Seven Shades of Paleo


There’s an episode of The Simpsons that Paul McCartney guest stars on and there’s a scene that goes something like this – Paul McCartney and Lisa are talking and Lisa tells Paul that she’s a vegetarian and she’s thinking about becoming a vegan; to which Paul replies, “I’m a level seven vegan.  I don’t eat anything that casts a shadow.”  Yeah.  Pretty deep, I know.  This little intro is going to serve two purposes today.  The first is to show that everything can be taken too far.  Sorry Paul, but you fit the description of “That Guy”.  The other purpose is to point out that in the land of the non-meat eating there are ‘shades’ or classes of vegetarian/veganism – you’ve got your standard vegetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, vegan, raw vegan, macrobiotic, pesco-vegetarian, flexitarian, etc.  Unfortunately with Paleo we don’t really have that kind of flexibility – either you are, or you aren’t.  I mean sure, you’ve got the Primal crowd that does dairy and the autoimmune folks but those are pretty much the only recognized options.  This makes for a lot of confusion and results in some pretty harsh criticism sometimes.  Let me explain…

You honestly have NO IDEA how many questions and emails I get asking if ‘x’ food is paleo or from people that are confused because they read something about  _________ (insert random nonsense here) on one of the forums.  The worst is when someone tells me that they’ve been accused of not being paleo because they use/eat/drink – wait for it…  (these are good) – vinegar, salt, sweet potatoes, coffee and the list goes on.  Now, some of you are probably out there saying, those things aren’t paleo – cavemen didn’t have them and/or so and so book says they aren’t…  Well, this is where that classification system would be damn useful…

Seeing as there isn’t one yet, I took it upon myself (well, actually I was struggling with a blog topic for this week) to come up with a wicked useful ‘Seven Shades of Paleo’ classification system (Sorry to disappoint, this post is rated PG-13).  Since I created this – I make the rules and I say that you can fall anywhere on this scale and moving by half shades is totally allowable.   Go ahead, argue with me – remember, I invented this – I will always win…  So here it goes:

The Official 7 Shades of Paleo Classification System

First Shade of Paleo –The Militant Paleo (Also known as “That Guy”)

We all know at least one of these dudes or dudettes – these are the people on the forums that can find fault in every paleo diet – except their own.  They hunt their own meat, gather berries, climb trees to harvest nuts, and make dinner outside over the fire pit (or at least that’s what they tell you).  This is all well and good, but for most of us – their reality is not one that we can live in.  I liken this to the raw vegans or better yet, the fruititarians – a little over the top, and slightly insane.  **Disclaimer** If this you I apologize – please refer to the “That Guy” post linked above and know that we love you, but we just can’t live like you.  Have mercy on us.  And PS – the internet is SO NOT PALEO!!

Second Shade of Paleo – The Autoimmune Paleo

For some people just being paleo, although great, is not enough to optimize health and really start feeling good.  Individuals with autoimmune conditions or advanced health issues often need to take things a step further and this is where the paleo autoimmune protocol comes in.  For those in this shade eggs, nuts, and nightshade vegetables are added to the list of foods to avoid.  It is more difficult for some to follow – but trust me it works!

Third Shade of Paleo – The Low-Carb Paleo

The low-carb paleo approach is also fairly popular and is a great shade for improving many health issues and for getting lean.  This approach consists of eating primarily meat, healthy fats and non-starchy vegetables.  You won’t find ‘safe starches’ (sweet potatoes, yams, roots and tubers, etc.), fruit or high amounts of nuts and avocado.  This is a protocol that is often cycled in and out of based on goals and individual response.

Fourth Shade of Paleo – The Lacto-Paleo (Also known as Primal)

This one is exactly what the name implies.  The lacto-paleo follows a traditional paleo style of eating but includes dairy products.  Now, we’re not talking just any dairy products (READ: Cheez-whiz, Coffeemate, Kraft Singles, and Ben & Jerry’s, do not fall under this umbrella).  The optimal choices here are organic, grassfed, whole (full-fat) dairy products.  Skim milk and Yoplait light need not apply.

Fifth Shade of Paleo – The 80/20 Paleo (Also known as the Weekday Paleo)

This is my personal favorite shade and I would guess it’s where the bulk of us probably fall.  Basically stated, we eat clean paleo about 80-90 percent of the time and the other 10-20 percent we eat what would be considered non-paleo foods.  This could mean some cheese, wine, ice cream, etc.  This is a SANE and healthy approach as long as the 20 percent is kept under control (this does not mean a 4 hour food fest that starts with Dunkin Donuts, moves on to Dominos and ends with Dairy Queen).

Sixth Shade of Paleo – The Vegetarian Paleo (Also known as ‘Difficult’)

As paleo becomes more highly publicized for its health benefits we’re starting to see greater interest from vegetarians and even vegans that want to go paleo.  This is a tough bunch for the obvious reason – NO MEAT!  Yeah, the protein options just got up and left.  In some cases eggs are a go – but in others – no animal products at all.  I know you’re all thinking – “Well there’s no way this is even possible.”  And from an evolutionary standpoint you’re likely correct.  However, there are still some individuals that want to ‘be paleo’ without meat.  To make this work; properly prepared beans and legumes, fermented soy, nuts and seeds make up a bulk of the protein.  On a ‘textbook’ paleo diet this wouldn’t fly.  Is it possible to be vegetarian or vegan and be ‘paleo’?   Well, not really – in fact, I would say not.  What is possible is to eat whole, clean foods, (this means no Tofurky, Boca Burgers, or hybrid vegetarian/vegan processed foods).  This is going to look similar to a raw vegan approach.  Is it ideal? No, but it’s a start.

Seventh Shade of Paleo – The “I Decide” Paleo (Also known as the WTF Paleo)

Yeah, we all know this guy (gal), or maybe it’s even you sometimes…  It goes something like this – the WTF paleo says, “Yeah, I’ve been strict paleo for like a year now but I’m just not seeing or feeling the results.”  Okay, maybe…  But let’s consider an ‘average day’ of ‘strict paleo’ for this person – Breakfast: Eggs and Bacon.  Mid-morning – Starbucks latte with 3 sugar packets and a Kind Bar.  Lunch – Burger (no bun) with mayo, ketchup and mustard and a side of sweet potato fries.  Mid-afternoon – Gluten free cupcake and a handful of trail mix.  Dinner – Order of wings, steak, mashed potatoes, 2 Bud Lights and coconut ice cream for dessert…  So, I think you get my point on this one.  It’s sort of like saying you’re a vegan but eating steak every other week and wearing alligator skin boots – questionable at best.

There you have it – now paleo has a handy classification system to help clear up some of the confusion.  Seriously though, remember that paleo is not a religion – there is no paleo heaven or paleo hell.  If your ‘shade’ of paleo isn’t on this chart, but works for you, your health and your goals then it doesn’t matter what the Militant Paleo says.  Find the hue that’s right for you – there is no ‘one perfect formula’ for everyone – start with the basics and experiment until you find your perfect shade.  Your body and your sanity will thank you.

What shade are you?

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  1. Dinis Correia
    October 24, 2012 at 5:37 am

    I think saying “food X is not paleo” is the worst thing we can do. Sure, it helps people new to paleo (it sure helped me two years agora when I started), but it gets people in a no-grey area mindset.

    I usually say I ate paleo as a short way of saying “whole foods, evolutionary informed diet”. I eat cheese and other dairy and I’ve read the most silly comments from people saying “that’s not paleo, that’s primal!” – but guess what, who cares? It’s just names and labels. My usually response is “well, that chicken breast and broccoli sure didn’t exist in the paleolithic as well” :)

  2. Diana Rodgers
    October 24, 2012 at 5:46 am

    AWESOME! But what if I’m autoimmune, grow, harvest, and shoot my own food, eat some raw fermented dairy, but also sometimes eat ice cream and drink gin? Does that make me, “that girl”? ;) loved this post!

    • Dani C
      September 23, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      Diana, I want to come hang out with you. I have some fun gin cocktail recipes! ;)

    • Karen
      May 2, 2014 at 7:44 pm

      it makes you a normal human. cheers :-)

  3. Shaina
    October 24, 2012 at 6:32 am

    Great post – I appreciate the movement towards “paleo is what you make of it” while understanding basic principles. I have to correct you, though, as a Simpsons fan – that quote is wrong. Lisa was talking to Jesse (voiced by Josh Jackson) when he stated “I’m a level five vegan – I don’t eat anything that casts a shadow.” One of my favorite lines.

    • Amy Kubal
      October 24, 2012 at 8:03 am

      Thanks Shaina, I could have sworn it was Paul McCartney – damn!! ;)

    • Andrea
      October 24, 2012 at 10:18 am

      And to pick further…. wouldn’t your numbering system need to be reversed, too? So that the Shade 7 of Paleo would actually be the most severe (“that guy”)?


      • Amy Kubal
        October 24, 2012 at 11:03 am

        Man, I really suck! Maybe I should give up this writing thing and find a new hobby…

        • Angela
          May 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm

          I enjoyed your blog! My husband and I are Primal Paleo’s. And as far as the Nit picking…Well, that’s “that guy”. LOL!!

  4. Patty
    October 24, 2012 at 6:34 am

    Excellent Amy! I was recently attacked by “that guy” on Twitter for not being paleo enough, but I guess it was karma because I’ve been that guy myself in the past.

  5. Danielle @ Fresh4five
    October 24, 2012 at 7:03 am

    This was a great post! Thank you for sharing the shades. Whenever I label a recipe paleo, I feel like I do it *tip toeing* hoping no one will bash it for not being *paleo enough* I am not paleo, my many allergies make it all too complicated to live inside one label (and no, switching to paleo will not magically cure my allergies as someone once told me)

    Anyway, with all the different restrictive diets out there such as Gluten Free, Dairy free, GAPS, SCD…etc, I have found the group paleo to be rather hardcore and hard on each other….I started to wonder why, and I was thinking that maybe it’s because it’s a choice. I am sure some would say it is not a *choice* we must eat this way, but I mean opposed to having celiac disease or carrying an epi pen for certain foods.

    Paleo folks don’t make the switch because they are forced to due to disease or allergies but because of their passion and opinion on food and health, and when people are passionate about their choices, it can get intense…I like how you related it to being Vegan…as it is another place where passion can push people to be very opinionated.

    Now to go add some new recipe catagories to the blog….:P


    • eema.gray
      October 24, 2012 at 11:29 am

      I recently got told off by a nutritionist with seriously about 2 dozen letters after her name who declared that what I do (and recommend to ladies in a healthy weight loss group I belong to) isn’t “real” paleo and how dare I tell her what was wrong with some recommendations she was making because she’s read Dr. Cordian and what I was saying wasn’t what he says. [SIGH] Since I don’t have the credentials to argue with someone who has 2 dozen letters after their name, it wasn’t worth trying to come back after that. However, I am going to start linking this post in threads involving her. :-)

      • Amy Kubal
        October 24, 2012 at 11:46 am

        EPIC FAIL!!! Please do link this post – or send it directly to her. I only have 6 letters after my name – but I’m fairly confident that her eating is not ‘by the book’ 100% of the time either… Definitely a case of “that girl”…

        • eema.gray
          October 24, 2012 at 1:03 pm

          The cracker is that she doesn’t “believe in” paleo and doesn’t follow it for herself as near as I can tell. ;-) Mostly, she offers pretty solid advice, albeit with the usual hesitancy to strongly urge animal proteins and “be careful not to consume too much fat.”

    • Kelly @ Primally Inspired
      December 30, 2012 at 10:06 am

      I totally hear you on that, Danielle!! As a fairly new Paleo/Primal food blogger, I was not at all prepared for some of the negative or judgemental comments when I added the word Paleo to my recipe title. Thankfully, comments like that are few and far between, but I do think it’s unfortunate that the Paleo community can be rather judgemental to each other. The way I see it is that we’re all in this journey to better health together. I eat pretty strict Primal (and also avoiding some other Paleo/Primal friendly foods that don’t make me feel so good) because it it makes me feel, perform and look my best. But we are all created just a little bit different, so what works so great for me, may not always work well for everyone else. Keep up the great work, Danielle – I love your website :) And I really enjoyed this article, too!

    • Angel A
      January 3, 2014 at 3:14 pm

      Hi Danielle, while I agree that many people who are strict paleo (or even a level 4-5 paleo are usually not changing their diet for health issues, but rather a passion for living healthily, there ARE many who do use paleo as a “cure” for disorders and severe health issues. I suggest reading the blogger “Against All Grain,” to get an idea of how paleo can help health issues. Her story is inspiring.

  6. Daytona
    October 24, 2012 at 7:12 am

    I like the shades you came up with! I get tired of being told I am “not really paleo” so now I can happily link them to this and tell them to STFU and get off the totally non-paleo internets while I am at it.

    For the record, I am always low-carb paleo and when I am good autoimmune paleo and when I slip up lacto-paleo. And on my birthday I am a “Why the hell did I think cake just this one time wouldn’t make me sick” paleo. :)

    • Amy Kubal
      October 24, 2012 at 8:02 am

      Thanks! And I love your “Birthday Paleo” – It happens to the best of us!! ;)

    • PaulaB
      February 7, 2013 at 4:07 pm

      Daytona, I found several solutions to the whatwasIthinkingwhenIatethebirthdaycake? dilemma. The best one yet is a flourless chocolate torte!

  7. Primal toad
    October 24, 2012 at 8:24 am

    Possibly one of the top 10 all time paleo related blog posts!

    Once we meet I think we can come up with awesome ideas!

    I’m Lanning towards coming back to austin between thanksgiving and Christmas.

    • Amy Kubal
      October 24, 2012 at 9:42 am

      Thank you so much! That means ALOT!! :)

  8. NJ Paleo
    October 24, 2012 at 9:32 am

    What an awesome post, Amy, I loved it! My thought is that I should do the best I can and not judge others for their paleo/primal choices. I think we can all agree that no matter what shade of paleo we are, ultimately our goal is to feel better and to live in good health!

    • Amy Kubal
      October 24, 2012 at 9:41 am

      AMEN!!! Like I used to tell my staff back in my food service management days – “You just worry about your jump rope and yourself.” ;)

      • Catherine
        October 24, 2012 at 10:12 am

        Love that jump rope bit! The post was really awesome as well, and it’s good to know that there is room for us all.

        • Amy Kubal
          October 24, 2012 at 11:01 am

          The more the merrier!!

  9. Miki
    October 24, 2012 at 9:48 am

    What an awesome post. I for one am getting sick of the word “Paleo”. I’m getting sick of hearing myself say it actually and I know my family is a little sick of hearing me say it too.

    The thing is, a mom tends to get a little excited about something that cures her son of a life long debilitating illness. She wants to share that info with the world.

  10. Lindsay
    October 24, 2012 at 10:25 am

    This is great!!! I love it!! You have filled a gaping hole in the paleo world by defining these shades. I think you covered a lot of ground. Nice work.

  11. Sara Knight
    October 24, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Informative post until I veered off onto Google to check out fruititarianism and felt like I was staring at a train wreck for 30 full minutes. Can’t…look….away

  12. Fitness Wayne - Paleo and Exercise
    October 24, 2012 at 11:50 am

    I am probably closest to militant Paleo. But I do drink red wine and I cheat about one weekend a month.

  13. Eugenia
    October 24, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    I’d say that for Dairy, it’s best for it to be fermented and from A2 casein animals. Home-made goat kefir is a wonder food.

  14. PeeWee
    October 24, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    Let’s all take a deep breath and be honest with ourselves… we just like saying the word “Paleo”
    But it’s done a lot, it got us this far, lets let it rest for a few decades.

    New title : “the robb wolf solution” whoa, great title bro!

    side note I’ve been very WTF Paleo lately instead of LMFAO Paleo.

  15. Rob
    October 24, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    I’m an 8th shade – “It’s all mental”-paleo. I think paleoish thoughts, and read awesome articles like this one (and the “that guy” article), while eating a hershey bar. The plan is to move into a shade 7.5 (“Prolly tomorrow, or maybe next week”-paleo) after I’ve sorted the kids candy haul on halloween. Snickers bars are So not healthy enough for my kids. I’m just doing my part to keep them safe by consuming them myself. With parenthood comes sacrifice, what can I say?
    Truthfully, I admire those who are already walking the walk. I aim to be amongst you shortly (maybe next month :D )

  16. Barb, RHN
    October 24, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Hi Amy… I’m only a 3 letter person, but this article is wonderful!

    And, I think you have the rankings in the right order. Like DEFCON, a defense readiness condition, “DEFCON 5″ is the least serious, whereas “DEFCON 1″ would be very serious.

    I think I’m Paleo DEFCON 3.5….

  17. Dave A
    October 25, 2012 at 3:18 am

    I like this post, as to me it’s a little bit of a wake-up call! I think there are more of us in the WTF Paleo shade then most care to admit (or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself). Just another marker to clarify the target. Thanks!

  18. J.R.Thompson
    October 25, 2012 at 5:47 am

    I oscillate between 3 and 5. Perhaps 3-3/4 fits best. Depends on if my wife is cooking paleo or not; her concept of paleo is way more shade 4 than I prefer. And my current shade 5 indulgence is a daily stream of chemical laden no-carb “go juice” for my present 8pm to 6am work shift. I am down 125# on paleo in the past year and have Robb and Mark to thank the most!

    • Amy Kubal
      October 25, 2012 at 8:50 am

      There is nothing wrong with a 3-3/4 ranking and AWESOME work on the weight loss and getting healthy!

  19. Kristina
    October 25, 2012 at 8:18 am

    This is funny. I like it. Can’t take ourselves too seriously, right?

    • Amy Kubal
      October 25, 2012 at 8:49 am

      Never – once you start doing that life is NO FUN!! :)

  20. CJ Hunt
    October 25, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Hi Amy.

    I have one more distinction from my interview with Boyd Eaton for the film (and this likely applies to your 3rd and 4th shades of paleo, Primal &low-carb.

    In response to my question about the various definitions of “paleo” that so many were fussing over…he said, smiling, and without any judgment, “I like to call it ‘Paleo-Light'”

    He has a great sense of humor and good natured-ness.


  21. Mamie
    October 25, 2012 at 9:59 am

    This is perfect to share with those skeptics who call it a “fad” when really they don’t want to think too hard. Thank you.

  22. linda
    October 25, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Love it! and thanks

  23. Lisa McKay
    October 25, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Love this article…but isn’t Vegetarian Paleo an oxymoron?

    • Amy Kubal
      October 25, 2012 at 4:34 pm

      Yeah… pretty much – but there are those that will try. “Difficult” is all I can say.

  24. Ash Simmonds
    October 25, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Real food had a face.

  25. Corey Schuler
    October 25, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Wonderful! I’d add the fructose-free Paleo alongside the vegetarian one as difficult.

  26. Fry
    October 26, 2012 at 10:41 am

    Nobody is paleo. It’s not 20,000 years ago. Get nutrition from your food. Get your identity from your cars and clothes like a good American.

  27. Stephane Lachapelle
    October 26, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Really good read, thanks Amy. And Fry (comment above), you are bang on! RE:”Nobody is paleo. It’s not 20,000 years ago. Get nutrition from your food. Get your identity from your cars and clothes like a good American.”

  28. Lisa@SwissPaleo
    October 27, 2012 at 5:36 am

    This was so funny and so witty (and so freaking true) that I don’t even have anything to add. I’m going to link to this on my blog. Hmmm, I should probably start adding “shade disclaimers” to everything I post :-)

  29. Amy Palmer
    October 27, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this. The tone and the info are perfect! Much needed….

  30. Georgia Ede MD
    October 28, 2012 at 2:43 am

    Amy, I love this post! Witty and so true! I’m going to share it with everyone I know. I myself have experimented with shades 2, 3, and 4, but unfortunately, due to countless annoying food sensitivities, very high insulin resistance, and history of fibromyalgia/IBS/CFS/migraines, in order to completely feel my best I needed to create out an 8th shade of Paleo—the Carnivorous Paleo–essentially all-meat. Eskimo Paleo! It worked beautifully to solve every health problem I ever had. I believe this is because animal foods are free of the natural defense compounds in plant foods that can be irritating to people with chemical sensitivities, compromised immune systems or leaky gut. For anyone out there who still has health problems despite religiously following “militant + autoimmune” shades of Paleo, I’d highly recommend a week or two of all-animal to see how you feel. Just make sure to choose high-fat meats and include an occasional organ meat such as liver to avoid any nutritional deficiencies. Have you ever met any other carnivorous Paleo types, Amy? Thanks for the great piece!

  31. Veronica
    October 28, 2012 at 10:46 am

    80/20, it works for me. I still eat my sushi once in a while, with coconut amino though, soy sauce is too salty for me. ;-)

  32. Meredith
    October 28, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    Hahah Very clever! Clears everything up. I’ve been the “Vegetarian Paleo,” but my research has convinced me to branch out. Now I’m probably in the 80-20 category. I prefer to eat the Paleo way and do essentially keep a paleo kitchen, but gotta live my life, too!

  33. Dana
    October 29, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Love this! Color me a 3.5 Paleo, and that is because I am addicted to cheese :( Working on that though. Started eating Paleo because of gluten issues, and a potato allergy. I probably should be aiming for Paleo 2.0, but I love tomatoes, green peppers, etc. What’s an Italian girl to do?

    Going to share this. And there absolutely is a Paleo Hell… it’s called Thanksgiving dinner at the in-laws. Everything is breaded or dredged in flour. I always make something grain free to take so that I have something to eat. Now if they would only leave me some lol!

    • eema.gray
      October 30, 2012 at 12:32 pm

      The solution to paleo hell is to cook the food yourself! I’m making the feast at MIL’s this year and the only thing I haven’t figured out how the make paleo is the cornbread stuffing. Should probably take a gander through Paleo Comfort Foods again, LOL.

    • Jeny
      January 3, 2014 at 11:58 am

      I hear you Dana! As a girl from a carb-loving, Italian family, it’s near impossible to transfer over to Paleo. ESPECIALLY with the family trying to sneak one thing here and there. The I’ve thing I’ve finally allowed myself is enjoying some “Sunday Gravy” over Konnyaku “noodles”. After not eating pasta forever, these are a wonderful al dente way to enjoy the sauce (I haven’t been able to give up tomatoes either). They have a HUGE amount of fiber in them, and absorb nasties from your gut. So I decide the cheat isn’t so bad.

  34. GaryG
    October 29, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    What about those that eat as much fruit, yes fruit, as they want along with veges and animal products? Also, there are those that eat a mainly plant-based diet along with animal products.

  35. JMH
    October 29, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    I laughed my butt off. You pretty much covered it, but there could be room in between Primal and 80/20 for the PHD/Chris Kresser: Carbs won’t kill you, rice probably won’t either Paleo. But you did so well I feel guilty throwing in suggestions. Cheers!

  36. Gary Conway
    October 30, 2012 at 8:16 am

    Such a great post! My diet is a combo of 3 & 5. Pretty strict but now refining my own diet and investigating new foods and tolerances.

  37. Liz
    November 5, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Great post. I recently had a comment from the “Paleo Truth Sisters” (no joke) trolling my blog to point out what recipes I posted were true Paleo recipe and which were not. And I do NOT claim to be a Paleo recipe blogger. Just share what I try and enjoy at home.

    People need to get a life! Eat what makes sense for your approach to Paleo.

  38. Steve
    November 5, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Hmm 43 shades short of a bestseller… But great post nonetheless =]

  39. Shannon
    November 8, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Excellent article!

    I’m brand new to this whole Paleo thing (like, 1 1/2 weeks into it), and I might not be doing this 30-day thing correctly. I refuse to give up sweet potatoes and regular potatoes (too Irish, I guess). But despite not going to stages 1 or 2 Paleo, I am noticing a drop in blood pressure, about 7 lbs in weight loss, and significant improvement in my breathing (among other health improvements that might freak out most men if I mention them).

    Have I avoided dairy completely? Yes. Have I avoided grains completely? Apparently my coconut milk yogurt has rice starch in it…so apparently not. Have I avoided legumes? I’ve had a little soy here and there (mostly hidden in foods I thought were safe). But I’m still seeing improvement to my health and weight loss that I REALLY need.

    I somehow see myself as being somewhere between a 3 and 5 Paleo once I’m past this first 30 days, largely because I’m NOT going to stress about this. Stressing out about healthy eating defeats the purpose! (Trust me, I learned this when I went gluten free for a while.) And my secret to avoiding the Paleo hell that can be Thanksgiving…the party is at my house, and I’m planning the menu. My family will eat what I feed them! :)

    • Amy Kubal
      November 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm

      AWESOME Shannon! Keep up the great work! Your “shade” sounds perfect for you and I love that you aren’t stressing yourself out – a healthy approach is a sustainable approach!

  40. Snicci
    November 13, 2012 at 11:00 am

    I LOVE the post! But, I really love the “My House” video :)

    • Amy Kubal
      November 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm

      Thanks!! I kinda like too… ;)

  41. Ginger Longo
    November 26, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Thank you! When am trying to convince my patients that Paleo is the way to go I always remind them to make sure they customize it to what works for them and makes them feel the healthiest! I will be sharing this blog with them. Great!!!

  42. Michelle
    November 28, 2012 at 6:20 am

    What about just your average paleo person who doesnt care about labels? The eigth shade of paleo? :)

  43. Ubon
    December 20, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Joel JHi Jason (J)I read Jonah’s post again this morning and could not help but feel that Michael Jackson was spekiang to us from the grave. With his set of values, who other than a gold digger would want to marry him? The type of arrangement he seeks marriage with sex on the side has been around for centuries and common to both gay and straight married men. In social groups where this is acceptable, such as the English upper class, that may be a realistic choice. On this website, I read the coming out stories of men in middle age who had such arrangements and they all express a sense of freedom after having made their decision. Living in the closet is never a happy state, especially for married men. It involves a degree of personal disloyalty and bad conscience.With respect to children, today’s reproductive technology make it entirely possible for same-sex couples to have children so that opposite-sex marriage is no longer a requirement for family formation. I think most would agree that marriage is a long-term commitment between two people who are dedicated to each other. Jonah’s comment about fat men and fat women reminds me of those CEO’s who divorce in middle age to take on a trophy wife, Newt Gingrich being a recent example. The charge account at Tiffany’s goes with the package.Finally, the values expressed by Jonah in his post are not my values and I don’t mind saying so. I thought the reference to the Kardashians put it in a nutshell. Jonah may well have other fine attributes not expressed in his post. I hope so.

  44. Holly M (@PDXHollyM)
    December 29, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Love this post, Amy! Very clever!

    • Amy Kubal
      December 30, 2012 at 5:56 am

      Thank you Holly!

  45. Rachel M
    December 30, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    I’m definitely the lacto-paleo, though sometimes I fall in the 80/20 shade. My weakness for sure is sweets, and although I use honey or fruits to sweeten my grain-free desserts, it’s still dessert. Generally I have to be willing to give my weakness up, which I’m not, and that’s just where I’m at right now.

  46. Esther
    January 12, 2013 at 5:48 am

    Wow, that clarify a few things. Loved it! We hover between 3-5 depending of the circumstances. All those people above eat grass fed meat regularly? or they wing it for now like we do?

  47. Laura
    January 22, 2013 at 11:55 am

    I’m “that guy” – and I’m proud. I have 4 kids – I keep telling people that being Paleo gives me one thing in my whole life over which I have total control. I love it and I own it and I’m proud of it.

  48. Shawn
    January 22, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    I lived the life of Grok (Primal) for about 5 months and really enjoyed it.

    Nowadays I’m mostly a Paleo Purist (Militant shade?) and eat grass-fed steak with organic free range eggs 6 days a week with one anti-Paleo cheat day thrown in each week. Eating like this takes out the guess work of what is/isn’t Paleo or any shade in-between.

  49. Kevin
    January 30, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Have no idea what exactly ya’ll are talking about but I laughed at the post (in a nice way). Ive been told in the past I eat like a caveman (diet, not manners) so I think I need to look into it more. Of course if I do, I am naming an 8th shade Ginger-Paleo. I was having stomach issues so started drinking Ginger Ale instead of Coke and stomach problems have gone away, next step (soon) is off Soda completely.

  50. Nicolas zahasky
    February 25, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I think it your post was great. Who cares if numbers and quotes are wrong. What was the context. Don’t get so wrapped Up in labels.

    It’s just great to eat whole, healthy, real food. To be aware it comes from and what it does to your body!

    Like it or not. Amy is right, we like to be categorized. I dare “that guy” to say nay to that. It’s your badge. Wear it and spread the word about how a Paleo or primal lifestyle can make significant health changes.

    • Amy Kubal
      February 25, 2013 at 5:25 pm

      Thanks Nic!!! You made my day! :)

  51. Lisa
    March 14, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    So funny because I have always called myself 80/20 paleo/clean eating. Monday thru Friday I am on it sat and sun…

  52. Lisa
    March 24, 2013 at 9:45 am

    In the sixth shade: “Yeah, the protein options just got up and left.” HAHA, I cannot stop laughing! This is an awesome classification system! Oh, I’m basically the fifth shade (80/20), except closer to 90/10 or more. Basically, I have a glass of wine occasionally, and some unsweetened or extremely dark chocolate.

  53. Mike
    April 4, 2013 at 4:41 am

    I got hooked on Paleo after attending my local crossfire gym here in NY. My son was diagnosed with autism two years ago and the Paleo diet has done wonders for our family. Thank you for this kind post, Amy.

  54. Angela
    May 20, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    I love the shades of Paleo. It helped me identify what I am, which is Primal. My husband and I have started doing the Paleo for my Fibromyalgia and I am hoping it makes us both feel better! So far, so good. I have enjoyed everyone’s posts. It has been a good, fun and witty read.

  55. Meryl @ Expat Travels
    May 21, 2013 at 2:10 am

    Low-carb paleo + lacto paleo/primal + 80/20 (would be 100% if we excluded wine ;) ).
    I am aiming to cut most dairy eventually but boy is it addictive! I have a much harder time giving up yoghurt and milk in my coffee than I ever did giving up grains. While I have cut down significantly on the amount of dairy I consume, I have to admit that dairy products really do float my boat…

  56. Lyndsay
    June 3, 2013 at 8:39 am

    Awesome post. This is a great way to explain things for my friends – and also allows the ‘paleo’ tent to appear as large as it’s always been!

  57. Jason Tibbett
    June 21, 2013 at 3:07 am

    Awesome … love the non dogmatic approach … this kind of logical , critical thinking brings sanity in the midst of an ocean of non sensical, unscientific appriaches to nutrition and life in general. Thanks for the great work Robb. :)

  58. The Primal Gardener
    June 25, 2013 at 5:59 pm


    Great to see the different shades of paleo/primal finally explained in a clear, well-thought, and humorous manner. Sometimes its difficult to explain exactly how my family eats since there are so many versions out there (all claiming to be the “one true path!”). And don’t get me started on the “paleo” cookbooks that contain flour, soybean oil, and white sugar!

  59. LynneS
    July 1, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    LMAO. I just had this very discussion with myself after Whole30 and I wish I’d seen this. It would have made it all so much easier. Thanks for the shades, I’ll be right there in shade 4 with the rest of the Northern Europeans.

  60. Diann
    July 2, 2013 at 7:10 am

    Love this!! I fall into the Fifth Shade…I do admit to enjoying some dairy & wine! And, I will make homemade pizza with organic flour for an occasional treat! I def enjoy the lifestyle!! Good work!!

  61. Allan Harrison
    July 4, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Hey, what about the Macro-Paleo?
    Non-starch veg, clean protein from whatever sources work for you, (including in addition to the usual: eggs, dairy, soy or gluten. The horror!The horror!), starchy carbs from non grain sources, nuts and fruit.
    Achieve the macro ratios from whole foods and minimally processed traditional foods.
    In this shade, Tofurkey counts as paleo protein – it’s grass fed and free range until they bring it in and wash it off.

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  63. Mike Pulskamp
    July 19, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    FWIW, Paul McCarthy is totally THAT GUY!

    I am a Union Stagehand. When I worked his show catering had grilled cheese sandwiches, and tomato soup. uh, We do hard physical labor building a show, we are not all vegetarians We like real protein! But thanks for deciding for us! Last time I work for him.

    Most shows (that cater, it is a contractual thing most of the time) have great choices, I guess he just couldn’t afford it.

  64. Liz
    September 26, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Thanks for this article!!! It was so helpful. I am new to Paleo and was shocked at the attitudes I experienced. I just want to be healthier and yes t loose some weight. This seems to be the only balanced article I found after much research.
    I do have a question though. I’m a very busy teacher and breakfast is the meal I have the hardest with. I need something fast and quick. Normally I was eating greek yogurt but I know it isn’t “paleo” Could I still do that even though it isn’t all natural and not ruin what work I am doing?

    • Squatchy
      September 26, 2013 at 1:00 pm

      I suppose that really depends on how you handle dairy. Take the time to feed to yourself well though, make it a priority. There are lot of meal options that can be made really quickly though, eggs (maybe with bacon, or sausage, veggies, etc.), a can of fish with some veggies, etc. Eating leftover dinner or making meals in advance that are ready in the fridge are great options too.

    • Lisa
      January 3, 2014 at 12:29 pm

      I have the same issues with breakfast. I was reluctant to eat foods that are not traditionally breakfast foods in the morning but I’ve loosened up over time. I recommend biting the bullet and warming up some of last night’s dinner for breakfast. When the food is delis ious, you’ll forget that youre eating chicken at 8am.
      Although some will caution you on smoothies (drinking your food, etc), you can also find paleo smoothie recipes. Before going low carb, I used to have a banana-almond butter smoothie every morning with a raw egg in it. It was delis ious! Hard-boiled eggs with some quality deli-meat and sliced veggies are another option. As far as dairy, I recommend sticking to the diet 100% for at least 30 days before adding foods back in. Good luck!

  65. NicoleB
    September 30, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Honestly, thank you for this. So OVER “that guy” and “that girl”. All steps in the right direction towards health are good ones.

  66. Peggy Marie
    October 16, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    I loved this! I laughed and read the whole thing to my husband. He was a 20 year vegetarian and about a month ago decided to try Paleo to see if we can lose weight and just generally feel better. We both love the Paleo lifestyle and the effect it has had on our bodies. I am proud when I say I am a Lacto/Low Carb Paleo kind of gal and my husband is Low Carb Paleo. It’s what works for us. Thank you again for writing this. :)

  67. Beck
    November 18, 2013 at 4:35 am

    Love the post! I always thought of myself as being perfect on my paleo diet but lets get serious i do love a glass of red wine at dinner… So i guess i am the 80%. I love having control over everything that goes into my body it is so important.

  68. Tracey
    November 23, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Thanks for this article :) I’m a week into my trial after being ill & realizing that the way I eat is probably the main cause. Thankfully I like to cook, so it’s been fairly easy to bump up the veggies & lean protein while still satisfying my children who are currently referring to my new eating habits as, “That weird diet.” Hoping to cut back their carboholic tendencies too by setting a better example! It makes me feel better to see the shades – I was feeling guilty for having a piece if cheese! Keep up the awesome posts :)

    • Lisa
      January 3, 2014 at 12:19 pm

      Haha- I’ve resorted to referring to my own way of eating “a weird diet” when I get strange looks from coworkers, family, etc.

  69. Lisa
    January 3, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    I’m currently stage 3 low carb and 4 lacto (paleo/primal-ketogenic). I’ve spent some time at stages 1, 5, and 7 over the past year and a half. 5 and 7 don’t work for me AT ALL and my weight loss (my goal) plateaued at stage 1. I feel good about where I am at because I’m finding the “stage” that works best for me and my body. The only challenge is trying to explain my “stage” to other people! I quickly get overwhelmed by all the info i’ve absorbed and don’t know where to start.

  70. Sarah
    January 3, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    LOVE this post! :)
    I am typically somewhere between autoimmune paleo (when I’m really on it!), low-carb paleo (because I sure do love the weight loss factor that is coming with good health), and 80/20 paleo (because if we’re being honest here, as much as I try, and I can usually swing closer to 90/10 most of the time, I haven’t met anyone who’s truly militant paleo.) But this week is my birthday so I will be classifying myself under lacto-WTF paleo on Sunday for my birthday party and Wednesday on my real birthday when I indulge in my grandma’s (modified to be gluten free but not grain free) carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

  71. Tara Pantera
    January 3, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    I went on a cruise and ate whateverthehell I wanted for 7 days. *Pretty Woman quote* Big mistake. Big. HUGE. I totally didn’t care. I was at that stupid ice cream machine erry DAY. I came back, did a Whole 30, and we’re trackin’ now. LOVE this post. I can’t wait to link it 4856348393 times on my blog.

    • Amy Kubal
      January 3, 2014 at 4:19 pm

      Thanks for the love and link it like you mean it!! :)

  72. Jenny
    January 3, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    I’m a 2,3 and 4!! Definitely low carb, can’t give up dairy no matter how hard I try and avoiding nightshades and most nuts!!!

  73. Geri
    January 3, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    I am pretty much at Level 3 + a little full fat dairy. I’ve considered adding more starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes when I get to my goal weight.

  74. Cat
    January 30, 2014 at 11:10 am

    What about the ‘personal shade’ of paleo? There are those of us who eliminated everything and then added in (one at a time) the things we wanted back in to see if they would work (aka Whole30). For me, grains, corn, soy and dairy? no. potatoes? yes!

    I’m not AIP, I’m not low carb and I’m definitely more compliant than 80/20. Your scale has no appropriate shade for people like me.

    • Amy Kubal
      January 30, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      Cat, the overall point of this post telling everyone that there is no, one PERFECT version of Paleo. You need to find what works for you and it sounds like you have!

  75. Mike
    February 4, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Just started this diet and I read your post to help me decide how i wanted to approach it. My wife is doing no carbs, so I guess Shade 3, but I went with the 80/20 approach. I am not going to go insane trying to avoid carbs or giving up the limited diry products I consume. I did have to cut pasta, rice, and potatoes, but so far it is easy to folow as I like meat and vegetables. Good read!

  76. janet
    April 2, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    I am Third Shade of Paleo – The Low-Carb Paleo

  77. britt
    July 14, 2014 at 9:24 am

    As a die hard Simpsons fan the first sentence of your article is all wrong.It was NOT Paul McCartney who claimed to be a level 7 vegan it was a “dirt first” member named Jessie that Lisa had a crush on…Worst reference ever…

  78. shiNIN
    August 14, 2014 at 8:05 am

    Most of them aren’t paleo… Just like you aren’t vegetarian if you eat some fish once every month…
    (Almost) 6th… But I don’t eat beans or soy, I wouldn’t call it paleo if I did… Well I don’t eat 100% vegetarian stict paleo (it’s more enjoyable and free this way) but I’m pretty close to it.
    I love desserts, variety and I need a low-carb diet but still, I don’t find it difficult. Raw veganism, that is difficult. And much more paleo than most versions here, I think.

  79. Laureen Fox
    October 21, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Well said!

    I like the analogy about a vegan eating steak every other week :)

    I guess I sort of fit the last category in that I’m gluten free all of the time. Whole foods, sugar free and grain free most of the time. Dairy and legume free hardly ever…confusing? Maybe, but that’s the hue that makes me feel good!

  80. GiryaGirl
    October 21, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    I’m #4… but it’s all good

  81. Pat
    February 22, 2015 at 6:14 am

    I love Paul McCartney and you’re right – he is THAT GUY – but not for the reasons you mentioned but because he’s the greatest musician in our lifetime. And I’m not a vegan but I respect his reasons for being one and admire his dedication to animals and all that he does on their behalf. So, yes he is THAT GUY, and that’s a good thing for him and us.

  82. Pat
    February 22, 2015 at 6:20 am

    PS: My shade is the Autoimmune Paleo but I will be adding in homemade Yogurt at some point if my tests determine that I would be better helped by following the GAPS diet which is close to Paleo but focuses more on healing the gut to regain health. GAPS includes healthy yogurt (can be made with coconut milk also) and has some similarities to Paleo including lots of veggies, etc.

    Thanks for a nice post.

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