Navigating Paleo & Keto

The new year is a natural time to consider making dietary changes that may help you lose weight or achieve certain health goals. It’s tempting to try the latest eating styles such as paleo or keto. In the short term, these trendy diets may help you lose weight, but following them for the long term may not be ideal for your overall health.

Let’s explore the paleo and keto eating styles from a dietitian’s perspective, considering foods to include and avoid, and how to maintain nutritional balance. Before you start any new diet or eating plan, be sure to consult your physician to make sure it’s right for you.

egg and veggie bowl

The Story Behind Paleo

A paleo dietary plan features foods that prehistoric humans may have eaten during the Paleolithic era.1 It’s based on the belief that, if early humans didn’t eat it, neither should you.2 Say goodbye to refined sugars, dairy, legumes, and grains, which are products of the agricultural revolution. Say hello to meat, fish, poultry, fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds, foods that were hunted and gathered.1, 3

What's In4, 5 What's Out4, 5
  • Lean meats (especially grass-fed)
  • Fish and other seafood
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Oils (walnut, coconut, olive, and avocado)
  • Eggs (cage-free preferred)
  • Cereal grains
  • Dairy
  • Potatoes (except sweet potatoes)6
  • Refined vegetable oils
  • Legumes (including peanuts)
  • Refined sugars
  • Processed foods
  • Salt
Pros1, 2
  • Paleo eating cuts out most junk foods by removing processed foods and refined sugars.
  • It includes foods that are generally recommended for a balanced eating pattern: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and lean proteins.
  • It has shown positive short-term results7 in weight loss and appetite management as well as blood pressure control.
Cons1, 2
  • A paleo diet eliminates entire food groups, including grains and dairy.
  • It may cause deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D.
  • With so many foods excluded, this diet may cause boredom.
  • Grass-fed meats, cage-free eggs, and other items on this diet tend to be more expensive.
  • Long-term health effects are still unknown.7

7 Smart Paleo Tips

If you decide to try a paleo-style diet, check out these ideas to help you maintain balanced nutrition along the way.

  1. Focus on lean meats. For red meats—such as beef, pork, and lamb—look for round or loin in the name. GreenWise chicken fillets, cutlets, and tenderloins are raised without antibiotics ever on a 100% vegetarian diet, and air-chilled for optimal taste. Try our grass-fed beef and cage-free eggs.
  2. Include fish that contains omega-3s, such as salmon, trout, oysters, crab, mussels, catfish, clams, and flounder.8 Our Seafood department has you covered.
  3. Save time with carb alternatives such as spiralized veggies (available in Produce and frozen foods) and riced cauliflower (in frozen foods).
  4. Find sources of calcium beyond dairy, such as turnip greens, kale, canned salmon, and sardines with bones.9
  5. Get vitamin D from foods such as salmon, canned tuna, and eggs.10
  6. Add fiber to salads and soups with chia, flax, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds, as well as nuts such as almonds and pistachios. Our GreenWise almond butter is another great option.
  7. Talk with your doctor about adding a supplement if needed.

New Recipe! Whether you’re going paleo or not, try our Smoky Chicken and Vegetables recipe, featuring chicken, broccoli, and sweet potatoes.

What to Know About Keto

The keto eating style is rooted in a decades-old therapeutic ketogenic diet used in neurological medicine. Today, several versions of the keto diet appear in books, blogs, and social media. Common threads include high-fat foods coupled with very low carbs and moderate proteins. Most suggest a daily calorie split of 70–80% fats, 5–10% carbohydrates, and 10–20% proteins.11

What's In11 What's Out11
  • Fatty animal proteins including meat, bacon, eggs, poultry with skin, and fish
  • High-fat dairy such as butter and hard cheeses
  • Oils and fats such as cocoa butter, lard, olive oil, coconut oil, and palm oil
  • Nuts such as macadamias, walnuts, almonds, and pecans
  • Seeds including sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, hemp, and flax
  • Nonstarchy vegetables such as leafy greens (kale, Swiss chard, collards, spinach, bok choy, and lettuce), cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, bell peppers, garlic, mushrooms, cucumbers, celery, and summer squash
  • Whole and refined grains and flour products
  • Added and natural sugars in foods and beverages
  • Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn, and winter squash
  • All fruit juices and fruits (unless factored into designated carbohydrate restriction)
  • Legumes including beans, lentils, and peanuts
Pros11
  • Keto eating styles embrace fatty foods, which are satisfying and cause decreased food cravings.
  • It’s relatively easy to cycle in and out of this diet, so you can include short periods of carbohydrate restriction followed by more carbohydrate intake.
Cons11, 12
  • This diet may be extreme and hard to follow, especially when eating out or attending social events.
  • Strict carb limits exclude food groups such as grains, fruits, and some vegetables, which may cause nutrient deficiencies.
  • Possible side effects include hunger, fatigue, low mood, irritability, constipation, headaches, and brain fog.
  • The long-term health effects of keto-style eating are still unknown.

5 Ways to Work with Keto

If you decide to try a keto-style diet, be sure to follow these guidelines.

  1. Get familiar with the good fats: polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.13
    • Find polyunsaturated fats in walnuts and pine nuts as well as in flax, sesame, and pumpkin seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids (a type of polyunsaturated fat) are plentiful in seafood, such as salmon, trout, oysters, crab, mussels, catfish, clams, and flounder,8 and in flaxseeds and walnuts.
    • Discover monounsaturated fats in olive oil, avocados, and most nuts.
  2. Experiment with lower carb alternative spiraled, precut, and riced veggies located in our Produce department and in frozen foods.
  3. Learn about hidden sources of added sugars.
  4. Add fiber to your diet with chia seeds, flaxseeds, nuts, and vegetables. Consider taking a fiber supplement as recommended by your physician.
  5. Learn how to track your macronutrients, or macros—the fats, proteins, and carbs that comprise your daily calorie intake. Here’s how:
    • Determine how many total calories per day you should consume to lose weight.
    • Take that total and divide it by the macro percentages you are trying to reach.
    • Use the chart below to help determine your macros based on your calorie level.
    • Set goals and use a weight loss or food tracking app.

Sample Guidelines

Calories 70% fat
(in grams)
20% protein
(in grams)
10% carbohydrates
(in grams)
1500 117 75 38
1800 140 90 45
2000 156 100 50
2200 171 110 55

New Recipe! Add international zing to your keto diet with Chicken with Zhoug-Style Sauce featuring Publix chicken, broccoli, and a blend of herbs and spices.

For the Love of You

Choosing how you eat is uniquely personal. It’s about your needs, your preferences, and your goals. As your wellness ally, Publix is in your corner with fresh ideas, recipes, and wellness icons that make it easier to shift toward wiser food choices. It’s all about you, at your very best.

Sources

1 Mayo Clinic Staff. Paleo Diet: What Is It and Why Is It So Popular? Mayo Clinic. August 8, 2017. 

2 What Is Paleo Diet? U.S. News & World Report. Accessed October 18, 2019. 

3 Amidor, Toby, MS, RD, CDN. Paleo: Spotlight on the Paleo Diet. Today's Dietitian 20, no. 2 (February 2018): 14.

4 Vandyken, Paul. What to Eat on the Paleo Diet. The Paleo Diet. October 12, 2016. 

5 Paleo Diet Do’s & Don’ts. U.S. News & World Report. Accessed October 18, 2019. 

6 The Paleo Diet Team. Are Sweet Potatoes Paleo? The Paleo Diet. February 10, 2010.

7 Manheimer, Eric W., Esther J. van Zuuren, Zbys Fedorowicz, and Hanno Pijl. Paleolithic nutrition for metabolic syndrome: systematic review and meta-analysis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 102, no. 4 (October 2015): 922-32. 

8 Which Fish Is the Richest in Omega-3s? Seafood Nutrition Partnership. Image. Accessed October 18, 2019.

9 U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). Calcium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health (NIH): Office of Dietary Supplements. October 16, 2019. 

10 U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health (NIH): Office of Dietary Supplements. August 7, 2019. 

11 The President and Fellows of Harvard College. Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss. Harvard T. H. Chan School for Public Health. Accessed October 18, 2019. 

12 Bueno, Nassib Bezerra, Ingrid Sofia Vieira de Melo, and Terezinha da Rocha Ataide. Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. British Journal of Nutrition 110, no. 7 (October 14, 2013): 1178-87. 

13 U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). Dietary Fats: The Basics. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 8th ed. November 21, 2016.