The Staple Foods of the Paleo Diet

New to the Paleo diet? To clear up any confusion, here is a basic overview along with the list of foods that you can eat and those you should avoid.

Any fresh, whole food that comes straight from nature is one of the staple foods of the Paleo diet. The Paleo food list consists of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. It’s not Paleo if it’s processed. Some people refer to the Paleo diet as the Caveman diet because the recommended foods are similar to what cavemen ate in prehistoric times. 

Let’s take a look at the major Paleo foods and why you should eat them. You can make many delicious main and side dishes using the foods from the following list.

Fish

Any fresh, wild-caught fish provides you with heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, protein and Vitamin D. As long as you swap out fish as a main dish with poultry and red meat, you won’t need to worry about excess mercury. The Paleo diet is based on real, unprocessed foods, so get used to eating  whole tuna as opposed to canned tuna. Studies show eating fish reduces your chance of heart attacks and strokes.

To keep things interesting, choose from the following fish when making meal plans:

  • Red Snapper
  • Swordfish
  • Trout
  • Shrimp and other shellfish
  • Cod
  • Salmon
  • Halibut
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Tuna

That’s not a complete list, of course, you’ll find a lot more in the seafood section of your supermarket.

Poultry and Meat

Red meat and poultry supply B-complex vitamin, especially energy-boosting Vitamin B12.

  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Pork Chops
  • Pork Tenderloin
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Ground beef
  • Bison
  • Bacon
  • Pheasant
  • Quail
  • Eggs

…and much more.

Turkey is a great protein source, and it also contains niacin and Vitamin B6 to boost the body’s energy production. Eating turkey on a regular basis lowers cholesterol, and it has the amino acid tryptophan, which produces serotonin to relax you and improve your immune system. 

Chicken provides plenty of B vitamins, selenium, zinc, magnesium, choline and iron. A skinless, boneless chicken breast has 31 grams of protein.

 Pork contains 25.7 grams of protein per 100-gram serving. It also contains 0.07 grams of Omega 3 fatty acids and four important B vitamins – Vitamins B6, B12, Thiamin, and Niacin. A 100 gram serving of pork has 2.39 mg of zinc and 148 mcg of selenium (212% of the daily value).

 Beef comes from mammals and has more iron than chicken or fish. The Paleo diet includes ribs, roasts, and steaks made from various red meats. Processed meats, like sausage and jerky, are discouraged. Lean beef contains iron, zinc, B vitamins, and all essential amino acids. Eating beef is recommended when you are recovering from surgery, and athletes also need plenty of it to build muscle.

 Eggs provide cheap, high-quality protein. They contain Riboflavin, Vitamin B12, selenium, and phosphorus, but are also high in saturated fat and cholesterol. One large egg contains 17.5 IUs of Vitamin D, 244 IUs of Vitamin A, and 23.5 mcg of folate.

Vegetables

Perhaps the most important part of this (or any) diet is vegetables. These are common veggies to make sure you include in your daily nutrition.

  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Swiss chard
  • Beets
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Radish
  • Broccoli
  • Squash

Vegetables are low in fat and calories and high in fiber. Eat one to four cups of fresh vegetables daily to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Low-cholesterol spinach is rich in most vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, iron, Vitamins C and K and potassium. Broccoli is one of the most nutritious vegetables due to its high concentration of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and anti-cancer agents like glucoraphanin, beta-carotene, selenium, and diindolylmethane.

Fruits

Some people may complain about adding more vegetables to their diet, but few people don’t love at least a few types of fresh fruit. Here’s a partial list of the fruits you can eat on the Paleo diet.

  • Bananas
  • Coconut
  • Apples
  • Tangerines
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Watermelon
  • Cherries
  • Pineapples
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Plums

Fruits add plenty of Vitamin C, fiber and potassium to your diet. Oranges, grapes, grapefruit, and bananas are high in folate (also known as folic acid). Folate helps form red blood cells and prevents congenital disabilities.

The phytochemicals in fruit help guard against cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Eat fruit for snacks to supply natural sugar and energy. Eat one to two and a half cups of fruit a day for optimal health.

Nuts, Seeds, Spices and Dried Herbs

All nuts, seeds, mushroom, dried herbs, and spices are considered Paleo-friendly. Anything that’s not processed; that you can get from the ground, a tree or plant, or in the wild is a Paleo food.

Chocolate, coffee, and alcohol are allowed as an occasional indulgence. Coffee beans and cocoa beans come from plants. Alcohol has been consumed for centuries, and is made from fermented sugar or starch.

Consider the pros and cons of these foods before adding them to your Paleo diet.

The Do Not Eat List

As with most diet plans, there are a handful of things to avoid. While following Paleo, try your best not to touch:

  • White potatoes*
  • Wheat flour
  • Sugar
  • Pasta
  • Processed foods
  • Dairy
  • Cereal
  • Candy
  • Peanuts and other legumes

*Some Paleo experts include white potatoes, while others allow it. The choice is up to you.

Essential Paleo Pantry Foods

Even Paleo foods could use a bit of sprucing up with sauces and spicy garnishes. Here are a few Paleo-approved pantry foods to make your meals more enjoyable.

Seaweed is more than a garnish in your miso soup. All seaweed varieties contain essential minerals and nutrients, including chlorophyll, B vitamins, and iodine. Eating salad or soup made with seaweed adds flavor to meals, but doesn’t add many calories.  Two tablespoons of Wakame have five calories; two tablespoons of kelp have four calories. 

Even though wheat flour and regular baked goods are Paleo no-nos, you can still use almond flour, coconut flour, or another type of nut flour to make thick sauces or bread pork chops or chicken. Check out this Almond Flour Biscuits recipe.

A Paleo diet allows eggs, but not cheese. Substitute nutritional yeast if you miss making cheese omelets or quiche. A flaky, vitamin-heavy substance full of amino acids, nutritional yeast is often used by vegans to replace cheese in recipes. Buy nutritional yeast online or at health food stores.

Use unsweetened cocoa powder as a sugar substitute to make chocolate chili or other recipes. Dark chocolate and unsweetened baking chocolate provides taste and nutrition. Dark chocolate can even help lower blood pressure.

TFT Team

Our team at The Fitness Tribe often collaborates together to produce content. When you see “TFT Team” this is because the content was not written by a single author, but rather a team effort.

New to the Paleo diet? To clear up any confusion, here is a basic overview along with the list of foods that you can eat and those you should avoid.​