Comprehensive Food List for the Paleo Diet
In this post you’ll get a full Paleo Food list to better help you manage your healthy eating.
Paleo Diet Explained
The paleo diet is based on the principle that if a caveman ate it, so can you. In general, that means that meats, vegetables, fruits, fats, nuts and seeds are on the table while grains, beans, dairy and refined sugars are off. But, in case you don’t have a caveman to call, this list will give you all the information you need to know about which foods to include in the paleo diet and why they’re so good for you. You’ll also find a simple guide to the total protein, fat and carbohydrate content of the listed foods to make it easy to see how they can fit into your daily caloric intake.
Paleo Meats and Proteins
Protein is one of the staple sources of energy on the paleo diet. In fact, it’s likely that meat was the first food that our ancestors ate and, as such, our bodies are primed to run well on it. With a high protein content, moderate to high fat content, low or no carbs and a range of vitamins and minerals to boot, eating plenty of meat is a great way to gain or maintain lean muscle mass, boost your metabolism and make sure that you stay full between meals.
Because it came from an animal, practically all meats are paleo. However, it’s important to look for meats that are as natural as possible. This means that on the paleo diet you should opt for grass fed, wild-caught and organic varieties. Not only do these have a superior nutritional profile, they’re also less likely to be full of harmful preservatives, antibiotics, steroids and pesticides which are commonly added to animal feed. You’ll also want to avoid meats that have been highly processed such as hot dogs, spam and lunch meats. The added preservatives, flavor enhances and sugar in these foods have been linked to increased risk of developing cancer and heart disease.
High-quality, grass-fed, pasture-raised beef should be included in every paleo diet. With an impressive, energy-boosting nutritional profile including vitamin B12’s, zinc and iron, beef also contains a good amount of protein and fat to keep you satisfied and full for longer. This is particularly beneficial if you’re trying to lose weight and will also help you to maintain lean muscle mass and a healthy metabolism.
- One serving of ribeye beef (100 grams) contains approximately 29 grams of fat, 23 grams of protein and 0 grams of carbohydrates.
Just like us, our ancestors couldn’t resist the smell of roasting pork so it’s also on the paleo menu. Containing all-important muscle building protein with energy-filled fat, pork is also rich in the B vitamins, niacin, phosphorus and selenium which all contribute to keeping your body functioning well from the inside out. Naturally cured bacon is generally okay too. Just be wary of processed pork products that are infused with harmful chemicals.
- One serving of pork loin (100 grams) contains approximately 14 grams of fat, 27 grams of protein and 0 grams of carbohydrates.
All types of poultry are great to include in a balanced paleo diet and are particularly valuable for those who are very active and, therefore, have higher protein needs. To ensure that the chicken you consume is as natural as possible, look for free range or organic varieties. If you’re trying to lose weight, keep in mind the fact that some cuts of chicken such as thighs contain more fat and calories than others and adjust your quality accordingly.
- One serving of chicken breast (100 grams) contains approximately 4 grams of fat, 31 grams of protein and 0 grams of carbohydrates.
With high amounts of heart-healthy omega-3’s, fish is a great form of protein to regularly include in a paleo diet. Select wild-caught fish to avoid ingesting the harmful chemicals that farmed fish are regularly fed. Both low-fat, white varieties of fish are considered paleo as well as high-fat fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel and should both be included to satisfy your daily protein and fat requirements.
- One serving of salmon (100 grams) contains approximately 13 grams of fat, 20 grams of protein and 0 grams of carbohydrates.
- One serving of tilapia (100 grams) contains approximately 3 grams of fat, 26 grams of protein and 0 grams of carbohydrates.
- One serving of shrimp (100 grams) contains approximately 0 grams of fat, 24 grams of protein and 0 grams of carbohydrates.
While any type of egg is considered paleo, free-range chicken eggs are an inexpensive breakfast favorite of paleo eaters. Don’t throw away the yolk! You can be sure that cavemen didn’t either as they’re full of energy boosting fats and almost every vitamin and mineral your body needs including vitamins B12, D, A, iron and even calcium.
- One egg contains approximately 11 grams of fat, 13 grams of protein and 1 grams of carbohydrates.
Healthy Fats on the Paleo Diet
Contrary to popular belief, our body’s preferred source of fuel is fat, not carbohydrates. Therefore, quality fats are an important part of the paleo diet. Fats won’t make you fat. Instead, they’ll encourage your body to burn stored energy and can even contribute to reducing cravings for sweet, carbohydrate loaded foods. People who include some healthy fats with every meal have also been shown to eat less because fats are so inherently satisfying.
When it comes to selecting the best fats to include in your paleo diet, almost any natural source is acceptable. This includes refined animal fats (choose naturally-raised, organic varieties), nuts oils (except for peanut which isn’t a nut), avocados and all parts of the coconut. Always avoid processed fats that contain harmful trans fats and try to ensure that you’re consuming a good balance of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids to minimize inflammation within your body. To help you to do this, avoid seed oils such as canola, soybean and vegetables oils and include fatty fish in your diet regularly.
While they’re technically a fruit, avocados contain monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats which provide a good source of energy while lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol and creating healthy skin, hair and nails. However, they’re also full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants including vitamin B’s, C, K, E, copper and potassium to nourish your body and protect it from disease-causing and inflammatory free radicals. Add to all of this goodness with the high level of fiber for a healthy digestive system and you’ve got an incredibly nutritious paleo-approved ingredient to add to almost any meal.
- One serving of avocado (1/3 of fruit) contains approximately 8 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and 4 grams of carbohydrates.
There’s evidence that our ancestors pressed olives to make antioxidant-rich olive oil as far back as 7,000 years ago. Therefore, olive oil is considered to be a paleo ingredient and rightly so as it’s exceptional nutritional profile provides us with numerous benefits. With a unique mix of oleic acid and monounsaturated fatty acids, using olive oil raw or in low-heat cooking applications has been shown to decrease the risk of developing cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s.
- One serving of olive oil (1 tsp) contains approximately 4.5 grams of fat and 0 grams of protein and carbohydrates.
Highly versatile and heat-stable, coconut oil is a prized ingredient in the paleo diet due to its high levels of saturated fats. Unrefined (preferably organic) coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) that are very easy to digest for quick-release energy that’s difficult for your body to convert to stored fat. It’s also been shown to improve immunity, reduce inflammation and decrease cholesterol levels.
- One serving of coconut oil (1 tsp) contains approximately 4.5 grams of fat and 0 grams of protein and carbohydrates.
Ghee is a paleo-friendly fat that’s made by heating butter to isolate the butterfat content and remove most of its lactose. Some people debate that because it’s made from dairy (which isn’t considered paleo), ghee isn’t part of a strict paleo diet. However, because removing the milk solids means that ghee is generally well-tolerated by those who don’t digest dairy well, the consensus is that it’s a great fat to include. Additionally, ghee is rich in medium-chain fatty acids that encourage fat loss, reduce inflammation and help to detox the body. It can also be used safely for cooking at high heats.
- One serving of ghee (1 tsp) contains approximately 5 grams of fat and 0 grams of protein and carbohydrates.
Great Vegetables on the Paleo Diet
Compared to the diets we traditionally ate, today, most Western diets are deficient in plant-based nutrients. The paleo diet prescribes including a wide variety of vegetables to ensure that your body benefits from the fiber and essential vitamins and minerals that a found in this food group. However, balance is key here. The nutritional makeup of different types of vegetables varies greatly and some options, such as potatoes and squash, have a much poorer nutrition profile compared to the amount of carbs that they contain. Because of this, most paleo dieters generally recommend limiting your intake of starchy vegetables if you’re trying to lose weight.
To ensure that you’re fueling your body with the very best nutrient-dense vegetables on the paleo diet, aim for variety by including as many different types of paleo-approved options as you can. Doing so will help to protect your body against a whole range of diseases including heart problems, high blood pressure and some cancers. They’re also a great food option that’s usually low in calories and will fill you up with gut-beneficial fiber for optimal digestion.
As the majority of commonly available vegetables these days are produced using chemical pesticides, choosing organic, locally-grown options are the best way to ensure that your food isn’t full of these harmful additives. Alternatively, grow your own so you know exactly where it’s come from.
This leafy green is packed full of essential nutrients including vitamin C, A, E, K, B6, folate, potassium, manganese, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium and iron, to name just a few. Because of this, broccoli is a great addition to almost any paleo meal and has also been shown to be particularly beneficial in reducing the risk of developing certain types of cancers due to its anti-inflammatory and detoxifying nature.
- One serving of broccoli (1 cup) contains approximately 0 grams of fat and 3 grams of protein and 4 grams of carbohydrates.
Low in carbs and high in phytochemicals, anti-inflammatory compounds, fiber, vitamins and minerals, cauliflower is often a staple of many paleo diets. Steam it, bake it, fry it in paleo-friendly fats or turn it into a pizza base, cauliflower rice, taco wraps or a low-carb version of mashed potatoes. In addition to preventing cancer, heart disease and weight gain, is there anything cauliflower can’t do?
- One serving of broccoli (1 cup) contains approximately 0 grams of fat and 2 grams of protein and 3 grams of carbohydrates.
Leafy greens are without a doubt paleo-approved and spinach is no exception. Low in carbohydrates, rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C, folic acid and iron, spinach has been shown to reduce blood pressure, prevent anemia and ward of certain cancers. It’s also a dairy-free calcium alternative for those following a strict paleo diet.
- One serving of spinach (1 cup) contains approximately 0 grams of fat and 1 gram of protein and 0 grams of carbohydrates.
Bell peppers are a member of the nightshade family and although some people don’t tolerate digesting them well, they are considered paleo as most people don’t experience any ill effects and only benefit from their high nutrient content. Enjoy these vitamin C loaded vegetables raw or add them to meals for the disease protecting, anti-inflammatory effects of vitamin A, E and potassium content.
- One serving of red bell peppers (1 cup) contains approximately 0 grams of fat and 1 grams of protein and 4 grams of carbohydrates.
Although sweet potatoes are high in carbohydrates, they’re often the preferred, paleo-friendly tuber option because of they have a low glycemic load and high level of nutrients. These versatile vegetables are high in fiber, potassium, vitamin A, beta carotene and potassium. They’re also a particularly useful energy source for those who are very active and need a higher carbohydrate option to help sustain endurance and fuel quick recovery.
- One serving of sweet potato (1 cup) contains approximately 0 grams of fat and 2 grams of protein and 23 grams of carbohydrates.
Healthy Fruits on the Paleo Diet
Fruits are nature’s nutrient-rich sweet treats and unprocessed, they have a whole host of health benefits to offer including detoxifying, disease-fighting antioxidants and phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Because of this and how well they’re generally tolerated by the body, all types of fruits are considered a great part of a healthy and balanced paleo diet. However, because most do contain high levels of fructose (a fast-digesting carbohydrate), many paleo enthusiasts recommend watching your fruit consumption, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
Because the health benefits provided by various fruits does vary greatly, it’s best to eat a wide variety of types to take full advantage of their goodness. Preference should be given to fruits that are lower in carbs such as berries while fruits with a higher glycemic load like bananas and tropical fruits can be enjoyed occasionally. If possible, choose locally-grown, organic fruits and eat them fresh as these contain fewer harmful chemicals and pesticides that disrupt the goodness nature intended us to have.
All types of berries are usually named as the go-to fruit of the paleo diet. With an extremely high antioxidant content, they contain fewer carbohydrates than other types of fruit meaning that they can be enjoyed without creating dramatic shifts in blood sugar levels which trigger hunger and cravings. The health benefits provided by berries differ based on which type you choose but range from improving your heart health to reducing inflammation and detoxifying. They also generally contain high levels of vitamin C to improve immune function.
- One serving of strawberries (1 cup) contains approximately 0 grams of fat and 1 gram of protein and 8 grams of carbohydrates.
- One serving of raspberries (1 cup) contains approximately 1 gram of fat and 2 grams of protein and 7 grams of carbohydrates.
- One serving of blueberries (1 cup) contains approximately 0 grams of fat and 1 gram of protein and 17 grams of carbohydrates.
Great as a snack or healthier dessert option, apples are reasonably low in blood-sugar spiking carbohydrates while providing a host of beneficial nutrients. They’re full of vitamins A, B, C, E and K that promote detoxifying and healthy skin while boron helps to maintain strong bones. Apples also contain antioxidants and phytochemicals which have been shown to help to prevent Alzheimer’s, heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
- One small apple contains approximately 0 grams of fat and 1 gram of protein and 15 grams of carbohydrates.
While oranges are well-known for their high vitamin C content, they also contain a good amount of potassium, calcium and vitamin B’s which are all essential components to build and maintain healthy cells. As part of a paleo diet, enjoy oranges whole instead of drinking orange juice. This ensures that the high fiber content of this fruit stays intact which reduces the effect of their sugars on your body and improves digestive functioning.
- One small orange contains approximately 0 grams of fat and 1 gram of protein and 8 grams of carbohydrates.
Paleo Approved Nuts and Seeds
These nutrient-packed treats make for a convenient and delicious snack that’s paleo approved. They’re a great source of long-lasting energy and their high fat content will keep you full for longer. It is worth noting though, that because many types of nuts and seeds do contain phytic acid and other anti-nutrients that disrupt optimal digestion, it’s recommended that you consume them in moderation.
Try to avoid buying pre-roasted nuts and seeds as these are often doused in trans-fat containing vegetable oils that contribute to inflammation and increase the risk of developing numerous diseases. Instead, opt for raw and soak them in salty water overnight as this has been shown to reduce the number of harmful enzymes that are present.
Many paleo-friendly recipes call for nut butters or nut flours. While naturally processed, additive free butters and flours are still paleo, they are a more concentrated form so be mindful of your overall consumption to avoid eating too many calories.
High in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals including magnesium, copper, vitamin E and riboflavin, almonds are a great paleo option that’s been shown to improve cognitive ability and reduce your risk of developing many degenerative disorders. They’re also alkaline which makes them great to improve your body’s ability to process insulin, improve digestion and reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis and various cancers.
- One serving of almonds (23 nuts) contains approximately 14 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of carbohydrates.
In comparison to most other nuts, walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids which makes them a great food to incorporate into a paleo diet to balance out omega-6’s from meat. They’ll keep you full and satisfied if snacking between meals and are a great source of vitamins and minerals such as copper, magnesium and B vitamins too.
- One serving of walnuts (14 halves) contains approximately 18 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of carbohydrates.
Pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds)
Although pepitas are reasonably high in carbohydrates, they’re also high in healthy fats, fiber and protein which prevents large spikes in blood sugar levels, making them an ideal paleo food to snack on or add to salads. Pepitas are also a good source of magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron and the B vitamins so they’ll give you a good energy boost along with providing valuable nutrients.
- One serving of pepitas (2 tbsps) contains approximately 5 grams of fat, 5 grams of protein and 10 grams of carbohydrates.