Struggling with what to eat on the paleo diet? This weekly paleo meal plan is full of nutrient-dense meal ideas, recipes, and tips to save time in the kitchen.
Adopting a new dietary approach can feel overwhelming. But, with an understanding of why certain foods are encouraged over others, helpful strategies for food prep, and a meal plan to get you moving, diets like “paleo” become manageable — and give you the best shot at improving your health.
In this article, we will look at what the paleo diet is, foods to focus on, and how to plan paleo meals. We’ll even give you a two-week plan with paleo recipe links to set you on the right path!
What is paleo?
Paleo is a framework that emphasizes:
- Real food over processed food
- Nutrients over calories
- Foods that optimize health over those that lead to chronic disease
It’s an approach that more closely emulates the foods of our hunter-gatherer ancestors than the westernized foods of today in an effort to reduce inflammation, toxic load, anti-nutrients, and stress.
Both the primal diet and paleo protocol are built from the idea that our modern diet is not suited to our genetic make-up, and that our health would benefit from foods that are least processed.
Why eat a paleo diet
The paleo “diet” is not about deprivation, measuring, counting, or guilt.
Instead, following a weekly paleo meal plan increases your awareness of where real food comes from, helps you remove common gut irritants from your diet, and allows you to tune into how your individual body responds to certain foods.
The paleo diet brings food back to the basics, eliminates junk, and focuses on the quality of the plants, animals, and natural fats you choose to eat.
Health benefits of paleo
People following a paleo meal plan experience individual benefits of removing junk from their diet, including:
- Improved sleep quality
- Mental clarity
- Increased energy
- Clear skin
- Decreased blood pressure
- Weight loss
- GI resolution
- Decreased inflammation
- Faster recovery
- Strength gains
- Improved immunity
What to eat on the paleo diet
A weekly paleo meal plan includes plenty of nutrient-dense foods and eliminates some that are common in a standard diet.
Here’s a quick primer on what foods are included in paleo meals, and which should be avoided, plus the reasons paleo excludes some food groups.
Foods to include
- Vegetables: choose a variety of colorful veggies — seek local, and organic (when possible)
- Meat, fish, eggs: choose grass-fed, pasture-raised, and wild-caught when you can
- Roots and tubers: starchier veggies such as beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, and winter squash
- Nuts and seeds: raw, soaked, sprouted, or dry roasted
- Fruit: especially deeply colored and antioxidant-rich berries
Foods to avoid
- Sugar: including artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, natural sweeteners, syrups, nectars (avoid ingredients ending in “-ose”)
- Processed foods: generally speaking, if it comes in a package, wrapper, or box, think twice and read the ingredients
- Industrialized oils: man-made oils including vegetable, corn, soybean, canola, safflower, sunflower, rapeseed, and hydrogenated fats (trans-fats)
- Grains: especially gluten containing and processed grains, such as barley, farro, rye, spelt, and wheat
- Legumes: beans, soy, lentils, and peanuts
- Dairy: especially conventional and low-fat dairy
What is the reason behind strict paleo diet rules?
Most would agree that sugar and processed foods have little to no place in a healthy meal plan, but ‘healthy’ whole grains, ‘fibrous’ legumes, and ‘calcium-rich’ dairy are more controversial.
If you’re wondering why the paleo diet excludes certain foods that others consider healthy, here are some of the reasons:
1. To regulate blood sugar and insulin
Excessive carbohydrate consumption (especially from processed foods) induces increased insulin release followed by a quick decrease in blood sugar. In turn, the process triggers cravings for more carbohydrates.
This vicious cycle of highs and lows may lead to insulin resistance.
2. To reduce food addiction
Specifically, sugar addiction! Sugar elicits a “feel good” response in the brain, and over time, it takes more and more to reach that same short-term “high.” In addition, sugar feeds certain bacteria in our gut, which can lead to dysbiosis, a host of health issues, and cravings for more.
3. Your health starts in your gut
60 – 80% of our immune system is located in our gut! If our gut isn’t healthy, neither are we. Focusing on gut healing foods, rather than foods that can irritate it and lead to inflammation, or “leaky gut,” — such as grains, legumes, and dairy — will help set your health on the right track.
4. To maximize nutrient density
Quality meats, vegetables, some fruits, nuts and seeds, and natural fats provide all the essential nutrients we need. Calorie for calorie they are the most nutrient-dense.
5. To provide direct feedback
One of the best ways to learn how your own body responds to certain foods is by eliminating them completely for at least three to six weeks, then reintroducing them one at a time.
A strict paleo template allows you to do this with many of the “worst offenders.” It increases your awareness of any symptoms you may be experiencing, and how food plays a role.
How to plan paleo meals
Paleolithic diets varied greatly depending on geographic location and seasonality.
If you were living in the arctic with the Inuit people you ate mostly sea mammals and some land mammals — higher in fat. If you lived in a tropical climate, your diet probably consisted of local roots, fresh fruits, and fish — higher in carbohydrates.
There is no right or wrong way to eat a paleo style diet and create a weekly paleo meal plan if you select whole foods sourced close to the earth.
Let’s take a look at some strategies for planning your own paleo meals in today’s world.
How to create balanced paleo meals
With a little practice, putting together balanced paleo-friendly meals is a piece of cake (made with almond flour, of course).
Create a paleo plate
Similar to “creating a winning plate” for your teenage athlete’s nutrition needs, balanced paleo meals include a few pieces:
- Fill your plate with veggies
- Pick your protein
- Add a source of healthy fat
Eat the rainbow
Choose naturally colorful foods and aim for a variety of colors in your meals. Different colors represent different nutrients, antioxidants, and phytonutrients — all important for optimal health.
Real food for kids starts with teaching them how to “eat a rainbow” of naturally colorful fruits and veggies.
Anytime we scratch cook using single ingredients we are nutritionally better off than eating store-bought processed foods. Getting back in the kitchen with the whole family — cooking with toddlers to teens — will set a positive example for future generations as well.
Be your own detective
When you do buy packaged foods, check the ingredient list. Choose short lists with recognizable items. Avoid artificial colorings, preservatives, sweeteners, thickeners, or flavorings.
Being successful with a real food paleo diet, means that you need to plan ahead. Knowing what your next meal will be and having the ingredients readily accessible will keep you on track.
Food prep and paleo meal planning tips
Food prep can be a lifesaver and the key to a clean diet. There are many ways you can go about it from chopping a few veggies ahead of time, to cooking and freezing your meals in advance. Either way, it’s helpful to:
Check your calendar
We all have certain days of the week that are more hectic than others, requiring crockpot meals, leftovers, or a clean-out-the-fridge salad night. We also have days with more time for batch cooking, family cooking, or trying a new recipe.
Map out the week
Once you have a good feel for the week ahead, map out your meals accordingly. Knowing what’s to come reduces decision fatigue, overwhelm, and the possibility of falling off the wagon when it comes to accomplishing the goals you’ve set.
Wash, chop, and cook staples for mix and match meals
With a plan in place, you can make a list, hit the store, and determine which steps you can take ahead to pull delicious dishes together quickly. What veggies can you pre-chop? What meats can you cook? What soups, sauces, or dressings can you prep in advance?
Cook in batches
Whether it’s hard boiling a dozen eggs (for a healthy grab-n-go breakfast), baking a few sweet potatoes (for post-workout recovery), or making a double batch of Primal Chili (freezing half for an easy family dinner), cooking in batches is a great food prep strategy.
Love your leftovers
Repurposing food that you have already cooked is a time-saving strategy for putting together healthy lunches and snacks! Making a little extra food when you cook means you have nourishing foods to grab when you need them.
Easy paleo snacks to add to your weekly meal plan
To supplement your weekly paleo meal plan, be ready with healthy and filling snacks. Keep a few of these items on hand to keep you fueled between meals, as after-school snacks, or to take on the go:
- Hard-boiled eggs and fresh berries
- Guac for a Crowd with veggie sticks
- Pineapple Cilantro Smoothie
- Apple Salami Bites
- Half an avocado with fresh salsa
- Tropical Turmeric Bites
- Grass-fed jerky and olives
- Trail mix
Paleo staples shopping list
Here is a staple paleo food list of helpful ingredients to have on hand for your weekly paleo meal plan — keep items fresh in the fridge, or store in the freezer.
Your list may look slightly different based on taste preferences, but with these foods on hand you can put together tasty omelets, salads, scrambles, snacks, and one-pot meals easily.
Adding fresh or dried herbs and spices can be a fun way to change up flavors for even more variety with this simple staples list.
- Bell peppers
- Frozen berries
- Frozen broccoli (one of the best frozen vegetables to cook with)
- Leafy greens
- Chicken thighs
- Ground beef
- Wild salmon
- Avocado oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
Canned and jarred
- Apple cider vinegar
- Bone broth
- Coconut aminos (soy sauce alternative)
- Coconut milk (canned full-fat)
Nuts and seeds
- Almond butter
- Coconut flakes (unsweetened)
- Raw walnuts
- Sprouted pumpkin seeds
14 day paleo meal plan
Here’s an example of a two-week paleo-friendly meal plan that you can follow as is, or tweak to meet your needs.
|1||Banana Almond Pancakes with chicken sausage||Avocado Caprese Turkey Wrap with fresh berries||Shannon’s Meatballs over zucchini noodles with tomato sauce|
|2||Scrambled eggs and Blueberry Sausage with Rosemary||Leftover meatballs and zucchini noodles||Chicken Pad Thai|
|3||Coco-cado Smoothie and hard boiled eggs||Ultimate Cobb Salad||Pork Chops with Rosemary Balsamic|
|4||Fruity Nut “Cereal”||BBQ Pork Jar Salad||Ginger Shrimp Curry|
|5||2 fried eggs over sauteed kale with fresh berries||Leftover Ginger Shrimp Curry||Chicken “Pasta” with Sundried Tomato Pesto|
|6||Raspberry Almond Chia Pudding||Tuna Avocado Boats||Southwestern Slow Cooker Steak Fajitas|
|7||Egg and veggie scramble topped with diced avocado||Citrus Tarragon Chicken Salad||Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps|
|8||Hearty Vegetable Egg Muffins with Ham||Leftover Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps||Salmon Chowder|
|9||Pumpkin Smoothie Bowl||Apple-Butter Sandwiches with rolled deli meat||Zesty Southwestern Taco Salad with Beef|
|10||Bacon and Eggs||Fresh Herb Salad with leftover taco meat||Hawaiian Meatballs over roasted spaghetti squash|
|11||Breakfast Tacos with Eggs and Ham||Greek Chicken Jar Salad (without cheese)||Chicken Teriyaki Cauli-rice Bowl|
|12||Apple Cinnamon Pancakes with chicken sausage||Leftover Chicken Teriyaki Cauli-Rice Bowl||Ginger Marinated Steak, Roasted Broccoli, baked sweet potato|
|13||Hash with leftover sweet potato, sausage and spinach||Leftover steak and broccoli||Thai Coconut Soup|
|14||Clean out the Fridge Vegetable Frittata||Green salad with rolled turkey, tomato, cucumber, and grapes — drizzled with olive oil and lemon||Bunless burger topped with tomato and avocado, Carrot Ginger Soup|
Next steps for paleo meal plan success
I hope this overview of the paleo diet, the benefits of eating real food, and the recommended strategies for meal planning will help set you on the path towards feeling your best.
If you found this weekly paleo meal plan helpful and you are looking for a more in-depth resource, additional recipes, and a longer meal plan complete with grocery lists, be sure to check out the 4 Weeks of Real Food eBook!
Navigating the land of clean eating is not an easy task. Don’t go about it alone. Let us help guide you on your journey to better health.