The wild foods diet is slowly becoming a favorite among individuals looking to lead healthier lifestyles. This is likely due to its emphasis on consuming only whole nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, lean meat, and seafood. Before you start following this eating plan you’ll need to understand its dietary rules. The following is a comprehensive overview of the wild foods diet, including the acceptable foods, meal plan idea, and potential effect on weight loss.
What Is The Wild Foods Diet?
This diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet mainly used by individuals who are seeking healthy eating patterns. Because it forbids the consumption of certain unhealthy foods, such as ultra processed foods, it is mainly viewed as a traditional eating plan.
The wild foods diet is highly similar to the paleo diet. The paleo diet is sometimes referred to as the caveman eating plan because it mimics what is understood as the prehistoric individuals’ eating regime (4).
It involves the consumption of whole foods that could theoretically be hunted or gathered in the prehistoric era (4). The wild foods diet has borrowed a lot from the paleo diet, including the recommended and banned foods.
List Of Acceptable Foods On Wild Diet
The dietary rules of the wild foods diet are simple; consume traditional foods that somewhat mimic a prehistoric diet. Below are the foods to eat on the wild diet as per its dietary rules:
You will find vegetables in most, if not all eating plans due to their nutritional and health benefits. Believe it or not, there are over 5 different categories of vegetables. They are, for example, root vegetables, leafy, bulb, cruciferous, starchy, flower, stem, and fruit vegetables.
This eating plan recommends combining the vegetables and letting them occupy at least half of your plate. Make sure you are not only picking vegetables from one group but from each one of them. Eating vegetables is highly encouraged as it is linked to the following potential health benefits (3):
- May reduce disease risk, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
- May lower blood pressure and “LDL” cholesterol levels.
- May promote bone health by reducing bone loss.
- May reduce the risk of kidney stones.
- May promote weight loss by maintaining a calorie deficit.
- Helps create and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
There are different ways to consume vegetables, depending on your selection. Some can be eaten raw like lettuce, while others can be cooked or simmered. Despite the numerous preparation methods, some people are still not huge fans of vegetables. With that in mind, we have compiled a few ideas on incorporating vegetables into your diet. They include (3):
- Wash them and chop them to prepare a salad.
- Juicing them or adding them to smoothies.
- Add them to spaghetti sauces, soups, and stews.
- Trying veggies in wraps, sandwiches, burgers, or stir-fries.
- Eating them raw as a snack, for example, having celery, broccoli, carrots, or bell pepper strips dipped in hummus or ranch dressing.
- Experiment with new veggie recipes, such as veggie noodles or zucchini lasagna.
- Add them to omelets or casseroles.
Fruits go hand in hand with vegetables. The fruit and veggie combo should make half of your plate. Medline Plus states that an adult should consume 1 ½ to 2 cups (about 200 to 250 g) of fruit per day (3).
The recommendation for children aged 8 and below is 1 to 1 ½ cups (about 120 to 200 g) (3). There are so many potential health benefits associated with adding fruits to your diet, including (3):
- Acquiring essential nutrients like fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
- Supporting the immune system as most fruits contain a wide range of health-boosting antioxidants.
- Reduced disease risk, including cancer, inflammation, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
- Aiding weight loss per a low calorie and fat count.
- Maintaining good health.
There are no restricted fruits in this diet, meaning you have a wide range of fruit choices. We are talking pineapples, bananas, melons, berries, apples, pears, peaches, plums, grapefruits, mandarins, kiwifruit, passion fruit, and so on.
Although eating fruits daily seems like an easy task, it turns out to be challenging for most to keep up. That said, here are different ways you can incorporate fruits in your diet and make sure you are consuming fruits daily (3):
- Blending them into a breakfast smoothie with ingredients such as plain yogurt.
- Juicing them.
- Having them with meat dishes, such as lamb with figs, pork with apricots, or chicken with mango.
- Grilling them to prepare a tasty dessert, for example, grilling peaches and apples.
- Adding them to trail mixes for extra flavor and texture.
- Preparing cool fruit popsicles.
- Adding them to breakfast cereals, for example, adding bananas to oatmeal.
- Baking them, for example, baking apples when making cinnamon baked apples.
- Using fruits like avocado to prepare guacamole.
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Nuts are one of the foods you can have in this eating plan. They are a good source of healthy fats, fiber, and other essential nutrients. In addition, you are not limited to any specific nut, meaning you can add any variety to your diet.
It is worth noting that each nut has a different nutritional profile and offers various benefits. Here is an overview of some of the healthiest nuts, their nutritional content, and benefits (8):
The potential health benefits of almonds range from reducing blood pressure, lowering cholesterol levels to blood sugar levels (8). A 100 g serving of almonds contains (8):
- Calories- 579
- Fat- 49.93 g
- Protein- 21.15 g
- Carb- 21.55 g
- Fiber- 12.50 g
Most of the fats in these nuts are monounsaturated fats. They are also rich in other vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin E (8).
Cashews are loved for their versatility. They are often used in dishes that require a creamy texture (8). They have those nutrients which promote better health, support immunity, promote energy production and bone health (8). A 100g serving of cashews contains (8):
- Calories- 553
- Protein- 18.22 g
- Fat- 43.85 g
- Carbs- 30.19 g
- Fiber- 3.30 g
They also contain potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and other nutrients that contribute to their nutritional benefits.
Walnuts are higher calories than other nuts due to their high-fat content (8). Surprisingly though, walnuts are rich in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) that boost heart health and may help lower cholesterol levels. A 100 g serving of walnuts contains (8):
- Calories- 654
- Fat- 65.21 g
- Protein- 15.23 g
- Carb- 13.71 g
- Fiber- 6.7 g
Walnuts have a slightly lower mineral content than nuts like cashews and almonds. Knowing this, talk to your dietitian about adding them to your diet to account for all your nutritional needs.
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Hazelnuts are known for their distinct flavor, which has made them a staple in many sweet dishes. Although they contain less protein than other nuts, they make up for it with their long list of potential health benefits. For instance, they are linked to reduced cholesterol levels and better heart health. A 100 g serving of hazelnuts provides (8):
- Calories- 628
- Fat- 60.75 g
- Protein- 14.95 g
- Carbs – 16.70 g
- Fiber- 9.7 g
Although most fats in hazelnuts are monounsaturated fats, they also have traces of saturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Pistachios are rich in protein, healthy fats, antioxidants, and other essential nutrients. Evidence shows that the consumption of pistachios may improve blood pressure, endothelial function and reduce the risk of heart-related problems (8). A 100 g serving of pistachios provides (8):
- Calories- 560
- Fat- 45.32 g
- Protein- 20.16g
- Carb- 27.17 g
- Fiber- 10.60 g
Unlike hazelnuts, most fats in pistachios are healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. However, they do provide fewer nutrients than some nuts. Of worthy consideration are the decent levels of potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus (8).
The other type of nuts you can add to your wild foods diet is peanuts. They are loved for their protein richness. Peanuts have loads of benefits because they contain various healthy compounds such as antioxidants, polyphenols, amino acids, and flavonoids (8). A 100 g serving of peanuts provides (8):
- Calories- 567
- Fat- 49.24 g
- Protein- 25.80 g
- Carb- 16.13 g
- Fiber- 8.50 g
Although peanuts contain healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, they also have small traces of saturated fats. On a positive note, they contain many essential nutrients, including calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium (8).
Seeds are imperative in any diet because they load your body with essential nutrients. In addition, they have a long list of potential health benefits, depending on the type of seeds you choose. Take a look at some types of healthy seeds you can add to your diet (1):
- Chia Seeds. These are among the best seeds in the market and have earned a ranking in the list of superfoods. Just one ounce of these seeds provides you with 10 g of fiber, which improves digestion and keeps constipation at bay (1). Their taste is unbeatable when consumed in pudding.
- Pumpkin Seeds. Pumpkin seeds are excellent snack options. They are rich in magnesium that boosts your heart health, powers your muscles, and helps with energy production (1).
- Pomegranate Seeds. They are also known as arils. They are found inside the fruit and appear like beads. These seeds are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants that help lower disease risks like cancer and heart disease (1).
- Flax Seeds. Flax seeds are excellent omega-3 fatty acid sources, good for your heart. WebMD reveals that these seeds may help lower blood pressure and provide your body with the fiber that improves digestive health (1).
- Hemp Seeds. These mild seeds with a nutty flavor are mainly used in savory dishes, salads, and whole-grain dishes (1). They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and with many other health benefits, including boosting one’s heart health (1).
- Sunflower Seeds. These tasty seeds are rich in healthy fats and vitamin E (1). You can add them to your smoothie or veggie burgers or have them as snacks (1).
- Sesame Seeds. Most people may know sesame seeds from hamburger buns. They are the tiny white dots that you find on top of these buns. They are perfect for buns and salad dressings. Besides their sweet and crunchy taste, these seeds are rich in fiber and protein (1).
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High Protein Foods
The wild foods diet is rich in protein, meaning you must eat plenty of high-quality proteins. These protein sources should be your primary energy sources, so make sure your plate contains any of these rich protein sources (9):
Salmon is an excellent source of protein and a great source of omega-3 fatty acids good for the heart (9). Therefore, it is considered a fatty fish and is recommended in most healthy fish recipes. In addition, its high protein content increases satiety and may aid weight loss by preventing overeating. Luckily, there are loads of salmon recipes online, meaning the fish is highly versatile.
Eggs are excellent protein sources and rich in other nutrients and healthy fats. They are a staple in most households, with most preferring to have them either boiled, fried, or in an omelet. Evidence shows that individuals who regularly eat eggs at breakfast feel full longer throughout the day and avoid overeating later (9).
Eggs are included in most weight loss diet plans due to their effectiveness in increasing satiety to prevent overeating. However, remember that this is only half the equation because you must burn more calories than you consume.
Another excellent source of lean protein is chicken breast. It has fewer calories when served without skin, which might explain why most high protein weight loss recipes entail chicken without skin. For example, a 136 g serving of skinless chicken breast has 26 g of protein (9).It also has decent vitamins B, D, A, and C and calcium, zinc, and iron (9).
Tuna is considered a powerhouse because it is an excellent source of protein and vitamin B12. In addition, it is loved by most dieters due to its low-calorie count. There are numerous ways you can prepare and serve tuna.
For example, you could prepare it with pasta, in casseroles, salads, wraps, sandwiches, or grill it. It all comes down to your preference and fitness goals. So, for instance, if you want to lose weight, avoid preparation methods such as frying. Additionally, pay attention to the extra ingredients you use, such as mayonnaise and other dressing, to avoid unwanted calories (9).
You will mostly find tempeh alongside tofu because both are excellent protein sources and are acquired from soybeans. However, tempeh has a higher protein count than tofu, with half a cup being reported to have about 17 g of protein (9).
Tempeh may not be easy to find in most grocery stores. You would find it in the refrigerated vegetarian section if you are lucky enough.
We discussed hemp seeds under the seeds category and found them rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Besides these fatty acids, hemp seeds are also rich in protein. A tablespoon of these seeds provides at least 9.5 g of protein (9). Although you should be able to easily find them in most grocery stores, they may tend to be a bit expensive.
Lean pork is another excellent protein source in a wild foods diet. Food experts recommend consuming lean pork cuts such as the tenderloin and pork roasts. In addition, they discourage the consumption of processed pork products such as bacon.
Turkey is another excellent protein source that introduces variety in your wild foods diet. In addition, it is considered a powerful protein source because a 100 g serving of boneless turkey contains 13 g of protein (9).
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Some vegetarians and vegans often have difficulty finding protein sources because most tend to be animal-based. However, there are healthy plant-based protein sources like chickpeas that they can add to their diet. Chickpeas are rich in fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals that support heart and bone health (9).
Black beans are an inexpensive protein source that provides additional nutrients like fiber and folate (9). In addition, they are highly versatile, meaning you can prepare them in various ways. For example, you could use them to prepare soups, salads, bean burgers, casseroles, and side dishes.
Remember that a wild foods diet is composed of low carbohydrate content, meaning you must focus on low-carb foods. Before we delve into these foods, we need to understand that there are different types of carbs. Unfortunately, there are people who do not know these types, and often generalize carbs among unhealthy foods, yet there are healthy carbs.
This might explain why carbs have a long bad rap for different reasons. So, the different types of carbs include (7):
Simple carbohydrates refer to carbs that are digested quickly, causing them to spike blood sugar levels (7). As a result, it increases your craving for carbs, which in the long run can cause unwanted weight gain (7). The most common types of simple carbs are refined products such as white bread, white rice, and pasta and sweeteners like honey, table sugar, and high fructose corn syrup (7).
This class of carbohydrates refers to the long chains of simple carbohydrates. Unlike simple carbs, these take longer for your body to digest and break down for energy. So, you feel fuller for longer and have limited chances of overeating. The most common types of complex carbs are legumes, whole grains or whole grain products, seeds, nuts, and vegetables (7).
Yes, fiber is also an example of carbohydrates. It is a lengthy chain of sugar molecules identical to complex carbs, but it is indigestible, meaning your body cannot break it down for energy (7). It is imperative for digestive health because it maintains a healthy and functioning digestive system. Fiber also increases satiety and can aid weight loss. Most foods rich in dietary fiber also contain complex carbs, such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes (7).
Compared to simple carbohydrates, dietary fiber and complex carbs take longer for the body to break down. As a result, your body expends more energy to digest them (7). Complex carbs also increase satiety, which aids weight loss. That said, in comparison to all these carbohydrates, complex carbs and dietary fiber are considered healthy carbohydrates (7).
When choosing low-carb foods to add to your diet plan, you must pick foods from the dietary fiber and complex carbs categories. Some of the best low-carb sources to consider are some of the starchy and several non-starchy vegetables.
Foods To Avoid In The Wild Foods Diet
There are several foods you must avoid when following this eating plan. They include:
Most people have different definitions of processed foods. Although some people believe it is packaged food only, it refers to any food that has been changed from its natural state (6). That involves having been washed, canned, frozen, and different ingredients added to it.
Cooking and baking count as processing, too (6). Although some amount of processing doesn’t affect the nutritional value, foods that are highly processed are often considered unhealthy.. These foods are typically ready-to-eat and have low nutrient value.
Yes, they may taste good, but they are loaded with ingredients that do you no good. In addition, highly processed foods are believed to have been non-existent when people used to hunt and gather. This tells us that they do not fit a wild foods diet.
That means that on this diet you must stay away from sugary drinks, cookies, cake, salty snacks like chips, breakfast cereals, deli meats, and frozen pizzas (6).
Besides processed foods, you also need to avoid artificial sweeteners. These are synthetic sugar substitutes obtained from naturally occurring substances like sugar and herbs (2). Although they provide a sweet taste like sugar itself, they don’t fit with the wild food philosophy.
Most Dairy Products
The wild foods diet also limits the consumption of most dairy products, just like the paleo diet. Since most dairy products are rich in calcium, it would be best to talk to your dietitian for insight into acquiring calcium and other nutrients found in these products.
Wild Diet Meal Plans
Getting meal ideas for your wild foods diet plan can be overwhelming, mainly because it is not a relatively common eating plan. That said, since you know its dietary rules you can use them to craft your meals.
It would be best to work with a dietitian for better guidance. If you are interested in following this eating plan, here is a recipe you could try:
Roasted Salmon With Spicy Cranberry Relish (5)
Here is a brief overview of this low-carb, high-protein recipe from Eating Well (5):
- 2 ½ pounds skin-on salmon filet
- 1 ½ tsp. kosher salt, divided
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 2 cups (8 ounces) cranberries, fresh or frozen
- 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 small shallot, minced
- ½ tsp. whole black peppercorns, cracked
- 1 lemon, zested and cut into wedges
- 1 serrano pepper, seeded
- 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 celery stalk, finely diced
- 1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled and finely diced
- 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley, divided
- 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place the salmon on the pan. Take a mortar and pestle, mash garlic, peppercorns, 1 teaspoon salt, and lemon zest, then transfer the paste to a small bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon of oil and mustard, then spread it on the salmon. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the flesh flakes easily with a fork.
- Elsewhere, pulse the shallot, cranberries and serrano in a food processor until finely chopped. Transfer the mix to a medium bowl and stir in celery, apple, vinegar, 1 tablespoon parsley and the remaining oil and salt.
- Sprinkle the salmon with the remaining parsley and serve with the relish and lemon wedges.
Nutrients per Serving (5):
- Calories- 229
- Protein- 28.6 g
- Carbs- 7.6 g
- Fiber- 1.7 g
- Fat- 8.8 g
Does The Wild Foods Diet Promote Weight Loss?
Although there are no studies to show the effect of this diet on weight loss, several aspects point to the fact that it could promote weight loss. These aspects include (4):
- No Consumption of Processed Foods. Highly processed foods have high calories, making it tough to create or sustain a calorie deficit for weight loss. So, excluding them from your diet can make maintaining a calorie deficit easier.
- Consumption of Few Carbs. We described a wild foods diet as a low carb diet. Low-carb diets have promoted weight loss while still preserving muscle mass. This means that this diet might help with weight loss by limiting the number of carbs you consume.
- Its High Protein Content. We described the wild foods diet as a high protein diet in the definition of the wild foods diet. Protein is one of the powerful nutrients that promote weight loss due to its power in increasing satiety and limiting overeating. Due to this factor, this diet could aid weight loss by preventing overindulging.
- Emphasis on the Consumption of Healthy Foods. The wild foods diet can also promote weight loss due to its emphasis on healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Most fruits and vegetables have low-calorie counts, meaning they are suitable for creating and maintaining a calorie deficit for weight loss.
Based on these individual factors, it is safe to say that the wild foods diet might promote weight loss if combined with a calorie deficit and other weight loss measures like regular exercise, stress management, and quality sleep. That said, be sure to check in with your doctor first before following any weight loss diet plan.
The Bottom Line
The wild foods diet is similar to the paleo diet, also known as the caveman diet. It is a low-carb, high-protein diet that restricts processed foods, most dairy products, and artificial sweeteners.
The list of foods on the wild diet range from fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins, fats, seeds, and nuts. Although no research shows that this diet can promote weight loss, some of its dietary rules are thought to help with weight loss. Be sure to talk to your dietitian and doctor before following this diet plan for weight loss or other reasons.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 9 Seeds You Should Be Eating (2021, webmd.com)
- Artificial Sweeteners: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing? (2016, medscape.com)
- Food guide plate (2022, medlineplus.gov)
- Paleo diet meal plan: A simple guide (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Roasted Salmon with Spicy Cranberry Relish (2019, eatingwell.com)
- The Truth About Processed Food (2022, webmd.com)
- What Are the Best Low-Carb Meals? (2021, medicinenet.com)
- What are the most healthful nuts you can eat? (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What foods are high in protein? (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)