Vegan vs Paleo vs Vegetarian vs Carnivore; Which diet is right for you?

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Vegan vs Paleo vs Vegetarian vs Carnivore; Which diet is right for you?


Navigating the vast landscape of dietary choices can be overwhelming, especially with the rise of popular diet trends like vegan, paleo, and carnivore. Each diet comes with its own set of principles, restrictions, and claimed benefits, making it challenging to determine which one is best suited for individual health goals and preferences. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down the key aspects of each diet, explore their pros and cons, and provide practical tips for choosing the right approach for you.


  • The best eating plan is less about the diet label and more about avoiding harmful ingredients.
  • Shift the focus from temporary diets to sustainable lifestyle changes that embrace real, unprocessed foods.
  • Eliminate the true dietary villains: unhealthy oils, processed sugars, and refined grains to enhance the benefits of your chosen eating plan.

Breaking Down the Popular Diet Trends

Vegan Diet

A vegan diet excludes all animal products including meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and honey. Vegans eat plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. The diet is focused on eliminating animal suffering and exploitation.

Paleo Diet

The paleo diet tries to mimic the eating patterns of our Paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors. It avoids processed foods, grains, legumes, dairy, and sugar. Paleo diets focus on meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and healthy fats like olive oil. The goal is to eat real, whole foods.

Carnivore Diet

As the name suggests, this diet involves eating only animal foods like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. All fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds are excluded. Advocates claim an animal foods diet is optimal for health and weight loss.

Pros and Cons of a Vegan Diet

Overview of the vegan diet:

  • Focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and plant-based protein sources.
  • Excludes all animal products and foods containing animal-derived ingredients.
  • Often chosen for ethical reasons related to animal welfare, environmental sustainability or health benefits.

Health benefits of a vegan diet:

  • Linked to lower risks for heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
  • Emphasizes nutrient-dense whole foods that provide antioxidants, fiber and healthy fats.
  • Associated with lower BMI and reduced weight gain over time.
  • May help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Concerns about nutrient deficiencies on a vegan diet:

  • Lack of vitamin B12, which is only found naturally in animal foods. Must supplement to avoid deficiency.
  • Potentially lower intake of iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Focus on plant sources or fortified foods.
  • Higher risk of protein deficiency if diet lacks sufficient calories and variety of protein sources.
  • Importance of proper meal planning to meet all nutrient needs.

Pros and Cons of a Paleo Diet

Pros of a Paleo Diet:

  • Emphasizes nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods. This can lead to weight loss and improvements in health markers.
  • Eliminates added sugar, refined grains, and unhealthy fats. This helps regulate blood sugar and reduce inflammation.
  • High in protein and fiber which promotes satiety and stable energy levels.
  • Encourages creativity in the kitchen by using simple, whole food ingredients.

Cons of a Paleo Diet:

  • Very restrictive, which can be difficult to adhere to long-term for some people. Requires careful meal planning and preparation.
  • Excludes whole grains, legumes, and dairy, which eliminates some nutritious foods.
  • Can lead to nutritional deficiencies if variety of foods is limited. Need to supplement vitamin D, calcium, and omega-3s.
  • Difficult to follow when dining out since most restaurant meals contain grains or dairy.
  • Higher cost associated with grass-fed meats, organic produce, and specialty items like almond flour.
  • Not suitable for vegans/vegetarians due to emphasis on animal products.

Pros and Cons of a Carnivore Diet

Overview of the carnivore diet:

The carnivore diet is an extremely low-carb, high-fat and high-protein diet. Foods allowed on the diet include:

  • Meat: Beef, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey, etc.
  • Fish and seafood
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese
  • Animal fats like lard, tallow, butter, ghee
  • Bone broth
  • Some low-carb spices

All other foods including fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds are eliminated on this diet. Proponents argue this type of diet mimics the diets of our ancient ancestors and is optimal for health.

Benefits for some conditions:

  • May reduce inflammation and symptoms for autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or thyroid disease.
  • May improve gut issues like IBS or leaky gut.
  • Can help manage epilepsy and reduce seizures in some cases.
  • May aid weight loss for some people by lowering carbs.

Concerns about nutrient deficiencies:

  • Lack of fiber long-term may lead to digestive issues.
  • No fruits and vegetables can lead to vitamin, mineral and antioxidant deficiencies long-term.
  • Strict elimination of plant foods cuts out many beneficial compounds found in plants.
  • May increase risk for certain diseases without plant compounds that fight inflammation and oxidation.
  • People with kidney disease or risk for gout may need to limit high protein.

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Key Similarities Between the Diets

Avoiding Processed Foods

All three diets emphasize avoiding processed foods as much as possible. This means limiting foods with artificial ingredients, added sugars, and vegetable oils. Instead, the focus is on eating whole, unprocessed foods in their natural forms like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. Avoiding processed foods helps reduce inflammation, gut issues, and other health problems caused by these ingredients.

Focus on Nutrient-Dense Foods

The vegan, paleo, and carnivore diets all highlight nutrient-dense whole foods that provide important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and more. Things like leafy greens, other non-starchy veggies, herbs, spices, berries, avocados, eggs, meat, fish, nuts, seeds and others. Focusing on these nourishing foods helps meet micronutrient needs for optimal health.

"The saying is, it's more important what you don't eat than what you do eat. So keep that in mind."

Key Differences Between the Diets

Food Restrictions

  • Vegan diet – Restricts all animal products including meat, eggs, dairy, honey, and gelatin. Mainly consists of plant-based foods.
  • Paleo diet – Restricts grains, legumes, dairy, refined sugar, and processed foods. Focus is on meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.
  • Carnivore diet – Restricts all plant foods. Only includes meat, fish, eggs, and other animal products.

The vegan diet is the most restrictive overall, eliminating all animal products. The carnivore diet is the most restrictive on plant foods. The paleo diet falls in the middle, avoiding grains and legumes but including animal products.

Nutrient Considerations

  • Vegan diet – Higher carbohydrates, fiber, phytonutrients. May need supplements for vitamin B12, iron, calcium, zinc, and omega-3s.
  • Paleo diet – Higher protein, omega-3s, vitamins and minerals from animal foods. Still gets fiber, carbohydrates and phytonutrients from plants.
  • Carnivore diet – Very high protein and micronutrients from animal foods. Lacks fiber and phytonutrients from plants. May need supplementation.

The nutrient profiles differ based on the inclusion or exclusion of plants and animal foods. Vegans may need to supplement certain vitamins and minerals. Paleo eaters get a balanced nutrient profile. Carnivores may lack fiber and phytonutrients from eliminating all plants.

How to Determine Which Diet is Best for You

When deciding between popular diets like vegan, paleo, and carnivore, it’s important to consider your individual health conditions, lifestyle, and preferences to determine the best fit. There is no one-size-fits-all approach that will work for everyone.

Some key factors to consider when choosing a diet:

  • Existing health conditions – If you have diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, or other conditions, some diets may be more appropriate than others. Consult with your healthcare provider.
  • Nutrient deficiencies – Be aware of potential nutrient deficiencies based on restrictions in the diet. Supplementation or fortified foods may be necessary to meet needs.
  • Food preferences and intolerances – Choose a diet you can realistically follow long-term based on the foods you enjoy and those that make you feel your best.
  • Ethics – For some, ethical concerns regarding animal products may make a vegan diet most appealing.
  • Lifestyle and habits – Paleo and carnivore diets tend to be restrictive and may not mesh with certain lifestyles. Vegan diets require more planning for protein sources.
  • Budget – Some diets may be more expensive or require more specialized ingredients.

The most important thing is meeting your nutrient needs through whole, minimally processed foods while avoiding inflammatory ingredients like refined oils and sugars. Listen to your body, be aware of any deficiencies, and choose the diet that makes you feel your best. There is no universally “best” diet – find what works for you!

Sample Meal Plans for Each Diet

When choosing a diet, it can be helpful to see example meal plans to get an idea of what a typical day might look like. Here are some one-day sample meal plans for the vegan, paleo, and carnivore diets:

Vegan Meal Plan

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with almond milk, banana, cinnamon
  • Lunch: Veggie wrap with hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach
  • Snack: Apple with peanut butter
  • Dinner: Veggie chili over brown rice with side salad
  • Dessert: Vegan chocolate chip cookies

Paleo Meal Plan

  • Breakfast: Bacon, eggs, avocado
  • Lunch: Grilled chicken salad with olive oil dressing
  • Snack: Hard boiled eggs, berries
  • Dinner: Steak with baked sweet potato and broccoli
  • Dessert: Paleo almond flour muffin

Carnivore Meal Plan

  • Breakfast: Eggs, bacon
  • Lunch: Grilled chicken wings
  • Snack: Beef jerky
  • Dinner: Ribeye steak with side of salmon
  • Dessert: Sugar free jello with whipped cream

These sample daily meal plans give you an idea of what a typical day might look like when following vegan, paleo or carnivore diets. Of course, variety is important so rotating different foods and recipes will ensure you get a range of nutrients. Consider your own needs and preferences when determining if one of these plans is right for you.

Tips for Transitioning to a New Diet

When transitioning to a new diet, it’s important not to try to change everything overnight. Making gradual changes over time can set you up for long-term success. Here are some tips:

  • Start by eliminating processed foods and oils. Cut out vegetable oils, fried foods, sugary desserts, refined flour products, and packaged snacks. Focus on eating fresh, whole foods.
  • Read labels carefully. Watch out for hidden oils, sweeteners, and other additives. Avoid anything with seed oils, even if the product claims to be healthy.
  • Meal plan and prep in advance. Having healthy ingredients and meals ready to go makes it easier to stick to your new diet. Cook grains, beans or meat in bulk. Chop veggies and wash fruit so they’re ready to grab.
  • Find new go-to recipes. Search online or get cookbooks with recipes suited to your chosen diet. Experiment with new foods and flavor combinations.
  • Allow yourself treats in moderation. Depriving yourself completely can backfire. Have a small amount of dark chocolate or fresh fruit if you’re craving something sweet.
  • Transition support systems. Let family and friends know you’re starting a new diet. Ask them for encouragement and accountability. Enlist a diet buddy for extra motivation.
  • Be patient with yourself. Changing lifelong eating habits takes time. Allow for mistakes and days where you indulge. Get back on track at the next meal.

Making gradual shifts in your diet and lifestyle is more sustainable long-term than abrupt, drastic changes. Take it step-by-step and be kind to yourself in the process.

Food Industry Tricks to Watch Out For

Deceptive Health Claims on Ultra-Processed Food

While you’ve been meticulously tracking macros and avoiding obvious junk, you might be overlooking one crucial detail – the ingredients list. It’s not the fat, carbs, or protein you should concern yourself with; it’s what actually makes up the food. For instance, take a so-called “keto-friendly” snack that’s anything but due to the sunflower and peanut oils hiding in it. The big food industry has seamlessly shifted your focus to macronutrients while slipping in ingredients that undo all your health efforts.

The main culprits to watch for are:

  • Seed Oils Disguised as Vegetable Oils: They’re everywhere. Items like canola and soybean oil are marketed as “vegetable oils,” but they’re not the broccoli juice you might imagine. Look out for names like corn oil, grape seed oil, and rice bran oil. These highly processed and omega-6 rich oils are not only misleading but also detrimental to cell health.
  • Sugary Processed Products: Battling a craving is one thing, but did you know many products combine sugar with harmful oils? From cookies to granola bars, the pair is not rare.

The “Vegetable Oil” Fallacy

Big companies commonly market seed oils as “vegetable oils” to leverage the perceived health benefits of vegetables. However, this is misleading. These oils, generally omega-6 laden and extensively processed, are found in many foods and are far from the healthy image the term “vegetable oil” suggests.

Avoid oils such as:
  • Canola Oil
  • Soybean Oil
  • Corn Oil
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Rice bran Oil
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Safflower Oil
  • Peanut Oil
Instead, opt for:

Healthy Alternates

Cooking Use



Coconut Oil


Olive Oil (unrefined)


Avocado Oil


Remember, the true enemy lies within these mislabeled ‘health foods.’ They’re not just compromising your meal plans; they’re jeopardizing your body’s wellbeing. Consider the real essence of the food you consume. It’s not about dieting; it’s about a sustainable, healthy lifestyle. Choose unprocessed, real foods that nourish rather than disguised toxins that harm.

When navigating restaurant menus or grocery store aisles, remember it’s not just about what you eat, but what you must diligently avoid. Prioritize pure, minimally processed ingredients, and redefine what constitutes a true health food. That’s the Elite Nutrition way – forget the diet, focus on real nourishment for life.

Remember, it’s not about cutting out all fats—your focus should be on excluding these specific seed-based oils. Opt for whole foods like grass-fed beef or fresh produce, which don’t come with a list of processed ingredients.

The Importance of Lifestyle Over Diet

When considering different diet plans like vegan, paleo, or carnivore, it’s important to remember that no one diet is right for everyone. The best diet is the one that fits your individual needs and preferences. More important than any specific dietary protocol is focusing on overall healthy lifestyle habits.

Here are some tips to determine the best diet for you without getting caught up in dogma:

  • Pay attention to how different foods make you feel and affect your energy levels. Avoid any foods that cause negative reactions.
  • Focus on eating real, whole foods as much as possible no matter what diet you follow. Processed foods tend to be inflammatory.
  • Consider working with a nutritionist or dietitian to help determine the optimal meal plan based on your health goals. Get bloodwork done to identify any deficiencies.
  • Transition slowly when making major dietary changes to allow your body to adjust. Drastic shifts can cause digestive issues.
  • Lifestyle factors like sleep, stress management, and exercise are just as important as diet. Optimize these areas first.
  • Allow for flexibility. Rigidly sticking to diets can backfire for many people. Focus on progress over perfection.

The vegan, paleo, and carnivore diets all have pros and cons. But no diet will be effective long-term without considering the whole picture of your lifestyle and making sustainable changes. Focus on adding an abundance of real foods rather than restricting entire food groups. Moderation and bioindividuality are key principles for optimal health.

Making the Right Food Choices

For your everyday nourishment, focus on foods that require no labels, those that are unprocessed and free from hidden toxins. These include:

  • Grass-Fed Beef
  • Free-Range Chicken
  • A variety of fruits and vegetables

When you eliminate these ‘toxic offenders’ from your diet, you lay the foundation upon which all effective eating strategies thrive, whether it’s paleo, keto, or a plant-based approach. Understanding that it’s more about what you don’t eat than what you do is your first step to a truly beneficial post-detox eating plan.


While both paleo and vegan diets have been associated with weight loss due to their focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods, the best diet for weight loss ultimately depends on individual factors such as metabolism, activity level, and adherence to the diet.

Sustainability varies from person to person. Some individuals may find long-term success with these diets, while others may struggle with the restrictions. It’s essential to choose a diet that aligns with your lifestyle and dietary preferences for long-term adherence.

With proper planning, it’s possible to obtain all necessary nutrients on a vegan diet. However, supplementation may be necessary for certain nutrients like vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids that are primarily found in animal-based foods

While the carnivore diet may offer short-term benefits for certain health conditions, it lacks essential nutrients found in plant foods and may not be sustainable or balanced long-term. Consultation with a healthcare provider is recommended before adopting such a restrictive diet.

Absolutely! Many people find success by incorporating elements of different diets to fit their individual needs and preferences. It’s essential to listen to your body and find what works best for you, whether it’s adopting aspects of veganism, paleo, or carnivore eating patterns.

Transitioning to a new diet requires careful planning and gradual changes. Start by eliminating processed foods and incorporating more whole, nutrient-dense foods into your meals. Experiment with new recipes and seek support from friends, family, or healthcare professionals as needed.

While dietary choices play a significant role in health, overall lifestyle factors such as sleep, stress management, and physical activity are equally important. Focusing on holistic wellness and making sustainable lifestyle changes is key to long-term health and vitality.

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