Even if you’re a paleo veteran, there can be times when you question if an ingredient is paleo or not. In this article, you’ll find a comprehensive list of foods that paleo-experts agree are allowed within paleo’s guidelines.To make things even simpler I’ve included a general list of foods that are not considered paleo so you can be sure to avoid them. If you’re just getting started with paleo, you might want to check out our Paleo 101 or Paleo for Beginners articles for more information before coming back to this list. .
Foods Allowed on the Paleo Diet
The paleo diet consists of all natural, non-processed foods — including organic meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts and seeds, and healthy oils. The paleo diet avoids certain food groups including grains, dairy, legumes, potatoes, sugar, and highly-refined, processed foods. With this is mind, I’ve broken down the list of foods to eat on the paleo diet by category: meat and seafood, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and oils.
Meat and Seafood
Lean protein is a paleo staple.A good portion of your diet should consist of the lean meats listed below. Remember that both the cut of the meat and how you cook it are equally important on the paleo diet. Be sure to trim excess fat from your meat and choose a simple cooking method such as baking, roasting, sauteing, or stir-frying.
- Lean beef (flank steak, top sirloin steak, extra-lean hamburger, lean veal)
- Lean pork (pork loin, pork chops)
- Lean poultry (chicken breast, turkey breast)
- Organ meats (liver, tongue, marrow, “sweetbreads”)
- Game meats (bison, deer, elk, wild boar)
- Fish (bass, cod, grouper, halibut, herring, mackerel, salmon, tilapia, trout, tuna, walleye)
- Shellfish (clams, crab, lobster, mussels, oysters, scallops, shrimp)
All fruits are allowed on the paleo diet. If your goal is weight loss or if you have a metabolic syndrome such as increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, or excess body fat, it is best to minimize your fruit consumption to 1-2 servings per day or less. Grapes, mangoes, and bananas are some fruits with a higher sugar content and should be eaten in moderation.
Paleo-approved fruits include, but are not limited to:
As with fruits, all vegetables are allowed on the paleo diet with the exception of “starchy tubers,” such as potatoes. Potatoes are high in carbohydrates, which means they break down to simple sugars in your body. This makes them a high glycemic food that can raise your blood sugar. This isn’t necessarily an issue for most healthy people as long as you don’t eat potatoes in excessive amounts, but it terms of true paleo, potatoes are not included on the diet.
Remember that peas and beans are considered legumes rather than vegetables, and those are also not allowed.
- Bell Peppers
- Brussels Sprouts
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a great source of monounsaturated fats (otherwise known as healthy fats) which can help lower cholesterol and prevent diseases. Nuts and seeds are also high in calories. If your goal is weight loss with the paleo diet, it’s best to limit your serving of nuts and seeds to 4 oz. per day.
Remember that peanuts are considered legumes, and are not included on this list.
- Brazil nuts
- Macadamia nuts
- Pine nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
It’s best to use oils in moderation on the paleo diet. Try to limit oil consumption to 4 tablespoons or less per day. Two great ways to consume oils in your diet is to use them to cook your meat or to make a healthy salad dressing. If you’re using coconut oil in your cooking, make sure it is labeled as “unrefined” which means it is in its most natural state and has not been heated or treated with chemicals.
- Olive Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Coconut Oil (must be unrefined)
- Walnut Oil
- Flaxseed Oil
Water should always be your first choice on the paleo diet. The amount of water you need to drink each day depends on your body weight, age, and activity level so the recommended eight glasses per day doesn’t necessarily apply. Keep water on hand to drink when you are thirsty, and increase your water intake if you exercise frequently.
If you need a change from plain water, try adding flavors such as fruit, mint, or cucumber. There are a few other paleo-friendly beverages that you can incorporate in your diet.
- Bone Broth
- Coconut Water
- Fruit Smoothies
- Cold-Pressed Juices
Foods to Avoid on the Paleo Diet
What sets paleo apart from other diets is the elimination of entire food groups — including grains, dairy, legumes, processed foods, and foods containing high amounts of salt. These types of food were not a part of Paleolithic diets and many of the foods within these groups are known for causing inflammation and digestive issues. Many people are better off eliminating them from their diets entirely.
Below is a list of foods within each of these food groups that should be avoided on the paleo diet.
- Frozen Yogurt
- Ice cream
- Powdered Milk
- All processed foods made with dairy products
- Beans (black, fava, garbanzo, kidney, lima, navy, pinto, red, string)
- Black-eyed peas
- ChickpeasGreen beans (were rarely a paleo dish)
- Peanut butter
- Sugar snap peas
- Soybeans (and all soybean products including tofu)
- White Potatoes
- Sweet potatoes
Processed Foods High In Salt
- Most salad dressings and condiments
- Deli meats
- Hot dogs
- Pickled foods
- Salted nuts
- Salted spices
- Smoked meats
- All canned meats and fish (unless they’re unsalted)
Other Processed Foods
- Artificial sweeteners
- Energy drinks
- Soft drinks
- Fruit juices
- Baked Goods
Lastly, I wanted to include a list of ‘maybe’ paleo foods so you can be aware of how others are treating these foods and how they may or may not fit into your paleo diet plan. Many people consider the foods on this list paleo because of their nutritional value, even though they may not be “true paleo” by Paleolithic standards. When considering adding these foods to your paleo diet, think about how your body reacts to certain foods (for example, if your body can’t process lactose well, stay away from grass-fed butter).
Up For Debate
- Alcohol (wine, beer, spirits)
- Dried fruits
- Grass-fed butter
- Packaged ‘paleo’ foods (tortillas, crackers, cookies, baking mixes, etc.)
- Dark chocolate
- Hemp seeds
- Chia & flax seeds
- Natural sweeteners
Although the paleo diet is modeled after what our Paleolithic ancestors were most likely eating, the way we grow and produce food has changed considerably over the centuries.Approach the paleo diet with the fundamental goal of improving your overall nutrition through your food choices. Bookmark this list as a reference if you find yourself questioning whether or not a food should be included in your paleo diet, and always make adjustments to the foods you’re eating based on how they affect your body.