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

In fact, several studies suggest that this diet can lead to significant weight loss (without calorie counting) and major improvements in health.

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

A paleo diet meal plan

There is no one “right” way to eat for everyone and paleolithic humans thrived on a variety of 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):

Consider this as a general guideline, not something written in stone. You can adapt all of this to your own personal needs and preferences.

Here are the basics (2):

What to eat: Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, healthy fats, and oils.

What to avoid: Processed foods, sugar, soft drinks, grains, most dairy products, legumes, artificial sweeteners, vegetable oils, margarine, and trans fats.


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.

Foods to avoid on the paleo diet

Avoid these foods and ingredients:

  • Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup: soft drinks, fruit juices, table sugar, candy, pastries, ice cream, and many others
  • Grains: breads, pastas, wheat, 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: If it looks like it was made in a factory, don’t eat it.

If you want to avoid these ingredients, you must read ingredients lists, even on foods that are labeled as “health foods.”


Avoid all processed foods and ingredients, including sugar, bread, certain vegetable oils, trans fats, and artificial sweeteners.

Foods to eat on the paleo diet

Base your diet on whole, unprocessed paleo foods:

  • 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 to choose grass-fed meats, pastured eggs, and organic produce while following a paleo diet.


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

Modified paleo diets

Over the past few years, the paleo community has evolved quite a bit.

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

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


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.

Sensible indulgences

The foods and beverages below are perfectly fine in small amounts:

  • Wine: Quality red wine is high in antioxidants and beneficial nutrients (3).
  • Dark chocolate: Choose one that has 70% or higher cocoa content. Dark chocolate is very high in antioxidants and important minerals, like magnesium and iron (4, 5).

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

What to drink when you’re thirsty

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

The following drinks aren’t exactly paleo, but most people drink them anyway:

  • Tea. Tea is very healthy and loaded with antioxidants and various beneficial compounds. Green tea is best (6).
  • Coffee. Coffee is actually very high in antioxidants as well. Studies show that it has many health benefits (7).

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

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

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


  • 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


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


  • 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


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


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


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


  • 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

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.

Simple paleo snacks

If you get hungry between meals, here are some paleo snacks that are simple and easily portable:


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.

Simple paleo shopping list

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.

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

How to make restaurant meals paleo

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 them to cook your food in olive oil or avocado oil.

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 bottom line

The paleo diet is modeled after the diets hunter-gatherers are likely 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.

Paleo-friendly foods include meat, fish, eggs, seeds, nuts, fruits, and veggies, along with healthy fats and oils. Avoid processed foods, grains, and sugar.

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

To get started on the paleo diet, check out the sample menu and shopping list above. Stock your kitchen and pantry with these healthy, paleo-friendly foods.