The Complete Paleo Food List
Here at PaleoPlan, we believe that you should have a simple guide to help you easily say “yes” or “no” to certain foods. In addition to our Paleo diet food list, you should also consider using our free Paleo recipes, or try our Paleo Meal Plan free for 14 days.
The PaleoPlan meal plan makes following a Paleo diet really easy, since your menus, recipes, shopping lists, and even prep notes are all laid out for you.
In general, eating Paleo means eating veggies, fruits, meats, fish, certain fats, nuts, and seeds. It means removing grains (breads, pastas, rice, etc), beans, soy, dairy, certain vegetable oils, and refined sugar from your diet. But you probably want more details than that, right?
Below, you’ll find our complete Paleo Food List. This is a list of foods and to what extent they are accepted as Paleo. Our guidelines are created using a mixture of all of the Paleo gurus’ philosophies and research, our own beliefs, and what is realistic to implement in your daily life.
For all of the foods listed, our hope is that you choose the highest quality that you can afford, i.e. grass-fed and pastured meats when available instead of conventional meats, as well as organic and local produce when it is an option.
Quick-Start Paleo Food List
While we go into more detail below, here is a quick rundown of the basics:
- Meats: most kinds, ideally pasture-raised or grass-fed, including organ meats
- Seafood: most kinds, ideally wild-caught
- Vegetables: any kind, ideally organic and local
- Eggs: any kind, ideally pasture-raised or free-range
- Fruit: any kind, all in moderation, ideally organic
- Nuts and seeds: all kinds, in moderation, ideally organic and with no added oils
- Certain oils and fats: mainly saturated and monounsaturated fats (few polyunsaturated fats), ideally organic and unrefined
Foods to Avoid
Before we dive into the enormous list of food that you can enjoy on a Paleo diet, here are the basics of what you should avoid.
No grains are Paleo, even gluten-free grains. All grains should be eliminated when adopting a Paleo diet. This includes, but not limited to:
This includes all products made with these ingredients such as flours, pastas, breads, cakes, cookies, bagels, muffins, tortillas, chips, and the like.
Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes aren’t Paleo because they’re difficult to digest, similar to grains. Beans and legumes include, but are not limited to:
- Soy (tofu, tempeh, miso, soy sauce, soy lecithin)
- Black beans
- Pinto beans
- Red beans
- White beans
- Garbanzo beans
Peas and green beans are acceptable, even though sometimes they’re categorized as legumes.
We know it’s a bummer for most to hear that dairy isn’t Paleo, but most people struggle to digest it but don’t notice till they actually take a step away from it.
These forms of dairy are not Paleo, including:
- Cottage cheese
- Ice cream
- Sour cream
- Dairy creamer
- Powdered milk
The only exceptions that are allowable on most Paleo diets are butter and ghee. However, these should still only be consumed if you know you’re not sensitive to them. If you’re brand new to Paleo, we recommend at least 30 days away from all forms of dairy, including butter and ghee.
High Omega-6 Vegetable Oils
Vegetable oils aren’t really made from vegetables, which is why we’re still really confused how they came upon that name. They are usually made from junk oils that really aren’t fit for human consumption. These oils are very high in omega-6 fatty acids, which promote inflammation (as opposed to omega-3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory). They are debatably one of the major causes of heart disease, and are basically junk oils. While saturated fat remains demonized by mainstream nutrition, it really isn’t the culprit in poor health. These omega-6, junky oils are far more devastating for long-term health.
Vegetable oils to avoid include, but are not limited to:
- Butter alternatives
- Canola oil
- Corn oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Palm oil
- Peanut oil
- Safflower oil
- Soybean oil
- Sunflower oil
- Vegetable oil
Refined Sugar & Artificial Sweeteners
Basically, on a Paleo diet, you want to avoid all added sugars except for the few that are Paleo friendly. Sugar doesn’t refer to naturally occurring sugar found in fruits, but rather added sugars that are found in many processed foods.
Added sugars and sweeteners to avoid include, but are not limited to:
- Cane sugar
- Cane syrup
- Brown rice syrup
- White sugar
- Brown sugar
- Corn syrup (in any form, including high-fructose)
- Glucose syrup (another name for corn syrup)
- Dextrose or anything ending in “-ose”
- Malt syrup
Too much sugar can make you gain weight and feel lethargic, but it can also strongly affect your mood and wellbeing. It’s not fun to take it out of your diet, and you will have cravings for it. But if you can make it through the first few days, it will get better every day from there.
Iodized Table Salt
Table salt is common, but it is actually a highly refined product that is missing its natural nutrients. Instead of iodized table salt, eat sea salt instead.
Many types of table salt contain preservatives, anti-caking agents, and other chemicals. Avoid refined salts and regular table salts, because the refining process removes precious trace minerals while introducing chemical additives. Instead, opt for a natural, unrefined salt for a more intense flavor as well as extra trace minerals.
In contrast, unrefined salts are essential for good health and include all varieties of rock and sea salt that have not been stripped of minerals or had other ingredients added. Natural, unrefined sea salt provides a number of nutrients and minerals, in a form that the body recognizes and can use.
Processed, Hydrogenated, and Refined Foods
There’s a lot of gray area here, but in general, if you don’t recognize or can’t pronounce an ingredient on the label of a food, it’s probably not Paleo. Avoid all foods containing “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” ingredients.
All species of seafood are totally Paleo, but you will want to avoid certain kinds of larger predatory fish because they have been alive for many years and accumulate heavy metals, like mercury, in their bodies. These primarily include:
Learn more: Is Fish Paleo?
Foods to Eat on a Paleo Diet
The Paleo diet is rich in nutrients and plenty of variety, so you don’t ever have to be bored or hungry! While it does take some getting used to, with the right tools, you’ll be a Paleo pro in no time.
Shellfish, all kinds
Vegetables and Fruits
Apples, all kinds
Herbs, all kinds
Lettuces, all kinds
Onions, all kinds
Sea vegetables, all kinds
Squash, all kinds
Sugar snap peas
Nuts and Seeds and Their Products
Almond butter (unsweetened)
Almond milk (unsweetened)
Cashew butter (unsweetened)
Sunflower butter (unsweetened)
Fats and Oils
Coconut milk, full fat
Olive oil, extra virgin
Maple syrup, grade B
Stevia leaf, pure
Paleo Baking Flours
Condiments and Cooking Ingredients
Apple cider vinegar
Red wine vinegar
Worcestershire sauce (corn-free)
Black coffee (in moderation)
Black tea (in moderation)
Sparkling water (without artificial ingredients)
Water, filtered or spring
Wine (in moderation)
White tea (in moderation)
Basically, it all comes down to eating real food. Our bodies are engineered to utilize the nutrients found in whole foods in their natural form. The same cannot be said for the man-made chemicals that are now abundantly found in our food supply. Our bodies don’t know what to do with these foreign chemicals and altered foods.
Longterm results of following a highly processed diet are not good, and in fact, is largely why chronic conditions are rampant in our modern world. These processed and refined ingredients make our immune systems overly sensitive and can trigger countless disease states.
There is a time and a place for being really strict with your diet, like when you have food intolerance, allergy, or sensitivity, or when you’re facing other chronic health problems. Elite athletes and other high-performing people will also need to stay strict with a diet.
For everyone else who’s just trying to live a healthy lifestyle and have fun while doing it, give yourself a break sometimes and focus on what feeds your body as well as your soul.
Aimee McNew, MNT, CNTP, is a certified nutritionist who specializes in women’s health, thyroid disorders, autoimmunity, and fertility. She is the author of The Everything Guide to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: A Healing Plan for Managing Symptoms Naturally (Simon & Schuster, 2016). Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.