Paleo Food List: What You Can and Can’t Eat On the Paleo Diet

paleo food listThe paleolithic diet is a controversial one, mainly for its basis in a few debatable theories, the most important of which being that modern humans are adapted to the diet of early humans from the Paleolithic era, and that our genetics have not changed since then. As such, a paleo diet consists of food that would have been naturally accessible to early humans, ruling out all processed foods and other products obtained only through technologically advanced agricultural means.

So what is there left to eat for those who have chosen a paleo diet, in this modern day and age? Stick with this guide, and we’ll go over the extensive paleo food list for people who have chosen this diet for themselves, including food both approved and disapproved for this literally ancient diet.

Once you’ve decided whether or not you can live without certain foods, you can get started with the paleolithic diet with this course.

Five Food Groups vs. Paleo Food List

Most of us are familiar with the five major food groups, as put forward by the US Department of Agriculture. These five groups, consisting of proteins, dairy, fruit, vegetables, and grains, are meant to categorize the different types of food necessary for people to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. If you subscribe to the supposed health benefits of the paleo diet, then the USDA’s food pyramid goes out the window. Well, the grains and dairy do at least.

Paleolithic humans did not consume dairy or grains, because they were living in a pre-agricultural era. Milking undomesticated animals was out of the question, and milling grains was not even a concept. We’re talking the hunter-gatherer era, here. The only things on the table were meat, fruit, vegetables… plus some healthy helpings of seeds, nuts, and paleo approved oils and fats. No grains (cereal or legume!) and no dairy.

Why Go Paleo?

So you might be asking why ditching dairy, grains, and certain types of other foods matters at all in a modern human’s diet. Well, according to the research the paleolithic diet is based on, these foods cause inflammation inside the body because they were never meant to be consumed. According to the paleo diet’s guidelines, modern humans are still built in accordance with the diet of our ancestors, who were hunter-gatherers without the agricultural means to harvest and process many of the foods we eat today.

Cutting foods like that from our diet will help with weight loss, increase fat burning, increase immunity, reduce allergy symptoms, increase energy, alleviate depression, eliminate joint pain, reduce blood pressure and levels of cholesterol and triglyceride, reduce heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer, reduce bloating and other intestinal distress, alleviate symptoms of disorders like Celiac’s disease and other autoimmune issues, and allow for more restful sleep and all around better health.

That’s a lot to promise! Whether or not you’re up for testing the advantages of the paleo diet is up to you. Continue on below for the full paleo food list.

Paleo Food List: Approved Foods

People following the paleo diet are allowed to eat paleo approved meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and oils/fats. Let’s start with the meats!

Paleo Approved Meats

You have many options when it comes to paleo approved meats, as long as the meat is fresh and unprocessed. If it’s meat you could have obtained and prepared out in the wild, without any kind of processing or technically advanced means, it’s fair game. These include:

  • Bacon
  • Bear
  • Beef jerky
  • Bison
  • Bison jerky
  • Bison ribeye
  • Bison sirloin
  • Bison steaks
  • Buffalo
  • Chicken breast
  • Chicken leg
  • Chicken thigh
  • Chicken wings
  • Chuck steak
  • Clams
  • Eggs
  • Elk
  • Emu
  • Goat
  • Goose
  • Grass fed beef
  • Ground beef
  • Kangaroo
  • Lamb chops
  • Lamb rack
  • Lean veal
  • Lobster
  • New York steak
  • Ostrich
  • Pheasant
  • Pork
  • Pork chops
  • Pork tenderloin
  • Poultry
  • Quail
  • Rabbit
  • Rattlesnake
  • Reindeer
  • Salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Steak
  • Turkey
  • Turtle
  • Veal
  • Venison steaks
  • Wild boar

Paleo Approved Fish and Seafood

Fish is a great source of protein because it’s low in fat, plus it’s full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. See below for a list of paleo approved fish and seafood, such a shellfish.

  • Bass
  • Clams
  • Crab
  • Crawfish
  • Crayfish
  • Halibut
  • Lobster
  • Mackerel
  • Oysters
  • Red Snapper
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Scallops
  • Shark
  • Shrimp
  • Sunfish
  • Swordfish
  • Tilapia
  • Trout
  • Tuna
  • Walleye

Paleo Approved Vegetables

Nearly all vegetables are allowed in the paleo diet, except for legumes and beans, which are sometimes considered vegetables, many of which are technically grains. There are a ton of different types of vegetable, which you can learn about in this guide, but take note that the linked guide includes legumes and beans. If you’re on a paleo diet – again – you can not eat legumes or beans. Some paleo approved vegetables include, but are not limited to:

  • Acorn squash
  • Artichoke
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Butternut squash
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Cucumber
  • Dill
  • Eggplant
  • Garlic
  • Green Onions
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Parsley
  • Parsnip
  • Peppers
  • Pumpkin
  • Radish
  • Shallot
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Watermelon
  • Yam
  • Zucchini

The paleo diet is about staying healthy, and so vegetables that are high in starch, such as squash and potatoes, are not recommended. They’re approved, but they contain more carbs than other vegetables, meaning you’re getting less nutrition for the amount of calories you’re consuming. Check out this guide to a low carb grocery list for more tips, or this class for doing vegetarianism right. While being a vegetarian or a vegan on the paleo diet kind of goes against the meat rich paleo way, you can at least find some good ideas for preparing fresh and healthy vegetable-based meals. Check out this vegan and vegetarian cooking course for even more healthy cooking tips.

Paleo Approved Fruit

People on the paleo diet should consume about one to three helpings of fruit a day, but not overdo it. Even though fruit is healthy and packed with micronutrients, it’s also high in fructose. You won’t be getting any high fructose corn syrup on a paleo diet, since it’s highly processed, so natural fructose is not a bad thing. You still don’t want to consume too much sugar though, even naturally. Prioritize vegetables over fruit, but when you do eat fruit, here’s a good list to choose from:

  • Apples
  • Avocado
  • Bananas
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Guava
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Lychee
  • Mango
  • Oranges
  • Papaya
  • Peaches
  • Pineapple
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Tangerine
  • Watermelon

If it’s hard for you to regularly get healthy helpings of fruits and vegetables during the day, considering preparing green juice in the mornings using paleo approved fruits and vegetables. Check out this course on how to make green juice, and read up on the benefits of green juice in this guide.

Paleo Approved Nuts

Nuts and seeds are a good, supplemental source of protein, but they’re also high in fat. Paleo diets allow nuts, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily need to eat them – like fruit. It can be tough to figure out which nuts and seeds are paleo approved, though. For instance, some foods commonly referred to as nuts – such as peanuts – are actually legumes, which are a type of grain disapproved by the paleo diet. Yes, that means you can’t have peanuts on a paleo diet. We’ll cover some disapproved paleo diet foods later, but for now, here are the nuts and seeds you can eat:

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pecans
  • Pine nuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Walnuts

Paleo Approved Oils and Fats

Fat isn’t terrible for your body if you consume it in moderation. As mentioned before, it’s overly sugary, starchy foods like carbs that you want to avoid in excess. Fats are still necessary for the body to create energy. Plus, you need it if you want to cook! Below is a list of paleo approved oils and fats.

  • Avocado oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Macadamia oil
  • Olive oil

Some people on the paleo diet will consume grass fed butter, even though butter is a dairy product that is not part of the paleo diet. It’s a tough call, but if the super convenient product that is butter is too difficult to remove from your diet completely, then that’s ultimately your choice to make. There’s no diet police that’s going to come knocking on your door telling you that you’re doing paleo wrong, so have at it if you need to.

Paleo Food List: Disapproved Food

Below is a guide to the foods not part of a conventional paleolithic diet. Most of the foods you need to know about and have to choose from are listed above, roughly, but if you’d rather be safe than sorry, use the list below to double check. Remember, in general, the paleo diet excludes:

  • Dairy products
  • Sugary fruit juice
  • Soda and other soft drinks
  • Energy drinks
  • Grains and legumes
  • Processed meat
  • Snack food
  • Unnaturally salted food
  • Candy

Dairy

  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Frozen yogurt
  • Ice cream
  • Milk
  • Powdered milk
  • Pudding
  • Skim milk
  • Yogurt

Fruit Juice

Remember, it’s okay to juice fruits that are paleo approved, but the paleo diet does not allow sugary and processed fruit drinks that are contain unnatural flavors, sweeteners, or enrichments.

  • Apple juice
  • Cranberry juice
  • Grape juice
  • Mango juice
  • Orange juice

Soft Drinks

Soda is even worse than fruit juice, since it’s a highly unnatural beverage made from carbonated water, and completely packed with high fructose corn syrup, sugar, and artificial sweeteners. Stay away from soda of all kinds!

  • 7-Up
  • Barq’s Root Beer
  • Canada Dry
  • Coca Cola
  • Coke Zero
  • Dr. Pepper
  • Fanta
  • Ginger ale
  • Mountain Dew
  • Pepsi
  • Root beer
  • Sierra Mist
  • Sprite

Energy Drinks

Energy drinks are even less paleo than soda, if there was a scale measuring that…

  • Five Hour Energy
  • Monster
  • Red Bull
  • Rockstar
  • Vault

Grains and Legumes

The most extensive list of unapproved paleo diet foods are the grains, legumes, and associated products. These might be the hardest to remove from your diet, but they are also the most important to do so, since according to a paleolithic diet, they are highly unnatural. Take note, the following list is not all inclusive.

  • Adzuki Beans
  • Beer
  • Black beans
  • Bread
  • Cereals
  • Chickpeas
  • Corn
  • Corn syrup
  • Crackers
  • Cream of wheat
  • Fava beans
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Green beans
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Lima beans
  • Mesquite
  • Miso
  • Mung beans
  • Oatmeal
  • Pancakes
  • Pasta
  • Peanut butter
  • Peanuts
  • Peas
  • Pinto beans
  • Red beans
  • Sandwiches
  • Snowpeas
  • Soybeans
  • String beans
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Toast
  • Tofu
  • Wheat
  • Wheat Thins
  • White beans

Other foods and beverages like alcohol, candy, and processed meats like deli meat and spam speak for themselves.

Don’t know what to do with this huge list of approved foods? Check out this caveman cooking course for some paleo diet cooking ideas.