In today’s post, I want to touch on a popular myth that the paleo diet is all about MEAT.
Have you ever Googled ‘paleo diet’ only to find a few random images of half-naked cavemen grizzling on chunks of raw meat?
Sure, there are probably a few fanatics out there who get a kick out of that sort of thing, but for the most of us, we like to get food from shops and fresh food markets; and to eat it at the table…while clothed (most of the time).
The notion that the paleo diet is meat-heavy is not surprising. After all, when you learn about the foods you are encouraged to eat, meat does come up high on the list. That’s not to say that you’re actually eating a lot of it.
If you’re used to relying on pasta and bread for the majority of your daily calories, then you naturally have to replace them with another type of food to get the same amount of fuel. The assumption is that we replace those staples with meat.
That’s not the way to do paleo right.
While protein is certainly key in the paleo diet – it is satiating and helps to stabilise the blood sugar levels – it’s not were most of the calories come from.
Healthy fats – such as those found in eggs, fish and seafood (and meat), ghee, coconut oil and olive oil, avocados, coconut milk, nuts and seeds – provide double the amount of calories per gram compared to protein and carbohydrates. As we reduce the amount of carbohydrates we eat – by eliminating things like refined grains or legumes – we increase fat and protein…mostly fat, actually.
My point is, that even though protein is often featured in every meal on the paleo diet, it’s usually not the largest source of calories and it’s not always red meat. Eggs, fish, seafood, nuts and seeds are all sources of protein and should make a regular appearance on your plate.
If you’re doing paleo right, your plate should consist of a medium piece of meat, fish, seafood or eggs (for a steak, we’re looking at 150-200 grams for women and more for men), lots of vegetables (two thirds of your plate, my friends), and the rest is healthy fats (the oil you cook in, the fats present in the food or drizzled over the food). In some meals, the ratio can be different as it’s not a rule to always have protein on the plate.
Here is my ideal paleo meal plate.
While my protein intake has increased slightly since going paleo, my vegetable and fat intake have gone up a lot more. In fact, I dare say that I eat more vegetables than a vegetarian because I rely on them to replace my bread and pasta. I have them at every meal. In fact, I just polished off a vegetable and mushrooms stir-fry for lunch…no meat in that one.
Another shift I noticed since going paleo is the quality of protein I now consume. If you asked me 6-7 years ago the difference between grass-fed and grain-fed meat or between wild fish and farmed fish, I wouldn’t have a clue. In fact, I used to buy whatever was on special at my local supermarket, giving little thought to how the animal was raised and what it was fed. These days, I focus on quality over quantity, and I would rather have a smaller piece of chicken but know that it comes from a happy and healthy bird.
Finally, if you eat paleo the right way, you should be including a large variety of foods – whether it’s meat, veggies or fat. I cycle between different types of meat, poultry and game, cheaper cuts of meat and offal, different types of sustainable fish (yep, including those smelly sardines) and shellfish. I’ve tried lots of new vegetables and I no longer get scared by egg yolks, full-fat mayonnaise and coconut milk. Fat is my friend!
The main take away is that paleo is actually 70% plant based. Yes, if you look at the amount of veggies and plant-derived fats we consume, this is a more accurate picture.
If you’re concerned about the amount of meat you consume, here is a quick checklist to get you back in the right direction:
- Make sure two thirds of your plate are plant based;
- Don’t forget that you can get a lot of fuel from healthy fats;
- Cycle between different types of protein, not just read meat and chicken;
- Go for quality over quantity;
- Feel free to go meat-free or low-protein for some of your meals.
I will leave you with a collection of some of my tasty, meatless recipes that either feature fish, seafood, eggs or are totally vegetarian.
What do you think? Is paleo diet all about meat? Leave me a comment below.
10 Delicious Meat-Free Paleo Meals
Ensalada Ruse (Russian Potato Salad With Tuna)
Baked Salmon Loaf with Cucumber Dill Salad
Broccoli & Cauliflower Fritters with Halloumi (cheese can be omitted)
Paleo Broccoli Soup With Olive & Nut Pesto
Baked Paleo Falafels with Fiery Sauce
Ukrainian Vinegret Salad with Beetroot
I really want to say, thank you, for explaining Paleo, ina less evangelical way. Hearing that you vege intake, will make me look at it again in a new light. Knowing that I am carrying a lot of weight, I have an organic farm, and I struggle between not told verges are bad
I really appreciate this post. I love that you break down what Paleo is not, and what it is not. It’s all about doing what is best for you body and your health 🙂 And those broccoli cauliflower fritters!!! Oh my goodness they look amazing, I need to try those soon.
Yes! This! (I love that image of the caveman in the beginning! Ha!) I actually don’t do well on meal all day long and people are surprised to learn that my family does not do that even though we eat low grain. Veggies make up the majority of our plates with small portions of quality protien and fat. I love your example of quality protein too – it makes such a big difference even though it might be smaller portions of meat being consumed.
I’m going to keep this bookmarked for all those paleo skeptics! Great read, thanks!
Love all these reminders! I definitely eat more vegetables since starting to follow a paleo template.
This is a great article, and I love the pie chart. It shows me that I really need to eat more veggies.
Love love love this! I always tell people that it’s not all about meat but people just don’t seem to understand. I will definitely point them to this next time someone says something to me about it!
Love this post and thank you for explaining what Paleo is really about. I especially love the pie chart for Paleo plate. It reminds all of us to eat more veggies.
I do love my meat but Paleo is SOOO much more of course! I definitely spend more time – at least cooking/shopping for – veggies of all kinds 🙂
This so valuable for anyone exploring Paleo as an option! Many think its a ticket to eat bacon at every meal and forget its truly more about the vegetables than the meat!
I love this! I do feel like people are misinformed and don’t know. Our house is always stocked up on veggies and we try to include them in every meal. I also love that you mention the quality of the meat. So so important!!
I love that you put together this article – so many people have that same misconception about the paleo diet!
I’ve found your recipes really tasty and your comments very helpful. I love the cauliflowers fritters! Thanks.
Thanks for this post, very helpful when speaking to vegetarian friends about Paleo! So what would you say is the approximate split between macro’s (as in percentages per total calories consumed)? Struggling with this part, so help would be appreciated. 🙂
Very good article. People confuse Paleo with Atkins is just wrong. My diet is certainly high fat, but I make sure to have veggies with every meal. There are some days when I don’t feel super hungry where I will not have any red meat.
Your blogs are so informative and helpful. I became interested in Paleo about 3 years ago. I researched plant-based diets and Mediterranean diet. Your blog enforces what I’ve learned through reading and experimenting. That is to eat a balanced whole food diet. I truly enjoy reading and following your emails. They make sense. I find following a good basic whole food diet is actually less expensive than filling your cart with processed food items. I also find that there is less waste. I’ve learned to use the food in my fridge lol. Paleo opened the door to me cleaning up my diet. Keep up the good work.
Thank you, Ruth. I am very happy to hear you find my content useful. I totally agree with you, I find paleo less wasteful and if you stick to basic, whole foods, it doesn’t have to be super expensive either. Keep up your journey!
I love you blog and enjoy reading your posts but I do get confused about eating food these days especially now as I suffer from auto immune diseases inflammatory bowel diseas, I do eat vegetables but some days have to limit some vegetables and paleo seems to frown on some of the vegetables I tolerate which I don’t quite understand especially when we used to eat these vegetables that is before the SAD low fat diets high carb LFHC diet was promoted.
IMO I think we Should just focus on eating real foods and stop eating processed food.
I often wonder why people have eating disorders if they stoped worrying about which diet to follow and concentrated on eating real food regardless of what it is maybe people be healthier and avoid junk processed food…
Sadly when I’m flaring sometimes it’s easier to eat ‘low residue white diet’ to help my flare. Main think is to eat REAL FOOD to heal.
I’m Vegetarian. I don’t have Eggs, SeaFood, Chicken and Any kind of Meat!
I’m supposed to go No Dairy, No Sugar, Low Inflamatory Diet! High Good Protein Diet!
Would you Have Recipes for ME Too!???
Please do let me know, if will be able to follow 7 Days Challenge with you!
Thanks so much,
I have to be honest and say that the 7-Day Paleo Challenge is not the most suitable one for someone who is a vegetarian and who don’t eat fish/seafood or eggs. Normally, I would say that if you don’t eat meat, you could try it with eggs and fish but if you avoid those, then you’re probably better off searching for vegan or plant-based challenges. Paleo diet is very anti-inflammatory and it does tick the no-dairy and no-sugar boxes and the protein but it’s not possible while being 100% plant-based. Sorry!