What is the Carnivore Diet?
November 05, 2020
You might have noticed a growing trend in the last few years: the carnivore diet*, an elimination diet that has been gaining popularity rapidly. Similar to the Keto Diet, the carnivore diet seeks to remove carbs from your diet, and instead focus on fats and animal protein. On this all-animal diet, participants forgo “side” dishes and focus on meat, seafood, eggs, and perhaps dairy.
For many, carnivore is used as a reset, short-term solution, before adopting a less rigid routine moving forward. For others, it is a long-term, meat-based lifestyle. Within the community of carnivore eaters, there’s a vast range of application, and unlike other similar diets, there is no one unifying source material or set of “laws.” Rules for the carnivore diet are usually set by the practitioner based on their goals and preferences.
Simply put, the carnivore diet focuses on eating meat—often from nose to tail—and less (or no) plants. The carnivore diet tends to be a good fit for those who are:
- curious about eating an animal-based diet
- seeking possible benefits of a (very) low-carb diet
- wanting to try a straightforward elimination diet
- wish to further simplify their real-food meal prep and shopping trips
If you’re considering trying the carnivorous trend, there are ways to focus on animals while also adding flavor and flexibility to keep meat-based meals interesting.
What Can You Eat on the Carnivore Diet?
Grass-fed, pasture-raised meats and wild-caught seafood are ideal for the carnivore diet. Many carnivore enthusiasts also include eggs and full-fat dairy products in their menus. Participants should limit processed or lunch meats. Of all the ancestral-eating diet plans, the carnivore diet is perhaps the most self-explanatory, but following the diet and maintaining tastes and textures you love leaves lots of room for interpretation.
At its most strict, this diet consists of exclusively animal products without frills: some purists don’t even leave room for seasoning. More relaxed versions still don’t allow grains or sugars, but some folks choose to include herbs and spices, condiments, or small amounts of low-carb, non-starchy vegetables. If you’re wondering how to start the carnivore diet, but are worried about finding flavor and beating meat-based boredom, consider condiments like Unsweetened and Organic Ketchup, or Organic Spicy Brown Mustard.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Carnivore Diet
How long should you do the carnivore diet?
This one’s personal. As with all new eating plans or diets, keeping track of how you feel is key to understanding if it’s right for you in the long or short term. Logging your physical reactions and experiences in a journal can help you decide what works best for your body and digestive system. Many carnivore dieters consider one month the adaptation/transition period before entering into the full-time lifestyle, adopting different “levels” or “tiers” of rigidity.
Are avocado and olive oil OK for cooking meat on a carnivore diet?
Yes. Many carnivore diet followers use these oils to prepare and seal in juicy flavor. While a carnivore diet doesn’t include side dishes traditionally, adding supplemental fat in the form of Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Extra Virgin Avocado Oil is an important part of following the diet. Fats on the carnivore diet are a-OK!
Are salt and pepper allowed?
Yes. Even on the most pure versions of carnivore, seasonings like salt and pepper (in moderation) are permissible. Consider expanding your palate with a wide range of spices like turmeric, basil, bay leaf, sage, or thyme. You can even experiment with a dry rub if you’re feeling adventurous. Try this coffee dry rub on chicken.
Condiments and sauces with simple ingredients can be used to enhance and add interest to your meat-based dishes. Try Unsweetened and Organic Classic BBQ Sauce, or a Sugar Free* and Organic Steak Sauce. Just a teaspoon of flavor-forward organic sauces like Golden BBQ can make all the difference on a grilled steak or turkey burger. Add a dash of Organic Tartar Sauce or Unsweetened Cocktail Sauce to seafood dishes for just a touch of Primal-approved flavor and texture to keep meals appetizing and banish boring monotony.
*See nutrition information for sodium content.
Are coffee and red wine allowed on a carnivore diet? What about other beverages?
This depends on your personal preference. If you’re pursuing a strict carnivore diet, fans recommend slowly eliminating coffee from your routine over the course of a month. Some find the major adjustments to your diet can alter the effects of caffeine on your body. The same goes for soda and alcohol––to feel the full effects of an elimination diet, skip imbibing for the time being. Consider keeping track of the effects of different beverages while overhauling your diet or moving to a more animal-focused lifestyle to find the right balance for your body.
Is collagen OK on a carnivore diet?
Yes! While eating nose-to-tail as our ancestors did means you’re naturally getting lots of collagen in your diet via skin, connective tissue, and boiling bones into broth, you can supplement with collagen. Definitely consider adding it if your diet is mostly comprised of muscle meats.
Can you eat fruit on the carnivore diet?
On paper, the answer here is no. However, non-sweet fruits like avocados (a fat we love!) and cucumbers are usually considered permissible. Some dieters include fruits and vegetables to aid digestion and consider tolerating foods other than animal products a sign of metabolic flexibility (the ability to use fat, ketones, and glucose for fuel easily).
How many carbs can I have on a carnivore diet (and what about protein)?
Carnivore is technically a zero-carbohydrate diet. How much protein you consume in a day isn’t important––only that it comes from an animal source. Counting carbs isn’t necessary on carnivore. You’ll be low-carb no matter what.
Can you have cheese on a carnivore diet?
If your body can tolerate it and you’re following a less strict carnivore diet, cheese and dairy products are technically permitted as animal products.
What Foods Are Included in the Carnivore Diet?
With such an accessible philosophy of all-animal products, shopping for your carnivore diet experience might seem easy––just grab your favorites at the butcher counter. However, to fully experience the diet, followers are advised to eat nose-to-tail and explore other options outside of the traditional cuts to include more vitamins and minerals.
A note on dressings and marinades: If you’re willing to stray from the strict carnivore diet, dressings and marinades are a simple and delicious way to punch up the flavor of your dishes!
- Sugar-free bacon
- Sausages (pork, chicken, or turkey)
- Pork: chops, roasts, and belly
- Steak: porterhouse, ribeye, top side, filet, t-bone, flank
- Ground beef
- Organ meats: liver, kidney, heart, tongue, sweetbreads
- Bone marrow
- Sardines (fresh or canned)
- Canned fish, e.g., tuna, anchovies
- Cod liver
- Bone broth
- Animal fats: tallow, lard, chicken or duck fat
- Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil, Avocado Oil Spray and Extra Virgin Avocado Oil
- Primal Kitchen Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Coconut oil
- Optional: avocado, olives (not for strict carnivore)
- Assorted spices
- Primal Kitchen Mayo with Avocado Oil (Pesto Mayo, Chipotle Lime, Garlic Aioli)
- Primal Kitchen Organic Spicy Brown Mustard and Organic Dijon Mustard
- Primal Kitchen Sugar Free & Organic Steak Sauce
- Organic and Unsweetened Classic BBQ Sauce and Golden BBQ Sauce
- Primal Kitchen Dressings & Marinades
- Primal Kitchen Organic and Unsweetened Ketchup & Spicy Ketchup*
- Primal Kitchen Unsweetened Cocktail Sauce*
- Primal Kitchen Organic Hawaiian Style BBQ Sauce*
- Primal Kitchen Organic Mango Jalapeño BBQ Sauce*
*If you’re able to tolerate nightshades and these ingredients.
Sample Eating Plan for the Carnivore Diet
For a Primal take on the carnivore diet, here’s a sample meal plan. Adjust portions to accommodate removing sides from your meals. This can be the first step to introducing yourself to the carnivore diet for beginners.
Want More? Check out our Carnivore Diet Meal Plan for Beginners, including a video of Mark Sisson’s Favorite Carnivore Diet Recipes.