Many people may want to follow a paleo diet but are confronted by aisle after aisle of processed foods, sugars, grains and an unlimited variety of foods that are definitely not part of the paleo eating plan. While those foods are easy to avoid, other foods may not be so clear-cut — some foods that may seem paleo-friendly at first glance are not on the paleo diet at all. This can leave consumers feeling uncertain at the grocery store, confused about what to eat/avoid eating on the paleo diet. Without a clear plan, dieters may be tempted to slip a few processed foods or a loaf of bread into the cart.
Jump to a specific section of the grocery list:
Carbs: Vegetables & Fruits
Fats: Oils & Seeds
Other Items: Drinks & Spices
Using a paleo-friendly shopping list can help consumers stick to the eating plan and stay out of the bread aisle.
About the Paleo Diet and the Paleo Diet Guide
The paleo diet focuses on foods similar to those consumed by early humans living in the Paleolithic Era, which occurred 2.5 million to 11,700 years ago. People living during this era were hunter/gatherers, so they ate the plants and animals around them. These early humans were just learning how to use tools, so they ate their food “whole” and with very little processing.
Then the First Agricultural Revolution happened between 10,000 BCE and 2000 BCE. Humans learned how to grow cereal grains and domesticate food animals. Farming changed what people ate. Humans started consuming dairy, grains and legumes.
Over the centuries, humans learned how to process foods. They discovered how to mill grain and make bread. People invented additives to improve the texture and flavor. They also developed ways to preserve food so it would last longer in the grocery. Food changed very quickly; today’s food bears little resemblance to what cavemen ate.
Even the way humans get their food evolved relatively recently. Ancient humans didn’t need shopping lists back they — they just grabbed whatever they encountered. Soon, people began shopping at open-air markets, where growers would offer their perishables from a table or cart. Food shopping stayed this way for thousands of years.
Then Piggly Wiggly opened in 1916 to become the first self-serve grocery store. Customers could wander the aisles and pluck food from the shelves. Grocery store aisles became much larger and longer as chain stores and supermarkets sprung up in the 1920s and 30s. Food had to sit on shelves for weeks and months at a time, so food manufacturers developed processing techniques to extend product shelf life.
Overall, food and the way people get their food changed dramatically in just one century.
While food may change quickly, human DNA does not. Many people believe that humans stopped evolving 10,000 years ago and that the human body is not genetically capable of handling the highly processed foods found in today’s supermarkets. They also reason that many diseases, such as arthritis and cancer, happen because of the gap between ancient genetics and modern food.
About the Items on the Paleo Diet Shopping List for Beginners
For optimal health benefits, the paleo diet should contain the recommended intake of calories, protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats and oils, vitamins and minerals. Meat and poultry provide most of the protein in the paleo diet, although some plants provide protein. Plants provide the healthy carbohydrates on the low-carb paleo diet. All of the foods on a Paleolithic diet are nutrient-rich, which means they provide all of the protein, carbohydrates, fats and nutrients the human body needs for optimal health and wellness.
The National Academy of Science says that adults should get 10 to 35 percent from protein, 45 percent to 65 percent of their calories from carbohydrates, and 20 percent to 35 percent from fat.
Protein is essential for human health. The body uses proteins as building blocks to create tissue. There is protein in muscle, bone, skin, hair, and nearly every tissue in the human body and in other animals. Protein is also a good source of energy. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that there are as many calories in a gram of protein as there are in a gram of carbohydrates.
Many food stores offer a wide variety of standard red meat options included in the paleo diet, such as beef, lamb, pork, and veal. Specialty stores carry mutton, venison, goat, bison, elk, buffalo and other meats that may be harder to find.
Poultry selections include chicken, turkey, geese, duck, and eggs. Most groceries carry these everyday varieties of poultry. Some specialty grocers carry paleo-friendly guinea fowl, pigeon, ostrich, emu, partridge, pheasant, and quail.
Not all protein is the same when it comes to “eating like a caveman.” Organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised protein most closely resembles the protein Paleolithic humans ate.
Vegetables and Fruit (Carbohydrates)
Veggies provide the healthy carbohydrates that the human body uses as energy. Fruits and vegetables also provide vitamins and minerals the body needs for optimal health. Additionally, fruits and veggies contain phytonutrients and antioxidants that provide special health benefits to the body.
Early humans had very few choices when it came to beverages. Water was the drink of choice, of course, and water still provides all the fluids a body needs for good health. Somewhere along the line, humans eventually learned how to squeeze fruits and drink the juice. Eventually, people learned to brew tea leaves and coffee beans. Because they were available to early man, water, unsweetened fruit juice, tea and coffee are included in the paleo diet.
Dietary fat has a bad reputation, but some foods contain fat that is actually beneficial to human health. Fatty fish, such as salmon, contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and high-quality proteins. Nuts provide healthy fats, fiber, plant-based protein, vitamin E and magnesium. Avocadoes contain the same healthy fatty acids found in olive oil. Avocadoes also contain potassium and dietary fiber.
The Paleo Shopping List for Beginners
❑ Ground Beef
Look for 100% grass-fed and organic when possible.
Look for pastured and organic when possible.
Look for wild-caught, not farmed, when possible.
Poultry and Fowl
Look for pasture-raised, free-range and organic, when possible.
❑ Chicken Eggs
❑ Duck Eggs
❑ Goose Eggs
Look for pasture-raised and organic, when possible.
❑ Deli Meat
Look for nitrate-free, grass-fed, and organic, when possible. Check ingredients for non-paleo additives.
❑ Bok Choy
❑ Brussels Sprouts
❑ Chinese Cabbage
❑ Collard Greens
❑ Green Cabbage
❑ Red Cabbage
❑ Mustard Greens
❑ Spaghetti Squash
❑ Sweet potatoes
Leafy greens will be a very solid nutrient-rich option.
Chose fruits with lower sugar content whenever possible. Aim for organic for fruits with soft skins. Consumers hoping to lose weight should avoid dried fruits. Avoid fruit juices, unless they are freshly squeezed with no added sugar.
❑ Extra Virgin Olive Oil
❑ Animal Fats
❑ Macadamia Oil
❑ Fish Oil
❑ Avocado Oil
❑ Nut Butters (or almond butter)
❑ Sunflower seeds
❑ Pumpkin seeds
❑ Chia seeds
❑ Soda Water
❑ Coconut Water
❑ Almond Milk
Watch for added sugar in commercial tea and other bottled beverages. Only black coffee is allowed on the paleo diet.
❑ Garlic Powder
All spices should be organic, if available
Paleo Meal Plans That Keep Mealtime Interesting
One of the biggest problems with the paleo diet and other restrictive diets is that mealtime can become mundane. Many people want to stick to the paleo diet, but have trouble coming up with new menu ideas. Fortunately, several individuals and websites have created paleo meal plans featuring a wide variety of fresh, delicious entrees, side dishes, beverages and snacks.
Everyday Health offers a five-day meal plan featuring a huge variety of foods. Breakfasts range from traditional eggs and sausage to gluten-free paleo porridge and Italian spaghetti squash breakfast casserole with salami. Lunches include garlic Cajun shrimp bowls and roasted sweet potato vegetable salad. Dinners feature slow-cooker Hawaiian shredded chicken with avocado and citrus, Thai wraps with Bibb lettuce and ground chicken, and sweet potato chili with green chilies and ground bison or beef.
PaleoLeap created a 14-day menu and printable grocery list to simplify paleo meal planning. The plan includes three meals plus an optional snack each day for two people. Lunches are portable to make the food easier to carry to work or school. The meal plans include leftovers, which helps reduce costs and cooking time.
Paleo Gluten Free published four one-week meal plans to help consumers eat delicious paleo-friendly meals all month long. Meals include cauliflower patties with a delicious creamy cilantro garlic sauce, avocado tuna boats, zesty chile lime burgers, and much more.
Paleo Recipe Guides
The paleo diet can be confusing at first, but a number of online resources help beginners “eat like a caveman.” Healthline offers The Paleo Diet — A Beginner's Guide Plus Meal Plan that clearly outlines the foods that consumers should include and those they should avoid while on the paleo diet, for example. Paleo Grubs offers the “Paleo Diet Shopping List Essentials” that provides detailed information about the health benefits of several foods included on the paleo diet.
YouTube is helping people understand the paleo diet, shop for paleo-friendly foods, and prepare a variety of delicious meals. Paleo Cookbook uploaded a helpful Youtube video that describes the paleo diet basics for beginners and reviews many of the paleo-friendly foods consumers can buy at their local grocery, for example. Raynebow Weekly uploaded a video that helps consumers develop paleo meal prep plan, including items that are budget-friendly.
Paleo on a Budget
Switching to a paleo diet can be expensive for anyone who has to buy new food. Fortunately, there are ways to start and maintain a paleo diet on a budget. Some beginners might want to start with a part-time paleo diet until they restock their kitchens and pantries. Buying in bulk helps those with storage space. Using coupons and money-saving apps helps. Growing a garden is perhaps the best way to go paleo on a budget, as it allows consumers to forage for food in their own back yards just like the cavemen did.
Shopping for the paleo diet may seem intimidating at first, but gets easier with time and experience. Using shopping lists, reading guides, and watching online videos can help beginners learn new approaches to buying, preparing and eating fresh, whole foods included on the paleo diet.
Author: Lynn Hetzler
|Lynn Hetzler has been a leading writer in the medical field for 20 years. She specializes in creating informative and engaging medical content for readers of all levels, from patients to researchers and everyone in between.|
Hungry for more?
Read Our Beginner's Guide to the Paleo Diet, or try our delicious paleo-friendly nut butters.