Lots of people are talking about the Carnivore Diet. It’s quickly becoming the new keto.
Folks on Carnivore report weight loss, improved gut health, lower inflammation, better testosterone, and greater ease around food choices. These health benefits, however, haven’t been documented in published research.
Going Carnivore means loading up on meat and avoiding just about everything else. To be fair, however, there’s a bit more to it than that.
In this article, you’ll learn what to eat on Carnivore, what to avoid, and how to structure your shopping list for a 7-day Carnivore Diet meal plan. Read on.
The Carnivore Diet consists of meat and more meat.
Animal foods like dairy and eggs are allowed too, though many Carnivores avoid or limit these foods for gut health reasons.
Carnivore is high-fat, moderate to high protein, and zero carb diet. In other words, Carnivore is a more restrictive form of the ketogenic diet. It has a similar macronutrient profile, so it can put you in ketosis.
The diet was popularized by figures like Shawn Baker (an ex orthopedic surgeon), Joe Rogan (standup comedian and podcast host), Jordan Peterson (bestselling author and psychologist), and Mikhaila Peterson (Jordan Peterson’s daughter).
On a Carnivore Diet , you eliminate all carbs and eat fatty cuts of high-quality meat until your hunger is satisfied. Carnivore also eliminates fruits, veggies, sauces, nuts, and all other plant-based foods.
Because of this, Carnivore is considered an “elimination diet” — which may explain its success helping those with food sensitivities, food intolerances, bloating and other digestive complaints. Eliminate the food trigger (often a plant food) and you alleviate gut symptoms.
The Carnivore Diet falls entirely into one food category: animal products.
But animal products can be broken into further categories, and there are varying levels of quality within each category. Let’s dig into those categories now.
Meat comprises the bulk of calories on the Carnivore Diet. Not all meat, however, is created equal. There’s a world of difference, health-wise, between a pepperoni stick and a grass-fed ribeye.
As a general rule, favor fatty cuts of meat like ribeye and chuck roast on Carnivore. The fattier the cut, the more likely you’ll promote a fat-burning, ketogenic state in your body.
Beef and lamb, also known as ruminants, are the best meats to consume in bulk. Red meat is rich in vitamins, minerals, and beneficial micronutrients like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)[*].
Speaking of micronutrients, organ meats (especially beef liver) have plenty. Eating 1 to 2 servings per week of beef liver, beef kidney, beef heart, or bone marrow can go a long way towards preventing micronutrient deficiencies.
Whenever possible, choose meat from grass-fed animals. Compared to grain-fed products, grass-fed beef has more CLA, more omega 3 fatty acids, and fewer antibiotics[*][*]. Plus grass-fed cows are raised more ethically, which is always nice.
Finally, limit pork and chicken. These meats have higher concentrations of pro-inflammatory omega 6s.
#2: Animal Fat
Strict Carnivore dieters consume only animal products, so only a few options — lard, tallow, ghee, and butter — are available for cooking purposes. The good news is: These saturated fats are stable at high temperatures. Perfect for high heat cooking.
For a modified Carnivore diet, consider adding healthy fats like coconut oil and olive oil back into your routine. Yes, they come from plants, but they’re still generally well-tolerated, even in those with compromised guts.
Dairy products like cheese, milk, yogurt, and butter are technically allowed on Carnivore, but many people avoid them due to lactose (milk sugar) or casein (milk protein) sensitivities.
If you can tolerate eggs, they should definitely be on the Carnivore menu. They’re a great source of choline (for liver health), protein, and essential fatty acids[*].
But like dairy, eggs are iffy on Carnivore. Some people simply don’t react well to eggs, especially egg whites.
If this sounds like you, try eating yolks only. Most of the nutrients are in the yolk anyway.
Don’t forget about fish on Carnivore. Fatty fish like salmon and sardines, in particular, make excellent additions to a keto-Carnivore eating plan.
The rules of Carnivore are simple. If it comes from an animal, help yourself. If it comes from a plant, stay away.
The basic claim of Carnivore is that plant-matter is toxic to humans. This claim is based around the idea that phytochemicals in plants (like sulforaphane from broccoli) are basically insecticides[*]. Toxic to insects, toxic to humans…right?
Not necessarily. A small dose of “toxin” can actually improve human health. This is because “toxins” like sulforaphane activate stress-response pathways (like NRF-2) with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the human body[*].
And if plants were truly hazardous, you wouldn’t have mountains of research linking higher vegetable intakes to better health outcomes[*].
Still, a meat diet likely helps some people by removing potential gut irritants, like insoluble fiber.
In addition to skipping plants on Carnivore, you’re also supposed to avoid:
- Supplements (get your vitamins and minerals from meat)
- All spices and herbs (except salt)
- Anything refined or in a package (a fundamental keto rule)
- Processed meat
- Coffee and tea (both may irritate the gut)
Carnivore, as you can see, is an extremely restrictive way of eating. But some people like being constrained in this way. If there’s nothing to snack on, no snacking will occur.
To make things easy, below is a sample 7-day Carnivore Diet meal plan. It’s based on a 16/8 intermittent fasting protocol, and includes two meals a day.
That’s sixteen hours of fasting and eight hours of feeding. You might, for example, eat lunch at 11 AM and dinner at 7 PM.
Intermittent fasting works well for many keto and Carnivore folks, but feel free to adjust meal timing and frequency. And remember: These meals are merely suggestions.
Carnivore Diet Shopping List
Okay, time to hit the butcher. For simplicity, each meal is assumed to contain 1 pound of meat. You may need to buy more or less, depending on your caloric needs.
To support the above meal plan, you’ll need:
- 1 pound grass-fed ground beef
- 1 pound grass-fed ground lamb
- 3 grass-fed ribeye steaks
- 1 pack organic chicken legs
- 1 grass-fed chuck roast: 3 pounds
- 1 grass-fed lamb shoulder: 2-3 pounds
- 1 dozen eggs from pasture-raised chickens
- 1 pound wild-caught salmon
- 1 pound grass-fed beef liver
- Himalayan pink salt
Where should you buy this stuff? Try your local health food store or farmer’s market. (Some farmers even deliver!). And if you’re on a budget, replace the ribeyes with ground beef.
Once in awhile, treat yourself to a pan-seared ribeye. In general, however, avoid frying your meat.
Frying your meat:
- Burns off beneficial nutrients
- Oxidizes unstable fats (though this isn’t a big problem with beef and lamb)
- Creates potentially carcinogenic byproducts like heterocyclic amines and advanced glycation end products (AGEs)[*]
Avoid these concerns by cooking your meat low and slow. Throw a chuck roast into the crock pot and forget about it.
The Carnivore Diet works similarly to keto. By eliminating carbs, you control hunger, reduce cravings, lower blood sugar, and burn more fat. As a result, you lose weight.
But Carnivore goes a step further than keto: It eliminates plant foods entirely. This approach soothes the compromised gut by limiting fiber and other plant-based irritants passing through the intestines.
On Carnivore, you don’t have to remember much. Just load up on healthy meats and avoid plants. It’s more or less the opposite of going vegan.
If you want to try Carnivore, do a short-term experiment. Try it for 2 to 6 weeks while monitoring your blood work and energy levels. Some people feel better, others don’t.
It’s not clear if long-term Carnivore is safe. There’s no research on this question.
One concern is that limiting fiber from plants could negatively impact the gut microbiome. All that protein may promote the growth of bad bacteria[*].
Another concern is that Carnivore, by eliminating veggies, could lead to micronutrient deficiencies. This risk, however, can likely be minimized by consuming organ meats. More on this next.
If you haven’t tried a standard keto diet yet, do so before embarking on Carnivore. Once you’ve adapted to low-carb, you’ll be better prepared to eat only meat.