The zero-carb carnivore diet is like the keto diet but more extreme. For carnivores, healthy eating means you only eat meat while enjoying some reported health benefits like weight loss and more energy. The rules are simple, with the carnivore diet food list containing your favorite animal foods.
Because it’s such an extreme diet, the carnivore diet has its own food pyramid, with red meat making up the base and the majority of the food you eat.
If your mouth starts watering at the idea of an all-meat diet, here’s everything you need to know about what foods to eat on the carnivore diet, along with some advice and guidance for succeeding on a diet long term.
Carnivore Diet Food List
The carnivore diet consists solely of animal meat and some low-lactose dairy. The nice part about this is that when you’re making your carnivore diet shopping list, you can plan on sticking to the perimeter of the store and altogether avoid those crowded center aisles where all the processed and junk foods are.
When creating your carnivore diet meal plan, you want to make sure you have lots of variety to keep things interesting and keep your tastebuds satisfied. You might have your favorites for this meat-only diet, but a variety of food will help prevent boredom and also help you get the beneficial nutrients and healthy fats you can find in other types of meat.
Follow this carnivore diet food list for maximum variety, flavor, and nutrients.
Meats to Enjoy on the Carnivore Diet
- Grass-fed beef
- Free-range chicken
- Ruminant animals – venison, elk, bison, goat
- Organ meat – organ meats are very important from a nutritional standpoint in the carnivore diet
- Bone marrow
Low Lactose Dairy on the Carnivore Diet
- Hard Cheese
- Greek yogurt (plain)
- Half & half or heavy cream
- Most full-fat dairy
Controversial Carnivore Diet Foods
While the carnivore diet is strictly built around consuming only animal foods, there are a few foods that are sort of teetering on the line of acceptable. With any one of these, you’ll find carnivore enthusiasts who are passionately on either side of the issue.
The first is honey. Every other sweetener either comes from plants or is manufactured in a factory somewhere. Honey is the one sweetener that is made by living creatures. On the far opposite end of the spectrum, you have ethical vegans who won’t touch honey because they consider it a class of animal foods. So, if that’s the case, can you include it on your carnivore diet shopping list?
This really depends on what your goals are with following the carnivore diet. If you’re in it for weight loss, a zero-carb carnivore diet is best and most effective for preventing a spike in blood sugar, burning through body fat, and helping you lose weight. In this case, it’s best to skip the honey.
If you’re following the carnivore diet for other long-term health benefits, then you might crave a little something sweet from time to time. A bit of honey used in a carnivore dessert might be just the thing you need to help you stay on track.
Low-lactose dairy products are allowed in the carnivore diet. This includes dairy like butter, ghee, and hard cheeses. Some take this even further to include all types of dairy because they’re all animal products.
Again, if you’re following the carnivore diet as a ketogenic diet, you really want to be careful of lactose in dairy. Lactose is a type of sugar, and eating too much of it can interfere with weight loss and other health goals.
Each person decides for themselves how strictly to adhere to this portion of the diet. Some enjoy all dairy without a thought, while others adhere strictly to the carnivore diet food pyramid and stick to low-lactose dairy only.
Coffee & Tea
This is another area that has people equally divided. Some find no issue with enjoying an occasional cup of tea or coffee, especially since water and bone broth are the only other beverages you can have. If we want to be technical about it, both coffee and tea are brewed from plants (tea leaves and coffee beans), which earns them a big X on the carnivore diet food pyramid.
There’s an argument to be made that the caffeine in coffee and tea can interfere with hormones, which may affect fat loss, either positively or negatively. If you do indulge in coffee or tea, try adding a little full-fat milk or cream to up your fat intake.
Carnivore Diet Food List Vegetables
The carnivore diet is a very restrictive diet that eliminates all plant-based foods. The elimination of plant foods is where the carnivore diet breaks away from other low-carb diets that allow small amounts of low-carb vegetables and even a few fruits.
If you’re living the carnivore lifestyle, it means you eat just meat and some select dairy if you wish. All plant-based food is off the table, and this includes all vegetables, as well as fruits, grain, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Carnivore Diet Condiments
Traditional condiments aren’t allowed according to the carnivore diet food list. This includes condiments like ketchup, mustard, mayo, salad dressing, and any sauce that isn’t pure broth made from bone marrow. Most herbs and spices are also off the list because they come from plants.
The exceptions here are salt and pepper. Salt is actually an important part of your diet, and when you’re eating nothing but meat, it’s easier than you think to not consume enough sodium – a problem that doesn’t exist in the standard American diet. So, feel free to season your food with salt and pepper.
If you need some extra flavor, you can use full-fat dairy, like butter or sour cream, to enhance flavors or just change up the taste of your dish. If you use dairy products, make sure they’re full-fat and low in lactose, which translates to low in carbs. Some dairy products are a hidden goldmine for sneaky carbs.
Canned foods can be a lifesaver when you’re short on time or when your budget is a little tight, and you’re tired of eating ground beef and chicken breast night after night. The problem is that many canned foods are packed with fillers, preservatives, and other ingredients that don’t make the cut on the carnivore diet food list.
When purchasing canned foods, always check the label to ensure there aren’t any non-compliant ingredients. Some canned food options that might work are canned chicken, canned salmon, canned tuna, canned sardines, canned oysters, canned mackerel, and bone broth.
Fast Food Options
The carnivore diet is pretty strict about eliminating processed foods, especially those with added ingredients and preservatives. There are only a couple of types of processed foods that are allowed, and those can be hard to come by in your average grocery store. Considering that fast food is almost entirely processed and loaded with a long list of additives and preservatives, ideally, you won’t touch fast food while following the diet.
However, carnivore dieters have crazy busy lives, just like everyone else. There isn’t always time in the day to cook up a steak and eggs lunch or masterfully grill a thick NY strip steak for dinner. So, what should you do if a home-cooked meal is off the table and fast food is your only option?
You can still find carnivore diet food at some fast-food restaurants, but you have to be picky and quite diligent in making sure you’re not consuming any non-compliant foods. Fast food restaurants use ingredients like vegetable oil, high-fructose corn syrup and other sugars, whey powder in their seasonings, and all sorts of other non-compliant foods that can be hidden in foods you would never suspect.
Fast Food Burgers
Your best bet is a burger with no bun and no condiments to make sure you’re sticking only to animal foods. You can add cheese and bacon if you wish, but you want to make sure they use real cheese (and not one made almost entirely from vegetable oil) and sugar-free bacon. Skip the fries and all the other sides because these are certainly 100% not considered carnivore diet food.
Fast Food Chicken
Chicken is another option if it’s plain and grilled rather than breaded and fried in vegetable oil. If you absolutely have no other choice and are experiencing a moment of desperation, you can pull the breading off and eat just the chicken underneath, but you will still be consuming some vegetable oil that has soaked through.
Subs & Sandwiches
Sandwich and sub shops are almost entirely off the list since you’re going to find mostly deli-style processed meat at these types of places. You’re much better off heading over to the burger place and ordering a stack of ground beef patties.
Fast Food Beverages
Also, stick to water and stay away from carbonated beverages. Some people enjoy coffee and tea on the carnivore diet, but this really depends on how strictly you’re adhering to consuming only animal products. Technically, coffee and tea both come from plants, so you’ll have to decide for yourself whether you’ll allow these beverages on your carnivore food list.
Carnivore Diet-Friendly Chinese Food
Many who have been following the carnivore diet for a long time get pretty good at zeroing in on appropriate carnivore diet food on just about any menu. They also learn which restaurants to avoid because of the very limited options. Chinese food is definitely one of the cuisines where you’ll have a hard time finding something that fits your all-meat, zero-carb diet. But, if you find yourself seated at a Chinese restaurant, not all hope is lost.
First, most “fast food” style Chinese restaurants aren’t going to have anything to offer. Most often, food is delivered to them pre-seasoned and pre-sauced, including soy ingredients, which are also plant-based. There isn’t much they can do in terms of customizing a dish to fit your diet.
A local Chinese restaurant where everything is prepared from scratch is a much better option. Even better if you’re a regular there and are comfortable communicating what you need. Any meat can be prepared for you without sauces that are loaded with sugar or soy. You also want to find out if they have any animal fat to cook with or ask that your dish be steam-cooked using a meat broth (bonus points if it’s a bone broth),
A dish like egg foo young is typically prepared with chicken eggs, veggies, and the option of meat. You can request to have the veggies left out and extra meat, like pork, chicken, or beef, added in. If it comes with gravy, you want to skip it since it likely contains flour or cornstarch.
If a Chinese restaurant is willing to customize a meal for you, something with eggs, meat, or a combination of both is the best option. Some Chinese restaurants also offer a wonderful selection of fish and seafood for a delicious meal. Just make sure all the ingredients align with the carnivore diet food pyramid.
Pre Workout Food
Lean meats and food like hard-boiled eggs are best as pre-workout foods, along with enough water to keep you hydrated. You want to stay away from anything that’s too fatty because it might make you feel sick during and after exercise. Something like bone broth as a pre-workout beverage is also a good idea.
There are a couple of other things to consider when exercising on a zero-carb diet. The first is to make sure that you have some salt in your diet and to replace/rebalance electrolytes as needed after exercising. Otherwise, you’re more susceptible to post-workout cramping, and you can put unneeded stress on your thyroid.
Second, you might want to avoid or limit exercises that are known to burn through the glycogen in your muscles. These types of exercises are ones that feature short, intense bursts of energy expenditure, like HIIT, Crossfit, and spin classes.
Carnivore Diet Food List PDF
When eating an all-meat-based diet, it seems like the rules would be pretty easy to follow. Still, you might have questions about what is and isn’t allowed, especially as you’re first starting out. It’s a good idea to keep a full carnivore diet food list PDF someplace super handy for easy reference. We’ve created one for you, and you can download the carnivore diet meal plan and food list PDF here. It’s completely free – no strings attached.
The page where you’ll find the downloadable PDF also includes links to carnivore diet meal delivery services where you can order foods that fit into the carnivore food pyramid. You might find it easier to use a service like this to add variety to your diet.
You can order animal foods like organ meats, grass-fed meat, muscle meats, and wild game, along with other carnivore-friendly foods like bone marrow, duck fat, duck eggs, and a wide range of both lean and fatty meat that you can’t always get at your local grocery store or butcher’s counter.
Eating to Enjoy the Carnivore Diet Lifestyle
The carnivore diet is built on enjoying rich, satisfying animal-based foods like organ meats, bone marrow, animal fat, high-quality meats, and seafood. Knowing which food to enjoy and which to avoid is the first step to success. Next is taking all those delicious foods and crafting them into a carnivorous meal plan that will keep you satisfied and help you achieve your health goals.