What You Need to Know About the Paleo Diet
What is the Paleo Diet?
Also referred to as the hunter-gatherer diet and the Stone Age diet, the paleo (short for Paleolithic) diet is an approach to eating modeled after the diets of our ancient ancestors.
The paleo diet attracted medical interest as early as the 1890s, but it didn’t become well known until 2002 when Dr. Loren Cordain published his book, “The Paleo Diet.” Cordain's philosophy outlined a primitive diet that was comprised mainly of meats, fish and seafood, fruits, seeds, nuts and vegetables. Primitive man didn’t have organized farming, so their diets excluded cereal grains, legumes and dairy.
Getting Started on the Paleo Diet
A paleo approach to eating includes high-quality, lean animal proteins such as grass-fed meats, organic poultry, wild-caught seafood, fish and organic eggs. Rounding out the diet are fresh or dried, whole, non-processed fruits, fresh vegetables, nuts and seeds. (Note: Strict paleo followers avoid starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn.)
The paleo diet does allow for one modern-day addition: healthy oils. The theory is that while Paleolithic men and women consumed optimal levels of fat through organ meats and wild game, in today’s world people don’t have the appetite for or access to these sources. To fill in gaps, minimally processed olive, flaxseed, walnut, macadamia, coconut and avocado oils are all allowed.
A Note on Macros
Unlike some other popular diets, the paleo diet doesn’t dictate strict macronutrient ratios (recommendations for how many grams of carbohydrates, protein and fat a person should eat every day). In general, paleo dieters will consume similar ratios of fat and protein with a lower percentage of carbs. In his book, Cordain recommends a daily intake of 38% protein, 39% fat and 23% carbohydrates.
Eating a variety of approved foods until full is recommended over calorie counting.
What’s Off Limits on the Paleo Diet?
Foods produced by farming aren’t permitted. This means no grains, dairy or legumes, including peanuts, beans, peas and lentils. Processed foods such as breakfast cereals, breads, pasta, beer, peanut butter and tofu are off limits as well. Refined sugars, added salt, refined oils (such as vegetable oil) and artificial sweeteners also aren’t allowed. Some paleo fans make exceptions for very minimally processed foods with paleo-approved ingredients, such as canned coconut milk (containing coconut and water only).
Paleo Meal Planning Tips
Cooking paleo may seem challenging, but it’s nothing to worry about. Check out our one-stop shop for paleo-friendly recipe inspiration and groceries you can add right to your cart.
Paleo pro tip: Grilling is one of the top ways to add flavor to paleo dishes without loading up on salt. In addition, slow cookers or Instant Pot-style multi-cookers make batch-cooking meats a breeze.
Paleo-friendly Snacks: Cut-up fruits and veggies, as well as hard-boiled eggs, nuts and seeds, for easy go-to snacks. You’ll also find a number of prepared paleo-friendly snacks, including grain-free granolas (such as Simple Truth™ Grain Free Original Granola Paleo Friendly), 100% fruit snacks and paleo-approved jerky. Becoming an avid label reader is your best tool for staying paleo strong. Look for foods with short ingredient lists and no added salt, sugar or chemicals.
Paleo-friendly Meals: Try topping cooked, mashed cauliflower or lightly steamed, spiralized zucchini noodles with sliced grilled steak and a hearty portion of grilled onions, mushrooms and tomatoes. Add some chopped, fresh herbs or a squeeze of lemon to brighten your dish and add more flavor. For a light but satisfying meal, toss fresh greens with raw or cooked chopped vegetables and cooked, shredded chicken. Top with a dressing of mashed avocado mixed with olive oil and lime juice to taste, plus a hearty sprinkle of chopped, toasted almonds.
Safety Considerations for Paleo Dieters
Is the paleo diet safe? Some followers view it as an effective short-term weight-loss strategy while others consider it a healthy long-term lifestyle.
Thoughtful meal planning can provide adequate fiber, B vitamins and iron, which can be easy to miss while excluding whole grains. Followers should also be mindful of meeting calcium requirements since the paleo diet excludes dairy, beans and tofu.
Talk to your doctor or schedule a telenutrition appointment with one of our Registered Dietitians to be sure the paleo diet is appropriate for you and that you’re getting the nutrients you need.
And remember, Kroger’s specialty diet page is a one-stop shop for your paleo-friendly recipes and grocery needs.
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.