Paleo and Keto diets (short for “ketogenic”) are nothing new. They’ve been around far longer than the fit celebrities and lifestyle bloggers who sing their praises. (Famous Paleo followers include Jessica Biel and Matthew McConaughey, while Halley Berry and Kourtney Kardashian both go crazy for Keto.)

So what’s the difference? You’ve likely heard these names tossed around in certain social circles or at the gym, but maybe couldn’t speak to what each requires you to do. Here is a full breakdown of what each is and the major differences between them.

What is the keto diet?

The primary goal of the Keto diet is weight loss. You are essentially converting yourself from a “sugar burner” to a “fat burner,” according to

This eating plan is all about minimizing carbs and increasing fats to encourage your body to use fat as its primary form of energy. While every dieter will have slightly different needs, this typically translates to about 60-75% of calories coming from fats, 15-30% of calories coming from protein and only about 5-10% of calories coming from carbs.

By eliminating sugars and forcing fats into your diet, you force the body straight to ketosis, or “a state of health in which your body is efficiently burning fat as its primary fuel source instead of glucose.”

It usually takes about three to four days for your body to hit the ketosis stage, so you have to be patient. You can expect to feel tired because you have less carbs to give you quick energy. Diarrhea, mental fog, cramps, lightheadedness, nausea, and headaches are also common at the beginning of the diet.

What you can eat:

  • mayo
  • cheese
  • cream
  • butter
  • bacon

What you can’t eat:

  • fruit
  • root vegetables
  • milk or low-fat dairy
  • juice and smoothies


Paleo is often referred to as “the caveman diet.” Basically, if a prehistoric human could find it, hunt for it, or make it, it’s off-limits. The diet focuses on eliminating foods that are bad for digestion, which is why dairy, grains, legumes and processed sugar are forbidden.

The primary goal of a Paleo diet is improved health.

So what are the biggest differences?

  1. With Paleo, you can still eat fruits and veggies, including the starchy kind. That means paleo people can still get their fiber naturally, while Keto dieters might struggle or decide to take a supplement. Since Paleo doesn’t forbid these types of natural carbs, you can still get a quick energy fix when you need it too.
  2. Paleo doesn’t require you to increase fats, so you can continue to adhere to healthy habits like eating fruit and vegetable heavy meals.
  3. Keto diets still get to enjoy dairy like yogurt and cheese, as long as it’s high in fat. On the Paleo diet, you’ll have to forget about anything in the dairy food group.
  4. Paleo aims to improve a person’s health while Keto aims to help you lose weight by altering your body functions.

Play it safe

Before starting any diet, it’s important to talk to a doctor. Particularly with the Keto diet, the elimination of carbs has some nutritionists worried. The Paleo diet, while less rigid, doesn’t consider the fact that humans have evolved past our prehistoric caveman days and therefore require different and more thorough nutrition. Additionally, when choosing a diet, don’t just go with a fad. It’s important to choose one that you can reasonably stick to, or else you run a higher risk of quitting.

Also see, Lose the most weight with this method, study shows. 

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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.