The most important rules and principles to planning a paleo-friendly menu. Follow paleo etiquette to prepare a menu that your guests will enjoy. Avoid embarrassment and be an ideal host.

What paleo etiquette is

Paleo etiquette is the set of rules to plan a menu that is appropriate for guests who follow a paleo diet. Such rules include:

  • The allowed foods and ingredients.
  • How to ask about dietary restrictions.
  • How to deal with your guests’ diets.

If you are hosting, respect paleo etiquette to properly plan a menu that your guests will enjoy and to avoid any embarrassments. 

If you are a guest, follow paleo etiquette to politely deal with your hosts and the other guests.

rules for how to serve a paleo menu

Paleo etiquette rules

1) Respect paleo dietary restrictions in your menu

The paleo diet allows only foods eaten by humans during the Paleolithic. Its basic principle is to eat whole foods instead of processed foods. Thus, in theory, the paleo diet avoids any food that a man during the Paleolithic was unlikely to eat.

Meat is paleo, processed meat is not

Meat is paleo. Beef or veal. Pork. Chicken or poultry. Venison. However, processed meat is not paleo. Such as ham, prosciutto, or salami.

Fish and seafood are paleo

Fish or seafood are commonly included in the paleo diet. If possible, Fish should be wild-caught. Canned tuna can qualify as processed food. Thus, canned fish may or may not be allowed in the paleo diet.

Dairy products and cheese are not paleo

Milk, dairy products, and cheese are not allowed on a paleo menu. This is because humans were not milking animals in the Paleolithic.

Eggs and honey are paleo

Both eggs and honey are allowed in the paleo diet.

Vegetables and fruit are often paleo

The paleo diet allows almost all types of vegetables and fruit. Tubers such as potatoes are paleo. All nuts and seeds are paleo too.

However, legumes are not paleo. Avoid beans, chickpeas, or lentils.

Grains are not paleo

The paleo diet excludes any type of grain or cereal. Rice. Pasta. Couscous. Quinoa. The same applies to bakery products, bread, or pizza.

Condiments are could be paleo or not

Herbs and spices are paleo. Salt is paleo only if it is sea salt. Vegetable oil from olive, avocado, or similar is paleo. Oils from seeds or cereal are not paleo. Such as soybean oil or sunflower oil.

Sweets and desserts are not paleo

In general, the paleo diet excludes any type of sweets or dessert. Sugar and artificial sweeteners are not paleo. Pies, gelato or ice cream, or milkshakes are not paleo. However, some people allow small quantities of dark chocolate as an “indulgence”.

Drinks and alcohol are not paleo

The only allowed drink is water. Thus, a paleo diet forbids most beverages. Soft drinks. Beer. Wine. Spirits.

Fresh juices, coffee, and tea are open to interpretation. Some people drink them, others do not. Some people allow small quantities of red wine as an “indulgence”.

2) Etiquette for asking paleo guests about their diet

It is perfect etiquette to ask your guests about their dietary restrictions. 

In written formal invitations, it is sufficient to ask guests to please inform the hosts about any dietary requirements. 

In informal invitations, a simple “do you follow any diet or have any dietary restriction?” works. Another option is to ask if guests avoid any food.

It is against paleo etiquette to ask further questions. Such as why someone is on a paleo diet. Or why someone excludes or includes a certain food. 

If you have a genuine curiosity, you may ask such questions. However, it is polite to justify your curiosity. In other words, state why you are curious about it. Be apologetic. Never judge or question the answers you get.

best menu practices to deal with paleo dietary restrictions

3) Paleo menu planning etiquette

Follow these key principles to deal with guests’ paleo dietary restrictions.

Serve each food on its dedicated plate 

Do not serve multiple foods on the same plate. Instead, try to separate them. Assign a plate to each food or ingredient. Serve condiments and sauces separated from food.

This way you allow guests on a paleo diet to pick the foods they can eat. Or to avoid the ones they cannot eat. 

Include safe options 

Many foods are allowed in almost every diet. Such as vegetables and fruit. Plan some safe dishes that almost any guest will be able to eat. As an example, only a few people say no to baked potatoes or salad.

Avoid risky foods

Many foods are not allowed in many diets. Pork meat. Alcohol. Beef. Crustaceans.

If you are unsure about your guests’ diet, play safe. Avoid cooking these foods altogether. Or, at least, plan one or two dishes without them.

4) Paleo guest etiquette

Guests on a paleo diet must follow etiquette too. Otherwise, they risk disrespecting or annoying their host and the other guests.

Do not expect the host to guess your diet 

If you do not eat some foods, clearly state it with your host. 

It is bad etiquette to expect a change in the menu based on your needs. Instead, you may ask if there may be some paleo options. Be apologetic in your requests. It is rude to do otherwise. As a guest, you do not want to sound entitled.

Be accommodating. Do not expect the host to accommodate your requests. 

Politely refuse food that you do not eat

If the host serves food that you do not eat, simply avoid it. If the host or another guest explicitly offers such food to you, politely refuse it. It is enough to say “no, thank you”. 

Provide additional detail only if someone asks you. It is good etiquette to be brief. Otherwise, do not annoy others with your dietary restrictions. You do not want to look like you chose a diet only to be interesting.

Do not impose your diet on the other guests

Never expect others to adjust to your diet. Do not expect your hosts to change their menu to accommodate your needs. Similarly, at a restaurant, do not expect the other guests to change their food order. 

paleo etiquette mistakes

Paleo etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst paleo etiquette mistakes. 

  • 8/10. Not accommodating paleo dietary restrictions.
  • 8/10. Imposing your diet on others.
  • 7/10. Sharing unsolicited details about your diet.
  • 6/10. Asking personal dietary questions.