What exactly can you eat on the Paleo diet? We've got heaps of inspiring ideas from simple snacks to complete meals that will help you turn a diet into a foodie's delight

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Image: How to eat Paleo-style

Photo: Martin Poole

Diet? What diet. This is Paleo eating at its finest.

Fans claim the Paleo diet is the healthiest way to eat: high in nutrients, low in artificial ingredients and naturally calorie controlled. Hailed as the diet we were born to consume, Paleo eating has attracted a growing folllowing.

What can you eat?

If your Stone Age self wouldn’t recognise an ingredient, it’s a no-no; which means the diet is based around fruit, veg, nuts, red meat, poultry, eggs, fish and shellfish.

"It’s a common misconception that it’s a high-protein, meat-heavy diet," says Nell Stephenson, author of Paleoista (Touchstone Books, £14.69). "In fact, the diet should be about 40% carbohydrates from fruit and vegetables, 30% protein and 30% natural fats."

If your Stone Age self wouldn’t recognise an ingredient, it’s a no-no.

What can't you eat?

Off the menu are potatoes, starchy carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice etc), dairy, sugars, processed meats such as ham or bacon, and seeds, legumes and pulses.

Health benefits

"Many of these foods are linked to underlying health issues," says Oliver Selway, a nutritional adviser and author of Instinctive Fitness. "When people start a Paleo plan, they find that problems such as fatigue, bloating or skin conditions clear up."

On top of that, by adding foods high in vitamins, minerals, healthy fat and antioxidants, you also potentially protect your future health against disease. A Paleo diet also naturally balances blood sugar levels and reduces levels of insulin and inflammation in the body – high levels of which are linked to weight gain.

Meal ideas

Try out a few of the meal ideas below for breakfast, lunch and supper to get things started. There are snack options, too if you're stuck for ideas. There’s no weighing and measuring involved (they didn't have scales in the Stone Age, remember) – simply fill your plate with the fruit or vegetable options suggested, then add a portion of protein (a palm-sized portion of meat, hand-sized portion of fish, a fist-sized portion of eggs or a handful of nuts). Finally, drink water, unsweetened coconut water, or black, green and herbal teas.  

Too tough? Try primal eating

This allows dairy products, red wine, dark chocolate and unprocessed carbs such as wild rice. "It gives about 80% of the benefits of Paleo and can be a good starting point to get you used to changing habits," says Oliver Selway. Read The De Vany Diet (£7.99, Vermilion) or visit Primal guru Mark Sisson’s blog at marksdailyapple.com for more.


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Healthier Paleo breakfast

Photo: Marin Poole

  • Poached eggs served with grilled tomatoes and sliced avocado.
  • Cold plate of boiled eggs, smoked salmon or sliced chicken breast, sliced apple, almonds and a few dried apricots or prunes.
  • Smoothie made with blueberries, banana and coconut water or crushed ice. Serve with two pieces of fruit and a handful of nuts.
  • Cheat’s muesli: combine a handful of flaked almonds, a handful of mixed nuts, some chopped apple and blueberries in a bowl. Add coconut water, almond milk or fruit juice.
  • Omelette made with two eggs and filled with a little smoked salmon, sliced cooked mushrooms and baby-leaf spinach.
  • Mixed melon salad topped with a little mint, served with a handful of nuts, some sliced cooked chicken or a boiled egg.
  • Apple or pear slices dipped into a tablespoon of almond or cashew butter. Serve with some sliced strawberries.
  • Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs sprinkled with chopped spring onions.
  • Scrambled eggs with a little wilted spinach and some pine nuts, served with half a grapefruit.


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Paleo lunch

Photo: Martin Poole

  • Antipasti plate from the deli counter: choose your favourites from olives, sun-dried tomatoes, chargrilled artichokes, roasted peppers etc. Serve with slices of lean roast beef and a rocket salad.
  • Any takeout carb-free salad or visit the salad bar in store and make your own selection.
  • Salmon salad made with sliced tomato, onion, olives, green beans and spinach topped with canned or flaked cooked salmon and hard-boiled egg or some walnut halves.
  • Beef roll-ups made by wrapping thinly sliced cucumber, avocado and carrot inside slices of roast beef. Dip in a little mustard, horseradish or salsa. Serve with a green salad.
  • Crudités made with any vegetables you like served with readymade guacamole or salsa. Add a portion of cooked prawns, cooked chicken or a handful of almonds.
  • Salad of rocket, celery, fennel and sliced orange topped with cooked prawns and dressed with lime juice, olive oil and a little chopped chilli.


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Paleo dinner

Photo: Martin Poole

  • Griddled steak served with tenderstem broccoli, griddled tomato halves and cauliflower mashed with a little mustard.
  • Grilled lamb, pepper, onion and mushroom kebabs served with a green salad and shredded cabbage, carrot and onion dressed with olive oil.
  • Pork, vegetable and cashew nut stir fry with ginger and chilli.
  • Grilled tuna steaks or salmon fillets served with a mixture of roasted vegetables (onion, peppers, courgettes, aubergine) and grilled asparagus.
  • Griddled chicken breast served with a tomato, red onion and basil salad dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
  • Pork chops, grilled, and served with slices of pan-fried apple (or homemade apple sauce). Serve with spring greens and carrots.


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Paleo crudite

Photo: Martin Poole

  • Celery sticks spread with a little almond butter.
  • Crudites with salsa, guacamole or mashed smoked mackerel.
  • A handful of olives and some almonds.
  • A handful of any nuts with a piece of fruit.
  • A small bowl of fruit salad.
  • A slice of any large fruit, such as pineapple, melon or papaya.

Please note: Paleo dieting does restrict certain food groups, so you may wish to take a multivitamin while following the plan. The Paleo diet is not suitable if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have any kind of ongoing health problem, check with your GP before proceeding.

This article first appeared in Sainsbury's magazine in May 2012, by Helen Foster.