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Paleo Low-Carb Diet Menu Plans

By Andrea Cespedes

The paleo diet marries well with low-carb eating, because it encourages you to consume naturally low-carb foods, such as meats, poultry, fish, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Processed foods, dairy, grains, beans and sugar are off the menu. Not all paleo foods are low in carbohydrates, however. To make your paleo diet low in carbs, limit your intake of paleo-approved starchy vegetables, fruits and nuts.

The Paleo and Low-Carb Connection

A paleo diet is based on the foods available to early human ancestors prior to the agricultural revolution. The argument is that humans have not evolved to eat the way we do now, and processed foods, grains, legumes and dairy products contribute to inflammation, weight gain and poor energy.

A low-carb diet limits your intake of carbohydrates, found largely in foods such as processed snacks, white bread, sugar and pasta. A moderate low-carb plan keeps you at 100 to 150 grams of the nutrient daily, while lower-carb plans reduce you to less than 100 grams, or even lower at 50 grams daily or fewer. Reducing your carb intake can lead to weight loss and more stable blood sugar levels.

The two diet plans fit well together when you make minor tweaks to your paleo menu.

Paleo Foods to Limit

A low-carb, paleo menu plan includes lots of meat, poultry, fish and wild game. Watery, fibrous vegetables, such as lettuce, broccoli and cucumber, also feature prominently. Healthy fats from cold-pressed oils, such as extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil, are encouraged. You'll also include small servings of avocado, nuts and seeds that provide healthy fats, fiber and important vitamins and minerals.

A paleo diet isn't inherently low-carb, however. Some paleo interpretations do ban white potatoes, but permit other starchy vegetables, including sweet potatoes. Depending how strict your carbohydrate limits are, you may avoid starchy vegetables because they do boast a fair number of carb grams. For example, half a medium baked sweet potato has 10 grams of net carbs and 1/2 cup of mashed butternut squash has 8 grams. Net carbs are equal to a food's carbohydrate grams after you've subtracted the fiber grams. Because fiber is mostly indigestible, it won't affect your blood sugar.

Fruit is another paleo-friendly food to be wary of on a low-carb plan. A diet that restricts you to 100 to 150 grams of carbs per day leaves room for two to three servings of fresh fruit, such as apples with 16 grams of net carbs per medium fruit, blueberries with 9 grams per 1/2 cup and cantaloupe with 6 grams per 1/2 cup of cubes. But if you're restricting carbs considerably, you may need to stick to one or no fruit servings per day. Dried fruit concentrates carbohydrates, and often includes added sugar, so avoid it completely.

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A Moderate-Carb Paleo Plan

A moderately low-carb paleo plan might start with a 1/2 cup of berries and scrambled eggs with mushrooms and spinach for breakfast. Alternatively, enjoy a handful of almonds, a few strips of bacon and an apple.

At lunch or dinner, stir-fry chicken with cashews and vegetables -- such as snow peas and broccoli -- and a fresh orange. Another good low-carb paleo meal is a large salad made with raw vegetables, including lettuce, radishes, kale and tomatoes, topped with broiled steak and sliced avocado. Sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of sunflower seeds and top with a dressing made with lemon juice and olive oil, and have a 1/2 cup of watermelon for dessert.

Snack on deli meat, hard-boiled eggs, raspberries, beef jerky and raw nuts. This menu keeps you under 150 grams of carbohydrates for the day, as long as you stick to reasonable serving sizes.

A Very-Low Carb Paleo Plan

Your meal options are more limited when you greatly restrict carbs. At breakfast, eggs will still be on the menu, but you might skip the vegetables and have a few slices of bacon or a broiled ground beef patty instead. For lunch, make a chicken stir fry with broccoli, bamboo shoots and mung bean sprouts, but skip the cashews, which have 5 grams of net carbs in every 2 tablespoons. Dinner could be a broiled salmon fillet with mashed cauliflower -- with 2 grams of net carbs per 1/2 cup steamed -- and a lettuce salad topped with red wine vinegar and olive oil. Hard-boiled eggs, olives, homemade guacamole with celery and deli meat are low-carb, paleo-approved snacks. Fruit may add too many carbs if you make it a regular snack, but nuts will work once a day if you keep the portion small. Carb-free jerky makes a good snack, but read the label, as some brands may contain carb-containing fillers.

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