The ultimate beginner’s paleo shopping list

by | Sep 27, 2022 | Last updated Feb 25, 2023

  • Paleo shopping list staples include lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, healthy oils, nuts and seeds, and spices.
  • Paleo grocery shopping should focus on whole foods that Paleolithic hunter-gatherers would have eaten.
  • Spend time in the meats and produce sections, and avoid aisles heavy with processed foods.

When you’re on a strict diet like paleo, grocery shopping can be tricky. That’s especially true because modern grocery stores are full of aisles and aisles of processed foods and often place whole foods—like meats and fresh produce—along the edges.

But never fear. All it takes to craft the perfect paleo shopping list is knowing the basic paleo food staples and how to best approach your next trip to the store.

Keep in mind that Noom doesn’t endorse restrictive diets. However, we think the paleo diet’s focus on whole, fresh foods is a good thing, and we’re here to support you, whatever your eating style.

We had a chat with Noom wellness coach Ashley Bannister, MS, RDN, to get all the paleo grocery store recommendations and tips to make shopping (and meal times) painless and fun.

Note: Consult your health care provider before making any dietary changes.

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What is paleo in a grocery store?

Because the paleo diet is focused on whole foods, stick with the outer produce and meats sections of the grocery store—that’s where the bulk of the whole foods are. 

Paleo-friendly foods are things that could’ve been hunted, fished, or gathered in the Paleolithic era. However, remember that there is some debate over what was actually eaten during that time period, causing many variations of the diet to pop up.

Overall, it’s best to focus your paleo shopping list on things like grass-fed beef and fresh fruits as well as veggies, eggs, nuts, and seeds.

Paleo grocery list: 9 staples to keep on hand

When it comes to grocery shopping on paleo, it’s important to look for nutrient-rich whole food staples you can use in many different ways. Paleo is a challenging way to eat, so buy what you think you’d love and enjoy. Pick the foods that will satisfy you the most.

By keeping staple items and your favorites on hand, you’ll find the paleo diet easier to stick with. Here are the staples Bannister recommends adding to your paleo whole foods shopping list.

1. Animal proteins

Hunted animals were a big part of early humans’ diet. So as a paleo eater, you’ll spend quite a bit of time in the meat department shopping for: 

  • Beef jerky*
  • Bison
  • Bone broth made from animal bones
  • Bone marrow
  • Catfish
  • Caviar and fish eggs
  • Chicken breasts, thighs, wings, and legs
  • Chicken heart
  • Chicken liver
  • Clams
  • Cod
  • Crab
  • Eel
  • Eggs
  • Ground beef
  • Haddock
  • Lamb
  • Lobster
  • Mussels
  • Octopus
  • Oysters
  • Pork
  • Salmon
  • Scallops
  • Shrimp
  • Small or wild game
  • Snails
  • Steak
  • Swordfish
  • Tilapia
  • Trout
  • Tuna
  • Turkey
  • Veal
  • Venison

* Beef jerky is paleo as long as it doesn’t have soy, sugar, nitrates, chemicals, and other additives.

Paleo eaters like to consume grass-fed, wild-caught, and free-range meat because animals in the early human era lived in these conditions. With that said, we know that organic grass-fed, free-range, wild-caught meat and seafood can be pretty expensive. 

Don’t beat yourself up if that doesn’t fit your budget. Here at Noom, we say focus on eating affordable whole foods instead of worrying about labels.

2. Vegetables

Veggies are another paleo favorite at the grocery store. Stock up on vegetables while grocery shopping to have plenty of options for mealtimes and snacks. 

Here’s a list of popular paleo veggies to shop for: 

  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chili peppers
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Kale
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini

3. Fruits

Fruit lovers, rejoice! All fruit is on the table because they were part of the hunter-gatherer diet in Paleolithic times. That means it’s time to load up on your favorite fruits while you’re in the produce section. 

But watch out for fruits with a higher glycemic index that can elevate blood sugar, Bannister says. For example, bananas and pineapple. This doesn’t mean these foods aren’t paleo, but you’ll want to buy and eat these in moderation. 

Fruits to add to your paleo grocery list include: 

  • Apples
  • Avocado
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries
  • Grapefruit
  • Grapes
  • Kiwis
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Mangos 
  • Melon
  • Oranges
  • Papaya
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon

4. Nuts

Great as a snack on their own or worked into a meal, nuts are indeed paleo-friendly and a favorite of paleo followers. And there are lots of great paleo-friendly nut options to throw into your cart. 

When you’re making your paleo shopping list, don’t forget to include: 

  • Almonds
  • Almond butter* 
  • Brazil nuts 
  • Cashews
  • Cashew butter* 
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Macadamia nut butter*
  • Pecans
  • Pecan butter* 
  • Pine nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Pecans
  • Hazelnuts
  • Hazelnut spread* 
  • Walnuts

* Nut butters and spreads are paleo if they only contain nuts and/or healthy oils. Avoid butters and spreads with sugar and chemical additives.

5. Seeds 

Seeds are another paleo staple to snack on or to add extra crunch and flavor to meals. And just like nuts, you have lots of seed options to choose from at the grocery store: 

  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Pumpkin seed butter*
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sunflower seed butter*

* Seed butters and spreads are paleo if they only contain seeds and/or healthy oils. Avoid butters and spreads with sugar and chemical additives

6. Healthy oils and fats

Healthy oils and fats are must-have paleo pantry staples. They help bring out a dish’s flavors and help you stay full long after eating.

  • Avocado oil
  • Coconut butter
  • Coconut oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Ghee (clarified butter)
  • Lard
  • Macadamia nut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Palm oil 
  • Walnut oil 

7. Herbs and spices 

Pack your paleo dishes with herbs and spices—whether dried or fresh. 

  • Basil
  • Bay leaves
  • Black pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Curry powder
  • Dill weed
  • Garlic powder
  • Ginger
  • Lavender 
  • Marjoram 
  • Mint 
  • Onion powder
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Saffron 
  • Tarragon 
  • Turmeric
  • Thyme

8. Condiments

As far as condiments go, you’ll have to be a bit more careful. 

There are limited paleo condiments out there because many popular condiments like ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise are highly processed and off-limits. (Though you may be able to find some paleo versions of these at the grocery store.)

The only true paleo condiment is raw honey. 

9. Drinks

Drinks are another grocery food category you’ll need to be more mindful of, as many packaged beverages are full of sugar and other additives. 

These are the drinks you can add to your paleo grocery list to quench your thirst: 

  • Water 
  • Green tea 
  • Coconut water
  • Coconut milk 
  • Herbal tea

You might be able to find some paleo brands that offer other drink options (like shakes and smoothies), too.

Ready to make a lasting change?

A healthier you, wherever you are.

How do you grocery shop on the paleo diet?

Plan your shopping trip in a way that allows you to focus on whole foods. Bannister recommends the following steps:

  1. Make a paleo shopping list before heading to the grocery store and stick with it, so you don’t buy things you don’t need or want. 
  2. Start with the fresh produce section to pick out the fruits and vegetables you want to eat.
  3. Work your way over to the meat and seafood department—picking out organic, grass-fed, wild-caught, and free-range choices when possible.
  4. Build on what you’ve picked out so far with a selection of spices, healthy cooking oils, nuts, and seeds.
  5. Focus on shopping along the edges of the store and skip the aisles containing foods you can’t eat. This means walking past the basic processed snacks (like cereal and cookies) and grains—including bread and rice.
  6. Once you’ve got everything you need, head to the checkout line, and you’re done.

Paleo meal prep tips to save time (and stress)

Now that you’ve bought a bunch of paleo-friendly food staples, it’s time to figure out what to do with it all.

With paleo, planning out and prepping your meals makes the strict diet a lot easier to sustain. Meal prep allows you to save time and change things up to make mealtimes less stressful throughout the week.

“When our diets are overly restrictive, we tend to become burnt out with the same foods every day, and that can lead to decision fatigue,” Bannister says. “When decision fatigue sets in, you’re likely to grab the easiest option, and it may not align with your goals or the paleo diet.”

If you get creative with your meal prepping, you can use different foods from your paleo shopping list to make meals you’ll be excited to eat.

Here are three quick meal prep tips for success:

  1. Have a dedicated meal prep time: Schedule time on a specific day of the week to plan out and prep meals soon after you shop. Weekends are good because then you don’t have to worry about figuring out what you’re going to eat on busy weekdays. Choose a day when you’ll have more time to be creative with your paleo meals.
  2. Keep caloric density in mind: Incorporate foods that are less calorie dense in the meals you’re prepping to leave you feeling full longer. That means adding in plenty of foods like fruits and veggies and balancing them with those more calorie-dense foods, like red meats.
  3. Prep paleo meals you’ll enjoy: Select the paleo ingredients you love to make meals you’ll actually look forward to. 

Use your paleo shopping list items on delicious recipes you’ll love

Now that you know about all the paleo food staples, it’s time to take your meals to the next level with some tasty new paleo recipes.

Going paleo doesn’t mean your meals have to be boring. You have plenty of options.

You could start your day with a smoked salmon breakfast bowl, enjoy some chicken tacos in lettuce wraps for lunch, and end the day with lemon garlic salmon for dinner.

We put these meals and many more together in a list of tasty paleo diet recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and beyond.

Also, to round out your eating, make sure to look at our list of paleo snacks.

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