Tag Archives: paleo basics

Meal Plan | The Paleo Diet

Dear Dr. Cordain,

I’m a college student about to head into my second year this upcoming fall semester. I’ve decided to try The Paleo Diet and see how it works. I’ve always struggled with my weight and recently decided to do something about it. My school requires those who live in the dorms to have a meal plan (14 meals per week). I don’t want to waste all the meals that I’ve already had to pay for. My question is how can I follow strict Paleo with dorm food. I’m hoping to go to the onsite nutritionist and try to see if that will help (telling them I’m lactose intolerant). And, while they do have a salad bar, I’m just looking for advice so I can stay true to The Paleo Diet.

Thank You,


Kyle Cordain’s Response:


I am glad to hear that you are off on the right foot with improving your weight and overall health. It can be difficult at first to adhere to a Paleo lifestyle, but with time it becomes easier and your body and mind will thank you for it.

Most colleges and universities require first year students to live in on-campus dormitories. Many people perceive dormitories as a setback when going to college, but there are definitely many benefits to “dorm life.” Living on-campus is great for meeting new people and to learn the basics of being independent. Plus, it ensures that you have access to all of the study tools and resources that you need to succeed as an undergraduate. That being said, it can be quite difficult to stick to The Paleo Diet especially when your school requires you to purchase a meal plan that probably does not include many Paleo-friendly options. Fortunately, there are plenty of options that you can consider to make sure that your healthy eating plan is not compromised by your school’s conventional eating plans.

First, I would contact your school’s dining hall service and see if you can obtain nutrition facts, including labels, food sources, and the like for every item offered in the varied meal plan options. Go through the list of all food options and highlight those that adhere to Paleo. You mentioned that there is a salad bar available, so if there is a fairly decent amount of fresh vegetables and fruit, half the battle is won.

Typically, the biggest challenge with eating “dorm-food” is sourcing quality meat, eggs, and other protein sources. More often than not, the dining Halls provide meat that is far from what we would label Paleo. It is quite the challenge to find a meal plan that offers grass-fed meat, free of preservatives, salt, sugars, nitrites, and nitrates. Often dining halls will source the cheapest factory raised meat that is available, and cook up a dish that is smothered with gluten, sugar, and or salt-infested sauces that ultimately make the meat non-Paleo. It’s also worth mentioning that factory raised meat, is usually raised on corn or soy, and is loaded with hormones or antibiotics. The omega-3 and omega-6 balance ratio becomes disrupted when animals are raised on diets rich in grains and soy where the byproduct is inflammatory and not very good for you.

If I were you, I would speak to an administrator in your university’s dining services and explain that you have one or more food intolerance and that you are striving to follow a specific diet that the dorm meal plan simply does not permit. If they cannot make an exception, meet them in the middle and try to shorten your meal plan to only seven meals per week or fewer. Make sure to stock up on lots of fresh fruit, veggies, and nuts which you can store in a mini fridge in your dorm room. Depending on fire codes provided by housing and dining services, you may also consider bringing a hotplate to cook eggs, chicken, steak, and stir-fry dishes.

Many universities are beginning to diet is a heightened concern for many people and now offer public kitchens where students can cook meals on their own time. If you do not have access to a kitchen on-campus, stick with upperclassmen and other friends that live off-campus who will let you use their kitchens. After all, cooking and food bring people together.

I wish you the best of luck with school and your new Paleo lifestyle!

Kyle Cordain
The Paleo Diet Team

Commonly Asked Questions | The Paleo Diet

Commonly Asked Questions

1. What is the most potential danger following The Paleo Diet?

There are no known adverse health effects of the diet in most people.  Pregnant women should not exceed 25% of their calories from protein, as the liver is less able to detoxify protein during pregnancy.

2. There is no Vitamin D consumed in the Paleolithic Diet. In your article, “The Nutritional Characteristics of a Contemporary Diet Based Upon Paleolithic Food Groups,” you write that sunlight is the only way our ancestors got Vitamin D. Today, with all the new research, how do you suggest we get our Vitamin D?

I suggest taking between 2,000 to 4,000 IU of vitamin daily if you cannot obtain regular sun exposure.

3. Since there is no calorie counting in the Paleolithic Diet, how can a person lose weight?

Refined sugars, refined grains, refined vegetable oils and dairy comprise 70% of the calories in the US diet.  By reducing these foods and replacing with fresh fruits, vegetables, grass produced meats, fish and seafood, we can make our diets more nutritionally dense and increase the satiety value of our foods — both of which will help to promote weight loss, along with elimination of processed foods.

4. If there really is “no limit” on how much to eat, how do you approach a healthy balance of the allowed foods?

Real foods such as grass produced or free ranging meats, fish, seafood and fruits and vegetables are self-limiting.  Your body gives your brain signals to stop eating with these foods when you are full,  whereas it is quite easy to overeat nutrient depleted processed foods made from refined sugars, grains and vegetable oils, etc.
5. If a person has never shown a hypersensitivity to milk, legumes or grains will they feel the benefits of The Paleo Diet?

Yes.  These foods contain a variety of antinutrients and nutritional qualities which may adversely affect health in a manner that is not always obvious to the consumer.

6. What is your opinion on the use supplements for vitamins and minerals?

Except for vitamin D and fish oil (if you don’t regularly eat fatty fish), most antioxidant vitamins and minerals actually increase mortality from all causes.  See my most recent book, The Paleo Answer, for further information.

7. Do you think there are enough resources for our entire country and world to sustain a strictly Paleo Diet?

No.  But in the US and other countries, we are not suffering from diseases of under-consumption, but rather from diseases of over consumption.  Hence, most middle class US citizens can afford to eat high quality foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, grass produced meats and poultry, fish and seafood.

8. In your opinion, what is the main reason people choose not to go Paleo?

They are either unaware of the concept, or shy away from it because they have pre-conceived notions that it is “too restrictive.”  In fact, these are the same people who consume 70% of their calories from only 4 foods (refined sugars, refined grains, refined vegetable oils and dairy).  When prospective Paleo dieters remove these 4 foods, they will suddenly find themselves eating a more varied and nutrient rich diet than they ever, as fresh fruits, vegetables, grass produced meats, and seafood become their staples.

9. The Paleo Diet cuts out a lot of foods from the average human diet.  What do you think is the most important food for us to cut out of our diets? Sugar, dairy products, grains, legumes, unhealthy fats/oils, etc.? Or, is this question impossible answer since each of these foods affects our health differently?

As I pointed out in the previous question, these same 4 foods comprise 70% or more of the calories in the typical Western diet.  I think you would be hard pressed to find a nutritionist anywhere who would not believe that we could improve our health by reducing our intake of refined sugars, refined grains, refined vegetable oils and processed foods made from a combination of these ingredients.  Remember that in addition to reducing or eliminating these nutrient poor foods, the Paleo Diet also encourages people to eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, seafood and grass produced meats and poultry.

10. How has the Paleo diet personally effected (sic) your life?

It is most gratifying for me to see how people worldwide have improved their health and well-being and in achieving their personal fitness and health goals.

11. Is there anything you would like to add?

Give the diet two weeks and see how you feel.  Also, have your blood drawn before and after two weeks on the diet and show your results to your physician.


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

Paleo One-Two-Three | The Paleo Diet

Dr. Cordain:

Thanks for getting back to me.

My assignment is to compare 10 diets, with total cost being a component.

I have just three basic questions, though No. 3 (cost) gets complicated. I have read a bit about the diet and could answer some of the questions from the website, but I hope to get it in your words.

1. What is the basic tenet of the Paleo Diet, the underlying principle?

2. How does the diet work? For some, food is provided by the plan. For others, the diet offers guidelines. Some go through several phases, while others don’t.

3. What does it cost to be on the diet? For the ones that provide packaged food, this is fairly simple to answer. My understanding is that the Paleo Diet doesn’t, so what I’m hoping to get from you is an idea of what a day, week or month on this diet costs. If you don’t have those figures, I hope you can provide guidelines so the shopper I’m working with and I can come up with a menu, go to a grocery store and see what following the diet would cost.

That’s it. Please me ask if anything here is confusing.




Dr. Cordain’s Response:

Hi Mike,

The answers to these basic questions can be gleaned from any of the major websites (mine, Robb Wolf’s and Mark Sisson’s) in more detail than you probably need. My brief answers are as follows:

1. The basic tenet is to try to eat contemporary foods from the food groups our pre-agricultural ancestors ate (i.e. fresh meats, poultry, eggs, preferably grass produced, fresh fish, fresh seafood, fresh fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds and healthful fats (olive oil, coconut oil). Avoid processed foods, cereal grains, dairy, legumes, refined sugars, refined oils and salt. The evolutionary concept is that our basic genome (including our nutritional requirements) was shaped over millions of years of evolutionary experience and has changed little in the 10,000 years since the advent of agriculture. Hence our bodies are well adapted to the ancient hunter gatherer environment, including foods that produced our current day genome. Recently introduced foods are discordant with our genome and this discordance elicts the diseases of cilvization which run rampant in western societies. Hence, for the first time since all humans were hunter gatherers, the most powerful concept in all of biology (evolution through natural selection) has finally been applied to the study of optimal human nutrition.

2. The diet works as explained above. It really is not a diet per se, but rather a lifetime plan of eating to optimize health and well being. The idea behind this way of life is quite simple as explained above, and the consumer is free to buy and eat healthful foods ad libitum. So food really is not provided, but rather the consumer makes the decision on which healthful foods to eat that are consistent with the basic guidelines.

I really don’t know what you mean by stages? People are encouraged to be compliant, but the plan doesnt require 100 % compliance. Most people experience significant health benefits with 85-95 % compliance.

3. I haven’t analyzed the specific cost, but this information is available from a number of blogs and websites which provide tips of how to make this lifelong health plan affordable (buy in bulk, go to farmers markets, buy poultry, eggs and grass fed beef directly from the farmer and eliminate the middleman, etc..). Further, the cost would vary around the country and by which foods are chosen. Humanity’s cheap foods are cereals (wheat, corn, rice), sugars, vegetable oils, margarine, refined sugars, largely because they are subsidized by the US government. In the long run health care costs are dramatically reduced by eating Paleo. Additionally, many processed foods are considerably more costly than real foods (a pound of M&Ms is more costly than a pound of carrots, celery or broccoli — the same can be said for most packaged breakfast cereals. A dozen free ranging eggs bought directly from the farmer typically cost less than a box of sugar frosted flakes. A pound of grass produced beef bought in bulk (1/4 or 1/2 side) from the producer is only frequently less costly than fancy cuts of fed lot produced beef.


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

Affiliates and Credentials