Have you considered the Paleo diet? Maybe it has been recommended to you and you aren’t sure what it is? Or are you currently following the paleo diet and need some recipe inspiration?
No matter the reason that brought you here, we have the answers for you!
The paleo diet can be a tricky one to understand, especially if you are new to it. There are so many opinions about it and options online you can consider that you can quickly find yourself overwhelmed and confused.
Unsure where to turn or who to trust, you wonder if you will ever know what the paleo diet is, what you can eat on it, or find a new and tasty recipe.
Well, no more! Today, we are here with the answers you need. We have an in-depth beginner’s guide to paleo for you to follow. We will cover what the paleo diet is, what you can eat on it, and much more!
There are plenty of recipes and inspiration below just waiting for you!
Before we dive into today’s article, we want to give a huge welcome to the loyal readers of personally paleo. We have now taken the site under our wings here at GracefullPlate.com and are happy to have you here!
Stick around for plenty of Paleo recipes and other wonderful food dishes and guides that you won’t want to miss!
Let’s dive into today’s article and give you all the information you need about Paleo!
What Is Paleo?
Let’s start with an overview of paleo. The paleo diet involves you eating whole foods, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and proteins. The diet has risen in popularity as a response to the idea that Western diets are not good for our bodies.
These diets can cause a rise in chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and obesity.
The paleo diet claims that by following its strict diet you can increase your energy levels, stabilize blood sugar, reduce inflammation, lose weight, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases (we cover if this is actually true later on).
The diet is viewed as a return to the hunter-gatherer diet humans survived on thousands of years ago.
Of course, there is no way of knowing what our ancestors ate every day, but the diet works on the basis that you can eat wild-caught or grass-fed animals, fruits and vegetables, healthy oils, and nuts and seeds.
While this might sound limiting, there are lots of delicious meals you can make with these ingredients.
What Can I Eat On Paleo?
We touched on this earlier, but let’s take a look, in-depth at what you can eat on a paleo diet. We have broken it down into categories so you can see clearly what is on offer to you!
Fruits And Vegetables
- Sweet potatoes
- Butternut squash
- Brussel sprouts
- Citrus fruits
- Walnut oil
- Olive oil
- Macadamia oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
Nuts And Seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Pine nuts
- Macadamia nuts
- Chia seeds
As you can see, there are lots to choose from on a paleo diet. All these fresh foods are assumed to be available to our ancestors when they lived off the land. Of course, these days, we can pop to Whole Foods instead of foraging for them!
But that doesn’t mean their nutritional value or freshness has decreased. Just make sure there aren’t any additives to the food you are choosing and you are good to go!
What To Avoid On A Paleo Diet
Although it is good to know what you can eat on a diet, it’s also worth knowing what you can’t eat. As the paleo diet focuses on whole foods, there are a lot of ingredients and foods omitted from the diet.
Don’t worry, we have compiled an easy-to-follow list below for you to check out!
Lentils, beans, and other legumes are excluded from the paleo diet.
Bread, pasta, rye, barley, spelt, wheat, and other grains are also excluded from the paleo diet.
Most dairy products are excluded from the paleo diet too. This includes low-fat dairy, but some versions of paleo allow full-fat dairy products like cheese and butter.
- Vegetable Oils
Not all, but some vegetable oils are also not used as part of the paleo diet. These include safflower oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, and grapeseed oil.
- Highly Processed Food
Anything that is labeled low fat or diet is excluded from the paleo diet. The same applies to food with lots of additives, including artificial meal replacements.
- Artificial Sweeteners
Natural sweeteners are used, removing the need for any artificial sweeteners. These include saccharin, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, aspartame, and cyclamates.
- Sugar And High Fructose Corn Syrup
This includes table sugar, pastries, ice cream, soft drinks, fruit juices, and other items containing high fructose corn syrup and sugar.
A good rule of thumb when following a paleo diet is if the food looks like it was made in a factory, don’t eat it.
You will find yourself spending some time reading ingredient lists on the food you buy, looking out for the ingredients on our list above. If they have any of them, you will want to avoid them.
It can take some time to get used to, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you accidentally eat something with one or more of these ingredients in!
What Does A Typical Day Look Like On Paleo?
Now that we have looked at what you can and can’t eat on a paleo diet, you might be wondering what a typical day would look like.
To help you get an idea of the meals and snacks you can create when following a paleo diet, we have made a little meal plan.
Remember, this is to be used for inspiration only. We have included a few meal options you can choose from. These can be tailored to suit your needs.
We all require different levels of food to fuel our bodies, your portions might be bigger or smaller than someone else following the paleo diet, or you might include more snacks. Make sure that it suits you!
You will also want to seek advice from your doctor before embarking on a new diet, especially if you have a chronic illness or are taking any medication. The same applies to any exercise you might undertake when following the paleo diet.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and one that should not be skipped on the paleo diet. You have lots of options when it comes to breakfasts, allowing you to have plenty of variety!
If you want a different breakfast every day, you can have that with the paleo diet. Likewise, you can also meal prep lots of these options. Why not bulk cook your breakfasts so you can start your mornings quickly and easily?
Let’s take a look at your breakfast options now.
- Hash brown casserole
- Tigernut pancakes
- Fruit smoothie
- Overnight protein oats
- Chia seed pudding
- Fruit salad
When making your paleo breakfast, our top tip is to make sure you add some healthy fat and protein. This could be a handful of nuts or a few eggs on your plate.
This will help to keep you fuller for longer, and also provide your body with the energy it needs to get through the day.
While a smoothie is a wonderful and quick breakfast to enjoy, make sure you incorporate some protein and fat to keep your body energized.
Lunch can be a tricky meal no matter the diet you are following! It can be easy to make too much or too little, leaving you feeling groggy in the afternoon, or hungry within an hour, hunting for snacks.
Lunch is a meal we recommend prepping. Whether that involves taking a packed lunch to work or setting aside some leftovers from last night’s dinner to heat up, having lunch covered takes the pressure off!
It allows you to enjoy your lunch break without needing to stop and prepare something. It also means you are less likely to purchase something convenient, saving you money!
Here are some of our top ideas for lunch now.
- Buddha bowls
- Lettuce wraps
- Stir fry
- Chicken with vegetables
- Salmon with vegetables
Again, you will want a good balance of protein and healthy fats in the dish. Try and include some fresh vegetables or a side of fruit too.
The fruits will also give you some sugar, satisfying any sweet cravings you might have!
Our biggest meal of the day is often dinner, and the same applies to those following a paleo diet. There are lots of options for a delicious dinner on a paleo diet.
A lot of your favorite recipes can be adapted too, so you don’t need to give up the meals you love!
These meals can often be made in large quantities too. Not only does this mean you don’t need to make a separate dish for your family, but you can meal prep and bulk cook these!
Your dinner can serve as lunch tomorrow, or you can freeze portions to be defrosted and eaten when you don’t have time to cook.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to a paleo dinner, but here are a few of our favorites.
- Squash casserole
- Sun-dried pesto tomato chicken
- Roast beef and vegetables
- Stir fry
- Air fryer chicken wings and vegetables
- Cauliflower curry
- Roasted vegetable bake
- Salmon and vegetables
- Crockpot meal
You can change the protein sources to suit your preferences, along with the vegetables. Meals like casseroles are perfect for using up vegetables that are about to go bad or hiding vegetables from fussy eaters.
We found that these meals are the easiest to prepare or bulk cook and tend to freeze well. You can simply make a big batch of your favorite casserole recipe, portion it up and freeze it.
Then when you are ready to eat your meal, defrost it and reheat it!
Of course, freezing food can sometimes impact the texture, so make sure you are sealing all your food in freezer-safe and airtight containers before freezing.
It is also worth checking that all foods you are using can be frozen before you put them in the freezer, just to be safe.
Adding peas, carrots, parsnips, broccoli, or brussel sprouts to your plate of fish, casserole, or curry, ensures that your body is getting the nutrients and extra energy it needs. Plus, it gives you more food on your plate to enjoy!
Most diets recommend two snacks throughout the day, and paleo is no exception. Of course, feel free to adjust the number of snacks to suit your needs. If you are feeling hungrier one day than normal, make sure you eat to satisfy your hunger.
Hunger is a sign from your body that it needs more food to fuel it, do not ignore the signs.
There is a wide range of snacks you can enjoy on a paleo diet. Let’s take a look at some of them now to show you what you can eat in between your meals.
- Nuts and seeds
- High fiber muffin
- Strawberry rhubarb crisp
- Chia pudding
- Chocolate oatmeal protein smoothie
- Coconut-crusted cinnamon bananas
- Carrot sticks and dip
You can have the snacks at any point in the day when you feel hungry. This could be a mid-morning snack and a mid-afternoon snack, or you might choose to have one snack as dessert after dinner.
A lot of these snacks can be used as desserts, meaning you don’t need to avoid a sweet treat after dinner!
These snacks will be similar to those on other diets, especially fruit, nuts, and hummus. We recommend that you incorporate a mixture of these snacks into your diet every day.
By all means, have a banana or some orange slices mid-morning, but why not enjoy a paleo cookie after dinner or to perk you up at 3pm?
Any diet is all about balance. Although the paleo diet sees you focusing on whole foods that are naturally found (and could be gathered or hunted), that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a tasty sweet treat!
There are plenty of natural sweeteners and flavorings that you can use to create delicious snacks and desserts.
Is Paleo A Good Diet?
Paleo is a controversial diet for many people as it can be seen as incredibly restrictive, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is a bad choice.
This helps people to lose weight, and you can expect to see weight loss within the first week of following the diet.
You do need to watch out for foods with a high-fat content, like nuts. While the fat in nuts is healthy and good for you, eating large amounts is not good for you. Make sure you are eating the correct portion size of nuts.
Paleo is considered a good diet from a health point of view. The diet has been linked to weight loss, lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and even heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases.
Research conducted in Spain looked at the long-term dietary patterns of young adults, where they saw lower risks for cardiovascular disease and obesity.
A large chunk of this comes from avoiding highly processed foods and focusing on fresh fruit and vegetables.
It’s no secret that reducing the number of processed foods you eat can improve your physical health, so cutting them out entirely as the paleo diet suggests is sure to boost your health!
But the other side to this is that the diet can be restrictive to follow. While this isn’t a problem if you are making all your meals at home, it can make eating out or enjoying a meal at a friend’s house an issue.
Of course, you can modify dishes prepared at restaurants (or check out paleo-friendly restaurants) and take your own dish to a friend’s house, but it can be tricky.
You might find yourself needing to change or cancel plans to stick to your diet, which can impact your mental health.
Having a meal or day off from the paleo diet isn’t going to set your progress back, but it might boost your mood massively.
We always suggest following any diet with a degree of flexibility. You don’t want to be so focused on your diet that you forget to enjoy your life!
There don’t seem to be any negative long-term side effects to the paleo diet, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t faced criticism for being a restrictive diet. We recommend that you do your research before deciding if this is the right diet for you.
What Is Some Criticism Of The Paleo Diet?
The most common criticism paleo receives is its exclusion of legumes and whole grains. These foods are good sources of protein, fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients your body needs.
By excluding these from your diet, it can be harder to get the nutrients that your body needs.
The same applies to the exclusion of low-fat dairy products, which are a good source of fiber, calcium, protein, and other nutrients. By cutting these out, you are making your job of getting the nutrients your body needs far harder.
You might need to do extra research to ensure that your body is getting all the nutrients it needs from food, or even include some multivitamin and mineral supplements.
Typically, people who do not eat legumes, whole grains, or dairy products are deficient in vitamin D, B vitamins, and calcium.
If these deficiencies are left unchecked for extended periods, you run the risk of developing bone fractures and osteoporosis.
It is vital that you provide your body with calcium, vitamins, and minerals to ensure that your body is healthy and functioning properly.
Another big criticism of the paleo diet is the cost. Legumes, whole grains, and dairy products tend to be more affordable and widely available. Think how much a bag of pasta or rice costs compared to grass-fed animals or chia seeds.
The cost of following a strict paleo diet can be astronomical compared to a typical food shop.
It can also be harder to find and might leave you shopping in multiple stores, whereas previously you only needed to visit one store.
It’s worth considering the availability and cost of the food you need to follow a paleo diet before deciding if it is the one for you.
The last thing you want is to find out that it’s going to cost you far more and that you need to drive further to find the ingredients you need!
Will I Lose Weight Doing Paleo?
Yes, most people lose weight when following the paleo diet! It’s hard to say how much weight you will lose when following a paleo diet, as this varies from person to person, but you are likely to see weight loss.
As you are not eating overly processed foods, the fat and sugar content of your diet is likely to drop. By sticking to three meals and two snacks that are paleo-friendly, you are likely to drop a few pounds in the first week.
This does depend on how well you stick to the diet and the choices you make. If you are eating very large portions, deep frying all your vegetables, and eating packets of salted nuts, then it’s unlikely you will see a difference.
Some people report significant weight loss on a paleo diet, whereas others may only lose half a stone or so.
The amount of weight you lose on a paleo diet also depends on whether you add any exercise to your daily or weekly routine. Exercising for thirty minutes a day will help to burn extra calories and fat, promoting weight loss.
Ensure that you are correctly fuelling your body for any exercise and staying hydrated at all times.
If you are considering undertaking new activities or exercises while following the paleo diet, be sure to reach out to your doctor for some advice.
It is always best to seek some professional medical advice, especially if you have any medical conditions.
Should I Calorie Count On Paleo?
Traditionally, no you do not have a calorie count when following the paleo diet. The diet restricts the food groups that typically contribute high calories to diets, like highly processed foods and large portions of grains.
Calorie counting on paleo would make the diet even more restrictive and could leave you struggling to provide your body with the nutrients that it needs.
Instead of calorie counting on paleo, you should turn your focus to providing your body with the nutrients it needs.
You will also want to include a good protein selection that will keep you full and provide you with some extra energy. Combine this with a good selection of healthy fats from nuts, seeds, and oils, and you have got yourself a balanced diet!
Providing that you are eating everything in moderation, you should not need to count calories. If you are exercising too, you will want to ensure that your body is getting some extra energy to power through your workout.
This could be as simple as a piece of fruit before you work out, or a protein based snack (like carrot sticks and some hummus) alongside your lunch.
Most people following a paleo diet do not have a calorie count. Instead, they look at the foods they are eating and ensure they are eating the correct portion. By enjoying your foods in moderation, there is little need to calorie count.
If you are new to the paleo diet or are struggling to lose weight while following paleo, it is worth calorie counting, or at least writing down everything you eat over the course of a week.
This can allow you to see clearly any patterns or areas where you are overeating, allowing you to make the necessary changes.
Typically eating too much protein or carbohydrates is the reason people following the paleo diet do not lose weight.
Is Paleo Vegan-Friendly?
The paleo diet isn’t the easiest one to follow as a vegan, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. There are lots of vegan-friendly paleo recipes you can follow, but it would be tricky for vegans to follow a healthy diet long-term on paleo.
This is because a lot of vegan protein sources, like legumes and beans, are excluded from the paleo diet. The same applies to tofu, soy, tempeh, and other vegan protein sources.
This is extremely limiting for a vegan or vegetarian, as the paleo diet revolves around you eating meat as your main protein source.
The argument for excluding legumes, including soy and tofu, is that these were not consumed by our ancestors when they were gathering or hunting their food.
Because it was not eaten by our ancestors, our bodies are not genetically adapted to digest them properly (so paleo diet followers argue), meaning it is to be excluded.
There is an argument that this is because these legumes can cause inflammation, but this has since been proven wrong. Soy and other legumes have anti-inflammatory properties that can even help with some cardiovascular diseases!
It is because of this research that some vegans using the paleo diet will consume soy and other legumes.
They might not consume them every day, but they will follow an adapted paleo diet that allows them to consume legumes as their protein source.
Below is a list of plant-based protein sources that vegans can use when following the paleo diet:
- Nuts and seeds
- Vegetables (mushrooms and artichokes have the highest protein content per serving size)
- Root vegetables
- Virgin nut and fruit oils
- Fruits and berries
There is a lot less choice when it comes to following a vegan paleo diet, with many vegans finding it quite restrictive to follow.
Adapting it to include legumes is a good way to boost the protein content, even if these are only eaten occasionally.
As a vegan, you will need to decide for yourself whether the paleo diet is a good choice for you. Mainly it comes down to how you prefer to get protein in your diet.
What Is The Difference Between Paleo And Keto?
Keto is a similar diet to paleo, but there are some differences you should be aware of. The keto diet excludes starchy vegetables, most fruits, sugar, and natural sweeteners, whereas the paleo diet does not.
Keto is focused on reducing excess fat in the body, often caused by eating too much sugar and carbohydrates. Typically, when following a keto diet you would consume the following:
- 5 – 10% carbohydrates
- 20 – 25% protein
- 70 – 80% fat
Both diets focus on healthy fats, nuts, and vegetables, but the exclusion of different foods is what separates them. Let’s take a look now at what is allowed on keto and paleo diets and what is excluded from them.
- Seeds and nuts – allowed on both
- Unprocessed seafood and meat – allowed on both
- Eggs – allowed on both
- Non-starchy vegetables – allowed on both
- Healthy fats – allowed on both
- Dairy – only allowed on keto
- Sugar-free sweeteners – only allowed on keto
- Natural sweeteners – only allowed on paleo
- Most fruits – only allowed on paleo
- Starch vegetables – only allowed on paleo
- Brown and white sugar – not allowed on both
- Processed foods – not allowed on both
- Legumes – not allowed on both
- Grains – not allowed on both
As you can see, there is a great deal of overlapping between both diets. They both favor whole foods and exclude highly processed foods.
There is an elimination of most carbs in both, although keto does take this further with the exclusion of starchy vegetables.
It is worth looking at the list and seeing which diet would better suit you. Remember, you need to get all your energy, vitamins, and minerals from your food, so make sure you choose the diet that will allow you to do this easily.
Think about the meals you currently make and enjoy, what could you tailor to suit a keto or paleo diet?
And there you have it, a beginner’s guide to paleo! Whether you were curious about the diet, and its success, or wanted some meal inspiration, we hope you have found what you were looking for today!
Although the paleo diet is restrictive, it is a good way to increase your fruit and vegetable intake and focus on more natural foods that are not processed.
Make sure that you pay attention to the nutrients you are fuelling your body with to ensure it is getting the nutrition it needs.
By doing so, a paleo diet can be a good way to focus on eating whole and nutritious foods, helping you to get your health and even weight under control.
Don’t forget to stick with us over at GracefullPlate for more of our paleo-friendly recipes, advice, and all your other recipes and food-related content! We are thrilled to have you with us!