The Paleo Diet, also known as the caveman diet, exists to replicate what the human hunter-gatherer ancestors would have eaten a long time ago. Although these caveman human ancestors existed all around the world and would have had many different diets, researchers have concluded that their diet would have consisted of whole foods since they didn't have many of the tools that we have today to process food.
The assumption of this diet is that hunter-gatherers would have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity because of their diet as well as their active lifestyle. According to an article in the Medical Journal of Australia: "The Paleolithic or hunter-gatherer diet is currently popular for weight loss, diabetes management and general wellbeing. It recommends avoidance of processed food, refined sugars, legumes, dairy, grains and cereals, and instead it advocates for grass-fed meat, wild fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts and “healthy” saturated fat." (1)
More research needs to be conducted about the effects of the paleo diet. However, studies show that people have lost significant amounts of weight and improve their health by following a paleo model for eating.
This information will help you understand what to eat on the paleo diet and give you an example grocery list that you can take to the store to get started.
Paleo Basic Meal Plan
When you're first starting out, finding paleo food seems challenging if it's a different way to eat from your usual diet. Fortunately, Paleolithic eating is more of a mindset than a strict rule that you need to follow. There are general guidelines that you can adapt to meet your preferences and needs.
Paleolithic humans most likely survived on whatever was available in their area at a certain time of the year like meat, fruit, nuts, and veggies. So, the basic principles are to avoid obviously processed foods, artificial sweeteners, dairy products, and sugar. A good rule of thumb is that if it looks processed, it is.
You can enjoy naturally occurring healthy foods like healthy fats and oils, spices, herbs, seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat, or fish. Many people think that the paleo diet is just eating hunks of meat every day. But you want to have a well-rounded diet full of many different types of foods to get all of the nutrients you need.
Foods to Eat
Some examples of paleo-friendly foods include:
Foods to Avoid
Even in the health food section, you still want to read the ingredients list to find out if something is friendly to the paleo diet. The food and ingredients that you want to avoid putting on your shopping list include:
Making Modifications to Paleo Dieting
Generally, the paleo diet is grain-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free. There are currently different versions of the diet, and some of them allow leniency and these categories. For example, some people include rice and other gluten-free grains or even high-fat dairy products such as grass-fed butter.
While some people may never put any form of processed snacks from the store on their shopping list, others look for paleo-certified products and incorporate them into their diet occasionally or as a dessert.
In the Modern Age, it is hard to eat exactly like a caveman. So, one can view the paleo diet as a template instead of a rigorous set of instructions. Once you understand the basis of the diet, you can make any alternations that you need to set yourself up for success.
What to Drink
Your main beverage should be water. However, many people continue to drink coffee and green tea because these beverages are full of beneficial ingredients and antioxidants. You may also want to get some sparkling water, coconut water, or kombucha. While red wine is not completely paleo, many people still enjoy it in small amounts.
Some Paleo Snacks
When you get hungry between meals, it's important to know the foods you can eat for a good snack. These foods obviously include nuts, fruits, and veggies. Some examples of store-bought paleo snacks that you can add to your shopping cart include:
You can also find recipes for paleo salsa and sauces as well as grain-free chips or veggie chips. You don't want to overindulge on the fatty snacks, especially if you aim to lose a lot of weight, so keep it to a handful of whatever you're snacking on. If you have three meals per day that are high-quality, you shouldn't need to snack too often.
When it comes to weight loss, clinical expert Laura Andromalos claims that "Paleolithic diets have been effective at promoting weight loss in the short-term, even when the weight loss is unintentional." (2)
Sample Shopping List
The following is an example shopping list that you can take with you to get started on the Paleo diet for beginners:
Meat and Fish
When it comes to fruits, it's important to pick those with a low sugar content if you are worried about carbohydrates. If you're on a weight loss program, make sure to avoid dried fruits and fruit juices. Fruit such as grapes, bananas, watermelon, oranges, pears, and blueberries have high sugar content. When possible, choose fruits that have soft send skins and are organic.
Similarly, there are some vegetables that you want to only eat sparingly (especially if you want to lose weight). These veggies include potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and yams. Some of the fattier nuts you also want to eat sparingly are Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, and almond butter.
If you do want to drink milk, get whole milk that is pasteurized and grass-fed. Naturally, you will avoid processed foods such as potato chips and popcorn. With seafood, get wild-caught and not farmed food. If you do get processed Meats such as bacon or chicken sausages, try to get organic, grass-fed, and nitrate-free meat.
Weekly Sample Menu
Few things are worse than returning from the grocery store and still not knowing what to cook. So, after you have completed your shopping list, it is important to plan your meals so that you know what you're eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Here are some examples of paleo meals for every part of your day.
For breakfast, you may want to eat a piece of fruit with some bacon and eggs; breakfast meat and fruit; or eggs, fresh vegetables fried in coconut oil or olive oil. For lunch, you could have meat and fresh vegetables in a lettuce leaf wrap, a handful of nuts with chicken salad and olive oil, ground beef stir-fry with fresh vegetables, and of course, leftovers from your dinner the previous night.
There are plenty of options for an easy paleo dinner, including fresh vegetables with grilled chicken wings, baked salmon with avocado and veggies, a dinner steak with vegetables, pork fried in olive oil, or fish or chicken fried in butter. You can also make bunless burgers using any meat and pair it with veggies.
If you're looking to lose quite a bit of weight with your diet paleo, you should cut carbs as much as you can and limit the intake of even healthy fats such as many nuts.
Read our review of paleo meal services to make shopping easier.
A true paleo diet does not include dairy products such as yogurt, ice cream, cream, cheese, and a cow's milk. However, some people do choose to incorporate the occasional dairy products in their Paleo Diet such as butter and cheese. If you are averse to dairy products, that would be a good reason to avoid them. If not, you can choose for yourself whether or not to consume some in moderation on your Paleo Diet. When seeking to lose weight, it is best to avoid these products.
While you want to avoid processed foods, there is a wide variety of paleo health foods that you can eat. You want to eat grass-fed and organic meat, fish, eggs such as veal, goat, lamb, beef, steak, free-range poultry, and wild-caught seafood.
You can also eat plenty of vegetables and fruits. Paleo focuses on healthy fats from nuts and certain oils such as almonds, cashews, walnuts, chia seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil. You can enjoy cashew butter and almond butter as well, as long as there's no added sugar.
To sweeten your food, use natural sweeteners such as coconut sugar, maple syrup, and honey. For drinks, you want options with no artificial sweetener and not much added sugar such as water, tea, and coffee. You don't have to worry about calorie-counting unless it's part of your fitness needs.
The healthy paleo diet restricts the consumption of grains such as cereal grains, barley, crackers, bread, pasta, corn, wheat, oats, rice, and quinoa. So no, oatmeal is not paleo-friendly.
The 30-day paleo challenge was created to aid in weight loss. There are several different menus that you can use to complete your challenge easily or you can make your own. This menu could include foods like stuffed bell peppers, baked chicken, Dijon pork chops, salmon fillet with vegetables such as asparagus or sweet potato, turkey BLT roll-ups, a Chipotle bowl, salad, eggs, and bacon. You can also have a number of paleo-friendly snacks such as produce, nuts, and jerky.
Final Thoughts - Diets Paleo Shopping List
The way you follow your diet might look different than someone else's way. Start with one week of paleo and go from there. As a reminder, you want to consume veggies, fruits, nuts, seafood, eggs, meat, healthy fats, and oils. Avoid processed foods, sugar, and grains.
Once you nail a focus on healthy foods, you can't go wrong. Making a shopping list before you go to the grocery store is the easiest way to make sure that you are sticking to your paleo diet. Decide in advance what meals you will eat for the week and get the ingredients that you need for those items.If you struggle to find a lot of options for paleo foods in your location, try going to a health food store or you can even try paleo meal delivery services. Once you get used to the diet, you will have no problem knowing what is and is not paleo-approved.
- Andrikopoulos, S. (2016). The Paleo diet and diabetes. The Medical Journal of Australia, 205(4), 151-152.
- Andromalos, L. (2018). The Paleo Diet. In Clinical Guide to Popular Diets (pp. 71-86). CRC Press.