The Paleo Diet — A Beginner’s Guide + Meal Plan

The Paleo Diet — A Beginner’s Guide + Meal Plan

The paleo diet includes whole, unprocessed foods like vegetables, nuts, seeds, and meat. It may benefit your overall health and reduce your risk for some health conditions, including obesity.


The paleo diet is designed to resemble what human hunter-gatherer ancestors ate thousands of years ago.

Although it’s impossible to know exactly what human ancestors ate in different parts of the world, researchers believe their diets consisted of whole foods.

By following a diet of whole foods and leading physically active lives, hunter-gatherers presumably had much lower rates of lifestyle diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

This diet may lead to significant weight loss (without calorie counting) and major improvements in health.

Anthropologists also speculate that the paleo diet influenced anatomic and physiologic changes in humans, including increased brain size and reduced gastrointestinal tract size (1).

This article is a basic introduction to the paleo diet, providing a simple meal plan and other essential information.

Paleolithic humans thrived on various diets, depending on what was available at the time and where in the world they lived.

Some ate a low carb diet high in animal foods, while others followed a high carb diet with lots of plants (1).

Some even ate insects, but fortunately, this delicacy is not included in today’s modern interpretation of the paleo diet.

The paleo diet plan includes (2):

Foods to avoid typically include (2):

Foods to limit include (2):

However, it’s important to consider the above as general guidelines, not something written in stone. You can adapt all of this to your own personal needs and preferences.

Summary

Paleolithic humans’ diets varied depending on availability and location. The basic concept of the paleo diet is to eat whole foods and avoid processed foods.

The paleo diet discourages the consumption of certain foods, including:

  • Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup: soft drinks, fruit juices, table sugar, candy, pastries, ice cream, and many others
  • Grains: bread, pasta, wheat, cereal, spelt, rye, barley, etc.
  • Legumes: beans, lentils, and many more
  • Dairy: most dairy, especially low fat dairy (some versions of paleo do include full-fat dairy like butter and cheese)
  • Some vegetable oils: soybean oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil, safflower oil, and others
  • Artificial sweeteners: aspartame, sucralose, cyclamates, saccharin, acesulfame potassium (use natural sweeteners instead)
  • Highly processed foods: everything labeled “diet” or “low fat” or that has many additives, including artificial meal replacements

A simple guideline for the paleo diet is, if it looks like it was made in a factory, avoid it.

To avoid these ingredients, you must read ingredient lists and nutrition labels, even on foods labeled as “health foods.”

Summary

Foods to avoid on the paleo diet include processed foods and ingredients, like sugar, bread, certain vegetable oils, and artificial sweeteners.

You can eat a variety of whole, unprocessed foods on the paleo diet. This includes:

  • Meat: Beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, pork, and others
  • Fish and seafood: salmon, trout, haddock, shrimp, shellfish, etc (choose wild-caught if you can)
  • Eggs: may be free-range, pastured, or omega-3 enriched
  • Vegetables: broccoli, kale, peppers, onions, carrots, tomatoes, etc.
  • Fruits: apples, bananas, oranges, pears, avocados, strawberries, blueberries, and more.
  • Tubers: potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, etc.
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and more
  • Healthy fats and oils: extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and others
  • Salt and spices: sea salt, garlic, turmeric, rosemary, etc.

Many people prefer grass-fed meats, pastured eggs, and organic produce while following a paleo diet. However, this is not required.

Summary

Eat whole, unprocessed foods like meat, seafood, eggs, veggies, fruits, potatoes, nuts, healthy fats, and spices while on the paleo diet. If possible, choose grass-fed and organic products.

There are now several different versions of the paleo diet. Some allow more modern foods, such as grass-fed butter and gluten-free grains like rice.

Today, many people think of paleo as a template to base your diet on, not necessarily a strict set of rules you must follow.

Summary

You can also use the paleo diet as a starting point, adding in a few other healthy foods like grass-fed butter and gluten-free grains.

While following a paleo diet, the below foods and beverages below are perfectly fine in small amounts:

  • Wine: Quality red wine is not only part of the paleo diet, but it is high in antioxidants, polyphenols, and beneficial nutrients (3, 4).
  • Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate is very high in antioxidants and important minerals like magnesium and iron. Choose a product with 70% or higher cocoa content (3, 5, 6).

Summary

When following the paleo diet, you can indulge in small amounts of red wine and dark chocolate from time to time.

When it comes to hydration, water should be your go-to beverage.

The following drinks aren’t strictly paleo but are typically accepted as beverages you can consume as part of the diet (3):

  • Tea: Tea, especially green tea, is very healthy and loaded with antioxidants and various beneficial compounds (7).
  • Coffee: Coffee is very high in antioxidants as well. Studies show that it has many health benefits (8).

Summary

Make water your drink of choice when following the paleo diet. Many people also drink tea and coffee.

While there are many benefits to the paleo diet, there are also some drawbacks.

For example, the paleo diet eliminates several food groups that are highly nutritious, including legumes, dairy, and gluten-containing grains.

Legumes are rich in fiber, protein, and various micronutrients, including iron, zinc, and copper, while dairy products have essential nutrients like calcium, which is important for bone health (9, 10).

Eliminating these food groups can put individuals following a paleo diet at risk of developing nutrient deficiencies.

In addition, legumes are one of the primary protein sources in the vegan and vegetarian diet, which may make the paleo diet unrealistic for vegans and vegetarians (11).

The paleo diet includes foods high in fiber, like vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Since foods high in fiber can have a laxative effect, a person transitioning from a low fiber diet to a paleo diet could experience gastric distress, such as bloating, as a result (12, 13).

It’s important to recognize that there’s no one “right” way to eat for everyone, so while the paleo diet may work for people you know, it may not be best for you.

You may want to talk with a doctor or nutritionist before starting a paleo diet.

Summary

The paleo diet eliminates several food groups that are highly nutritious and may cause bloating in some people. You can ask a doctor if the paleo diet is right for you.

This sample menu contains a balanced amount of paleo-friendly foods.

By all means, adjust this menu based on your own preferences.

Monday

  • Breakfast: eggs and vegetables fried in olive oil, one piece of fruit
  • Lunch: chicken salad with olive oil, a handful of nuts
  • Dinner: burgers (no bun) fried in butter, vegetables, salsa

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: bacon, eggs, one piece of fruit
  • Lunch: leftover burgers from the night before
  • Dinner: baked salmon with vegetables

Wednesday

  • Breakfast: leftover salmon and vegetables from the night before
  • Lunch: sandwich in a lettuce leaf, with meat and fresh vegetables
  • Dinner: ground beef stir-fry with vegetables, berries

Thursday

  • Breakfast: eggs, one piece of fruit
  • Lunch: leftover stir-fry from the night before, a handful of nuts
  • Dinner: fried pork, vegetables

Friday

  • Breakfast: eggs and vegetables fried in olive oil, one piece of fruit
  • Lunch: chicken salad with olive oil, a handful of nuts
  • Dinner: steak, vegetables, sweet potatoes

Saturday

  • Breakfast: bacon, eggs, one piece of fruit
  • Lunch: leftover steak and vegetables from the night before
  • Dinner: baked tilapia, vegetables, avocado

Sunday

  • Breakfast: leftover salmon and vegetables from the night before
  • Lunch: sandwich in a lettuce leaf, with meat and fresh vegetables
  • Dinner: grilled chicken wings, vegetables, salsa

Summary

You can make a variety of delicious meals using paleo-friendly foods. Above is a sample menu of what 1 week on the paleo diet might look like.

If you get hungry between meals, there are plenty of paleo snacks that are simple and easily portable:

  • Toasted almonds or mixed nuts
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables, including baby carrots, celery sticks, and sliced apples
  • Dairy-free chia pudding

Summary

Paleo snacks are easy to prepare and take with you on the go. A few ideas include fruit, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, or baby carrots.

There is an incredible variety of foods you can eat on the paleo diet.

This simple shopping list should give you an idea of how to get started:

  • Meat: beef, lamb, pork, etc.
  • Poultry: chicken, turkey, etc.
  • Fish: salmon, trout, mackerel, etc.
  • Eggs
  • Fresh vegetables: greens, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, onions, etc.
  • Frozen vegetables: broccoli, spinach, various vegetable mixes, etc.
  • Fruits: apples, bananas, pears, oranges, avocado
  • Berries: strawberries, blueberries, etc.
  • Nuts: almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts
  • Almond butter
  • Olive oil
  • Olives
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Condiments: sea salt, pepper, turmeric, garlic, parsley, etc.

Summary

To get started on the paleo diet, use the shopping list above to stock your pantry and fridge with delicious, paleo-friendly foods

It is fairly easy to make most restaurant meals paleo-friendly.

Here are some simple guidelines:

  1. Order a meat- or fish-based main dish.
  2. Get extra vegetables instead of bread or rice.
  3. Ask for your food to be cooked in olive oil or avocado oil.

Summary

Eating out while following the paleo diet doesn’t have to be hard. Simply select a meat or fish dish on the menu and swap in some extra veggies.

The paleo diet is modeled after what hunter-gatherers are believed to have followed. While there is no one way to follow the paleo diet, the basic idea is to avoid processed foods and focus instead on healthy, whole foods.

You can also base your diet on paleo foods, adding a few modern healthy foods like grass-fed butter and gluten-free grains.

To start the paleo diet, check out the sample menu and shopping list above and stock your kitchen and pantry with these healthy, paleo-friendly foods.

Source: healthline.com

Kerri Waldron

My name is Kerri Waldron and I am an avid healthy lifestyle participant who lives by proper nutrition and keeping active. One of the things I love best is to get to where I am going by walking every chance I get. If you want to feel great with renewed energy, you have to practice good nutrition and stay active.

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