What Can You Eat On The Paleo Diet?

by Ahmed Zayed, MD on April 3, 2019
Last updated on May 23, 2021

After 2013 was coined the “year of the Paleo diet” (1), millions of people have started to turn to this diet for its many proclaimed health benefits – including the possibility of losing weight faster, but still in a way that will not cause the body to experience significant adverse effects. In a 2011 rundown of the best weight-loss diets and trends, Shape.com announced that the Paleo diet would rate number one on their list (2).

salmon and vegetables, an example of paleo diet

It is estimated that up to three million people in the United States are already following the Paleo diet, making up approximately 1% of the American population (3). Millions of more people around the world have started to adopt the Paleo diet in order to benefit from the potential positive effects that the diet has on the human body.

Understanding what foods are considered appropriate for the Paleo diet is one of the very first things that a person need to become acknowledged if they wish to reap the benefits of the diet successfully. In this post, we are going to explore the Paleo diet, take a good look at the foods that are considered appropriate for inclusion in such a diet, and also share a couple of meal ideas for those struggling to set up a meal plan.

The Paleo diet was designed to help the population go back to the ways of the ancient people – this type of diet entails foods that were hunted by our ancestors, instead of the highly processed food choices that we often opt for in the modern-day. This is why many people refer to the Paleo diet as the “Caveman diet” – because any foods that our ancestors would have hunted or gathered can be included in the diet, but everything else should basically be completely eliminated.

The diet tends to focus on fresh vegetables and fruits, fish, lean meat cuts, and, of course, seeds and nuts. These are all foods that are found in the wild – where our ancestors used to hunt. Some types of food that can be included also need to be limited significantly in order to become a follower of the Paleo diet truly.

The goal of the Paleo diet is to help a person get rid of the foods that are causing disease, inflammation, and a generally ill body. Modern-day diets tend to include a large number of processed foods, fried foods, and other food options that lead to a spike in blood glucose levels, an increase in inflammatory markers, and a much higher risk of chronic diseases.

Even though there is a general idea behind the Paleo diet, it should be noted that in the modern day, variations of the diet have been developed – especially by individuals looking to commercialize the diet for their own gain. For those who do not wish to spend hundreds on a commercial Paleo diet program, a few simple guidelines can be followed to implement this type of diet into their lives effectively.

The Paleo diet really became popular once studies started to produce evidence of how effective the diet can be for people who are having a difficult time shedding excess weight that they might have accumulated over the course of a few years. Due to the foods included in the diet, there is a lower risk of gaining more weight when following a meal plan that focuses on the guidelines of a Paleo diet, and weight loss can become much easier.

How Effective Is The Paleo Diet?

Clinical trials and scientific studies have been conducted to help medical experts understand the effects of the Paleo diet. While there is a lot of controversy around this particular subject, a number of studies performed on the diet’s effects in the human body have presented positive results.

Let’s take a look at a few studies that focused on determining how effective the Paleo diet is for various health benefits, including weight loss:

  • A study (4) by the Department of Neurobiology at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden found that a Paleo diet can help to reduce body mass index, total body weight, and also waist circumference, in as little as three weeks. A total of 20 human subjects were part of this study, but only 14 of them completed the study. Each participant was provided with a meal plan that focused on the Paleo diet – they had to follow the diet for a period of three weeks. Body weight was reduced by an average of 2.3kg among the participants, along with an average BMI reduction of 0.8. Waist circumference reduced with an average of 0.5cm.
  • One study (5) looked at how the Paleo diet affected specific risk factors in patients with type 2 diabetes that are known to contribute to heart disease, with excess weight being one of the main concerns. There were 13 participants in the study, and a Paleo diet was implemented over a period of three months. By the end of the study, those individuals who were provided a meal plan along the guidelines of the Paleo diet were able to lose, on average, 3kg more than those who did not follow a Paleo diet. Furthermore, on average, an extra 4cm were reduced in the waistlines of the individuals who were following the Paleo diet plan.
  • A study (6) in the Journal of Internal Medicine, conducted in 2013, further confirmed the potential weight loss benefits of the Paleo diet. There were ten female participants in the study, all with a BMI that was higher than 27. All participants had to follow a Paleo diet over the course of a five-week period. The participants were able to reduce their body weight by 4.5kg on average, along with an average reduction of 8cm in their waist circumference. The study also found that liver fat was reduced by an average of 49%, which is another significant benefit worth noting.

What Foods To Include In A Paleo Diet Meal Plan?

Due to the many variations of the popular Paleo diet that have hit the media, a lot of people are confused when they want to start following such a diet. Each of these variants tells a person to eat different foods – the problem here is many of the programs out there that are essentially modified version of the Paleo diet have been modified in ways to produce specific outcomes, such as to enhance the weight loss benefits of the diet.

All of this information can make it hard for someone who simply wants to give the Paleo diet a try and see if it is a good option for them.
Below, we are going back to the basics. For someone who just wants to try out the original Paleo diet, here is an overview of the most ideal foods that should be included in such a meal plan:

  • Lean Meat Products: This would include pork, lamb, and beef.
  • Poultry Meat Products: Chicken and turkey.
  • Fish: Salmon is an excellent option, especially when wild-caught. Other good options when it comes to fish include trout and haddock.
  • Seafood: Apart from fish, other types of seafood should also be included in a Paleo diet, such as shellfish and shrimp.
  • Fruit: Fruit plays an important part in a Paleo diet. Include apples, oranges, strawberries, pears, bananas, blueberries, and other fruits that are enjoyable.
  • Vegetables: Along with fruit, vegetables should also ideally be included in most meals. Good vegetable options to choose from include broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, onions, carrots, peppers, and, of course, kale.
  • Seeds: Seeds are loaded with antioxidants and nutrients, and they are very good for the human body. Opt for pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and other varieties available at a local store.
  • Nuts: Nuts play an important role in a Paleo diet as well, just like seeds. Nuts may include hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, and macadamia nuts.
  • Healthy Fats: Instead of opting for fried foods, meat, vegetables, and other food options should be prepared in healthy oils and fats. Choose coconut oil, olive oil (extra virgin) and avocado oil over highly-processed oils.
  • Eggs: Eggs are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids, and other useful nutrients. It is, however, important to opt for free-range and pastured eggs.
  • Tubers: Various tubers can also be included in a Paleo diet, such as turnips, yams, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.

Apart from this list of foods, do not forget to include spices. Examples of good spices to include in a Paleo meal plan would consist of rosemary, organum, turmeric, thyme, and more. Sea salt should also be included.

There are certain “indulges” that people following a Paleo diet can also enjoy from time-to-time, but consumption of these are usually advised to be restricted. The two most popular “indulges” that people tend to include in a Paleo diet consists of dark chocolate, as well as red wine. Both of these have several health benefits associated with them. Red wine contains resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant, similar to the cocoa that is added to dark chocolate (also contains potent antioxidants).

A Few Ideas For Meals When Following A Paleo Diet

Even though we have listed a large number of foods that are appropriate for people looking to follow a Paleo diet, it can still sometimes be difficult to come up with an ideal combination of these foods to be included in each meal of the day.

The following is just a few examples of meals that can be prepared that perfectly fits in with a Paleo diet and offers adequate levels of calories and nutrients to keep the body not only full but also healthy:

  • Have a piece of fruit, along with some vegetables and eggs, for breakfast. It would be ideal to fry both the vegetables and the eggs in some coconut oil.
  • Fry a piece of salmon in butter and serve up with some roasted vegetables – this is a great dinner idea.
  • Prepare a sandwich with meat and lettuce, and serve with fresh vegetables for lunch.
  • Be traditional and fry up some eggs and bacon in a little coconut oil. Have this for breakfast with fruit.
  • Create some salsa, cook up some vegetables, and serve with a couple of chicken wings – grill the chicken wings. This meal can be served up as a dinner dish.
  • Have some chicken salad. Sprinkle with olive oil and some nuts, and enjoy as a dish for lunch.


The Paleo diet has become a very popular option for people looking to lose their excess weight and has also been associated with other health benefits. When following the diet, a lot of people have difficulty starting out, as they are not sure which foods to include and what type of meals they should prepare for themselves. We provided a complete overview of foods that are considered appropriate for a Paleo diet in this guide, along with a couple of useful ideas for meals that can be prepared.


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