Paleo Guide

Don’t get stumped wondering what the heck you can cook, order, buy, eat, etc. Use this guide so you know which foods to include, what’s off-limits, and what you can *maybe* sneak in on special occasions.

Generally speaking, you’re going to be enjoying animal proteins, lots of veggies, healthy fats, Paleo versions of your favorite unhealthy dishes (pancakes, muffins, breads, oh my), and the occasional homemade Paleo dessert. Experimenting with new ways to cook your usual favorites is what makes this diet so much fun, and in our opinion, totally doable.

The Dos: What You Can Eat

Animal Protein
Don’t think too hard about this one: It’s chicken, seafood, red meat, pork, repeat. Here are some extra suggestions:
  • Beef
  • Bison
  • Chicken
  • Clams
  • Duck
  • Eggs
  • Halibut
  • Lobster
  • Pork
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Scallops
  • Shrimp
  • Steak
  • Tuna
  • Turkey
As if you thought vegetables would be off limits. Walk down any produce aisle or farmer's market and pick out the veggies that look good to you, but to help you narrow it down, these are some of our favorites:
  • Acorn squash
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Butter lettuce
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Kale
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Radish
  • Romaine
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini
Starchy Vegetables
Some Paleo eaters go easier on the starchy vegetables since those tend to be higher in sugar, but as long as you’re getting in a good balance of all different types of veg, we think it’s OK to enjoy sweet potatoes often (and a Paleo-approved butternut squash soup):
  • Beets
  • Butternut squash
  • Parnsips
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet Potato
  • Yam
Try to stick to 1-3 servings a day so you don’t go overboard on the fructose consumption (yes, nature’s candy has sugar). The less sugary ones (berries) are best, but don’t limit yourself because these are all good too:
  • Apple
  • Avocados (yes, it’s a fruit!)
  • Bananas
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Figs
  • Grapefruit
  • Grapes
  • Honeydew
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Mango
  • Nectarines
  • Orange
  • Papaya
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Peaches
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberries
  • Tangerine
  • Watermelon
Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices add serious flavor, and most (if not all) are Paleo approved, so don’t be afraid to cook with these often.
  • Basil
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Garlic
  • Green onion
  • Nutmeg
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Shallot
  • Thyme
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are one of our favorite foods on the Paleo ‘yes’ list. We love to eat them as an easy snack, add to salads for a crunch, and sometimes even make our own nut butter.
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pecans
  • Pine nuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Walnuts
Natural Oils
You’ll be cooking a lot, and that means you’ll need regular sauté pan contributors. These healthy oils are your go-tos to give veggies some flavor.
  • Avocado oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Ghee (clarified butter)
  • Macadamia oil
  • Olive oil
Natural sweeteners
We’re not saying to drizzle an entire bottle of honey into your morning coffee, but natural sweeteners are allowed.
  • Dates
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup

The Don’ts: What You Should Avoid

Processed Food
Yes, even the natural, gluten-free, avocado oil-based chips are off-limits.
  • Cookies
  • Crackers
  • Pasta
  • Pita chips
  • Potato chips
  • Pretzels
  • Tortilla chips
Refined sugar
It’s time to say good-bye to your daily mini Snickers bars, but don’t worry, there are Paleo versions you can learn how to make.
  • Brownies
  • Cake
  • Candy bars
  • Cupcakes
  • Fruit juice
  • Hershey’s
  • M&Ms
  • Reese's Pieces
  • Skittles
  • Soft drinks
  • Twix
  • Twizzlers
Artificial Sweeteners
Gone are the days of adding two packets of Splenda to your coffee because, news flash, that stuff’s super processed. Use honey or maple syrup instead.
  • Aspartame
  • Equal
  • Erythritol
  • Glycerol
  • Hydrogenated starch hydrolysate (HSH)
  • Lactitol
  • Maltitol
  • Polydextrose
  • Saccharin
  • Sorbitol
  • Splenda
  • Steviol glycoside
  • Sucralose
  • Sweet N Low
  • Xylitol
Refined carbs
Two sausage patties with an egg in-between is the new bagel (unless you want to attempt a homemade Paleo bagel). Steer clear of white foods full of refined carbs, also referred to as simple carbs.
  • Bagels
  • Bread
  • Flour
  • Muffins
  • Pasta
  • Pastries
  • Rice
  • Scones
If you’re going to miss black beans in your salad, think of the silver lining: Maybe you’ll have less gas? Did we mention a peanut is a legume? So they are definitely off-limits (peanut butter too).
  • Adzuki beans
  • All soybean products
  • Black beans
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Broad beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Fava beans
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Lupins
  • Mesquite
  • Miso
  • Navy beans
  • Peanut butter
  • Peanuts
  • Peas
  • Pinto beans
  • Snow peas
  • Soybeans
  • String beans
  • Tofu
  • White beans
If you can’t imagine your mornings without yogurt and granola, look for a low-sugar coconut yogurt and top with Paleo granola. And if ice cream is your vice, you can still have banana "ice cream." We swear it’s good.
  • Butter (Some Paleo eaters are OK with grass-fed butter)
  • Cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Creamer
  • Dairy spreads
  • Frozen yogurt
  • Ice cream
  • Heavy Cream
  • Milk
  • Pudding
  • Yogurt
Nope, not even brown rice or quinoa.
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Farro
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
Vegetable oils
This one is easy at home but tough when eating out, because it includes canola, corn, soybean, peanut, sunflower, and “vegetable” oils that restaurants typically use often.
  • Canola oil
  • Corn oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower oil
If you aren’t being too strict, a drink here and there is OK. Just don’t down booze all week because you want to make your healthy eating efforts worth it, and alcohol only makes it harder for your body to feel the positive effects.
  • Beer
  • Rum
  • Tequila
  • Vodka
  • Wine
  • Whiskey

The Maybes: What You Can *Sometimes* Eat

Wine is grapes, and grapes are fruit, and fruit is acceptable.
The Paleo diet is made possible thanks to all of the Paleo-friendly desserts out there, but stay away from the refined-sugar-loaded ones as much as possible.
If you want to sprinkle some goat cheese over a sweet potato on occasion, we think that’s acceptable. There are also some Paleo eaters who opt for raw, whole-fat cow’s milk.
Birthday cake
It only happens once a year!
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Paleo Pantry Staples

Packing your pantry with the right foods will prove that giving up grains, dairy, heavily processed foods, and tons of sugar isn't *so* hard after all. These Paleo products will replace the junk in your pantry for good (or at least for while you're on this Paleo kick).

1. Cooking Fat: Pure Indian Foods Ghee

Ghee is clarified butter. Translation: The milk solids are filtered out from regular butter so all that’s left is pure butter fat… making it Paleo approved. Use it just as you would use regular butter.

2. Cooking Oil: Nutiva Coconut Oil

This kitchen all-star withstands some seriously high heat, making it a better go-to for frying than olive oil.

3. Soy Sauce Alternative: Thrive Coconut Aminos

Soy is on the no-list, but that doesn’t mean you’re left with nothing to flavor your sashimi. This is completely soy free but its main ingredient, aging coconut sap, has a similar flavor to soy sauce.

4. Spice: Cholula Original Hot Sauce

You’ll be thrilled to know this kitchen necessity is Paleo approved. In our opinion, hot sauce is the answer to any meal that needs an upgrade. Try to avoid hot sauces with added sugars, because they can sneak in there where you least expect it.

5. Condiment: Chosen Foods Avocado Mayo

What’s life without mayonnaise? Sad. Paleo peeps don’t need to suffer thanks to this avocado-based mayo.

6. Something Sweet: Coombs Maple Syrup

While strict Paleo-ers might turn their noses up at this, those of us who take a more lax approach are definitely eating Paleo pancakes, scones, and dessert balls. And you can’t enjoy them without a touch of maple syrup or honey.

7. Baking Flour: Bob's Red Mill Almond Flour

Speaking of desserts, almond flour (or almond meal) is one of the best flours to use instead of all-purpose when you’re making a Paleo-approved treat. We can’t forget what it can do for savory foods either. Anyone up for some almond-crusted chicken tenders?

8. Milk Substitute: Silk Almond Milk

Whether you’re adding a splash to your coffee, whipping up a smoothie, or craving a cold glass to go with your (Paleo) cookies, unsweetened almond milk is a Paleo dream.

9. Nut Butter: Justin's Almond Butter

Peanut butter is out; almond butter is in. Avoid the brands with added sugars and oils. They’re not only completely unnecessary but a no for Paleo.


There are tons, and we mean tons, of reputable Paleo experts out there, but these are our top 10 picks. OK, fine, there are 11, because we added Greatist to the mix (and we think you’ll find it all really helpful).