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What Can You Eat on The Paleo Diet?

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We get asked often what foods you can eat—and what foods to avoid—on The Paleo Diet. Since our organization created The Paleo Diet® under our founder, Dr. Loren Cordain, we offer this quick intro to foods that are Paleo, plus our Paleo Diet food list and a simplified version of the rules of The Paleo Diet.

The Paleo Diet, Simplified

Before people started organized farming and manufacturing foods, humans ate what was available to them in nature. And since we humans have spent a whole lot more time eating what we found than what we’ve farmed or made, our bodies tend to naturally prefer less processed, less industrialized foods. It’s healthier to stick to the old favorites.

That’s kind of it! Read on for some specifics.

The Paleo Diet Is Flexible

First off, know that our diet is really flexible, which means you can make it your own. We don’t recommend trying to eat 100% Paleo all of the time—or trying to follow a strict Paleo Diet as a newcomer. Instead, we advise people to transition slowly onto The Paleo Diet because we know flexibility is the key to eating healthy for a lifetime. After all, if you don’t love the way of eating you’ve chosen, you’ll never stick with it.

Plus, over 30 years of research and clinical practice, we have learned that people don’t have to follow The Paleo Diet to the letter to get the benefits of a naturally stronger and healthier body and mind. So we have built flexibility into our guidelines so that you can tailor your Paleo Diet to meet your personal needs.

You can eat 50-85% Paleo foods (or any other percentage) and still get stronger and healthier. See our guide, How to Practice The Paleo Diet, for our suggestions on ways to transition to Paleo eating and how to get the health benefits you see, whether that’s reducing inflammation, improving blood lipid profiles, controlling blood sugar, clearing your skin, or perhaps losing a few pounds.

Don’t Count Calories, Don’t Stress About Macronutrient Ratios

It’s really hard to overeat when you’re eating a nutrient-dense diet (the kind you get when you eat all natural foods), so on The Paleo Diet, you don’t have to count calories or calculate your macros. There’s no set macronutrient ratio, on purpose.

What Can You Eat on The Paleo Diet—and What Foods to Avoid

The Paleo Diet focuses on those foods we evolved eating for millions of years: plenty of vegetables and fruits, natural meats and seafood, and some nuts and seeds. See our quick reference infographic below.

Avoid Dairy, Grains, Legumes, and Processed Foods

The biggest categories of food to avoid are dairy, grains, legumes, and processed foods. We did not evolve eating these foods, and so our bodies are less healthy when we eat them today. You’ll also want to shy away from added sugar and salt as well as these surprisingly non-Paleo foods.

Of course, most people can enjoy any foods for up to 15% of meals and still get all the benefits of Paleo eating! Just remember to limit these foods as much as you can because better compliance with The Paleo Diet is associated with more health benefits.

We Believe in (Some) Beverage Flexibility

While coffee was off the table on Paleo for a long time, new research has convinced us that coffee is healthy for most people. You can also drink alcohol occasionally, but we suggest you opt for sulfite-free red wines or spirits over beer.

Enjoy Sweets Sparingly

If you’re missing cookies and cakes on The Paleo Diet, you can recreate some of your favorites using healthier-for-you natural sweeteners like honey instead of refined sugar, and almond flour instead of wheat flour or flours made from ancient grains. Just be aware that sweet treats should be enjoyed sparingly as part of your PaleoFLEX meals.

The Paleo Diet Food List

This infographic below shares the basic foods you can eat and the foods to avoid on The Paleo Diet. It’s not comprehensive, but it’s a great quick reference.

We also share a sample day of foods you might enjoy on The Paleo Diet. Curious for more? Be sure to see these resources:

What Can You Eat on The Paleo Diet? Paleo foods list and rules of The Paleo Diet

The Paleo Diet Team

The Paleo Diet® team consists of a group of scientists, journalists, experts, and recipe creators who stay at the forefront of nutrition science.

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