Carnivore Diet Meal Plan: How To Eat On an All-Meat Diet
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Maybe you’ve heard the stories of carnivore diet health transformations, seen the before and after pics.
Or you’ve read the recent research strongly suggesting that humans were hyper-carnivorous apex predators for nearly 2 million years.2 Now you’re ready for a carnivore meal plan of your own. This article is for you!
Though a carnivore diet meal plan isn’t about selecting from a dazzling cornucopia, there is a surprising variety of animal foods to choose from.
When your diet is only meat, the way you formulate it can have powerful impacts on your health and wellbeing–especially in the long term.
Let’s take a look at the foods you can and can’t eat on a carnivore diet, the most popular types of carnivore diets, and meal plans for each one.
What is the Carnivore Diet?
Simply put, the carnivore diet means eating 100% animal foods. Most types of a carnivore diet eliminate all vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds.
After that, there’s some debate honey, and dairy–we’ll look at these foods more closely a bit later.
The concept of the carnivore diet is based on ancestral ways of eating.
In the vast period of human evolution (some 2 million years) almost none of the vegetables and fruits you see at the grocery store even existed. Grains only came on the scene some 7 thousand years ago. Before that humans ate mostly meat.
Since the dawn of agriculture, human health has taken a tailspin with skyrocketing incidences of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and other “diseases of civilization”.
Modern Origins of the Carnivore Diet
The carnivore diet as we know it today first cropped up (or more appropriately, reared its head) when Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson and his daughter Mikhaila Peterson credited it with curing a host of chronic disorders from rheumatoid arthritis to depression and bipolar disorder.
Then it really burst on the scene when the ripped, 50-year-old former surgeon, Shawn Baker extolled its virtues on his podcast.
Now numerous health professionals along with tens of thousands of health-conscious people make up a growing carnivore diet community.
There are now a number of different approaches to the carnivore diet, but they more or less agree on including the following foods.
Food You Can Eat on a Carnivore Diet
One of the major pluses of a carnivore diet is how easy it is to shop for. Here’s a list of the nurturing foods to enjoy:
- Meat: Choose fatty cuts of ruminant grass-fed meat like ribeye and NY strip steak, 80/20 ground beef, t-bone, lamb, and goat. For pork, chose pasture-raised, and fatty cuts like pork belly. A key to remember is that your body will be using fat as its main energy source, not protein. Fat is your friend. That white stuff surrounding the meat is nutritional gold!
- Organ meats: Nature’s true superfoods, organ meats provide substantial amounts of bioavailable essential macronutrients like vitamins A, E, K2, D, and C. Liver in fact is so nutritious it may be best enjoyed as a supplement. Other organ meats include kidney, pancreas, brains, tongue, tribe, and bone marrow. On a carnivore diet, organs can make the difference between thriving and mineral deficiencies.
- Seafood: As with meat, go for the fattiest you can find. King salmon has its name for a reason, though it can get expensive. Coldwater fish like sardines and trout are also a great option. Prawns, oysters, and scallops are also excellent sources of healthy cholesterol, proteins, and hard-to-get minerals.
- Eggs: A total food on their own, eggs have nearly every nutrient your body needs.
- A2 dairy: Always chose full-fat dairy and cow’s milk labeled A2. Other naturally A2 dairy is from goats, sheep, and buffalo. For butter and ghee, go grass-fed. Though cheese is technically allowed on some versions of the carnivore diet, it is likely best to eliminate it, at least in the beginning, then observe your digestion if it’s re-introduced.
- Tallow and lard, are saturated, molecularly stable fats that are perfect for cooking even at high heat. They’re also great for enjoying on their own to boost your fat intake.
- Salt, pepper, and a few herbs on some version of the carnivore diet. Salt in particular is crucial in the transitional phase when your body burns up stored glycogen that gets flushed out in the urine.
- Bone Broth contains gelatin, electrolytes, and a robust list of amino acids that can help reduce any risks associated with red meat, maintain healthy bowel movements, and support joint and skin health.
Foods to Eliminate on a Carnivore Diet
On all versions of the carnivore diet, you are restricted to only animal-based foods. This means no:
- And anything else that isn’t meat.
What about honey?
Honey is a bit of a gray area. Though it’s made from bees that are part of the animal kingdom, it doesn’t contain any animal protein or tissue.
When first starting out on the carnivore diet, the toughest part is letting go of sugar. Consuming honey can make the transition away from sugar more difficult. And it can tempt you to eat other sweet foods.
It’s best to eliminate honey, especially at the beginning.
Though honey does have some positive benefits for gut health, its best use is for external wound healing. And when we say honey, we mean only raw honey. Honey that isn’t raw is essentially just sugary syrup.
Learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of honey here.
The Typical Carnivore Diet Meal Plan
The typical carnivore diet includes all the ruminant animals above and allows pork, eggs, seafood, poultry, and dairy if tolerated. You will also likely begin experimenting with some organ meats.
Dairy on a Typical Carnivore Diet
Dairy on a typical carnivore diet is a controversial topic, so let’s dig in. Many people have dairy sensitivities that show up as digestive problems like bloating and constipation, and externally as psoriasis and eczema.
It’s possible that these can go away while eating a carnivore diet. But if you’re going carnivore to treat existing issues, it’s best to eliminate dairy for 30-60 days before reintroducing it.
A2 vs. A1 Dairy
You may have seen this milk labeled A2 and wondered what it meant.
There are two types of milk protein (casein). The A1 version found in most cows’ milk breaks down into a molecule called beta-casomorphin 7, which has been linked to cardiovascular and autoimmune disease.
If you do opt for dairy, choose A2 over A1. All goat, sheep, and buffalo milk is also considered A2 but isn’t labeled as such.
Pork on a Typical Carnivore Diet
When it comes to some carnivore diet meal plans, pork is often viewed as second-tier meat. There are a few reasons for this.
- Pork is less nutrient-dense than most cuts of red meat from ruminant animals.
- Unlike ruminants, pigs can’t metabolize inflammatory omega 6 fats they get from their feed, into omega 3s.
- It’s more difficult to find pasture-raised pork than it is to find grass-fed beef, bison, and lamb.
In defense of pork, it is still loaded with healthy fats and proteins, along with high amounts of B vitamins and hard-to-get micronutrients like choline, selenium, and phosphorus.
Pork that’s raised in pastures under the sunshine, is a fantastic source of vitamin D. In fact pastured lard is nearly as high in vitamin D as cod liver oil.
Organ Meats on a Typical Carnivore Diet
Organ meats are nature’s true superfood, and liver is the king. If you’re worried about vitamin deficiencies on a carnivore diet, liver is a great place to start.
For people who want to ease into organ meats, beef heart (which is both an organ and a muscle) offers a mild introduction.
|Daily Recommended Intake||Beef Liver (100g)||Kale (100g)||Spinach (100g)||Blueberries (100g)|
|Vitamin A||Men: 3,000 IU
Women: 2,300 IU
Pregnant Women: 2,566 IU
|16,899 IU||15,376 IU||9,376 IU||54.0 IU|
|Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)||Men: 1.3 mg
Women: 1.1 mg
|2.8 mg||0.1 mg||0.2 mg||0.0 mg|
|Niacin (Vitamin B3)||Men: 16 mg
Women: 14 mg
|13.2 mg||1 mg||0.7 mg||0.4 mg|
|Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)||Adults: 5 mg||7.2 mg||0.1 mg||0.1 mg||0.1 mg|
|Vitamin B6||Adults: 1.3 mg||1.1 mg||0.3 mg||0.2 mg||0.1 mg|
|Folate (Vitamin B9)||Adults: 400 mcg
Pregnant Women: 600 mcg
|290 mcg||29 mcg||194 mcg||6 mcg|
|Vitamin B12||Adults: 2.4 mcg
Pregnant women: 2.6 mcg
|59.3 mcg||0.0 mcg||0.0 mcg||0.0 mcg|
|Calcium||Adults: 1,000 mg||5 mg||135 mg||99 mg||6 mg|
|Copper||Adults: 0.9 mg||9.8 mg||0.3 mg||0.1 mg||0.1 mg|
|Vitamin C||Men: 90 mg
Women: 75 mg
|1.3 mg||120 mg||0.0 mg||9.7 mg|
|Vitamin D||Adults: 600 IU||16 IU||—||—||—|
|Vitamin E||Adults: 15 mg||0.4 mg||—||2 mg||0.6 g|
|Iron||Men: 8 mg
Women: 18 mg
Pregnant women: 27 mg
|4.9 mg||1.7 mg||2.7 mg||0.3 mg|
|Magnesium||Men: 400 mg
Women: 310 mg
|18 mg||34 mg||174 mg||6 mg|
|Phosphorous||Adults: 700 mg||387 mg||56 mg||49 mg||12 mg|
|Potassium||Men: 3,400 mg
Women: 2,600 mg
|313 mg||447 mg||558 mg||77 mg|
|Selenium||Adults: 55 mcg||39.7 mcg||0.9 mcg||1 mcg||0.1 mcg|
|Zinc||Men: 11 mg
Women: 8 mg
Pregnant women: 11 mg
|4 mg||0.4 mg||2.8 mg||0.2 mg|
Poultry on a Typical Carnivore Diet
Though poultry is technically permitted, it’s not usually a feature in most well-formulated carnivore diets. This is because poultry is very lean. When you go zero-carb, your body relies on fat for fuel more than protein, so a big part of being a healthy carnivore is keeping your fat intake up, and your protein levels in moderatation–around 20% of your daily calories.
That said, one part of poultry that is always encouraged is chicken liver.
Now, let’s look at a day in the life of a typical carnivore diet.
- 2 farm eggs cooked in lard or ghee
- 6 oz fresh pasture-raised pork belly (or bacon)
- 8 oz prawns (or shrimp) sizzled in ghee
- 4 oz cut of new york strip steak in tallow, or ghee with salt
- 8oz grass-fed ribeye steak, salted, cooked in tallow
- 2-6 raw oysters
A typical Organ Meat-Supplemented Carnivore Diet Meal Plan
- 2 pastured eggs
- 4 oz bacon
- 2 oz beef or chicken liver fried in lard
- 4 oz beef heart fried in tallow and salted
- 4 oz king salmon
- 6oz prawns
- 8oz grass-fed ribeye steak with duck tallow.
Nose-to-Tail Carnivore Diet Meal Plan
If eating a high-carb standard American Diet is treating your body like a cheap Yugo (the much-maligned communist-era car), nose-to-tail eating is treating your body like a Ferrari! Lavishing it with high octane racing fuel and lovingly attending to every detail of health and longevity.
Nose-to-tail–whole animal eating–is about prizing healthy fat and nutrient-packed organ meats over everything else. It’s the way of eating that our ancestors evolved on, and it’s a practice observed among hunter-gatherer tribes, some of whom toss the tenderloin (what most of us think of as meat) to the dogs!
A day of eating nose-to-tail carnivore diet can look like this:
- 2 eggs
- 2oz beef liver and 1oz beef kidney, fried together in 4 oz ground bison with 150g beef or bison suet (tallow)
- 6 oz scallops pan-fried in pastured lard
- 6 oz of bone marrow slathered in tallow
- 100g beef tallow
- 4 oz of beef brains fried in lard
- 6 oysters
The Lion Diet Meal Plan
Also known as the carnivore elimination diet or, “water, meat, salt” approach, the lion diet was popularized by Michaela and Jordan Peterson.
As the most restrictive version of the carnivore diet, it allows only the meat of ruminant animals, including:
- Bison (Buffalo)
The only other additions to this diet are salt and water. In the short term, this diet is aimed at eliminating all other dietary variables that could be contributing to diseases and disorders while providing adequate nutrition. In the long term, this diet should be modified to meet your micronutrient needs.
The lion diet was created as the first step in reclaiming your health and wellbeing. It takes into consideration the sad truth that most doctors receive less than 15 hours of training in nutrition, yet diet and lifestyle are our greatest health factors.
By removing all problematic foods, it puts you back in the driver’s seat of your metabolic health and even allows you to slowly reintroduce some foods. In essence, you are the subject of your own nutritional study.
A day of eating the Lion Diet can look like this:
- 10 oz ribeye steak (don’t trim the fat)
- 8-10 oz bison burgers. (20% fat)
- 10 oz lamb chops (pan-fried in beef tallow)
The lion diet is essentially zero-carb, meaning it will switch your body from using glucose for fuel, to breaking down fat into ketones. This will put you in a metabolic state called ketosis.
When your body is adapting to ketosis it’s important to drink plenty of water and increase your salt content.
Carnivore Adjacent Diet Meal Plan
If a full-on carnivore diet feels too intimidating, or you just can’t fathom cutting out all plant food cold turkey, a carnivore adjacent diet might be a good fit for you. Think of it as training wheels.
In a carnivore adjacent diet, whole, fatty animal foods account for 80-90% of calories. So you get the nutrient-packed benefits of ruminant meat, pork, fish, shellfish, and full-fat dairy. The other 10-20% of calories can come from low-carb and/or low-toxicity plants and fruits.
Because some of the benefits of a carnivore diet are linked to eliminating plant toxins and antinutrients, it’s important to be vigilant of the plants you continue to eat.
Here are some pointers to avoid plant toxins and integrate ancestor-diet friendly veggies:
- Choose blackberries over raspberries to avoid oxalates
- If eating zucchini and cucumber remove the skin and seeds
- If eating sweet potato remove the skin and prepare with copious amounts of lard or tallow
- Enjoy olives and avocados in moderation
- Fully cook your dark leafy greens like kale and kohlrabi
- Avoid spinach which is high in oxalates that can deplete minerals
A day of eating carnivore adjacent diet can look like this:
- 3 scrambled with diced pork belly fried in 1 tbs of ghee, topped with ½ avocado and 1tbl creme fraiche
- 8oz grilled lamb skewers slathered in full-fat yogurt tzatziki sauce (blended with fresh cucumbers)
- 2oz grilled Houlumi cheese with olive tapenade
- 8oz grass-fed ribeye steak
- 1/2 avocado drizzled with olive oil
- ¼ cup clotted cream with 1 oz of blackberries
Carnivore Diet Benefits
Though the carnivore diet has been around literally for as long as humans have walked the earth, it’s the new kid on the block when it comes to modern diets. This means there hasn’t been a lot of clinical research on its benefits.
However, from a robust collection of anecdotal evidence, and what we’ve learned about the closely related ketogenic diet, we can infer a number of possible benefits including:
- Reduced allergies and mineral deficiencies
- Weight loss
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Excellent gut health
- Improved heart health
- Dramatically reduced inflammation
- Increased testosterone and libido
- Better cognitive ability and clarity
- Protection against neurodegenerative diseases
- Mindful and simplified relationship to food allowing more time and space for other parts of life
These benefits can are linked to the metabolic balance that is available to us when we return to a way of eating that is in alignment with how we evolved to eat. Ancestral eating entails:
- removing irritating and unnatural processed foods loaded with artificial fats, dyes, gums, and preservatives
- Eliminating grains and legumes containing plant toxins and antinutrients like phytic acid that leaches minerals like zinc and magnesium from our bodies
- reducing excess fiber and insoluble that–surprisingly–causes constipation issues like bloating and diverticulitis.
- Removing added sugars that feed unhealthy gut bacteria that can lead to inflammation, leaky gut, and cognitive and psychological disorders.
- Eliminating seed oils that contain inflammatory polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), replacing them with healthy monounsaturated and saturated fats from animal meats
- increasing your intake of nutrient-dense superfoods like liver, fish roe, and other organ meats
You can learn more about carnivore diet benefits here.
Possible Drawbacks of a Carnivore Diet
A short-term carnivore diet is likely safe and effective for reducing gastrointestinal issues, reducing inflammation, eliminating sugar cravings while boosting testosterone, libido, and mental clarity.
However, modern long-term studies have not been done. And there are a few valid concerns, including:
Lack of Vitamin C
Most meats contain only trace amounts of vitamin C, so a Lion Diet of just meat, water, and salt, will likely leave you deficient. Vitamin C is critical to your body’s ability to repair tissue and it reduces the likelihood of many diseases.
However, a well-formulated carnivore diet that includes organ meats, bone marrow, raw liver, eggs, and fish roe will can more than meet your RDA of vitamin C.
We’ve been told that fiber is important for healthy gut bacteria, and for the prevention of GI cancers and that without it you’ll be constipated. But more recent research doesn’t back up these views.
In a 2012 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology looking at the effects of fiber on constipation, the researchers conclude, “the previous strongly-held belief that the application of dietary fiber to help constipation is but a myth. Our study shows a very strong correlation between improving constipation and its associated symptoms after stopping dietary fiber intake.”
A 2007 study also published in the WJG reviewed nearly all the research conducted over the previous 35 years linking fiber and colon health. The researchers concluded that:
“A strong case cannot be made for a protective effect of dietary fiber against colorectal polyp or cancer. Neither has fiber been found to be useful in chronic constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. It is also not useful in the treatment of perianal conditions. The fiber deficit-diverticulosis theory should also be challenged…we often choose to believe a lie, as a lie repeated often enough by enough people becomes accepted as the truth. We urge clinicians to keep an open mind. Myths about fiber must be debunked and truth installed.”
Gut Bacteria Imbalance
One of the most powerful and immediate effects of the carnivore diet is the restoration of digestive health. These effects are likely a result of eliminating processed junk foods, sugar, dairy protein and lactose, and plant chemicals in sensitive people. However, there is concern that over time good bacteria may also be eliminated.
In 2019, a 3-month study looked at the effects of a ketogenic diet on the gut microbiome of children being treated for epilepsy. Researchers found that a ketogenic diet decreased healthy gut bacteria and increased unhealthy gut bacteria including E. Coli.
To reduce the likelihood of an imbalanced microbiome some ancestral diet practitioners champion the re-introduction of soluble fiber from sweet potatoes and low-carb fruits to maintain healthy gut bacteria. But more research needs to be done in this area.
Carnivore Diet Meal Plan: The Takeaway
Though there are a few variations of the carnivore diet, they all make it pretty simple to plan your meals.
Chose fatty meats, grass-fed, pasture-raised, and wild-caught and harvested whenever possible. In the short term, more familiar meats like ribeye and salmon can fulfill your nutrient needs.
But after time it may be necessary to add in even more nutrient-dense animal foods like fish roe and organ meats.
And remember, fat is your friend! When you cut out all carbs, fat becomes your primary food, not protein. So it’s important to load your meat with generous amounts of healthy fats like lard and tallow.
It’s important to note that the carnivore diet is the new kid on the diet block and therefore hasn’t been closely studied. But we know from the well-researched ketogenic diet that a high-fat, moderate protein and low-to-no carb diet is safe and can offer many benefits. At the moment the carnivore diet is more of a belief system than a science. However, many people swear by it. If you have questions speak to a health professional knowledgeable in low-carb and carnivore eating.