Paleo Diet Food List

Paleo Diet Food List

Before around 10,000 years ago, humans were primarily hunter-gatherers, eating wild animals and naturally available plants. The Agricultural Revolution brought a drastic change in the human diet: cultivated cereal grains and legumes became staple foods as we switched from a hunter-gatherer to an agricultural society. 10,000 years ago might seem like ancient history, but in evolutionary terms, it’s not very long – definitely not long enough to adjust from meat and vegetables to pizza and beer!

The basic principle of the Paleo diet food list is that, since our bodies haven’t yet adjusted to the changes of the Agricultural Revolution, we’re better off returning to the diet that we did evolve to eat: meat, vegetables, and fruits, with minimal or no grains and legumes and absolutely no modern processed foods (if we haven’t evolved to eat wheat over the last 10,000 years, we certainly haven’t evolved to eat Pop-Tarts over the last 50!). In general, the Paleo diet allows almost all meats, fruits, and non-starchy vegetables. There is some debate about what to eat on Paleo, and minor variations among different versions of the Paleo diet food list (some allow dairy, and some do not, for example). These disputed foods are a Paleo “gray areas” – the best way to decide whether or not to include them in your own diet is to research them yourself and notice their effects on your body. Don’t forget to also check out our paleo snack list.

Encouraged Foods

Meat and Eggs

Meat is the foundation of the Paleo food list. High-quality animal products are the most essential part of a Paleo diet – get grass-fed and organic meat if you can. The Paleo diet is a great way to try out new meats you otherwise wouldn’t consider, like buffalo (bison), rabbit, or organ meats. Note that Loren Cordain’s original high-protein version of the Paleo diet food list specifies lean meats, while many newer Paleo diet plans encourage fatty meats and consider fat to be a much better energy source.

Lean Meats

  • Lean beef (trimmed of visible fat)
  • Flank steak
  • Top sirloin steak
  • Extra-lean hamburger (no more than 7% fat, extra fat drained off)
  • London broil
  • Chuck steak
  • Lean veal
  • Lean pork (trimmed of visible fat)
  • Pork loin
  • Pork chops
  • Chicken breast (skin removed)
  • Turkey breast (skin removed)
  • Game hen breasts
  • Rabbit meat
  • Goat meat

Fatty Meats

  • Bacon
  • Beef ribs
  • Chicken and turkey legs
  • Chicken and turkey skin
  • Chicken and turkey thighs and wings*
  • Fatty beef roasts
  • Fatty cuts of beef
  • Fatty ground beef
  • Fatty pork chops
  • Fatty pork roasts
  • Lamb chops
  • Lamb roasts
  • Leg of lamb
  • Pork ribs
  • Pork sausage
  • T—bone steaks

Game Meats

  • Alligator
  • Bear
  • Bison (buffalo)
  • Caribou
  • Elk
  • Emu
  • Goose
  • Kangaroo
  • Muscovy duck
  • New Zealand cervena deer
  • Ostrich
  • Pheasant
  • Quail
  • Rattlesnake
  • Reindeer
  • Squab
  • Turtle
  • Venison
  • Wild boar
  • Wild turkey

Organ Meats

  • Liver
  • Tongue
  • Marrow
  • Sweetbreads
  • Heart
  • Kidney


  • Bass
  • Bluefish
  • Cod
  • Drum
  • Eel
  • Flatfish
  • Grouper
  • Haddock
  • Halibut
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Monkfish
  • Mullet
  • Northern pike
  • Orange roughy
  • Perch
  • Red snapper
  • Rockfish
  • Salmon
  • Scrod
  • Shark
  • Striped bass
  • Sunfish
  • Tilapia
  • Trout
  • Tuna
  • Turbot
  • Walleye


  • Abalone
  • Clams
  • Crab
  • Crayfish
  • Lobster
  • Mussels
  • Oysters
  • Scallops
  • Shrimp


  • Chicken eggs
  • Turkey eggs
  • Quail eggs
  • Any other eggs (preferably from free-range or organically raised birds)

Non-Starchy Vegetables

On the Paleo diet, you can eat as many non-starchy vegetables as you want – try them steamed, sautéed, roasted, or raw. Every Paleo diet food list contains non-starchy vegetables; some versions of the Paleo diet also allow starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes. Also note that although corn is often served as a vegetable, it is actually a grain.

Non-Starchy Vegetables

  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Beet greens
  • Beets
  • Bell Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Collards
  • Cucumber
  • Dandelion
  • Eggplant
  • Endive
  • Green onions
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Mustard greens
  • Onions
  • Parsley
  • Parsnip
  • Peppers (all kinds)
  • Pumpkin
  • Purslane
  • Radish
  • Rutabaga
  • Seaweed
  • Spinach
  • Squash (all kinds)
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomatillos
  • Tomato (actually a fruit, but most people think of it as a vegetable)
  • Turnip greens
  • Turnips
  • Watercress

Foods to Moderate


Popular diet wisdom groups “fruits and vegetables” together as nutritious foods we should all eat more of. But popular diet wisdom also extolls the virtues of “healthy whole grains!” The problem with modern fruits is that they’ve been selectively bred for sweetness, so they do contain a lot of sugar – essentially, fruit is nature’s candy bar. Thus, the Paleo diet food list encourages fruits, but only in reasonable amounts. Fruits are a great Paleo snack option, but if you’re trying to lose weight, be careful to moderate your fruit consumption – 2-3 servings per day is fine; a huge basket of bananas for supper is going overboard. Dried fruits are especially energy-dense, and very easy to overeat.

  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Boysenberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carambola
  • Cassava melon
  • Cherimoya
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Figs
  • Gooseberries
  • Grapefruit
  • Grapes
  • Guava
  • Honeydew melon
  • Kiwi
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Lychee
  • Mango
  • Nectarine
  • Orange
  • Papaya
  • Passion fruit
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Persimmon
  • Pineapple
  • Plums
  • Pomegranate
  • Raspberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Star fruit
  • Strawberries
  • Tangerine
  • Watermelon

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts (except for peanuts, which are actually legumes!) are definitely on the Paleo food list: a tasty and nutritious Paleo snack, they’re full of important trace minerals like magnesium and selenium. Unfortunately, they’re so delicious and energy-dense that they’re easy to overeat. Nuts also contain a high ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids, which can cause inflammation and other problems if you eat too many. Wondering what to eat on Paleo, many people consume far too many nuts because they use nut-based flours to make Paleo “bread” and “muffins” – try to avoid these and focus on enjoying Paleo foods rather than trying to imitate wheat products. This doesn’t mean you should give up nuts forever, but aim for 1-2 servings per day at most, and make sure to get nuts that haven’t been roasted in peanut oil.

  • Brazil nuts
  • Cashews
  • Chestnuts
  • Hazelnuts (filberts)
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pecans
  • Pine nuts
  • Pistachios (unsalted)
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Walnuts

“Gray Area” Foods

Starchy Vegetables

Loren Cordain’s original Paleo Diet food list doesn’t include these at all, but many other versions of the Paleo diet (for example, the Perfect Health Diet) do allow them in moderation. There is no one right answer: some people thrive on a very low carbohydrate Paleo diet; others prefer moderate levels of carbs from starchy vegetables. Whether or not starchy vegetables have a place on your individual Paleo food list will depend on your personal dietary needs.

  • Starchy tubers
  • Cassava root
  • Manioc
  • Tapioca
  • Potatoes and all potato products (French fries, potato chips, etc.)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yams


Dairy is another “gray area” – many people react poorly to dairy products, but some versions of the Paleo diet food list allow small amounts of dairy if it doesn’t cause you any problems. For many people, it can be very useful to eliminate all dairy at first, to test for any sensitivities, and then slowly add it back in if you don’t notice any issues. If you do have difficulty digesting milk products, definitely avoid them. Some people also find that they have fewer problems with raw (unpasteurized) dairy than with commercially available pasteurized products.

  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Cream
  • Dairy spreads
  • Frozen yogurt
  • Ice cream
  • Ice milk
  • Kefir
  • Low-fat milk
  • Nonfat dairy creamer
  • Powdered milk
  • Skim milk
  • Whole milk
  • Yogurt

Salt-Containing Foods

Public health authorities regularly encourage us all to consume less salt, but the research behind these recommendations is not nearly as conclusive as most people believe. Since salt is such a hotly debated topic, some variations of the Paleo diet food list allow you to eat as much salt as you like, while others exclude all salt-containing foods.

  • Almost all commercial salad dressings and condiments
  • Bacon
  • Cheese
  • Deli meats
  • Frankfurters
  • Ham
  • Hot dogs
  • Ketchup
  • Olives
  • Pickled foods
  • Pork rinds
  • Processed meats
  • Salami
  • Salted nuts
  • Salted spices
  • Sausages
  • Smoked, dried, and salted fish and meat
  • Virtually all canned meats and fish (unless they are unsalted or unless you soak and drain them)

Foods to Avoid

Cereal Grains and Pseudograins

Grains and Pseudograins (foods like quinoa that technically belong to a different biological group but share many harmful characteristics of cereal grains) don’t belong on the Paleo diet food list because they’re products of the Agricultural Revolution. Before then, we didn’t have the chance to eat them in large quantities, if at all, so we haven’t evolved the ability to digest them properly. They won’t kill us, but they also won’t keep us as healthy as we could be – especially after years of selective breeding and genetic modification, and a heavy dose of modern processing methods.

  • Barley (barley soup, barley bread, and all processed foods made with barley)
  • Corn (corn on the cob, corn tortillas, corn chips, corn starch, corn syrup)
  • Millet
  • Oats (steel-cut oats, rolled oats, and all processed foods made with oats)
  • Rice (brown rice, white rice, top ramen, rice noodles, bas mati rice, rice cakes, Rice flour (all processed foods made with rice)
  • Rye (rye bread, rye crackers, and all processed foods made with rye)

  • Sorghum
  • Wheat (bread, rolls, muffins, noodles, crackers, cookies, cake, doughnuts, pancakes, waffles, pasta, spaghetti, lasagna, wheat tortillas, pizza, pita bread, flat bread, and all processed foods made with wheat or wheat flour)
  • Wild rice
  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa


Like grains, legumes are too recent (from an evolutionary perspective) for our digestive systems. They contain several gut-irritating chemical compounds, such as lectins, saponins, and phytic acid. While it’s possible to prepare some legumes in ways that will minimize some of these compounds, it’s best to eliminate them as much as possible. They do contain nutrients, but legumes also have too many toxins to belong on any Paleo food list.

  • All beans (adzuki beans, black beans, broad beans, fava beans, field beans, garbanzo beans, horse beans, kidney beans, lima beans, mung beans, navy beans, pinto beans, red beans, string beans, white beans)
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Chickpeas
  • Peas
  • Lentils
  • Miso
  • Peanut butter
  • Peanuts
  • Snowpeas
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Soybeans and all soybean products, including tofu

Commercially Processed Foods

Processed foods are designed to be cheap, easy to store, and addictively tasty. To do this, food manufacturers load them down with all kinds of artificial dyes, preservatives, and flavorings. These chemicals are terrible for your body in every respect – if you need a Paleo weekend project, try Googling every ingredient in a can of Coke and seeing what else those chemicals is used for! The Paleo food list excludes all processed foods; this might seem extremely restrictive at first, but as you develop a taste for real, whole foods, you’ll stop craving artificial concoctions of sugar and food coloring.

Processed Meats

  • Any bacon cured with nitrates or nitrites
  • Deli meats like bologna
  • Frankfurters, hot dogs, salami, sausages, or other processed meats that contain artificial ingredients (check the label carefully!)
  • Almost all canned meats and fish (check the label carefully)
  • Ham that contains artificial flavorings or ingredients.

Other Processed Foods

  • Anything with artificial sweeteners, preservatives, colorings, flavorings, or other strange chemicals
  • Anything with added sugar
No comments yet.

Leave a Reply