I'm a vegetarian, and not willing to give that up at this point in my life. I do eat both eggs and dairy, and take fish oil for the DHA.I also supplement with B12 as a precaution. I can't bring myself to actually eat fish.
I want to apply paleo principles to my diet as much as I can, and was hoping I could get some advice.
I should add that I'm a 23 year old guy, in apparent good health, and exercise regularly. I'd love to gain some weight (muscle), but I know that's really pushing it. Right now, my diet consists mainly of vegetables, eggs, mostly acid-soaked/fermented legumes, fruit, nuts, soy protein meat substitutes, and whole grains, with sadly common ventures into refined sugar to satisfy my sweet tooth.
Please don't direct me to the "The Vegetarian Myth" or try to dissuade me from my vegetarianism. I know I'm making an emotional choice, not a rational one, and I've accepted that.
I don't think it's so implausible to eat a paleo acceptable diet while being your sort of quasi-vegetarian. Personally I prefer low-carb animal fat heavy paleo, but if you're modelling your diet on societies like the kitavans, then it's much easier.
If you're getting your calories from paleo carbohydrate rather than animal fat, then that already covers a lot of your nutritional requirements. The kitavans eat about 70% carbohydrate mostly from sweet potato. If you plug that into nutrition-data then it compares favourably to the same amount of calories from fatty meat in terms of micronutrients. There's no reason, in principle, why you couldn't get even more calories from sweet potato if you like. In the Kitavan case another 20% of their calories comes from coconut, which if you wanted to eat lower carb, you could obviously eat for a lot of your calories, but with the downside that this would leave you lacking a lot of nutrients.
With the paleo-calories and a lot of your micronutrients covered, protein is presumably the next big issue. Assuming you have no problems eating eggs though, this shouldn't be an issue in principle either. On a high carb diet you'll only need 10% (kitavan level) to 15% calories from protein, which should be 90-100g per day. Naturally eating more protein leads to higher satiety (one of the main draws of the paleo style of eating I assume), but for optimal healthy plenty of people think you should eat just enough protein to meet your needs (c.f. the Optimal Diet- which looks like a quack site, but is ably defended on Hyperlipid) or Perfect Health diet- which actually doesn't require the very low 50g of protein the main page suggests, see the colour supplement). If you're trying to gain weight, then of course you'll want more protein, but bodybuilders eating tonnes of eggs and milk is quite common. Eggs aren't the optimal protein source (less nutritious than meat, might provoke allergies/intolerance, more omega6 in the yolk), but are very widely eaten by standard paleos. Also note that eating sweet potato/potato (the latter is higher in protein and complete, but arguably less paleo) will give you 40g+ of only slightly incomplete protein. I would most definitely ditch the soy protein, given the soy is full of what are essentially toxins.
As to all the various nutrients that come predominantly from meat, hopefully your egg yolks will largely see to this. Also since you're not eating low fat vegetarian (as most are) and are eating dairy fat etc with your vegetables, you should have much better nutrient-absorption than is typical of vegetarians and should get some vitamin K2 as well.
I think that covers all the positive needs of a paleo-mostly-vegetarian diet, so what should be removed from your current diet? I would suggest the grains, totally, without reservation, given the potential long-term harm of gluten and the myriad other anti-nutrients therein. Legumes, even if fully fermented, I am personally suspicious of, but some people on here seem to think that properly prepared, they're fine (my view is that anything that needs that much processing to be tolerable is probably not healthy, whereas the converse view seems to be that after so much elaborate preparation they're bound to be safe). Soy protein as mentioned before, falls into the same category of wheat as something that will not merely be unnutritious, but disruptive in a variety of ways. Fruit, I would minimise, since there's no need for it if you're eating vegetables/tubers and fructose is better limited. I would view them as an indulgence to 'satisfy one's sweet tooth' rather than a staple, but some people on here think they're healthy (and that's certainly the Cordain orthodoxy). I would also suggest cutting the nuts, since you'll be getting enough omega-6 from eggs anyway.
I recently switched from vegan to paleo. Not to discount the revulsion to meat that you've developed, but personally I'd recommend trying some!
I thought I'd have a lot of trouble adjusting to meat. When I was exposed to meat as a vegetarian/vegan, the smell of meat was always weird and unsettling. Extremely unappetizing! But when I took my first non-vegan bite of a grass-fed lamb satay, I couldn't believe how quickly that changed!
My first impression wasn't entirely pleasant, more like "What is this bizarre, unfamiliar food in my mouth??" But a second later, this ravenous hunger hit me and I just wanted MORE! I ate the entire thing, and then went on a week-long meat binge as my body realized that's what I'd been craving.
Just a thought... Good luck!
I'll start with the obligatory caution since I think eating some meat is part of a healthy diet.
That said, I think you can be pretty darn healthy if you base a diet on the following:
Potatoes, sweet potatoes, buckwheat, truly pastured eggs (or omega 3 if you can't find/afford the real thing) (eat at least one per day), raw grass-fed dairy, grass-fed dairy fat (pasteurized ok if only eating the butter fat), lentils, beans, cruciferous vegies, coconut, macadamia/cashew/hazel nuts, cacao, and fruits. Avoid soy (too much omega 6) and get your protein from potatoes, buckwheat, eggs, and raw dairy.
Vegetarians have to be especially vigilant about keeping their omega 6 low since you are not getting much long chain omega 3s (mainly found in fish). Thus, you will have to make your own DHA and EPA from alpha linolenic acid, which is hard to do if you're drowning in omega 6 linoleic acid like most vegetarians (linoleic acid and linolenic acid compete for elongation by the rate-limiting D6D enzyme).
Vegetarians also often have too much sugar, their other fatal flow. If you keep sugar intake restricted to a few servings of fresh fruit per day and keep your omega 6s low, I don't see any reason why you can be very healthy on a vegetarian diet. You are relying on that egg for B-12, so don't skip it and feel free to have more than 1 per day or take a supplement.
Just eliminate grains, legumes, and dairy. Continue on as an egg eating "vegetarian", with fish oil supplementation. Give it a month or two. Eggs are ideal protein. Seriously do those eliminations, paleo on eggs can work just fine. You will certainly benefit from eliminating grains, soy, processed foods, legumes, dairy.
Paleo != Vegetarianism. Period.
I'm curious to know why you're even interested in paleo in the first place. This diet is a rational one that attempts to closely follow dietary habits that our species have evolved with over millions of years, not an emotional one. So what's the draw for you?
I was vegetarian for 2 years and vegan for a year. So allow me to comment on vegetarianism, not necessarily try to dissuade you...
I surfed on the idea that yes, we are the only species that can make the conscious decision to not eat meat. But it is equally true that we are the first that can supply animals not only with a healthy life with their natural foods and free range, but also a quick, pain-free death. I envy this from any animal. They're going to die anyway, and in my opinion better than from the ruthlessness of nature and Darwinian struggle for existence. There are many sustainable farms that provide these things for them, and in that I found peace and appreciate the compassion. Just don't buy from factory farms, which is what paleo dieters encourage anyway.
Really think about it, and if you're still not convinced, drop legumes and all meat substitutes as well as dairy and grains, and just get over sugar. Hope you don't get sick of eggs :)
Drop the main culprits. Then, try to get a fat based diet by upping your fat considerably. Heavy cream, butter, and coconut products are a great way to do this. If you want to gain, you're going to need a high calorie intake, and starches might help too. Sweet potatoes and potatoes will be good. For protein, I guess you're going to have to eat a lot of egg whites and maybe some milk (hopefully raw) or yogurt. Make sure you are getting enough, it is crucial to building muscle. And finally, don't overdo the nuts and fruit. Moderation is key.
You may want to look at the perfect health diet, they have a few recommendations for vegetarians in the back.
Serious suggestion here: How about eating insects? It's still pretty hard to find insect meat in the USA, but if you're looking for ethical, ecological animal protein there really isn't a better choice. My experiences with insect meals have been few but universally positive. Look into it!
I think Jay gave you an excellent answer. I would add this: have lots of seaweed and krill. Seaweed is vegetable, and will provide many basic nutrients, and krill (almost at the bottom of the food chain) is the best source of the essential fatty acids omega 3, even better than fish oil. You could even have krill oil instead of fish oil: krill oil is actually better, and krill is a much simpler form of life than fish, which could work well with your ethical or emotional issues with respect to animal life.