Summing up the Paleo or Primal diet for the newcomer can be easy and complicated at the same time. We’ve heard it summed up as “don’t eat wheat & grains, sugars and vegetable oils”, “if you don’t need to refrigerate it, don’t eat it”, “if your Great Grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as food, don’t eat it” and “only eat meat, fish, eggs, nuts and vegetables”.
We have a basic list of the DO Eat, DO NOT Eat and Maybe Eat foods here. This is not a definitive list but it is a good place to start. Keep in mind that you’ll want to eat fresh and local, organic and unprocessed wherever possible. Most of your calories will be from meat and fat and you should try to include protein (meat, fish, eggs, or nuts) and a large portion of vegetables in every meal. For a more information on the basics of eating Paleo or Primal we recommend starting with Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint: 21-Day Total Body Transformation.
Keep in mind that Paleo and Primal diets are naturally gluten-free and are often dairy-free as well.
List of Paleo and Primal Friendly Foods – DO Eat.
- Meat – beef, pork, chicken, lamb, goat, turkey, and game.
Ideally you’ll want to eat fresh, local, quality unprocessed meats.
- Fish – fish and shellfish of all kinds. Ideally you’ll want to eat fresh, local, quality unprocessed fish.
- Eggs – a versatile and inexpensive protein, eat as many and as often as you want. Ideally you’ll want fresh, local, free range, quality eggs.
- Vegetables – eat a wide variety of vegetables, including lots of green vegetables. Ideally you’ll want fresh, local, organic unprocessed vegetables.
- Fruit – eat a moderate amount of fruit. Ideally you’ll want fresh, local, organic unprocessed fruit.
- Nuts and Seeds – eat a variety including almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds. Ideally you’ll want raw, unprocessed nuts and seeds.
- Coconut – in any form you want including coconut milk, coconut water, fresh coconut, coconut oil, etc. You will want to avoid sweetened coconut products.
- Fats and Oils – coconut oil, butter, ghee, lard, animal fat (duck, pork, beef, etc.), olive oil, avocado oil, palm oil.
DO NOT Eat
- Wheat – in any way, shape or form. Wheat and wheat gluten is found in an astonishing number of packaged and processed foods that you’d never even think about including most types of bottled sauces, soy sauce, and even in chewing gum and frozen french fries.
- Grains – oats, barley, corn, rice, bran, wheat, rye, quinoa, kamut, etc. Rice and corn are grains and should be avoided.
- Sugars – white sugar, brown sugar, fructose, corn syrup, hfcs, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup. Here’s a longer list of sugar forms and names.
- Legumes – peanuts, beans, lentils, chickpeas, soy beans, etc. Peanuts are legumes not nuts and should be avoided.
- Vegetable oils – vegetable oil, corn oil, peanut oil, canola oil, safflower oil, grape seed oil and sunflower oil.
The Maybe EAT List
There’s some debate in the Paleo and Primal communities about a few food groups. Some feel these should be strictly part of the DO NOT EAT list and others feel that these foods can be enjoyed in moderation.
- Dairy – quality cheese, yogurt, cream, milk products with little to no processing. Ideally if you’re going to eat dairy you’ll want to choose organic and grass-fed options with high fat content and no additives and only in moderation.
- Potatoes, Yam, Tubers – many Paleo and Primal diets say to eliminate potatoes and tubers entirely. If you’re trying to lose weight you’ll want to avoid these.
- Dark Chocolate – in small quantities, occassionally. Choose high quality dark chocolate with 70% Cocoa or more. Read more about Dark Chocolate here.
- Alcohol – most Paleo and Primal communities say to avoid alcohol entirely. Others say Red Wine is fine in moderation. Others say spirits (vodka, whiskey, gin, rum, etc.) is fine in moderation.
- Stevia and Artificial Sweeteners – Stevia is a plant based alternative sweetener and is preferred to artificial sweeteners and sugars. Mark Sisson has a good resource on stevia and artificial sweeteners on Mark’s Daily Apple that can help you decide. (Artificial sweeteners, in our opinion should be avoided completely, along with all other highly processed things.)
Here’s a humorous Paleo Diet Flowchart that’s been making the rounds on the internet lately. Unfortunately, I’ve no idea who the original source of this flowchart is but it sums up a lot of the Paleo Diet principles. It’s a little tongue-in-cheek and not everyone in the Paleo and Primal communities likes the way it’s presented but I know a few people who’ve printed it off and put on the fridge as an easy reminder. If you click on the image you’ll get it full sized. If you know who created it, drop us a note on the Contact page.