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?

Categories: General, Paleo Diet Basics, Paleo/Low Carb, Weight Loss


Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation

Have you heard about the Paleo diet and were curious about how to get started? Or maybe you’ve been trying Paleo for a while but have questions or aren’t sure what the right exercise program is for you? Or maybe you just want a 30-day meal plan and shopping list to make things easier? Then Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation is for you.


  1. Dinis Correia says

    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. says

    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!

      • Brenda says

        I think you’ll actually find many shades within autoimmune as well, because some people manage to reintroduce things successfully. I can tolerate eggs, some nuts in small quantities and capsicum. So I’m autoimmune but have the things that don’t flare up my symptoms.

  3. Shaina says

    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.

    • Andrea says

      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”)?


  4. says

    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. says

    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 says

      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 says

        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 says

          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.”

    • says

      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 says

      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. says

    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. :)

    • PaulaB says

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

  7. Primal toad says

    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.

  8. NJ Paleo says

    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!

  9. Miki says

    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 says

    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 says

    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 says

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

  13. PeeWee says

    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.

  14. Rob says

    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 😀 )

  15. Barb, RHN says

    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….

  16. Dave A says

    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!

  17. J.R.Thompson says

    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!

  18. says

    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.


  19. Mamie says

    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.

  20. Fry says

    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.

  21. Stephane Lachapelle says

    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.”

  22. says

    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 :-)

  23. says

    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!

  24. Veronica says

    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. 😉

  25. says

    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!

  26. Dana says

    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 says

      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 says

      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.

  27. GaryG says

    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.

  28. JMH says

    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!

  29. Liz says

    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.

  30. Shannon says

    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 says

      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!

  31. Ginger Longo says

    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!!!

  32. says

    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.

  33. says

    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.

  34. Esther says

    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?

  35. Laura says

    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.

  36. says

    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.

  37. Kevin says

    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.

  38. says

    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.

  39. Lisa says

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

  40. Lisa says

    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.

  41. Mike says

    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.

  42. Angela says

    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.

  43. says

    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…

  44. says

    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!

  45. Jason Tibbett says

    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. :)

  46. says


    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!

  47. LynneS says

    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.

  48. Diann says

    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!!

  49. Allan Harrison says

    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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  51. Mike Pulskamp says

    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.

  52. Liz says

    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 says

      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 says

      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!

  53. Peggy Marie says

    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. :)

  54. Beck says

    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.

  55. Tracey says

    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 says

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

  56. Lisa says

    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.

  57. says

    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.

  58. says

    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.

  59. Jenny says

    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!!!

  60. says

    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.

  61. Cat says

    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 says

      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!

  62. Mike says

    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!

  63. britt says

    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…

  64. shiNIN says

    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.

  65. says

    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!

  66. Pat says

    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.

  67. Pat says

    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.

  68. Kyleigh Farmer says

    I’m just turn vegetarian paleo, yeah call me crazy. I started paleo when I was 15 and now at 17 and just found out I can’t digest animal protein. starting while im young to live a long healthy life

  69. Jan says

    Fabulous post, very witty, I am an 80/20. I have lost 2 1/2 kg, I feel full after eating, I don’t have any cravings or mood swings, I’m not looking for/thinking about food all the time after the low fat dieting of the 80s and 90s and don’t need to eat 6 or more times a day anymore!

  70. Jennifer says

    I think you are awesome Amy. I loved it. And my philosophy with any kind of “healthy” eating, is what works for you. No one is perfect and if they are, I would like to meet them and shake their hand. I am 80/20 as well…but I lost 20 lbs, look awesome, feel great…and I am proud to say that I eat Palea as an 80/20, but splurge once in a while….as long as I feel good…and I NEVER make someone feel bad about their choices…I choose to be healthy. And the best thing I ever did was loose the refined sugars….but for someone else, vegan diets work for them…it did not work for me, I was miserable and SOY was bad. I again, will say, LOVED this post!

  71. Amanda says

    I am a vegeterian/vegan eating paleo. At least 90% . Egg is the only thing. Seafood once in a while. If you’re creative you can make a lot of things with nuts, seed and beans.

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