“What can I eat on the primal diet? There seems to be disagreement.”

Here’s a question you probably come across from time to time:

“What can I eat on the primal diet?   There seems to be disagreement.”

Perhaps you’re asking it yourself.  I know that I have.  It doesn’t help that there are different versions of the diet — paleo, primal, New Evolution, etc — and some in-fighting about particular foods.   I’d say that this is a good thing because it shows inquiry and science at work.  If there was one guy that had a revelation about the diet and said we had to eat exactly as he said with no variations, then I’d be a little worried.   (Unless he had kool-aid.)

I think it’s important to keep in mind that we’re not trying to re-create exact conditions from long ago.  Rather, we are trying to eat foods that are healthy for our body.

Of course, there are certain foods that serve human bodies well, and there are certain things that harm them.   And like all life in the universe, our bodies are products of the ceaseless evolutionary process, and so there are foods that our bodies have been designed to eat, and other foods and things that will almost assuredly harm our bodies if ingested.

Primal Food Pyramid

So, just what is it that’s healthy for our bodies?   There are many lines of agreement in Primal World: Eat lots of healthy meat, fish, fowl and vegetables. Get lots of sleep. Get sunshine. Laugh. Go outside and play. Avoid grains and sugar like the plague.

Importantly, every person is an individual, and they may react different to different foods. Plus, with international trade, an advanced economy and modern cultures, we can enjoy all sorts of foods never dreamed of by our ancestors. That’s a good thing.

(Of course, it’s a good thing when it comes to real foods like avocados shipped from Guatemala to your local grocer; it’s a bad thing when it comes to edible food-like substances like GoGurt and twinkies and donuts.)

As for the foods on the margin — the ones stuck in this Primal Fight Zone — I say the key is this: How does your body respond to them?

If you’re not eating them now and would like to, then try them out and see how your body responds. If you are eating them now, consider eliminating them for 30 days and see how your body responds when you reintroduce them.

Fair enough, you may say, but give me some specifics.   What does The Primal Challenge suggest we eat?

Okay, with everything above in mind, I’m going to toss out this definition:

  • WHAT YOU CAN EAT IN UNLIMITED QUANTITIES: meat, fish, fowl, eggs, vegetables, water.
  • WHAT YOU CAN EAT IN MODERATION (IF YOU’RE TRYING TO LOSE WEIGHT, OTHERWISE HAVE AS MUCH AS YOU WANT): fruit, nuts.
  • WHAT YOU CAN EAT IN MODERATION (REGARDLESS OF OBJECTIVE): dairy, alcohol, dark chocolate, supplements, herbs & spices.
  • WHAT YOU CAN SNEAK OCCASIONALLY: beans, legumes, potatoes, rice.
  • WHAT YOU SHOULD TRY TO AVOID AT ALL COSTS: grains, added sugar.
  • WHAT YOU SHOULD KEEP IN MIND: 80/20 Rule.

Personally, I’m going for 100% primal right now.  When I allow sneak meals, I tend to sneak more often than I should.  Plus, I want to completely remove all grains from my body.  I’m not having any dark chocolate, and barely any alcohol.   They just seem unhealthy to me, even if that’s not true.   (When I do drink alcohol — at social events — I only have red wine.)  But I’m drinking a lot of milk.   I find that it’s an awesome addition to a post-exercise meal, and I exercise a bunch.   Pretty much every day during lunch, and then often after work.  So it’s fair to say I’m consuming milk more than “in moderation,” but I’m cool with that, and my body seems to be as well.

Mark Sisson has a Primal Overview PDF flyer that’s falls pretty much in line with what we’ve outlined above.  It’s ideal for printing up and posting. Consider adding it to your frig.

Does this help? Other Primal Challengers, is there anything that you would change or word differently?  How about anyone else?   Feedback is most appreciated!

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About Bob Ewing

On twitter @DCBarefootRun. Media guy for libertarian law firm by day, primal/paleo (rocking climbing, BJJ, barefooter) by, well, lunchtime... https://theprimalchallenge.wordpress.com/ http://DCBarefootRun.com
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165 Responses to “What can I eat on the primal diet? There seems to be disagreement.”

  1. Jill says:

    I think you pretty much hit it on the nose ;p ….. I’ve been back and forth with my decision to keep or eliminate dairy. I decided to consume it sparingly. I’ve switched my family over to almond/coconut milk full time – and since we don’t eat cereal, there’s no need for regular milk. Cheese, yogurt, cream cheese are consumed not too often around here…. We don’t eat it enough for me to consider not eating it at all. It will be our “on special occasion” food. I’d say once or twice a month (if that) I make something that requires a few ounces of dairy.

    We do have cheats every every now and then. Small cheats….and that includes anything under the sun. Even my famous PB&J sandwich!!! But we don’t go overboard. “Order small” is our motto! Except, I don’t count last weekend’s margarita fest …. oh that was fun! 1st time out with the girls in over 3 years!!

    • Bob Ewing says:

      Thanks Jill! I really appreciate that. Antonie and I have done the same thing with milk. We dropped it completely when we went paleo a year ago and switched over to almond and coconut milk. A few ago I started added regularly milk back in post-workout and just fell back in love. Now I keep a gallon at work and a gallon at home. It works well for me. Antonie doesn’t respond well to regular milk now, though, so she sticks with the almond and coconut.

      I LOVE PB&Js! Funny. Haven’t had one in forever though. And as for margarita night, well, girls gotta get out and let their hair down together every now and then. Sounds like a blast.

  2. geezerguy46 says:

    Nice Post & Great Summary! Your summary of what to (& not to) eat is helpful.

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  4. You can eat a wide variety of foods. I am announcing the release of my new cookbook, Primal Cuisine, Cooking for The Paleo Diet, forward written by Nora Gedgaudas, author of Primal Body, Primal Mind. Available on Amazon.

  5. stephy0905 says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I just started trying the primal/paleo thing. Im only on day 3 and I keep messing up it seems one place says something is ok and another does not. Im just sort of trying to keep my head above water at this point lol
    Im making almond milk tomorow and am planning to cut cows milk completely.

    • Hi;
      You can eat many things on the paleo diet. Please check out my new cookbook, Primal Cuisine, Cooking for the Paleo Diet. It is now available on Amazon. I was a Napa Valley Caterer and the recipes are fantastic. Lots of full color photos too.

      www,theprimalcuisine.com.

  6. This is Pauli again. While I do have some recipes with dairy (pastured dairy) I also have many dairy substitutions. I am casein intolerant. So, Primal Cuisine, Cooking for The Paleo Diet has recipes for those with certain allergies and sensitivities, like gluten, soy, casein and egg.

  7. sherry says:

    why shouldnt one have dairy?

    • I think Robb Wolf had a very good guide, just to keep things in perspective. He said he eats 80% Paleo and 20% his choice of other foods, which may include some sugar, chocolate or wine. I think people should pay attention to eliminating foods they may be sensitive to such as gluten, soy, egg, and dairy. I did include some dairy (sheep & goats milk) in my cookbook, Primal Cuisine, Cooking for the Paleo Diet, but also have many substitutions. I had testing done via Enterolab and Cyrex Lab to find out exactly the foods I was sensitive to and they turned out to be gluten, soy, dairy casein and egg, which is true for many people. The reason people have trouble with dairy casein is that from an evolutionary standpoint we do not have the gut microbes to digest these proteins.. This is the reason. So, the best thing is to be tested and find out. Its easy and not that expensive. Why guess?

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  10. star says:

    One year after have been doing Primal diet, I have just eaten a cheese sandwinch (yes, grains and dairy…), and it is not being a good experience. Bad, bad, bad stomach ache. Never again. No more experiments. Just my primal life.

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