What can you actually eat on a paleo vegan diet?

You’ve probably heard of the paleo diet, also known as the paleolithic diet or the “caveman diet.” This dietary trend is to return to the unprocessed diets our caveman ancestors ate, rejecting not only modern processed foods and their associated health risks, but also carbohydrates, beans, and bean-derived foods, such as tofu.

If that sounds impractical to the average human, you’re right. “I’m all about vegan diets and whole-food diets, but even I think that’s too restrictive,” Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD Senior Clinical Dietitian at UCLA Medical Center and author of Recipe for survivaltells VegNews.

Here’s the rundown of what you can eat on a paleo vegan diet, and why it’s not sustainable in the long run.

What is a paleo-vegan diet?

Originating in the 1970s, the Paleo diet was designed to mimic the way Paleolithic-era humans or Stone Age humans ate around 2.5 million years ago. At this point, early humans used fire for cooking and had access to stone tools that gave them better access to more resources and a better chance of survival.

Obviously, early humans did not have access to instant ramen and boxed vegan macaroni and cheese. But that doesn’t mean they followed the modern paleo diet.

Although diets differ in different parts of the world, archaeological evidence and modern study of tribes that still practice hunting and gathering has allowed researchers to make educated guesses about what actual Paleolithic people ate. This includes tubers, nuts, seeds, edible flowers, barley and legumes – the latter two will be important later.

In addition to this, Old Stone Agers would probably eat small game meat where it was available, but it was probably no more than 3% of their diet. Coastal Paleolithic humans would have access to seafood and it is also likely that people around the world added insects, Honeyand honeycomb to their diet.

Notably, most of the protein in the non-vegan Paleo diet comes from meat and seafood because, despite evidence that actual Paleolithic humans ate them, legumes are not allowed. The same goes for cereals.

These prehistoric humans had access to barley, but no grains are allowed in the contemporary paleo diet, following dietary trends that call for people to limit carbs.

What can’t you eat on a paleo vegan diet?

As you may have noticed above, the actual paleo diet included barley, some of the earliest known cultivated grains and legumes. But the modern paleo diet prohibits both grains and legumes.

One of the main criticisms of the paleo vegan diet is that it doesn’t really reflect how people eat. The other is that it is prohibitively expensive.

“A paleo vegan diet is very restrictive and dangerous,” Kathryn Bonilla Strickland, RDN, and founder of the Plant-Centered Dietitian, said. “It restricts many nutrients such as iron, protein, zinc and magnesium that our bodies need to function. This diet can easily lead to many nutrient deficiencies.

Foods excluded from a paleo vegan diet include:

  • Alcohol: Beer, wine, spirits, etc.
  • Beans and legumes: Black beans, chickpeas, white beans, split peas, mung beans, edamame, tofu, tempeh, peanut butter, and even soy sauce
  • Grains and pseudo-grains: Rice, barley, oats, quinoa, corn, farro, bread, pasta, tortillas, cereal, oatmeal, etc.
  • Dairy: Most dairy out, but some paleo followers are using grass-fed butter and milk
  • Highly processed foods: Ready meals, snacks, fried foods, fast food, artificial sweeteners, protein powders, etc.
  • Sweet foods: Candy, chocolate, sodas and other non-alcoholic beverages
  • Some oils: Hydrogenated oils aka trans fats, soybean oil, sunflower oil, etc.

What can you eat on a paleo vegan diet?

The theory behind the Paleo diet is that if your Stone Age ancestors couldn’t hunt or gather it, it’s no good eating it.

“There’s no benefit to following a strict paleo vegan diet,” Strickland says. “If you decide to follow a paleo vegan diet, work with a registered dietitian for a well-balanced plan to meet all of your nutrient needs.”


This limits the options, especially considering that meat, fish and eggs are considered the main source of protein on this diet. When you remove all animal products, paleo-vegan foods include:

  • Fruit: Apples, bananas, oranges, pears, grapes, melons, avocados, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, etc.
  • Vegetables: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green beans, cauliflower, carrots, cabbage, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, chia seeds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, pecans, hazelnuts, etc.
  • Some vegetable oils: Extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, walnut oil, flax seed oil and others
  • Salt and spices: Thyme, oregano, chili powder, turmeric, paprika, pepper, etc.
  • Drinks : Water

Is a paleo vegan diet healthy?

The paleo vegan diet is built on good foundations in that it encourages people to eat mostly plant-based whole foodswhich is associated with many advantages.

Research has linked diets high in highly processed foods like deli meats and most fast foods to chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. But, the paleo vegan diet may not be healthy for you in the long run for a number of reasons.

it’s restrictive

The paleo vegan diet leaves little room for wiggle room and 100% adherence to the books is difficult.

Some people follow the general guidelines of a paleo diet, such as an emphasis on minimally processed foods, but allow themselves to eat whole grains like brown rice, pseudo-grains like quinoa, and other “unprocessed” foods. forbidden” such as dark chocolate, wine or coffee.


“Although it’s possible to get enough calories, vitamins, and protein on a paleo-vegan diet,” says Hunnes. “I consider it unnecessary and less healthy than a full vegan diet because it’s too restrictive in my mind and requires excessive planning.”

While deemphasizing highly processed foods is appealing, a whole plant-based diet also follows the Paleo diet principle of filling your plant with produce. But, it doesn’t exclude important proteins like legumes and tofu, or whole grains and whole-wheat pasta.

Cereals and legumes are not allowed

For starters, grains and legumes are not allowed.

“Lectins, found in legumes, are only harmful if eaten raw or from undercooked legumes,” says Hunnes. “Grains are also a wonderful source of fiber and B vitamins. Cutting out these two food groups is overkill.

Rice, oats, pasta, noodles and bread are staple foods in the majority of global diets. They are high in carbohydrates, which provide you with energy and support other bodily functions. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, carbohydrates should make up between 45 and 65 percent of your diet.

While processed grains like white rice and pasta have little nutritional value, whole grains contain vitamins and minerals.


The other problem is the virtual lack of vegetable proteins. This macronutrient also provides you with energy, but it also helps your body repair cells and create new ones.

Usually, someone on a vegan diet would get their protein, which should make up between 10-35% of their diet, from a mix of beans, lentils, tofu, and plant-based meat.

Even though nuts and seeds contain protein, they don’t hold a candle to lentils and Beans. A single serving of almonds contains 7 grams of protein. Meanwhile, half a cup of lentils contains 12 grams of protein.

It can be expensive

Legumes are one of the most affordable sources of protein in the world, but they’re not allowed on a paleo vegan diet. Nuts and seeds, on the other hand, can be expensive in large quantities.

Minimally processed frozen fruits and vegetables box be more profitable than their fresh counterparts. However, getting enough calories a day without beans, lentils, or grains means increasing your produce intake, which can take a big toll on your annual food expenditure.

As always, you should consult your doctor or a dietitian nutritionist if you are considering making any major changes to your diet.

To learn more about vegan nutrition, read: