What Is the Carnivore Diet? (2024)

What Is the Carnivore Diet?

On the carnivore diet you cut carbohydrates and eat nothing but meat and other animal products, like beef, chicken, pork, fish, and eggs. The idea is that by cutting all carbs, your body will burn fat for energy and you’ll lose weight. Other claims of this diet are that it can fight inflammation, lower blood sugar in people with diabetes, and improve mental health.

The carnivore diet is similar to the ketogenic (keto) and Atkins diets. The difference is that the keto and Atkins diets only limit carbs. The carnivore diet cuts out all carbohydrates and other food groups, including fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, and legumes.

Eating a carb-free diet isn’t a new idea. Scottish military surgeon John Rollo, MD, first used a meat-only diet to treat patients with diabetes in the late 1700s. Cutting carbs helped lower his patients’ blood sugar levels.

Former orthopedic surgeon Shawn Baker, MD, popularized this way of eating with the release of his 2019 book,The Carnivore Diet. (Baker lost his medical license in 2017 for incompetence. It was reinstated in 2019 with the restriction that he had to be supervised.) An endorsem*nt from comedian and podcast host Joe Rogan gave the diet even more exposure. In 2019, Rogan ate nothing but meat for 30 days and claimed that he “lost 12 pounds and gained a lot of energy.”

The carnivore diet is a very restrictive way of eating. It doesn’t align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommends eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains along with lean protein from animal sources. Cutting out entire food groups could leave you short on the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

How Does the Carnivore Diet Work?

Carbohydrates are your body’s main energy source. When you eat carbs, your body turns them into sugar (glucose) to use for energy. The extra glucose is then stored in your muscles and liver. After that, your body converts any extra glucose to fat.

When you don’t eat carbs, your body instead turns fat into ketones to use for energy. The creator of the carnivore diet claims that by cutting carbs, you’ll speed fat burning and weight loss and you won’t feel hungry. He also says a carb-free diet will improve blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes. And because you cut out inflammatory foods like french fries, doughnuts, and pasta, this diet is also supposed to reduce inflammation (although red meat promotes inflammation, too).

It's important to note that everyone responds differently to diet plans. Claims of the carnivore diet are not backed by WebMD. Talk to your doctor before starting any new diet, especially one that cuts out entire food groups. It could leave you low in certain nutrients.

How Do I Start the Carnivore Diet?

This diet doesn’t require much prep work other than grocery shopping. To start, you might want to rid your pantry and refrigerator of any foods that contain carbs, so you won’t be tempted to eat them. Then make a shopping list. You’ll do most of your shopping in the meat, poultry, and seafood sections of the grocery store since those are the only foods that you can eat on the carnivore diet.

Carnivore Diet Foods

Animal-based foods like meat, chicken, and fish make up the whole carnivore diet.

Foods allowed on the carnivore diet

The list of approved foods is short because it only includes animal products. You can eat red meat like steak, burgers, and chuck roast. Chicken, lamb, and pork are also ok. Fish like salmon and trout, and seafood such as oysters and clams are on the list. And if you like organ meats such as liver and oxtail, feel free to eat them too. Eggs are OK in small amounts.

To cook your foods, you’ll use butter, fat tallow, or ghee (a type of clarified butter). Seasonings are about the only part of the diet that allows some variety. Spices like salt, pepper, chili paste, cumin, paprika, and garlic are all allowed.

Foods to avoid on the carnivore diet

Any foods that aren’t animal-based are off the table. You can’t eat fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, or seeds.

Can you eat cheese on carnivore diet?

Yes. This diet does allow cheese, as well as other dairy foods like milk and yogurt. You’re supposed to limit these foods, though, because of their effects on inflammation.

Carnivore diet food list

The carnivore diet gives you a list of allowed foods to help with grocery shopping. It includes:


  • Brisket
  • Chuck roast
  • Ground beef
  • Steaks like New York strip, ribeye, skirt, porterhouse, and T-bone

Chicken and pork

  • Chicken breast, thighs, drumsticks, and wings
  • Rotisserie chicken
  • Pork butt
  • Pork chops
  • Bacon
  • Pork ribs
  • Pork shoulder


  • Lamb chops
  • Lamb shanks
  • Ground lamb


  • Fish like salmon, trout, and mackerel
  • Clams
  • Crabs
  • Mussels
  • Oysters
  • Scallops
  • Shrimp
  • Lobster

Organ meats

  • Liver
  • Kidneys
  • Tongue
  • Oxtail
  • Heart
  • Feet
  • Cheeks

Foods to eat in limited amounts

  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Heavy cream
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Bacon
  • Sausage
  • Cured meats

Pros and Cons of the Carnivore Diet

Every diet has pros and cons. Some diets fit certain lifestyles or body types better than others. It’s important to keep your lifestyle and tastes in mind when you choose a diet.

Carnivore diet benefits

The carnivore diet claims to promote weight loss. Its other supposed benefits are for improving heart health, autoimmune issues, blood sugar control, and mood. Yet Baker only links to “success stories,” not medical research to confirm these benefits.

It’s hard to know if or how this diet might improve health, since there’s been very little research on the subject. One study surveyed more than 2,000 people who said they’d followed a carnivore diet for nine to 20 months. Participants reported improvements like:

  • Lower body mass index (BMI)
  • More energy
  • Better sleep
  • More strength and endurance
  • Improved memory and focus

Most people with diabetes in the study were able to lower the dose of their diabetes medicine or go off it entirely. Overall, participants said they were happy with this way of eating. One problem with this study was that the researchers didn’t know exactly what people ate. They also didn’t measure the participants’ nutrient levels or check their health. They based their results on survey answers alone. The authors say we need more research to better understand the carnivore diet.

Carnivore diet side effects

The carnivore diet doesn’t align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommends that adults get 45% to 65% of their daily calories from carbohydrates. By cutting out entire food groups, this diet could leave you short on important vitamins and minerals. For example, vegetables are sources of fiber, potassium, vitamins A and C, and folate.

Not getting enough fiber from your diet could cause constipation. Interestingly, people who have tried this diet reported the opposite side effect: diarrhea. A high-fat, high-protein diet may cause loose poop because it changes the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut. People who eat this way also complain of headaches, nausea, and a lack of energy.

Animal-based diets are high in saturated fat, which can raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. That’s the unhealthy kind of cholesterol that increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. And processed meats, which the diet allows, are high in salt, which can raise blood pressure.

Carnivore Diet Review: What Our Expert Says

While this diet can probably help you lose weight, it also can lead to nutrient deficiencies and it’s not sustainable, says Kathleen Zelman, MPH, a registered dietitian nutritionist. “You just can’t stay on it very long.”

The carnivore diet is too restrictive, and too boring, to follow long-term. Eventually food cravings are going to kick in. “You’re going to want a sandwich. You’re going to want a piece of whole-grain bread. And you’re going to want to have some cereal, some fruit, or a salad,” she says.

Does the carnivore diet work?

That’s hard to say because research on the carnivore diet is lacking. Studies of low-carbohydrate diets like the keto diet show that they do help people lose weight quickly. One reason is that they cut out calorie-filled, sugary junk foods like cookies, cake, and sodas. And the high protein and fat content of the carnivore diet should prevent you from feeling hungry, says Zelman.

But the weight loss is likely to be short-lived. This diet is so restrictive that it’s hard to stay on for long. Any weight that you do lose will probably come right back as soon as you go back to your former way of eating.

As for the claims that the carnivore diet fights inflammation and boosts energy, “There’s no evidence whatsoever,” Zelman says. “There are no controlled studies to support these claims.”

In fact, the diet probably has the opposite effect on energy levels. Carbohydrates fuel your brain and maintain your blood sugar level. Without them, “it’s hard to feel energetic,” she says.

Is the carnivore diet safe?

This diet probably won’t hurt you if you’re healthy and you go on it for a short period of time. But it’s not recommended. “It’s certainly not a plan that dietitians or health professionals advocate,” says Zelman. “It’s very restrictive. And it concerns me that there’s so little fiber.”

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and American Heart Association both recommend eating plant-based foods. “That’s because of the nutritional goodness, the phytochemicals, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients found in plants. You don’t get all of those in animal products,” says Zelman.

If you want to cut carbohydrates to lose weight, the keto or paleo diet are slightly better options. They still allow you to eat small amounts of carbs.

Who shouldn’t try the carnivore diet?

This diet isn’t safe during pregnancy or while breastfeeding because it will leave you short on the nutrients that both you and your growing baby need. If you have kidney disease, the high protein content may be too much for your kidneys to process, Zelman says. Also avoid this diet if you have diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure because of the high saturated fat and sodium content.

Fad diets are never a good idea for people who’ve had eating disorders. Such a restrictive diet could trigger unhealthy eating patterns, Zelman says.

The final word

Like many other fad diets, the carnivore diet is nothing more than a “quick fix,” Zelman says. “It’s very restrictive, unsustainable, and there’s no evidence to support its claims.” What’s more, it can lead to nutritional deficiencies.

If you’re healthy, it’s probably OK to try this diet, as long as you don’t stay on it for more than a week to 10 days. Lower the saturated fat by choosing leaner cuts of protein like skinless chicken instead of fattier steaks, lamb, and ground beef. Include seafood for the omega-3 fatty acids. And take vitamin, mineral, and fiber supplements to fill in the nutritional gaps. “Because when you eat from one food group only, you are missing the nutrients that are found in all the other food groups,” Zelman says.

Finally, she cautions people to be wary of any fad diet that’s promoted by non-health experts. “There are much better, healthier ways to lose weight with lasting results,” she says.

Carnivore Diet Meal Plan

A typical carnivore diet menu might look like this:

Breakfast: Eggs and bacon

Lunch: Burger patties

Dinner: Salmon

Carnivore Diet Recipes

Here are a few recipes based on the carnivore diet:

Scrambled eggs with turkey.Cut 1/2 pound turkey breast into small pieces. Cook in a skillet until browned. Whisk three large eggs in a bowl with salt and pepper to taste. Move the turkey to one side of the skillet and pour the eggs onto the other side. Scramble the eggs and mix them with the turkey until the mixture is cooked through.

Salmon patties.Cook three slices of turkey bacon and crumble. Mix bacon, two cans of salmon, 1 teaspoon of salt, and two whisked eggs in a bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon of dill. Form into burger-sized patties. Cook in butter until browned.

Carnivore chicken casserole.Put 1 pound of cubed rotisserie chicken into a food processor and process until chopped very fine. Add 8 ounces of cream cheese, 1 cup of sour cream, and 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Process until fully combined. Add 1 tablespoon of taco or Cajun seasoning and mix again. Put the mixture into a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes

Carnivore diet snacks

If you get hungry and want a snack, here are some ideas:

  • Cheese sticks
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Salmon jerky
  • Sardines
  • Skinless chicken wings

Carnivore Diet FAQs

What can you eat on the carnivore diet?

You can only eat animal products on a carnivore diet. That includes fish, chicken and other poultry, lamb, beef, pork, eggs, and some dairy foods.

Is a carnivore diet safe?

It’s not safe to follow this diet during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, or if you have a condition like kidney disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure.

Can you lose weight on a carnivore diet?

In theory, you can lose weight if you stick to the diet. But because the diet is so restrictive, it can be hard to stay on it. Once you stop eating this way, the weight will probably come back.

Is the carnivore diet healthy?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that you eat a balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, lean protein, and oils. The carnivore diet doesn’t include many important nutrients because it cuts out whole food groups.

What Is the Carnivore Diet? (2024)


What can you eat in the carnivore diet? ›

Animal-based foods like meat, chicken, and fish make up the whole carnivore diet. The list of approved foods is short because it only includes animal products. You can eat red meat like steak, burgers, and chuck roast. Chicken, lamb, and pork are also ok.

Is eating a carnivore diet healthy? ›

It's claimed to aid weight loss, mood issues, and blood sugar regulation, among other health issues. However, the diet is extremely restrictive and likely unhealthy in the long term. Plus, no research backs its purported benefits.

What are the rules for the carnivore diet? ›

How does the carnivore diet work? The diet is a form of ketogenic diet, and works by eliminating all plant-based foods and solely eating meat, fish, eggs and small amounts of low-lactose dairy foods. Chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, beef, organ meats, oily and white fish, hard cheese, butter and cream are all allowed.

Do you eat vegetables on the carnivore diet? ›

People who follow the carnivore diet avoid fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Here's why: Fruits and vegetables: These foods are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. However, they also have a higher glycemic index (GI), significantly impacting blood sugar for those with prediabetes and diabetes.

Is coffee allowed on a carnivore diet? ›

Yes, you can drink coffee on a carnivore diet. Despite its plant origin, many followers of the carnivore diet still consume coffee, considering caffeine's stimulating properties. However, caution must be taken as excessive intake of caffeine may add stress to the body's metabolism and disrupt sleep patterns.

Can you eat salad on a carnivore diet? ›

So, I mean, if you're eating fruits and vegetables, you're not on the carnivore diet. I recommend going 30 days eating only meat, eggs, butter, salt, and seafood.

How many eggs a day on carnivore diet? ›

More eggs can support muscle gain, while fewer may be better for weight loss. You can also consider just consuming egg whites to lower your calorie and fat intake. In general, though, many on the carnivore diet consume between 2 to 6 eggs daily as part of their meal plan.

How long can you stay on carnivore diet? ›

How long should you do the carnivore diet? With no short- or long-term research on the effects of this diet, it is inadvisable to eat only meat for extended periods of time, because you'll deprive yourself of essential nutrients.

What is the 80 20 rule for carnivore diet? ›

Some carnivore enthusiasts even go for an 80/20 carnivore diet. This means 80% fat and 20% protein — no carbs at all. This fat-to-protein ratio carnivore diet is typically for experienced people on a carnivore diet.

What are the negatives of the carnivore diet? ›

The carnivore diet can lead to an increased risk of developing heart disease because it prioritizes foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty steaks, which can elevate cholesterol levels, Arsenault says. Meanwhile, eliminating fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds could increase your risk.

What cheese is ok on carnivore? ›

Any type of raw cheese or mozzarella, cheddar, Parmesan, cottage and cream cheese. Avoid processed, flavoured and low fat cheese and you're all good.

Is the carnivore diet better than keto? ›

The Keto diet is better for gut health, brain health, and overall mood. The Carnivore diet, on the other hand, is not good for gut health, brain health, and mood. The one area where the Carnivore diet outperforms the Keto diet is weight loss. The Carnivore diet is very effective in terms of weight loss.

What did Joe Rogan eat on his carnivore diet? ›

Joe Rogan's daily intake, while on the Carnivore Diet, primarily consisted of meat. He often mentioned consuming elk, bison, and other game meats, along with more traditional meats like beef. Organ meats, particularly liver, were also a part of his diet.

What should I eat the first week of the carnivore diet? ›

Week 1
  • Day 1. Lunch: Ribeye Steak. Dinner: Pork Chops.
  • Day 2. Lunch: Burger Patties. Dinner: Salmon.
  • Day 3. Lunch: NY Strip Steak. Dinner: Pork Ribs.
  • Day 4. Lunch: Beef Ribs. Dinner: Chicken Wings.
  • Day 5. Lunch: Ribeye Steak. Dinner: Eat Out *
  • Day 6. Lunch: Burger Patties. Dinner: Shrimp.
  • Day 7. Lunch: NY Strip Steak. Dinner: Chuck Roast.

What is the secret of carnivore diet? ›

That means no fruits, no vegetables, no bread or grains, and limiting your dairy intake to low-lactose foods. It's almost the complete opposite of a vegan diet. While this may seem crazy at first, some people theorize that plant foods are not required to live.

Is avocado allowed on the carnivore diet? ›

The strict interpretation of the carnivore diet would make avocado an unsuitable option, as it emphasizes an exclusively animal product-based food intake.

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