Is Paleo a Meat-Based or Plant Based Diet? | The Paleo Diet®
noun_Search_345985 Created with Sketch.

Try The Paleo Diet®!

Learn more. Get recipes & meal plans. See the science.

Is The Paleo Diet Meat or Plant-Based?

By The Paleo Diet Team
March 19, 2021

There is an unfortunate misconception about The Paleo Diet® that it is a primarily meat-based diet. Images abound of a brutish caveman (a term we don’t like here at The Paleo Diet) clubbing his food to death and eating it raw in a dark cave.

Unfortunately, that perception of the diet was furthered by a misinterpretation of one of Dr. Loren Cordain’s first studies where he noted that most hunter-gatherer societies that have been studied consumed over 50 percent of their food from animal sources versus plant sources. [1] It’s a misinterpretation because he was describing their diets by calorie, not by volume—and there’s a very big difference.

To give you a humorous analogy, if you went to a restaurant and the waiter handed you a plate with a very small piece of steak and a giant pile of broccoli, you wouldn’t say, “Well, that’s alright because calorically they’re about equal.” No, instead, you would hand the plate back to the waiter and steal that marketing slogan from the 1980s, exclaiming “Where’s the beef?!”

That's because you'd be looking at the plate for the volume of items on it—and by volume or weight the Paleo Diet is primarily a plant-based diet.

Is The Paleo Diet Meat or Plant-Based? image
What Does “Plant-Based” Really Mean?
By Betsy Schroeder


[1] Cordain L, Miller JB, Eaton SB, Mann N, Holt SH, Speth and JD. Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71:682–92.

Even More Articles For You

Homemade Beef Bone Broth Recipe
Bone broth has many heath benefits and is tastier than normal stock. Try it in your soup, stew, gravy or even as a recovery drink!
By Jennafer Ashley
Eating Disorders, Mental Health, and the Gut Microbiome
With 30 million people in the US suffering from eating disorders, what can we tell from the gut microbial populations and what role does diet play?
By Casey Thaler
Soy, Sugar's Cohort in Causing Obesity
If America is serious about reversing degenerative diseases, soy must share the spotlight with sugar as one of the villains behind our obesity pandemic.
By Christopher Clark
Paleo Leadership
Trevor Connor
Trevor Connor

Dr. Loren Cordain’s final graduate student, Trevor Connor, M.S., brings more than a decade of nutrition and physiology expertise to spearhead the new Paleo Diet team.

Mark J Smith
Dr. Mark J. Smith

One of the original members of the Paleo movement, Mark J. Smith, Ph.D., has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the benefits of Paleo nutrition.

Nell Stephenson
Nell Stephenson

Ironman athlete, mom, author, and nutrition blogger Nell Stephenson has been an influential member of the Paleo movement for over a decade.

Loren Cordain
Dr. Loren Cordain

As a professor at Colorado State University, Dr. Loren Cordain developed The Paleo Diet® through decades of research and collaboration with fellow scientists around the world.