The carnivore diet has become an increasingly popular way of eating that involves consuming only animal products while excluding all plant-based foods. Some people believe this restrictive diet may help them lose weight, while others use it as an elimination diet to determine food intolerances. But one of the most common questions about the carnivore diet is – can you include chicken as one of the protein sources?
Chicken is a nutritious food item and great source of protein, so it would make sense that most diets, including the carnivore diet, would allow it. In this comprehensive article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about eating chicken on a carnivore diet, including whether it’s allowed, the benefits and risks, how to incorporate it into your meal plan, and what the experts say.
What can you eat on the Carnivore Diet?
Before diving into whether chicken is allowed on the diet, let’s first cover the basics of carnivore eating.
The carnivore diet, sometimes called the all-meat diet or zero carb diet, is an extreme elimination diet that involves eating only animal products and eliminating all plant foods.
There is no standard version of the diet, but typical carnivore diets allow:
- Meat: Red meat, poultry, pork, lamb, etc.
- Fish and shellfish
- Dairy products: cheese, milk, yogurt
- Animal fats: lard, tallow, duck fat
- Bone broth
- Organ meats like liver
Foods excluded on the carnivore diet include:
- Grains: wheat, rice, oats, corn
- Beans and legumes
- Nuts and seeds
- Plant-based oils
- Processed foods with additives
The origins of the modern carnivore diet can be traced to the 1970s writings of Vivian Pinn “the First Lady of Nutritional Medicine” and more recently was popularized by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Shawn Baker.
Proponents claim benefits like improved mood, weight loss, reduced inflammation and autoimmune disease symptom relief. However, there is limited research on the diet and experts warn of potential nutrient deficiencies and other long-term risks.
Now that you understand the basics of the carnivore diet, let’s dive into what the experts and research say about whether chicken is allowed.
Can you eat Chicken on the Carnivore Diet?
The clear answer here is yes – chicken is allowed on the carnivore diet. Most proponents of the all-meat diet agree that chicken and other types of poultry are perfectly acceptable.
Shawn Baker’s carnivore diet food list includes chicken, turkey, duck, and other fowl. He recommends eating fatty cuts of poultry with the skin on. Other thought leaders like Amber O’Hearn also say chicken can be part of a healthy carnivore lifestyle.
There are a few reasons chicken is considered an appropriate food for the carnivore diet:
- Chicken is an animal product and fits with the animal-based concepts behind carnivore.
- It’s a nutrient-dense, complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids.
- Chicken is a high-protein, versatile ingredient that’s easy to prepare, making it sustainable long term.
- Most people tolerate chicken well and don’t have adverse reactions to eating it.
The only real caveat is that chicken should be organic and as natural as possible. You’ll want to avoid processed chicken products full of preservatives and additives.
Some forms of chicken like eggs and bone broth would be permitted on even the strictest interpretation of carnivore. Overall, chicken in its whole food form aligns well with carnivore diet guidelines.
Benefits of Chicken Consumption in a Carnivore Diet Meal Plan
Assuming chicken is on the table, what are some of the benefits of eating it if you’re following an animal based eating style? Here are some of the top reasons chicken is a great choice:
It is a Lean Protein Source
Chicken breast is one of the leanest protein sources available. A 6-ounce cooked chicken breast provides around 54g of protein, with only 3g of fat and 0 carbs. Meats like beef and lamb are significantly higher in fat and calories.
Having a go-to low fat, high protein option like chicken is useful on carnivore for controlling calories and fat intake. Those watching macros may prefer chicken for staying lean.
Provides Key Nutrients
In addition to high quality complete proteins, chicken contains a variety of important vitamins and minerals:
- Niacin (B3) – boosts energy
- Vitamin B6 – supports red blood cell production
- Selenium – powerful antioxidant
- Phosphorus – optimizes bone health
- Zinc – facilitates immune function
- Iron – prevents anemia
Since carnivore dieters aren’t eating many vitamin-rich plant foods, the micronutrients in chicken help fill nutritional gaps.
Versatile for Meal Prepping
Chicken’s mild flavor and texture make it extremely versatile. It’s easy to prep a batch of shredded chicken at the beginning of the week for meal planning. The versatility makes it much easier to follow the carnivore diet, long-term.
Supports Weight Loss Goals
Transitioning to a low carb, high protein carnivore diet can promote weight loss for some people. Cuts of chicken like breast and thigh meat support these goals as a leaner protein source.
Compared to cuts of meat with a much higher fat content, chicken provides an effective high protein meal that fits into a caloric deficit. Prioritizing poultry is an easy way to reduce calories without compromising on protein.
More Affordable Than Red Meat
Quality red meat and steak can get pricey, especially for those adopting the carnivore diet more permanently. Chicken is typically more budget-friendly, making the diet approach more sustainable.
Whole chickens, leg quarters, and chicken breast can all be purchased for just a couple dollars per pound. Ground chicken or turkey are other lower cost high protein options.
For those new to carnivore or on a tight budget, chicken can help keep your meat-based meal plan affordable.
Lower in Saturated Fat
While saturated fat is not off limits on carnivore, overdoing it can be problematic. Eating primarily fatty red meats and dairy may drive saturated fat intake too high.
Chicken contains a better balance of fats. Per 100g, chicken breast contains just 3.3g of saturated fat versus 9.9g in lamb and 5.9g in beef.
For heart health and fat metabolism, enjoying leaner proteins like chicken can help offset other high-saturated fat foods in your diet.
Preferred Texture and Taste
Texture and taste preferences are subjective. Some simply don’t love the texture and strong flavor of beef or lamb.
Chicken provides a milder, more neutral “canvas” flavor. The smooth, tender texture even in chicken breast makes it more palatable when carnivore restricts carb-heavy comfort foods.
So for those who just plain prefer eating chicken, having it as a staple makes sticking to carnivore long term easier.
Potential Downsides to Consider
While chicken does have some advantages, there are also a few potential downsides to keep in mind:
Low in Iron
Heme iron from red meat is absorbed at higher rates than non-heme iron from chicken. Per calorie, beef provides around 2.5x as much iron as chicken breast.
Since carnivore removes iron-rich plant foods from the diet, relying too heavily on chicken could increase the risk of low iron or anemia over time.
Fewer Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Grass-fed beef and fatty fish are higher in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids than chicken. Most chickens are grain-fed, which alters their meat’s fatty acid profile.
To obtain optimal omega-3s on carnivore, include fatty cuts of beef, small oily fish like sardines, or a fish oil supplement.
High in PUFAs
While lower in saturated fat, chicken thighs and wings can be relatively high in polyunsaturated fats. Some experts assert that excess omega-6 PUFAs from vegetable oils and feed can have inflammatory effects.
Aim for quality chicken fed a species-appropriate diet to minimize potentially harmful PUFAs.
Beware of Processed Products
Not all chicken products would align with a strict carnivore diet. Avoid pre-marinated, breaded, or sauce-covered frozen chicken which could contain questionable oils, starches, sugars and preservatives.
Also be cautious of deli meats like pre-sliced chicken breast which may be preserved using seed oils or contain added sugars. Stick to whole, fresh chicken.
Increased Histamine Levels
Some individuals following a carnivore diet experience histamine intolerance or allergy-like symptoms. Chicken meat and particularly chicken liver are higher in histamine than other animal products.
Ensure the chicken you consume is extremely fresh. Some may need to further limit dietary histamine by restricting ground chicken and organ meats.
So while chicken is permitted on carnivore, be mindful of downsides around iron, omega-3s, and PUFAs. Balance chicken intake with plenty of fatty red meat and fish.
How Much Chicken is okay to eat on Carnivore?
There’s no set rule for how much of your total animal product intake should come from chicken if eating carnivore. That said, variety is still important.
Relying exclusively on chicken could lead to nutritional imbalance or food intolerances over time. Most experts suggest basing your protein around fatty cuts of beef, lamb, pork, etc.
A typical carnivore diet protein ratio could look like:
- 50% red meat
- 30% chicken
- 10% fish
- 10% other meats like bacon, eggs, organ meats
The majority of your meat calories should still come from ruminant animal sources like beef. Treat chicken as more of a secondary protein source for nutritional diversity.
Listen to your body as well. If you overdo chicken and experience symptoms like fatigue or inflammation, pull back and increase red meat intake. Finding your personal tolerance takes some trial and error.
How to Incorporate Chicken Into Your All-Meat Diet
Assuming you tolerate it well, what’s the best way to add chicken to your carnivore diet meal plan? Here are some tips:
Focus on whole cuts: stick to whole chicken parts like breast, thighs, drumsticks, wings or quarters whenever possible rather than processed or ground.
Eat the skin: the skin adds beneficial fats and is preferable to removing it for no reason. Just make sure to budget for the additional calories.
Try new cooking methods: grill, sauté, bake, instant pot, slow cook. Find creative recipes so you don’t get bored.
Pair with fat: cook with butter or beef tallow, add a fatty salad dressing, or wrap in bacon to balance the leanness.
Supplement if needed: if relying on chicken heavily, you may need targeted supplementation like iron and omega-3s.
Include organ meats: add chicken liver pate, hearts or gizzards to your meal plan for micronutrient variety.
**Avoid sauces and marinades** with additives and plant ingredients. Stick to simple spices and herb rubs.
Prioritizing whole chicken parts over processed options, switching up cooking methods, and balancing with fat helps maximize nutrition.
Sample Carnivore Meal Plan with Chicken
To give you an idea of how to plan carnivore meals featuring chicken, here is a potential full day meal plan:
Breakfast: 3 eggs scrambled in butter, chicken apple sausage, black cold brew coffee
Lunch: Sliced chicken breast with olive oil dressing, avocado, bacon crumbles, hard boiled eggs
Snack: Beef Jerky
Dinner: Chicken thigh curry with a side of salmon
Dessert: 85% dark chocolate
As you can see, fitting chicken into a carnivore meal plan means finding ways to adapt recipes to be totally animal product-based. But it can absolutely be done deliciously with some creativity!
FAQs about Chicken and the Carnivore Diet
Let’s wrap up with answers to some frequently asked questions about eating chicken on a meat-focused carnivore diet:
Is chicken a nutritious red meat alternative on carnivore?
Chicken is very nutritious and one of the best red meat alternatives on carnivore. It provides high quality protein with a better fat balance compared to most red meats. Poultry like chicken helps provide dietary variety.
Can you eat just chicken on a carnivore diet?
It’s best to include chicken as part of a varied diet including red meat, fish, eggs, and dairy rather than the sole protein source. Overconsumption of chicken could lead to nutritional imbalance long term. Have it regularly, but not exclusively.
Is conventional, factory farmed chicken ok on carnivore?
Organic, free-range chicken is best. But conventionally produced chicken in moderation is likely fine for those on a budget. Just know the potential downsides like antibiotics, hormones, and inflammatory oils.
What about processed chicken like chicken nuggets?
Avoid breaded, pre-sauced and heavily processed chicken products. The additives and vegetable oils likely don’t align with carnivore guidelines. Stick to quality whole chicken.
Can you eat unlimited amounts of chicken on the carnivore diet?
It’s best to keep chicken intake in moderation as part of balanced carnivore plan, rather than eating it in unlimited amounts. Overdoing any single food risks potential nutritional imbalance.
The Bottom Line on Chicken and the Carnivore Diet
Chicken can absolutely be included as part of a healthy carnivore diet when consumed as whole, natural cuts and balanced with red meat and fish. Take advantage of the benefits of chicken like high protein content, low cost, versatility and nutrients.
Just be mindful of downsides like fewer omega-3s than beef, slightly higher PUFAs, and lower iron content. Make chicken a component of your overall carnivore meal plan, rather than the mainstay. Buy organic and free-range whenever possible.
While more research is still needed on the carnivore diet as a whole, chicken is one of the least controversial animal protein choices. For most people, it can be a tasty and nutritious addition to a meat-focused way of eating. Of course, individual tolerances vary – so listen to your body.
And as with any restrictive diet, be sure to talk to your doctor before eliminating major food groups. Eating plans like the carnivore diet which are higher in saturated fats may have an increased risk of heart disease or cardiovascular disease. Use carnivore principles as a guide, but don’t be afraid to make modifications as needed based on your health goals.
If you’re interested in trying a slightly less stringent diet like the keto diet, you can read our article on how it compares to the carnivore diet, or how the carnivore diet compares to other popular meal plans like paleo.