Carrots
  • Turnips
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Turnip greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Zucchini
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Bell peppers
  • Hot peppers
  • Celery
  • Pumpkin
  • Cucumber
  • Asparagus

Starchy carbs

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter squash (butternut, acorn, etc)
  • Parsnips
  • Plantain
  • Cassava root
  • Beets

Other

  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Vinegars (all flavors)
  • Coconut aminos (soy sauce alternative)
  • Cocoa (unsweetened)
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Fermented foods and beverages, like kombucha, kimchi, and sauerkraut

After your shopping trip, be sure to check out Carb Manager Premium. We’ve got all the tools you need to get started — including meal planning tools and tons of delicious and easy-to-prepare Paleo recipes.

Comments 1

  • StupendousArugula623046

    StupendousArugula623046 20 days ago

    Thank you for helping me. I am 76 years old & some vegetables don’t agree with my stomach. Now what?