What is the Paleo Diet? The Paleo Diet, sometimes called the Stone-Age Diet, is a way of eating that returns to simple foods only available to our ancestors over two million years ago. The idea is to eliminate processed foods in order to promote good health.
The paleo diet food list provides an organized approach to eating and how to eat paleo. Consuming foods like a caveman may not sound like a beneficial approach for modern times, but it can have significant benefits for performance, weight loss, and even your budget.
What To Eat on a Paleo Diet?
The paleo diet rules focus on eating like a caveman. The term paleo comes from the word “Paleolithic,” and it emphasizes natural, less processed foods that were available to our ancestors.
The foods included in the paleo diet are listed in order of emphasis and importance. Overall, the diet is high in protein, moderate in fat, and low in carbohydrates.
The paleo diet minimizes foods that became popular when farming emerged. Foods such as dairy and grains are either eliminated or minimized when following the Paleo plan.
Protein is the foundation of the paleo food plan. Imagine the life of a caveman. He would spend his day out hunting game with a spear or other crude weapon and then come back to his cave to cook it over an open fire.
The methods are more sophisticated nowadays, but the result is the same. In the paleo diet, meals begin with the protein source, which can come from various sources. Cow, buffalo, chicken, turkey, lamb, goat, and rabbit are all acceptable protein sources in the paleo diet.
Keep in mind the motivation of eating like a caveman. Protein should come from as close to the source as possible. Free-range chickens or grass-fed beef is preferable over animals raised indoors or in less than ideal conditions. Organic, lean meats are ideal when following the paleo meal plan.
Twenty-five grams of protein is considered one serving and is ideal for each meal. 20-35% of daily calories should come from protein.
2. Fish and Seafood
Fish is a great additional protein source on top of traditional land-based options. Typically fish and seafood are leaner and lower in fat than beef while maintaining a high protein. Keep in mind that it is best to opt for low-mercury fish and shellfish.
Preparing the food is just as important with fish, seafood, and meat. Fish is a good option, but not if it is breaded and deep-fried.
Eggs are an excellent source of both protein and healthy fats. Eggs are high in dietary cholesterol, but that does not automatically disqualify them. Our livers are the primary producer of cholesterol in our bodies, and if our diet provides a healthy amount, our livers will compensate and produce less.
Eggs contribute to satiety and fullness, which can help with overall weight loss and improved wellness. Another advantage of eggs is the wide variety of ways they can be prepared by themselves or added to plates for an extra boost of protein.
Another advantage of eating eggs is how easy it is to include other components of the paleo diet with them. Vegetables can be added with an omelet, as can other protein sources such as chicken or bacon.
Free-range eggs are recommended when following a paleo diet.
Your mom was right all along; you have to eat your vegetables. Macronutrients, protein, fats, and carbs receive the most attention, but micronutrients are also important in our diets.
Eating a wide array of vegetables provides the necessary vitamins and minerals needed for our bodies to operate well. Most vegetables have the added benefit of being a great source of fiber, aiding in digestion, and keeping us feeling regular.
Most people following a paleo diet strive for nine daily servings (approximately 4½ cups) with two to three servings of vegetables present in each meal.
Non-starchy vegetables are ideal; vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, kale, onions, and peppers.
Fruit and vegetables go hand in hand. Fruits provide vitamins and sugars our bodies can use as energy. This energy is vital for a diet like Paleo.
Bananas, apples, cherries, plantains, melons, tropical fruits, and citrus fruits are all great options that can be eaten on their own. They can also be added to plates, such as pineapple and plantains served with Brazilian picanha.
Eating on the paleo diet does not mean that all carbohydrates are off-limits. Yams, sweet potatoes, taro, yuca, and purple potatoes are all available options that provide the carbohydrates a person needs while staying faithful to eating paleo.
These carbohydrates tend to be more nutrient-dense and complex carbs which promote feelings of fullness and give our bodies long-lasting energy.
7. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are lower on the list but can be just as integral a part of the Paleo diet. Almonds, cashews, and pistachios are all options that provide healthy fats along with a moderate amount of protein.
It is typically easy to overeat these foods, so be careful to monitor your intake. A serving of almonds is one ounce or about 23 nuts. This seems like a large amount, but it can be easy to eat far more when taking in a sporting event or good series.
8. Healthy Fats and Oils
Fats and oils are either consumed directly or as a means of preparation. Extra virgin coconut and avocados are a great source of healthy fats that can be added to various dishes, from tacos to fish.
For salad dressing, anything made with extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, or avocado oil is excellent for added flavor and nutrition. Olives make a great appetizer on their own as well.
Like the other components listed above, the more variety you can introduce into your diet, the better. One serving of healthy fats should be incorporated into each meal.
9. Salt and Spices
Use seasoning reasonably on the Paleo diet. One thing to consider is the ingredients used to prepare the mixture. There is no need for concern in the case of salt, pepper, or other natural seasonings.
Mass-produced seasoning mixtures may include gluten or ingredients you don’t want to add to your nutrition program. Read the label and double-check before using certain spices, depending on how important it is to you personally.
What Can’t You Eat on Paleo Diet?
Despite being a diet with a wide range of options, there are some “paleo rules,” and therefore certain choices will be off-limits for people eating a paleo diet. Grains, dairy, and sugar are not permitted on a paleo diet because the human body is not equipped to process these ingredients. Cavemen also did not consume alcohol, so that is also off-limits on paleo plans.
How To Create a Paleo Diet Plan
Creating a paleo diet plan is not complicated. Start with choosing a protein. Pair your protein with vegetables or fruits that complement it well. For example, steak with peppers and asparagus or chicken with pineapple and onion. Add tubers such as cubed potatoes or sweet potatoes.
Finish the meal with a healthy fat such as olive oil or avocado and whichever seasoning you prefer. Eating like a caveman should simplify the time spent in the kitchen and transform cooking, making it easier.
1. Sugar and High-Fructose Corn Syrup
Sugar and HFCS were not around several thousand years ago and are not part of the paleo diet. Excess sweeteners are linked to many health problems, and it is good to reduce consumption of them regardless of a person’s views on paleo.
Sugar does not offer much in terms of nutritional value, and it can cause your blood sugar levels to spike. Even honey consumption should be kept at a minimum.
Paleolithic man was a hunter and not a farmer. Most of his calories came from proteins and fats, which are still the foundation of the paleo diet today. Grains are minimal, which means no bread, pancakes, or pasta.
Rice is a personal preference; the most stringent paleo diets will not include it, while some will allow for brown rice in certain situations. The purpose of a diet is personal wellness, so make the choice that best fits your individual nutritional needs.
Beans, lentils, and peas are also not included in the paleo diet. These foods are high in fiber and can be a good source of protein but have only come about due to agricultural processes.
Keep in mind that peanuts are considered a legume and not a nut and are therefore off-limits for strict paleo diet followers.
There is no cheese, milk, yogurt, ice cream, or cream allowed when following a paleo diet plan. The modern western diet includes a large amount of dairy, from toppings to creams.
Opt for less processed, healthier options if you want to ease into paleo living and still enjoy moderate amounts of dairy. Cottage cheese, greek yogurt, aged cheeses, and ghee are all options that limit the impact of lactose on your system. Be aware that most paleo followers will not include dairy in their diets.
5. Some Vegetable Oils
Not all cooking oils are created equal. Sunflower oil, soybean, canola, coconut, cottonseed, and corn oils are all off-limits. These types of oils have large amounts of fat and little nutritional value.
The oils above are often used for frying foods transforming what could have been a healthy option into food to avoid.
Paleo-friendly cooking oils are high in monosaturated fats. Avocado oil, palm oil, coconut oil, and olive oil are acceptable choices.
6. Trans Fats
Trans fats appear as “partially hydrogenated oils” on food packaging. Trans fats occur when an unsaturated fat is infused with hydrogen to make it solid at room temperature.
The advantage of trans fats is that they offer foods greater stability and a longer shelf life. The disadvantage is the challenge our bodies have in processing these tightly compacted fats and thus the longer shelf life they have inside us.
The best way to avoid trans fats is to eat minimally processed foods and avoid products like fried chicken, pizza, industrial hamburgers, donuts, and desserts.
The good news is that by following the other paleo diet guidelines, you will naturally avoid many trans fats.
7. Artificial sweeteners
Anything “artificial” will not be part of the paleo diet. Cavemen didn’t whip up fake sweeteners in their laboratories, and we don’t have the luxury of breaking that pattern.
High fructose corn syrup is the most obvious culprit, but anything created by science and not found in nature is off-limits.
Instead, use sweeteners from plants and nature, such as honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, or stevia.
8. Highly Processed Foods
Avoid foods that don’t exist in nature or go through a long manipulation process before arriving on your table.
The fewer steps, the better. Almost all of our food is processed to a degree, so eliminating processed foods would be impossible. A good rule of thumb is that it is probably highly processed if it comes out of a machine or in a box.
A practical way to avoid processed foods when grocery shopping is to stick to the outside of the store. The fresh meats, fish, and vegetables that make up the bulk of your diet are outside, while the highly processed foods that don’t need to be restocked or replaced quickly are further inside.
How many calories can you eat while on a Paleo diet?
The paleo diet meal plan recommends a calorie intake of 2,200 calories for individuals with moderate activity levels. The diet is not dependent nor restrictive calorie-wise, and a person can overeat healthy food just as easily as junk food. Caloric needs are no different on the paleo diet.
An advantage of the paleo diet is that most foods are nutrient-dense, which means you will feel fuller and longer, resulting in fewer cravings.
How many percent of daily fat intake do you need doing the Paleo diet?
Following a Paleo plan means a recommended 40% of daily caloric intake from fat but zero trans fat. These numbers translate to about 50 grams of fat per day.
Fat intake can fluctuate based on the goals and preferences of the individual and their dietary requirements. For example, getting fewer calories from carbs means getting a higher number from protein and fat.
How many percent of daily protein do you need doing the Paleo diet?
It is recommended that 30% of daily caloric intake be protein when following the paleo diet. This percentage will depend on the daily caloric needs of the individual in question and can be flexible.
Someone who is physically active and looking to build muscle will benefit from eating two to three grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. An average, sedentary adult of adequate health will need to consume about one gram of protein per kilogram.
Is the Paleo diet food list expensive?
Eating healthy and high-quality foods can result in fewer cravings and higher satiety from regular meals, which translates into having to buy less food. The food items on your paleo diet food list may cost more per item, but the overall tab is lower.
If you are on a budget and nervous about the costs of eating the paleo diet, you can ease into it. Paleo beginners can start with the meat and vegetable diet and purchase items they can afford.
In order to stick to a paleo food list, you do not need to buy grass-fed bison or organic fruits and vegetables, despite what you may read. To begin your paleo grocery list, purchase what is in your budget. Eggs are inexpensive, and a dozen will provide breakfast for nearly a week.
Remember, the paleo diet will also naturally lower your grocery bill by removing foods such as ice cream, desserts, and sugary cereals.
What is a sample Paleo menu for one week?
Meal planning is a great way to avoid out of control snacking and keep the grocery bill down.
What can you eat on a paleo diet? The following sample menu is a paleo for beginners guide with one week of paleo eating broken down into seven meals to mix and match. Three meals per day is recommended when following a paleo diet plan. Easy paleo meal plans can also be found online to help you build your paleo grocery list.
Breakfast: Breakfast includes 2-3 eggs. To add variety and keep things interesting, either add some chopped vegetables and leftover protein from the night before or make a frittata. Sweet potatoes can also be added for some carbs and additional texture.
Day 1: Scrambled Eggs
Day 2.: Denver Omelette
Day 3: Tomato and Onion Fritatta
Day 4: Chicken fajita omelet
Day 5: Sweet Potato and Fried Egg hash
Day 6: Eggs with Green Smoothie
Day 7: Leftovers
Lunch: Lunch is a great time to mix up a great big salad and add protein to top it off. Mix it all with a dressing of your choice, and you have a meal that will keep you full, cut unnecessary calories, and help you stay faithful to the paleo diet plan.
Day 1: Salad with Shredded Chicken
Day 2: Tuna
Day 3: Salad with sliced steak.
Day 4: Egg Salad and mixed veggies.
Day 5: Leftover chicken taco salad
Day 6: Leftover beef stew
Day 7: Breadless BLT sandwich
Dinner: Most people eat their heaviest meal at the end of the day for dinner. Take advantage of the opportunity and make enough for your lunch the next day or to be used for breakfast later in the week. If you are already grilling steak, grill a bit extra to add to your salad or throw in an omelet. It reduces your cooking time and is usually cheaper than buying an entire additional meal.
Day 1: Chili
Day 2: Shredded Chicken in Bell Peppers
Day 3: Steak and Sweet Potatoes
Day 4: Ribs, Mashed Potatoes, and Green beans
Day 5: Beef Stew
Day 6: Mongolian Beef and Cauliflower
Day 7: Leftovers from the week
What are the simple Paleo snacks?
The most accessible snacks are fresh fruit and vegetables or leftovers from the meals you have already prepared. Nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, make a quick and easy snack on the go. Sunflower seeds are a great choice as well.
If you are comfortable including protein supplements, a smoothie combining protein powder and fruit is a great way to increase protein intake and get some extra greens.
Can you eat rice on Paleo?
No, you can not eat on a Paleo diet. Rice is a grain, and therefore, the Paleo diet does not allow its consumption. The theory behind this is that rice, like other cereals, is an “antinutrient.” These kinds of food are said to hinder the digestion of other nutrients that you need to be healthy.
However, some dieters consider rice to be one of the grains that can be allowed from time to time. If you follow all the other Paleo guidelines, you will already have cut out excess sugar, for example. Additionally, rice doesn’t contain gluten, while other cereals do.
Lastly, some consider white rice to be allowed because it doesn’t contain the grain’s outer layer, which is where the “anti-nutrient” components are.
So, if you stick to white rice that has no additives, most Paleo dieters will agree that you are not breaking any rules.
Is the Paleo diet suitable for everyone?
The paleo diet is suitable for everyone if they are interested and able to adjust eating habits and interested in a healthier diet. The paleo diet also has some huge advantages worth checking out. As with any diet plan, though, you should discuss any changes in eating habits with a physician or dietitian beforehand.
Eating based on the paleo diet limits harmful processed foods and unnecessary sugars and sweeteners. The emphasis is on protein, vegetables, and healthy fats, which help regulate hormones, build muscle, and promote a healthy weight when eaten properly.
There are also many options built into the Paleo diet. You can eat a wide range of proteins to accommodate individual preferences in taste and lifestyle concerns. Vegetables are almost unending in variety, and various combinations make repetition a non-concern.