Paleo Plan

How Much Food Should You Eat?

The question of how much food one should consume has come to us at Paleo Plan in many forms. Some people write in asking if a particular meal they ate was too much food. Some people have written in saying they’re often hungry on the diet. Others ask why they’re not losing weight, even though they’re following the diet strictly. So let’s discuss this.

First of all, your gender, age, height, weight, activity level, and how much weight you want to lose or gain (if any) determine your caloric needs, so every person is totally different. You can figure your caloric needs out at free diet journaling sites like www.myfitnesspal.com, www.fitday.com, and others. Still, if it tells you you need 1500 calories a day to lose 2 pounds a week, that’s just an estimate. It’s a robot making its best guess given the scientific equations available to it. Every person is different.

Having said that, if you’re one of those people who just isn’t losing weight after being on the diet for months and months, I’d listen to what the robot has to say. That is, after you listen (REALLY listen) to what your body has to say. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to figure out how much food to eat.

1. Are you feeling tired and weak regularly? If so, have you been eating Paleo for fewer than 3 weeks? If yes, then you may still be detoxing. Don’t change anything yet – just muscle through this first part and take it easy on yourself (read: don’t exercise like a maniac and get a lot of sleep). Then after the first month if you’re still feeling tired and weak, add more fat to your diet for two or three weeks in the form of fatty meats (pasture raised), coconut milk, coconut oil, olive oil, tallow, lard, bacon grease, and avocados. If you still don’t feel better, add more starchy veggies like sweet potatoes and squash, and eat more fruits of all kinds. I don’t care what they say about bananas.

2. Are you hungry? If so, are you ACTUALLY hungry or are you just craving old foods out of habit? Or are you hungry for love or comfort and trying to get it from food? If your stomach is actually speaking to you in gurgles and rumbles, you need to eat. The meal plan at Paleo Plan and the meal plan in the ebook provide anywhere from 1,450 to 1,900 calories per day. That means it’s perfect for some people, too much for very small people trying to lose weight, and not enough for very active people or very large people. Use it as a template. And eat when you’re hungry, but know that hunger can mean a lot of different things. Some people use the word “empty” to describe how they feel in the beginning of the diet. Empty isn’t the same as hungry. I think empty is the absence of that “normal” bloated feeling you have after eating dairy and grains. Eat when you know your body needs sustenance.

3. Are you very active? By very active I mean do you work out more than 3 times per week at a high intensity level for longer than a half hour? If so, you’re going to need either more fat or more carbs. Some people can train their bodies to run on fat and very few carbs. Some people can’t. Some of us just need carbs, especially if you’re an enduro athlete or doing any sort of endurance training regularly. Give your body what it needs, and if you need more carbs, eat them. Oh, I could go on and on about this one.

I’d love to hear your own experiences with hunger, figuring out how much to eat on the diet, and carbohydrate consumption in the comments.

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40 Comments

  1. Avocados I’ve enjoyed in guacamole. Tried them fresh: peeled and sliced…headache…twice in two days….allergic.
    Love bananas with cinnamon and walnuts!

  2. Hi Neely, I just finished my first week of eating paleo and lost ten pounds. Woohoo! Although the more I learn I realize I need to make some changes moving forward. Mostly I find I’m not eating enough calories. I need to lose 100 pounds and myfitnesspal.com states I should be eating 1530 calories. With eating so many veggies and protein I find that I’m more than satisfied throughout the day. Will that change as my body gets used to the new lifestyle? One thing I need to double check is my serving sizes – maybe I’m actually eating more than I think. Any suggestions for measuring? For reference, here’s one of my days:

    Breakfast – Berry protein smoothie (whey protein, coconut milk, frozen berries)* – 290 cal
    Lunch – Salad with 1/2 avocado & balsamic vig – 201 cal
    Snack – Medium Apple with 2 tbsp Almond Butter – 221 cal
    Dinner – Salmon, Sweet Pototo, Broccoli – 464 cal
    TOTAL calories – 1,176

    *Bad habit that I know NOW needs to stop :-)

    • @Amy – For now, just keep doing what you’re doing if you’re not feeling hungry. Looks like you’re eating high fat, moderate protein, low carb. If you’re not super active, this should work just fine. What myfitnesspal.com does is give you an estimate of how many calories you should eat. If it’s less, that’s fine. But if you do end up feeling hungry only eating this amount of food, start eating more. You’ll just have to keep tweaking it to make it work for you. Good luck!

  3. Salmon is my go-to for sure! :) Oh and I cannot forget spaghetti & butternut squash!

  4. christina

    Hi –
    So I’m about 85% Paleo. I also fit into the highly active category. I’m not sure I’m eating enough. What carbs would you list as the key go to food sources outside of yams?

    -C

    • @christina – I’d say squash, fruit, honey, and tapioca flour if you’re super duper active and can’t get enough carbs from those foods.

  5. Bethany

    Im really new to this whole thing. I’ve been doing an on ramp to crossfit for three weeks and have been working on improving my diet as my trainer suggests. What I’ve changed so far is I’ve added breakfast, and cut out all fast food. Also, I’m eating mostly meat with some veggies and fruits. The thing is, my trainer kept telling me I’m not eating enough. Now I feel like I’m fueling up for a possible morph into the Hulk(ette)!! And I don’t feel so hot much of the time. I’m working out at crossfit twice a week and eating like I’ll be competing in the world strongest. Additionally, I think if I keep eating flesh like this, my body will just begin to refuse to keep it down. Ugh. I’m always tired anymore and nauseated much of the time. As u can imagine its not doing much for my mood. I started on this journey because I’m fat, lazy, unhappy and unattractive, and want to change my whole self. While I’m doing what I’ve been told I seem to be feeling worse. Is this expected to be a permanent lifestyle change? My body really isn’t liking this much food, particularly this much meat!! Ugh!! Odd to hear from a fat girl, but I really think most of my previous calories came from beer. Lots and lots of beer. Now it’s from an inordinate amount of food. I will talk to my trainer about all of this, he listens very well and is very knowledgable. I’m just reaching out a bit.

    • Bethany – You may actually be eating too much meat and not enough fat and carbs. Or you may be detoxing and that’s why you feel like crap. There’s no need to just eat meat :) Veggies and fruits and some nuts and seeds here and there can really help the diet feel more sustainable and variable. Check out some of our recipes for more help in the recipes tab above. Good luck!

  6. Richmond chiropractor

    Thanks for the helpful information. I have been recommending the Paleo diet to many of my patients.

  7. i dont know how much i am suppose to eat each meal, gives me the recipes, do i only have 1 serving? of an 8 serving recipes?? thanks everyone… :-)

  8. Margarita

    I am currently on the 5th day of paleo dieting and I do intense intervak training 6 days a week for about 45 mins to an hour. I cut all carbs completely and I find myself being hungry all the time. I also see that i get tired a lot and i have low energy. Is that normal? what should I do ?

  9. jeanette

    hi, i’m about to start paeleo. I’ve diverticulitus and abdominal scar tissue o and kidney stonesand i’m a little worried it may spark a flare. I did dukan and was quite ill after doing it for aprox 8 days. Is there any tweak i can do to avoid flares? Thanks!

  10. Rebecca

    Jeanette:

    My husband has diverticulitis and has had kidney stones. He has had less flair ups on paleo, but he has to still work around what causes his flare ups. He can’t eat beef and pork because they are too fatty and they cause flare ups, so he eats seafood and poultry. He can’t eat avocadoes because they are too fatty so he just eats olives and uses olive oil. You just have to track what causes your flare ups and don’t eat that! You may be able to eat fat, but not grapes or tomatoes because of the skin. Find out what works for you.

  11. Hi I just want abs and with a athlete like muscular physique. I’m not skinny but I’m not fat either. I just need to lose some of the fat on my belly to get abs. So, my question is that I eat a lot (I’m a guy) and get hungry very often. Since we are eating natural organic/grass fed food do we really still have to count calories? Shouldn’t the omega fats plus the CLA in the meats help with losing all the fat. I’m pretty sure our ancestors didn’t count calories and ate as much as they want while keeping a great physique, so shouldn’t it be the same for all of us? I do weight training and cardio, so I burn like 600-700 calories mon-sat by the way. Please let me know soon and thanks!

  12. im 350lbs and a guy,and i was wondering if i caan eat as much as i want of the fruits and veggies.and lean meats.Not into counting stuff but know that carbs are real bad for you.What you suggest

    • Neely Quinn

      tiff – Sure, eat as many fruits and veggies as you want, although if you’re counting carbs be careful of the starchy veggies. Eat fatty meats as well as lean ones. The fat is going to keep you full, help you start burning fat instead of just carbs, and keep you from binge eating or having too many cravings. So fatty meats, tallow, lard (the good kind you find at local farms and online – not the grocery store-bought kind), coconut oil, avocados, coconut milk, olive oil, and bone marrow. Plus the meats and veggies and fruits. Oh, and don’t eat too much fruit if you’re trying to avoid carbs either. You may want to “count” for a few days, even if you don’t like it. It’ll give you a really good idea of how many carbs are in your food. Try to stay below 100 grams a day to begin with and see how you feel.

  13. and i do a treadmill about 6 to 8 times a week on incline of 16% to 21% and still dont lose weight thats how much i eat itws sicking. I just started today tho cutting out the carbs,some advice would be great!

  14. Carolien

    Dear Neely, i have been eating Paleo for 4 days and so far its has been really easy for me. I already was eating ‘somewhat’ healthy (absolutely no sugar, only spelt/sourdough and other wholefoods) for years.
    Since i started Paleo i am really..gassy. Im doing everything correctly, but since day one i have this horrible gas.
    I hope you have some tips and answers cause i dont want to stop the Paleo Diet, but if this is not going away i have to..

  15. I have been Paleo since the beginning of May and I have lost somewhere around 20 pounds. I have a very small frame and I’m not particularly active (other than when I babysit my toddler granddaughter a few times a week!). I have to sit more than I would like, as I have a small crocheting business! Anyway, I think I eat fairly well, maybe 90% Paleo, but I can’t STOP losing weight:-( I have added white potatoes and rice back to my diet in hopes that would put the brakes on my weight loss, but I don’t want to start eating unhealthy again. I stay as far away from sugar and grains (other than the rice and a once-a-week bowl of organic steel-cut oatmeal). Almonds hurt my stomach if I eat too many of them. When I started out on Paleo, I was baking almond flour bread, almond flour muffins, almond flour pancakes, etc. After about a month, I noticed that I was developing bad heartburn. Then I ran across an article that said some folks can’t do a lot of almonds without tummy problems. Rats! The “breads” were keeping me from dropping too much weight too quickly. After I cut out all that, the weight just fell off me. And I look anorexic, according to some friends (also Paleo)!! Any thoughts/suggestions?? Thanks!

    • Neely Quinn

      Frances – Try eating more sweet potatoes, fruit, and fat (olive oil, coconut oil, tallow, lard, duck fat, avocados). It’s easy to add calories by adding fat because you hardly notice it’s there (and it makes your food taste better). And maybe just more food at every meal in general. But also look at your BMI online. Sometimes people’s sense of what looks “anorexic” is actually skewed because they’re so used to seeing overweight people. Use the BMI table to (roughly) find out if you’re actually underweight or if you’re normal.

  16. I have been paleo for about 3 years but it has been a very gradual process for me. The better I tune my diet and exercise the more obvious my body responds to nutrition. I feel like I’m very in tune with my body and it tells me what I need. I NEVER count calories and don’t think it is a healthy idea. I am a nursing mom so I do have to eat more carbs than most adults but I feel my body is very good at communicating when I need to eat more carbs, when it is time for just a green salad with protein. Throughout all this I have lost a gradual 30 pounds and 4 pant sizes. I am curious as to how much I consume but I don’t want to start tracking what I eat with a calorie counter because I feel it will change my relationship with food. I don’t want to become obsessed about it or make it stressful. Stress will only work against you when trying to become healthy!

  17. I’m 58 days Paleo and having a hard time with this. If I don’t eat enough I am hungry in 2 hours….memories of snacking all the time which is something I don’t like to do! I like eating breakfast at 7 and not having lunch till 12 or 1. At dinner I eat but I seem to take time ( I wait 20 minutes) and have more food to get to full. Even then by 10 I feel like I could eat but I just go to bed and forget about it. This would not be that bad but I do have at least 20 pounds to lose.
    Thank you for your wonderful website with such great info!!

    • Neely Quinn

      Cat – Trying eating more at your meals by adding fat to your meals. Just put more coconut oil, tallow, lard, duck fat, olive oil, or avocado in your meal and see how you feel. If you’re working out a lot, try adding more carbs to the mix as well. No reason to starve yourself!

  18. Hey there. So ive just decided to go paleo and are into my second day of it. Ive tried every diet known to man and had success here and there over the years in between having my 3 children. Ive battled with my weight for years. Im 28y/o and I weigh 82kgs and I’m pretty short. 154cm. Just with the general eating of Paleo I can’t help but think that im overeating. I have eggs for breakfast, then don’t eat til dinner which is usually some type of meat veggies more eggs etc. How many eggs can I eat a day, how many is too much? If I’m hungry again I’ll eat more meat. Is there a guideline as to how much one should eat? The portion sizes? I want to lose the maximum amount of weight (healthily) one can every week. I know I have the will power to control my eating but feel like its too much compared to other diets I’ve done in the past. Its also notable that I don’t really exercise. I’m about 70% on my feet during the days and I plan to incorporate a routine once I have my diet on track. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks

  19. Stephanie

    Hi..I have been eating Paleo for about 5 weeks now and so far I’ve experienced the weight loss but the main thing I don’t feel is the energy. I eat meats, fats, some fruit, try to limit myself on nuts and seeds and have not begun any type of exercise plan other than I walk a lot at my job as an associate in a big box store. I sleep very well and I would say about 2-3 o’clock I start feeling absolutely exhausted. I almost nodded off behind the wheel after work at 9 last night! I weigh 261 and am 5’6 andd have lost 15 lbs but just can’t seem to find the energy. What am I doing wrong?

    • Neely Quinn

      Stephanie – Hmmm… not sure. The common causes of fatigue when you start Paleo are not enough carbs, not enough calories, not enough water, not enough salt, or a food sensitivity to something new you’re eating. Can you experiment with those in that order?

  20. Hi Neely,

    I am into my second day of incorporating Paleo into my diet. I was introduced to it by a friend and I believe I can make it work. As I am still doing research, I am having a hard time making sure that I am eating the right. Is there such a thing as eating too much( I eat lots of small meals throughout the day). As of right now, my goal is to eat healthier, once I have that down pat, I will focus on possibly losing weight. My one concern is that I am low-income and am ignorant as to how to tell if the meat I am buying is grass/pasture-fed. For the most part, I buy a lot of my families food from stores like Pathmark and Sav-A-Lot. Will buying grass/pasture-fed meat cut into my budget? My grocery budget is $150/bi-weekly. Any advice or tips in this regard will be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you!

    • Neely Quinn

      Chev – You can buy meat in bulk at much lower cost than you’ll find it in grocery stores. You can tell if meat is organic, grass-fed, or pasture raised by the label on it, so if it doesn’t have any of those labels on it, it’s conventionally raised. Go to eatwild.com and see if you can find a side of beef, half a pig, or any other meat from a rancher in your area. We were getting ours for about $3-4 a pound and just storing it in our $140 freezer for months at a time.

  21. Hi Neely,

    I have been on paleo for about 3 months now. I am very strict during the week, but Saturday and Sunday I tend to loosen the reins just a smidge (and by this I mean I MAY eat something with rice flour or potato starch, sometimes butter, staying within gluten-free guidelines but not necessarily paleo). I have been averaging just around 100 g of carbs per day, but wonder if this is enough. My work out routine usually consists of:
    Sunday: 2 hours of volleyball
    Monday: 30 minutes cardio, 30 minutes weights
    Tuesday: 30 minutes running, 30 minutes weights
    Wednesday: 50 minutes spin-class, 30 minutes weights
    Thursday: 30 minutes running, 30 minutes weights
    Friday: Rest day
    Saturday: 50 minutes spin-class, 30 minutes weights

    Some weeks I take an additional day of rest. I have mostly gotten over that “low-carb flu”, but I still hit an energy plateau at 3 o’clock where I just feel so exhausted I can’t do anything. Most days I have to take a nap after work before I can even think about hitting the gym. How many carbs should I be eating? What about calories? I usually have a piece of fruit with almond butter in the morning, a lean protein with veggies and sweet potato for lunch, a serving of nuts for a snack, and fish with veggies and a small amount of tuber chips for dinner. And why do I see so many in the paleo community demonizing fruit? Like I said, I average around 100 g of carbs/day and between 1500-1700 calories per day. I am 5’7′ and145 lbs, but am looking to reduce my body fat %. Thanks!

    • Lainey – Yeah, that’s definitely not enough carbs for what you’re doing. But I have to ask, why are you doing so much cardio? Are you training for an event? You could likely lose quite a bit of fat by letting your body rest more and just doing weights 3-4 times a week. I see the more is less thing more often than you’d think, so that’s what I’d suggest for you unless you’re training for an event.

  22. Thanks, Neely! Well, I do a lot of cardio and am overly conscious about what I eat because of an ED past, so although Paleo has helped me eat whole foods my body needs, it is easy for me to become scared of eating carbs or of not doing enough cardio for a sure calorie burn. I have definitely seen good results as far as losing some fat and toning up; I am just getting frustrated because I get really tired, yet eating more is frightening. My weight as a number doesn’t necessarily bother me, even though it’s about 10 more lbs than I used to be; I just want to lose a few more inches for my wedding in June (Which I guess is an event I’m training for, lol). Is my calorie intake okay or do I need more?

    • Lainey – I really don’t know. As I said, I’d have to know how much work you’re doing/how many calories you’re expending. But something is off, and I’d be inclined to sub more carbs for protein or something to start with. Then if that doesn’t work, you know it’s a calorie thing and you should just add more carbs to what you’re eating right now.

  23. I have just started and the Paleo lifestyle to loose weight and this is what I ate today

    Breakfast – 2 eggs + Haddock
    Lunch – 1 chicken breast + salad
    Dinner – pork steak/ pumkin / broccoli / cauliflower + salad
    1 apple

    am I on the right track ?

  24. Josanna

    Hi Neely,

    Now my problem is I feel guilty eating fat, I have been thought FAT is BAD so now it feels weird and I’m having problem adjusting my menu.
    I have been on paleo for 5 days now and I think I’m eating to much.

    Typical day looks like:
    Coffee with milk (my only sin)
    Breakfast – 2 eggs and bacon 1/2 tbs paleo mayo and 1 tomato
    Lunch – 1 pork chop, 4 diced mushrooms,asparagus and onion stir fry in olive oil and a spinach salad on the side
    Dinner – paleo Caesar salad with dressing
    So this is it more or less..

    I don’t really need to snack I’m not really hungry imbetween so I just don’t..

    I’m at a loss, my main goal is to feel better and loose a little bit of weight but at the moment it just feels like I’m eating sooooo much fat?? Am I?

    Thank you for a lovely site.

    • Josanna – If you want permission from someone to eat fat without guilt, here it is. ENJOY THE FAT!! However, contrary to popular Paleo belief, calories are still calories, so if you’re eating too much of any food, you’ll likely gain weight (I know I do). So if what you’re doing right now is making you feel better and helping you lose weight, then please continue on. If it’s not, then consider looking at how much food overall you’re eating.

  25. Hi Neely, I am 47 years old, A girl :), thought Id better add that part, :)
    & I have 3 children, & I work & I have about a 20 minute work to work 3 times a week there & back.
    I have been doing Paleo for 2 weeks tomorrow & I have lost 5 pounds so far.
    I want to lose another 35kgs,
    this is what I have been eating,
    Breakfast: 2 free-range eggs, & 2-3 rashes of bacon, / or if not that Ill have a smoothie with
    ice cubes, frozen banana,
    6-7 boysenberry’s, half a cup of pineapple,
    half a cup of almond/coconut milk,
    2 scoops of whey protein.
    Lunch, Is a salad, with a breast of chicken
    lettuce, tomatoes, red onion,
    & a small amount of mayonnaise
    Dinner, is a stir fry with loads of veges, & pork medallions, 2-3 as they are pretty small/ or chicken.
    Evening snack, about just over a quarter of a cup of almonds & macadamia, nuts,
    O & I have about 2 cups of Brazilian coffee, with organic soy milk in it, one in the morning & one later in the day.
    Can you please tell me if it sounds ok, or what, I am determined to do this.
    I have always been a bad chocoholic & chips etc, :(,
    Kind Regards Robin

    • Robin – If you’ve already lost 5 pounds in 2 weeks, then I’d say yes, you’re doing something right. Keep doing what you’re doing until it stops working for you.

  26. Hi Neely, Thank you so much for your reply, its just nice to know, I’m on the right track.
    & It’s so great having this wonderful site, Thank you again, :D

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