Packaged Paleo?

This post was written by Jason, founder of Paleo Plan, entrepreneur extraordinaire, and non-dogmatic Paleo eater.

Packaged Paleo foods. By definition, it’s somewhat of a contradiction of terms. Clearly, there were no pre-packaged jerky snacks roaming the prehistoric countryside. But here we are in 2012, and there’s a whole sub-niche of products springing up offering to make your Paleo journey that much easier.

So, are they a good thing? Bad thing? Unsurprisingly, it depends.

Three years ago when I started Paleo Plan, we’d regularly get people emailing in arguing that “FOOD X ISN’T PALEO!!! HOW DARE YOU HAVE A RECIPE WITH THAT IN IT!!!” We got these a lot as people were very dogmatic about the movement at the time. Since then, we’ve seen the introduction of sub-genres of Paleo, seen the early pioneers in the movement change their minds about some foods, and generally an adoption of more mainstream people who aren’t willing to be legalistic about their food.

One thing I’ve seen specifically is that people are learning that eating Paleo 100% of the time is only possible for a small group of people, and that even if the average person only eats Paleo part of the time, it’s still an improvement over what others are eating with the Standard American Diet (SAD). People have learned that there’s room for dogma, and room for real people to lead their lives however they choose.

This brings us to things like pre-packaged Paleo. In regards to this, I keep going back to the idea of Jerky. On one side, you have people buying half a cow from a local grass-fed rancher and smoking their own meats using Paleo-approved spices. Then, you have ranchers selling pre-smoked jerky, from grass-fed cows but maybe with a bit of sugar or soy sauce in the marinade. Then, a little further down the spectrum, you have jerky for sale at Whole Foods, which promises better than average meats but not grass-fed beef. And lastly, way down the line, you have gas-station jerky (you know what I’m talking about).

Along the spectrum, all of those things are technically jerky, but one is not like the other. And, when is one jerky Paleo, and when is it not. Where is the line? Who gets to draw that line? When are you “cheating?”

To further complicate things, you have to take into account not only content, but context. If I’m driving across country, and find myself in a pinch, is it better to swing into a McDonald’s and get the Big Mac, fries and a coke; or stop at a gas station and get a sketchy apple, some Brand Name Jerky, and maybe a mineral water. One is clearly more Paleo than the other, but does that make it Paleo? No. It doesn’t. But like all things in life, we strive for balance. The balance to live our lives, to not be a slave to food (both in terms of the SAD addicted obese person, and the crazy-obsessed Paleo person), to make the best choices we can when we can make them.

Part of the reason for this post is that Paleo Plan has been asked by several companies lately to review their Packaged Paleo Products. In some cases, we’re big fans, both for taste and convenience. At other times, it’s a poor substitute for things we’ve otherwise taken out of our diet.

As we review these products, we’ll try and be honest about what you’re getting, and what compromises you may be making if you choose to eat them. Hopefully, they’ll be worth it for one reason or another. But not all the food we’ve tried is even good enough tasting to ever justify putting it in your mouth. I’d rather go hungry in some cases.

So, be watching for some of our upcoming reviews. And let us know what you think about packaged Paleo in the comments.

(Photo courtesy of MrJoro)

Share it

Subscribe to the blog


  1. Delta

    Appreciate the post! I think one of the biggest troubles for new-paleo eaters (or at least for me) is snacks and on the go food. I’m still getting used to ordering breakfast sandwiches without the cheese or bun!

  2. Daren

    GREAT post! Being part of the 80/20 crew allows me to enjoy all the yummy caveman snacks guilt free. Definitely vital when in a pinch or in college. @Jason.. love to send you some samples of our paleo friendly jerky and if any of your followers are interested we can gee them a discount for out online store. Excellent content …keep up the good work.

  3. Wenchypoo

    I’ve always thought pre-packaged “Paleo” foods violated the spirit of trying to stick with whole, real foods, like the diet tries to get us to do. Even if we make our own jerky, breads, etc., at least we know what the heck is IN them, and can pronounce the ingredients!

    If anything, this diet teaches you to 1) be prepared by shopping and cooking ahead of time to avoid the necessity of going out, 2) actually having to COOK for yourself rather than relying on someone else to look out for your nutritional needs, and 3) what your actual nutritional needs are, since we’ve all been led so far astray from our true nutritional needs by the taste and smell of junk foods.

  4. rlculpepper

    I’m new to this and an 80/20 guy. Going Paleo is not only a change in the food I consume but demands changes of lifestyle. It’s all too much to take on at once.A few of my issues are
    The time demand is a bit much for a single guy what with the Research, Planning, Traveling, Shopping (and the frequency of it), Prepping, Cooking, Clean Up. Food waste has increased (very little is in portions for a single guy.) Prep, cook n clean is an investment I don’t have everyday. I have rarely planned meals, it’s just not on my radar and a far more difficult hurdle than it sounds. Often a meal I plan, is unappetizing come time to have it. Some local restaurant deliver meal packages but it’s cost prohibitive. Packaged meals seem a great idea. Prepackaged doesn’t have to mean processed does it? I just want to avoid the wrong food stuffs, and as much sugar as possible. Come on food industry…find a way!

Leave a Comment