The carnivore diet is an elimination diet that focuses on eating only animal protein and eliminating all types of plant-based food. Proponents claim the carnivore diet aims to help people with weight loss, promote gut health, reduce the symptoms of chronic disease, and possibly reduce the risk of heart disease. It’s even effortless to follow for such a restrictive diet.
More research needs to be done to back these claims, but in the meantime, the carnivore diet has soared in popularity. If you’re thinking about trying out the diet, the first step is to learn all you can about the health benefits and if it’s a diet that’s well suited for you. The second step is to know all the rules that make the diet so effective.
1. Only Eat What’s Allowed On The Carnivore Diet
The number one rule of any diet is to stick to it and only to eat the foods that are permitted. Some people follow the diet rigorously, eating only animal products every day. Others cycle on and off an animal-based diet, similar to carb-cycling, but this approach is less common.
The carnivore diet is often called a meat-only diet, but this only paints part of the picture. Yes, people who follow the diet are mostly eating meat, but some other animal foods are also allowed.
Low lactose dairy products are also allowed on the carnivore diet, although even low-lactose dairy should be consumed in moderation. Lactose is the type of sugar found in dairy products, and consuming too much can disrupt the effects you want to achieve with the carnivore diet.
Hard cheeses, eggs, ghee, and butter are a few examples of dairy products you can enjoy on the diet. For those times when you want a break from eating an all-meat diet, a hard-boiled eggs snack or steak and eggs lunch is a welcome change in the menu.
Experts on the carnivore diet suggest eating a variety of meats, including organ meat, steak, ground beef, pork, chicken, lamb, turkey, salmon, whitefish, and sardines. Bone broth and bone marrow are also suggested as good options on a carnivore diet meal plan.
2. Choose Organic and Grass-Fed Meat When Possible
The quality of the meat you choose when following the diet is important. Whenever possible, it’s always best to choose organic, free-range, and grass-fed meats. There are several reasons for this.
When you eat only meat, you’re not consuming plant foods that are high in antioxidants that help neutralize toxins that come from typical corporately farmed meat. Animal fat and meats store toxins, pesticides, and other chemicals from the foods the animals eat. A carnivore diet that leans heavily toward organic and grass-fed beef and other meats will be cleaner and make it easier to reach your health goals, including weight loss, blood sugar regulation, and reducing high blood pressure.
3. Don’t Choose Only Lean Cuts of Meat
If you’re following the diet to lose body fat or improve your health in other ways, your first inclination is probably to choose the leanest meats possible. We’ve been taught that lean meat is good and fatty meat is not. While it’s true that saturated fat isn’t always the best, especially if you have a history of heart disease, there are healthy fats in a range of meats, and these are very important for achieving success on the carnivore diet.
Healthy fats, like the kind found in fatty fish, are best, but there’s no reason to shy away from a ribeye steak with nice fat marbling throughout or ground beef that’s 80-85% lean instead of 90%
4. Incorporate Organ Meats
Not everyone is a fan of eating organ meats, but it’s a dietary change that’s strongly recommended on the carnivore diet. Because this eating style is a rather restrictive diet, you’re at risk of missing out on a variety of crucial vitamins and minerals. Supplements are always an option, but organ meat offers a different nutritional profile than just eating chicken, fish, and ground beef every day.
Organ meat like chicken liver, beef liver, beef tongue or heart, bone marrow, brains, and trotters are high in nutrients like B vitamins, CoQ10, vitamin A, folate, selenium, and chromium among others.
5. Avoid Foods That Aren’t Animal Products
This rule goes hand in hand with rule #1. There are zero plant foods or processed foods allowed on the carnivore diet. Plant foods include all vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and legumes. Processed foods are also off-limits. Processed foods often contain carbohydrates which will spike your blood sugar. The carnivore diet is practically a zero carbs plan, so anything with carbs is a no-go.
You also want to avoid processed meats when following the carnivore diet. Again, these often contain additives and preservatives with ingredients that aren’t aligned with what the carnivore diet consists of. Some beef jerky is fine, but you really have to examine the labels to make sure it’s nothing but dehydrated animal meat.
6. Watch What You Drink
There are really only two drinks that are approved on the carnivore diet. You can drink water (and lots of it!), meat broth, or bone broth. The carnivore diet food list strictly prohibits carbonated beverages and juices. Tea and coffee are also off-limits because they’re brewed from plant-based foods.
7. Portions Sizes, Meals, and Calorie Restrictions
Most diets that you follow for weight loss have a complicated system of calculations and measurements to ensure you lose weight and gain all of the health benefits. Fortunately, the carnivore diet isn’t the same.
The carnivore diet involves eating zero carbs, all-meat diet. That’s it. You don’t have to limit portion sizes, stick to a certain number of meals, do intermittent fasting, or count macros. It’s recommended that you consume about two pounds of meat a day to meet your caloric requirements, but this isn’t a hard rule. You do want to keep a close eye on your dairy intake to make sure you’re not consuming too much lactose.
8. Commit To a Meal Plan
This rule and the next aren’t hardcore rules of the carnivore diet. Instead, they’re here to help offer some guidance and help you stick to a diet that’s seen as being extremely restrictive.
Although it might seem like all you’re going to do is eat meat, it’s still a smart idea to develop a meal plan or download our free Carnivore diet meal plan and stick to it. This will help you lose weight and achieve your other health goals on the carnivore diet because it will help you stay on course and reduce the opportunity for cheating.
Meal prep is also a great tool when following a meat diet. When you’re hungry for a snack, you can’t reach for a piece of fruit or tear into a bag of chips like you can on high carb diets. Meat almost always has to be prepared in some way, so having a stash of prepared snacks and quick meals is a lifesaver. You might also want to consider subscribing to a carnivore diet meal delivery service to make your life easier.
9. Prepare For Social Occasions and Dining Out
The carnivore diet consists solely of eating meat and animal products, which doesn’t always align with dinners or outings with family and friends. These occasions are often unavoidable, plus they’re an important part of life. Just because you’re only eating animal products doesn’t mean you can’t join in on the fun. You just have to plan ahead.
Offer to bring a dish that fits into your diet or call the restaurant ahead of time to request a dish that’s prepared without any restricted foods. If neither of these is an option, make sure to fill up with delicious carnivorous food before you go, and then just enjoy the company.
The Carnivore Diet vs Keto
There’s often some confusion between the carnivore and keto diet. Because the keto diet focuses on fat and protein intake, it’s easy to see how these two get confused with each other. The main difference is that carnivore is strictly protein intake from animal-based foods, including most meats and some dairy. All other foods are off-limits.
In contrast, keto is a slightly more balanced diet that includes a restricted amount of carbs from other food groups, even though fat and protein are the main focus.
What is allowed on the carnivore diet?
Carnivore dieters eat mostly meat and a limited number of other animal food products, like low-lactose dairy. All types of meat are allowed on the carnivore diet, as long as they’re not processed.
How many times a day do you eat on the carnivore diet?
Most people on the carnivore diet find that eating two to three meals a day is optimal for burning fat. Unlike a vegan diet, carnivores find that they’re satiated quicker and stay that way longer, so it’s not uncommon to eat only once or twice during the day. Still, this is a matter of personal preference. Do what works for your body.
What can you not eat on the carnivore diet?
All plant foods are off-limits on the carnivore diet. This includes vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Processed foods and dairy that is high in lactose are also eliminated from the diet list.
Try the Diet That’s Made for Carnivores
Whether your goal is weight loss or to reap other health benefits, the carnivore diet is one that appeals to many with carnivorous appetites. The diet sounds great, but it’s often a bit more difficult to follow in actual practice. The restrictiveness and lack of variety can present a challenge. However, these can be overcome if you plan ahead and know the rules.