Keto vs. Paleo Diets: What’s the Difference?

While hundreds of fad diets have come and gone over the years, two of the most popular and long-lasting ones are the keto and paleo diets. While these two diets share similarities, there are a few key differences in the foods they allow, their priorities in their diet philosophy, and how they can benefit your health. If you’re trying to decide which diet is right for you, let’s examine the differences between keto and paleo diets.

What Is the Keto Diet?

The keto diet is an eating plan that focuses on minimizing carbohydrates to put your body in a state called ketosis. Instead of carbohydrates, an abundance of healthy fats and proteins is the focus of this eating plan.

Normally, your body gets most of its energy from the glucose in carbohydrates. However, the goal of the keto diet is to limit your carbohydrate intake to make your body look elsewhere for energy. Without carbs, the body turns to burning fat for energy in a process called ketosis. In a state of true ketosis, your liver takes stored fats and turns them into ketones, which become your body’s new source of energy.

Naturally, it’s impossible to completely eliminate carbohydrates from your diet, so the typical keto nutrient intake should look something like this:

  • 70–80 percent healthy fats
  • 20–25 percent protein
  • 5–10 percent carbohydrates

The foods you’re allowed to eat and the foods you should exclude follow these guidelines. You can expect to eat plenty of low-carb veggies and meat. And while most people assume fruits are always a diet-safe option, fruits like apples are loaded with carbs. Instead, the keto diet limits your fruits to minimal amounts of berries.

What Is the Paleo Diet?

The paleo diet is much more about lifestyle, as practitioners strive to eat foods that humans ate during the Paleolithic period. Also called the Stone-Age diet, the idea is to eliminate processed or GMO-grown foods from your diet and only eat foods that our ancestors could hunt or gather. By eliminating foods that humans have processed or altered, the paleo diet hopes to contribute to a more holistic lifestyle that is overall more beneficial and satisfying.

The reasons practitioners begin the paleo diet can often vary. Some people believe the human body simply hasn’t yet adapted to modern processed foods, while others aim to achieve goals like weight loss. And while research is ongoing, some people have found the paleo diet to be beneficial for metabolic syndrome or for improving cholesterol levels.

The paleo diet discourages legumes, dairy, and wheat products, as these are not foods our ancestors could have gotten through hunting or gathering. Through this more naturalistic lifestyle, the paleo diet encourages the consumption of healthy fats and animal proteins. Some good examples of paleo-friendly foods include grass-fed meat, nut oils, olive oils, and avocados.

Similarities Between the Diets

To better understand what makes keto and paleo diets different, first examining what similarities they share is helpful. The most similar principle between them is the rejection of processed foods in favor of nutritious whole foods. Both encourage a low carbohydrate intake that excludes grains and legumes while emphasizing meat for protein in place of those carbs. While it’s no surprise both diets exclude processed foods like chips and crackers, they also exclude healthy carb and protein sources such as rice, wheat, quinoa, beans, peas, and soy.

Differences Between the Diets

Now that we’ve talked about the similarities, we can delve better into the differences between these diets. The differences primarily concern how to handle meat, natural sweeteners, fruits, and starchy vegetables to achieve the desired results.


Regarding meat, the paleo diet excludes options such as ham, bacon, and salami because they’ve gone through modern food processing techniques. Some paleo diet members make exceptions (such as minimally processed bacon), as long as the meat products don’t have nitrates or preservatives. However, this is an exception rather than the rule.

The keto diet, on the other hand, only cares about avoiding sugar and carbohydrates. Thus, processed meats like bacon are entirely acceptable so long as they don’t contain excessive amounts of sugar or carbs. If you’re opting for the keto diet, you must ensure you read labels carefully while shopping, but you’re not banned from your favorite meats.


The paleo diet allows some natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup but nothing outside of those. For sweeteners, the keto diet operates the same as it does with meat, allowing only sugar-free sweeteners. This means keto excludes options like honey, which contains natural sugar.


Fruits naturally occur in nature, and paleolithic humans could have easily gathered them, meaning those practicing the paleo diet can freely enjoy fruit. This is a good way to get plenty of important vitamins and nutrients like fiber and antioxidants. If you’re looking for the healthiest lifestyle possible, it’s best to prioritize fruits with lower amounts of sugar.

Keto, on the other hand, is very strict about fruits to maintain a state of ketosis. However, low-sugar fruits are acceptable in small amounts. Therefore, berries are the preferred fruit of those following a keto diet.

Starchy Vegetables

Starchy vegetables are strictly forbidden on a keto diet because they’re high in carbohydrates, which would work against your ketosis. The paleo diet, however, welcomes these vegetables in moderation, as starchy vegetables are rich in nutrients. This includes sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets. However, paleo still recommends balancing this consumption by also eating lower-carb vegetables.

Kickstarting Your Diet

Changing your lifestyle is difficult, especially when you’re trying to learn the dos and don’ts of your chosen diet. Whichever you pick, a good way to kickstart your diet and learn more about it is through practice. Eat Clean’s meal prep delivery in Atlanta, GA, and other locations provide both paleo-friendly and keto-friendly meals for you to enjoy. Our service is a convenient and affordable option, and it’ll help ensure you’re eating the right foods and enjoying new meals you may never have experienced before. Sign up today to learn more and build your personal meal plan!

Keto vs. Paleo Diets: What’s the Difference?