Food Combining Chart

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guide to food combining with plate of detox spaghetti

Did you know that digesting food requires more energy than any other function in the human body? It’s no wonder we’re exhausted after a big lunch! It stands to reason, then, that the best way to free up some extra energy is to make our digestion as quick and efficient as possible.

Food combining is one of my favorite tricks to streamline the digestive process. Though food combining principles can get very complicated, depending on which expert you ask, I prefer to keep them simple. Simply pick just one dense food at each meal, whatever you’re craving most at that moment, and then fill the rest of your plate with raw and cooked non-starchy vegetables. Easy! By simplifying your meals, the digestive system doesn’t have to tackle too much in one sitting, helping you to avoid that bloated, sluggish feeling that can put a damper on the rest of your day.

Studies have shown that humans have a tendency to overeat when we are offered a wide variety of foods during a meal. (source) So, by simplifying our meals, we will naturally eat less, without counting calories or worrying about portion sizes.

Best of all, you don’t have to give up any food groups that you love– you just may not want to eat them all at the same time. The following guide should help!

food combining chart showing you how to properly combine foods(click on chart above to enlarge or print)

As you can see in the chart above, the foods have been divided into four general categories:

  • FRESH FRUIT
  • STARCH
  • ANIMAL PROTEIN
  • NUTS/SEEDS/DRIED FRUIT

Note: Look for these food combining labels clearly marked in my cookbooks, and here on the blog. All of the recipes in my cookbooks are properly combined, and both cookbooks include properly combined meal plans to help you easily get started. 

For a properly combined meal, simply choose ONE category and only eat foods out of that category for that particular meal. The foods listed within the same category combine well with each other, and you may also include anything from the “Neutral” column to fill out your plate.

Wait 3-4 hours between each meal, before switching categories.

Properly Combined Sample Meal Ideas

A properly-combined STARCH meal might look something like this:

A sandwich on whole-grain bread, filled with avocado, mustard, lettuce, tomato and sprouts. Served with a leafy side salad and a baked sweet potato topped with butter. You could follow this meal with some dark chocolate for dessert!

A properly-combined ANIMAL PROTEIN meal might look something like this:

A leafy green salad topped with cherry tomatoes and goat cheese, followed by a piece of baked fish served with a side of roasted broccoli and cauliflower. You could follow this meal with some dark chocolate or goat’s milk ice cream for dessert!

A properly-combined NUT/SEED/DRIED FRUIT meal might look something like this:

A leafy green salad topped with dried cranberries and raw walnuts, followed by a platter of raw hummus served with raw crudités. Dessert could be a slice of raw cheesecake, a few raw macaroons, or a couple raw almond butter cups!

FRESH FRUIT is best eaten in the mornings, on an empty stomach.

This is because fruit digests so quickly, typically within 30 minutes of eating. (However, fruit can be combined with leafy green vegetables in a green smoothie, if you like!) Fruit is not recommended as a dessert after a meal, as it could potentially cause fermentation, gas and bloating, and promote bacterial overgrowth in the body. You can eat fruit as an afternoon snack or post-workout, as long as it’s been 3-4 hours since your last properly-combined meal.

Note: There is a lot of debate over the science behind food combining, without much evidence to back it up. (There is little money to be made in this field, which probably accounts for the lack of funded studies.) Personally, I think why food combining works for me, and for many others, is that it encourages you to make better choices, without feeling restricted. When you’re choosing just ONE food category at a time, then filling the rest of your plate with raw and cooked vegetables, you’re bound to be making healthier choices! So, food combining may just work because it encourages the consumption of more whole foods and simpler meals.

I think it’s also important to note that there’s no need to be “perfect” with food combining rules all the time. I like to follow the 80/20 rule, because life’s too short to stress about what you’re eating.

For properly combined meal plans and entertaining menus, be sure to pick up a copy of my first cookbook, Everyday Detox.

My second cookbook, No Excuses Detox, has 3 more meal plans, including a Budget-Friendly properly combined meal plan that feeds you for less than $6 each day, and a Speedy Meal plan that has everything ready in 30 minutes or less. Both of my cookbooks are loaded with properly combined recipes to help make things easier for you.

Get more recipes + meal plans in my books:

detox book and meal plan

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Comments

Karine

Hi Megan,
thank you for the info! So useful! But what about tofu?
Thank u!

    Megan

    I would consider tofu to be part of the legume family– since it’s technically a bean curd made from soybeans. Legumes are complicated to digest, as they contain both starch and protein, so they are often not recommended for optimum digestion. Personally, I think it’s fine to enjoy legumes as the “density” of your meal. In other words, I wouldn’t mix them with any other dense starches or proteins, but rather eat them with plenty of raw and/or cooked vegetables. They make a great salad topper, and a filling vegetable soup. 🙂 Hope that helps!

      anton

      Hey there,
      I have a question about mixing rice or pasta with ketchup for better taste. Or some fruit along woth oatmeal in the morning. Any advice?

Carrie

Trying to follow along with the reply #17, i’m assuming lentils are also in the legume family, but which catagory would beans / lentils / etc be in? Nuts / Seeds or Flesh, due to the protein? Lentil Soups, Black Eyed peas, pintos, etc. Thanks Megan!

    Dana

    I’d flat out call them a starch and leave it at that. They happen to have some protein riding along, but so do grains.

Lisa

The other sites I have visited regarding food combining tend to be confusing and also more focused on what not to do. Thank you for providing a chart to make things simple. By focusing on the positive things we can eat together, it makes it exciting to take on rather than scary/stressful. The sample meals are also super helpful!!!

Nubian

I am just beginning my raw journey and this chart answers ALL of the questions I had about food combining. THANK YOU!!

Alicia

I just stumbled upon your site…it’s great and very interesting. I definitely think this is something that could help me with my digestion discomforts. I saw the question above about lentils and other beans. I too am wondering about this. I do not eat a lot of meat and do not eat tofu, so I usually eat things like chic peas, lentils, black beans, etc. Where do they fit in? When I do eat them I usually mix them into a salad or make home-made “veggie burgers” with either black beans and veggies or chic peas and veggies. However, I notice that is not something you suggest?

    Megan

    Hi Alicia! Lentils and beans are not very popular among those practicing strict food combining, as they are both a starch and a protein, and therefore are naturally “miscombined.”

    While I don’t eat them often, I do think they work perfectly fine in starch-based meals. Homemade veggie burgers are a great option, and you can also enjoy them over a leafy green salad, or in a vegetarian Mexican-style meal with rice and guacamole.

    Hope that helps!

Misty

is avacodos a fruit or starch? it is in both groups.

    Megan

    Avocados are unique! They combine with fruit (other than melon, which should be eaten alone) in a simple fruit-based meal or smoothie, OR they can combine with starchier foods, like breads and squashes. Just make sure you don’t mix the fruit with the starches in the same meal.

Meigen

What category do vinegars fall into; red wine, balsamic, apple cider.

    Megan

    I’d consider those neutral, since they’re often used in such small amounts, as in a salad dressing.

Laura

Megan, I <3 your website! Been on it for hours. One question, soy nuts? Where do they fall? Also, in many of your recipes you use almond, cashew, nut butters… do you think soy nut butter (I'm allergic to nuts) would be a good substitute for these both in recipe results and food-combining practice? Thanks! You're amazing!

Sarah

LOVE THIS!! Where would gluten-free flours, such as coconut flour fall? Thanks so much!

    Megan

    The grain-free flours will combine according to the ingredient– so coconut flour would combine as shredded coconut would, in the nut/seed category. Nut flours will combine in the nut/seed category as well, or in the overall “protein” category, depending on how strictly you combine.

Ashley

Is there anyway you can post some more meal combining examples? I am a newbie and can use all of the help I can get. There are a few things that are confusing to me ( ex. in the starchy meal, tomatoes are included even thought they are not a “cooked” veggie.). I would truly appreciate your help. : )

Thank you-
Ashley

Maria

Hi! I´ve read that you should eat protein with every meal. What kind of protein can you combine with fruits?

    Megan

    People who practice food combining don’t necessarily agree with that idea, but bananas are an exception to the fruit rule– you can enjoy them with any nuts or seeds for a protein boost. Also, leafy green veggies are surprisingly protein-rich, and they combine with any fruit. Green smoothies are a good option!

Alexia

Hi Megan,

I would like to please ask a question about other vegetables not mentioned on the chart. I saw the raw leafy greens are under teh neutral category, but I am wondering how other veggies combine, like tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, mushrooms, and so on and so forth.

Thanks so much! Your site is great!

~Alexia

    Megan

    Hi Alexia! All non-starchy vegetables, like the ones you mentioned above, are all considered neutral.

ASH

this is great! I have a qurstion,

I like to have oatmeal on the morning. so could i do then oatmeal, almond milk, coconut oil, but I like to add some protein like whey protein is that okay or would the whey be considerend as a flesh?

I do suffer from a lot of tummy discomfort even after going wheat free and mostly dairy free except for the whey protein adn yogurt.

Anika

Why do you include fruit in your dessert recipes if they are best eaten alone?

    Megan

    I include dried fruit in some of my dessert recipes, which do combine properly with nuts and seeds. Fresh bananas also combine with nuts and seeds.

Kath

What about hemp seed or hazelnut milk (store bought)- can this combine the same as almond milk (nuetral and with avacados in smoothies)? Thanks :)!

    Megan

    Yes, all nut and seed milks can be considered neutral for our purposes, since the pulp has been removed. Be sure to look for store-bought milks with little to no fillers, for best digestion. I believe Pacific brand makes some good options!

Ashley Lenn

I saw on some websites that artichoke hearts are considered a starch. In your opinion, or according to your studies, would you categorize it as a starch? Meaning I could combine it with avocado and non starchy veggies?
What about tahini? it is made from sesame seeds so only add a tahini dressing on a salad with no flesh and no starch? Meaning just raw veggies?
Thank youuu!

    Megan

    I tend to keep my food combining as simple and easy as possible– there are definitely more strict charts out there! Personally, I know that if it’s too complicated, I won’t follow it. So, for my purposes, artichokes fall into the neutral category. If you find that they disagree with you in that category, however, you can change how to combine them! Combining will definitely vary from person to person– usually people start having simpler meals as they become more accustomed to combining over the years.

    Tahini does fall into the nut category, so yes, it can combine with raw veggies, dried fruit and bananas.

Kim

I have been making morning smoothies that combine fruits – bananas, pineapple, cantaloupe and berries with veggies such as kale, spinach, cucumbers, zucchini and other greens. I also add in some fresh ginger, almond meal and flaxseeds. Oh and occasionally avocado. It is jammed packed : ) Is this not a good idea?

    Kim

    Ooops…forgot beets.

      Megan

      For food combining purposes, the almond meal and flaxseeds wouldn’t work with all that fresh fruit, but food combining isn’t for everyone. If you enjoy the smoothies, they sound pretty nutrient rich!

Joanna

Hi Megan,
I have a question about baking with almond flour. I suppose using eggs in a recipe with almond flour (and coconut flour for that matter) would make it miscombined, is that right? If so, I guess it’s best to not bake too often then. Or just stick to your chocolate chip cookies recipe. YUM YUM!

    Megan

    Yes, technically those recipes are mis-combined– though, they do still stick to the most basic rule, which is not to combine starches with protein. They should definitely be considered a treat!

    Stephanie

    I would use a ground flax egg instead of regular egg if you want to keep to the same category. It works great!

Michelle Francesca

Hi Megan,

I like to use organic canned coconut milk in creamy soup recipes. Can I combine canned coconut milk with starches to make creamy squash soups? Also is it okay in curry recipes that contain flesh?

Thanks!

    Megan

    Canned coconut milk actually falls into the nut/seed category, because it’s made from mature coconuts. Unless you’re making your own coconut milk, blending together young coconut meat and water, it wouldn’t be a perfect combination to mix it with starches. However, I find that the more liquid a substance (such as a soup) the easier it is to digest overall, so it wouldn’t be the biggest deal to mis-combine there.

Jenni

I have recently bBeen note rested in food combinig and have been doing some research but there are a lot of contradictions out there! Some say that avocado is in the protein category, and then some say you should only have one concentrated protein at a meal, and that dairy products should be eaten on their own… !? I’m also curious about fruit … Some sources say that you can mix acid fruits with protein? And then in some baking recipes use applesauce or other fruits with grain or nut flours and then add eggs to that as well… Any thoughts on how to sort all of this out? I’m also wondering if you have ever read the book “eating Alive” by John matsen? Thanks!

    Megan

    I don’t like to get too complicated with food combining rules, so the chart above is what I follow to keep things simple. Also, I feature some recipes on my site that are not properly combined, but they could be considered helpful “transition foods” for people who are coming off the Standard American Diet. I always encourage people to upgrade the quality of their foods, even if they aren’t perfectly combined, so any step in the right direction is a good thing, if you ask me!

Jenni

I’m also curious about flaxseeds? Where do they fall in?

    Megan

    Flaxseeds are a seed, so they’re in the nut/seed category.

RebeccaTedder

Hi,

What about fruits that are thought of as vegetables in a culinary sense. I cant see Tomatoes, capsicums (peppers), zucchinis, cucumbers, pumpkin? Are these best eaten with nuts, seeds and dried fruit and neutrals? Can you have tomato with a grain meal?

Also, where do we draw the line between seed and grain? I know that quinoa and amaranth are often referred to as “seed grains”. Also, seed grains have a lot of protein and carbs – so why are these better for us than legumes? Is it the particular types of protein??

Also, which category do sprouts fall under? One more question, noticed that raw hummus, is that made of chickpeas? Do you still consider sprouted legumes/peas as acidic/heavy. which category do they fall in once sprouted??

Can you recommend a good book on food combining, something with a bit of detail and scientific focus?? Excited to read more, as everything I have recently started reading about food combining really reflects my experience.

Bec

    barb

    good book on food combining is sherie brescias, great taste no pain..

    Joelle

    I was hoping this question would be answered. I was kinda wondering this myself. I have read those should not be combined (unless with each other) because they are fruit.

      Megan

      Non-sweet fruits, such as zucchini or tomatoes, can be considered neutral for basic food combining purposes.

      To answer the other questions above, I consider quinoa and amaranth to fall into the grain category, even though they are technically seeds. Sprouts, like alfalfa or broccoli, are leafy greens and can be considered neutral. Even when they’re sprouted, I’d still consider chickpeas to be a legume, but they would be easier to digest than non-sprouted versions. I personally combine all beans/legumes as a starch.

carly morgan

Love how you made your own little chart. Might do the same for my site. Hehe love yours soo much! xx

Diane

Can you tell me where legumes fit in this chart. Thank you

    Megan

    Please see my responses to the comments above regarding beans and legumes.

jenna

Hmmm this smells like a bunch of bullshit to me!

    Megan

    You’re welcome to have your own opinion.

    Mike F. LeBlanc, DDS

    Jenna,
    You have a blunt approach to matters
    as I can clearly see in your B.S. response.
    As a healthcare professional for 38 years,
    I have struggled with indigestion and even
    underwent a total collecting 4 years ago.
    Nothing has provided me with more relief
    more than proper food combining and mean
    NOTHING! So maybe it just takes some
    folks a major health set back to wake ’em
    up.
    Best wishes,
    Mike L.

Nea

It’s my understanding that melons do not combine well with anything else- including other fruits as they’re listed in category 1 of your chart. They’re good for you, but any melon should be eaten by itself.

    Megan

    Yes, that’s true! I didn’t make it clear on my chart, but I always recommend eating melons alone.

Samantha

Hi, there! I really appreciate the spirit of this page, but a better approach to naturally aiding digestion is lowering your FODMAP intake. Here is a link to Sue Shepherd’s website, a doctor in Australia who has done extensive research into the low FODMAP diet: http://shepherdworks.com.au/disease-information/low-fodmap-diet

Her advice was specifically formulated for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Fructose Malabsorption (which I have), Gluten Intolerance, and Lactose Intolerance, which all cause pain and bloating after consuming different foods. However, even “normal” people will benefit from reading and understanding the mechanics of digestion of FODMAP’s, categories of foods that all people have trouble digesting. Those of us with intolerances have fewer of the enzymes that “normal” people have, but even “normal” people have a limited amount of each category of enzymes that deplete as the food is digested. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FODMAP)

As an example, eating an all-fruit meal will overload your small intestine with fructose, one of the naturally occurring sugars. As the food passes through, the enzymes that move the fructose through the intestine wall are depleted. The fructose then passes into the large intestine, where the gut bacteria feed vociferously. This causes gas, bloating, flatulence, and pain.

Hope this helps.

    Priya

    hi samantha! i have IBS and am roughly following a low FODMAPs diet. do you have any more sources I can look at? thanks!

Kins

Hi, I usually have overnight oats:

oatmeal, almond milk- but the kicker here is chia seeds. Can I include those? What about Greek yogurt and chia seeds? So no greek yogurt and strawberries etc either?

    Megan

    Yes, it sounds like you got it! It’s not easy to adjust to new food combinations at first, but with practice, it does become an easy habit. Please don’t feel pressure to give up your usual healthy combinations, though, since food combining isn’t always for everyone.

Tatjana

Hi!
Am I allowed to eat fruit + yoghurt? Or milk?

Or should I use soy milk?

Is it ok to eat oatmeal with soy milk?

Thanks a lot!

    Megan

    I don’t care for the term “allowed,” since you are always welcome to eat anything you like! For food combining purposes, fruit would be eaten alone, so without any dairy. I personally avoid soy milk myself, but non-dairy milks are generally considered neutral and can be enjoyed over cereals.

Kins

Thank you so much for your reply. I think I will continue to add the chia seeds for breakfast but will incorporate the rest as much as I can without letting my diet dictate my life! I loved this website. Last night we went for mexican food, and I made sure to get a burrito with bean and avacado vs the typical bean and cheese thanks to your website. The fruit things an eye opener too- would never had known! Starch wise, whats confusing is “dry beans” are considered to be a starch while beans also fall under a low starch category on other websites. Can you define starchy veggies?

    Megan

    I personally consider beans, potatoes, and winter squash to fall into the “starchy” category. In terms of starchiness, it all depends on what you’re comparing it to. In comparison to leafy greens, beans would be considered pretty starchy. But, compared to a loaf of white bread, beans would be considered “low-starch.”

Apool

where would coconut milk be rated?

    Apool

    never mind! I found your response to the same question I had 🙂 thank you

Apool

ok Q: what about coffee or hot tea? how and when do you have it? with or without food?

    Megan

    Caffeinated beverages should be consumed at least 30 minutes before eating, and not with or after, to avoid acidifying the food you’re eating.

Sandi

Hello Megan,

I’m a bit confused about tomatoes? Acid fruit or vegetable?

Thank you!

daniel wise

still confused about whey protein…what can be combined with whey protein powder?

pat

I don’t understand about the fruits. When can and what can you combine dried fruit with? What about berries, can you you always combine them with leafy vegetables instead of eating them by themselves. Can you combine any raw food together, e. g. raw plant protein with berries in shake?

Frances

shouldn’t tomatoes count as fruits? they are a fruit and are VERY similar in their sugar content to other fruits. why are they considered here a vegetable? it doesn’t make sense!

Bee

Hi 🙂
I’ve been reading all over about this and still cannot find the “right” answer.
What can I eat olive and coconut oil with? Meats or starches or grains? What would you suggest?

Thank you.
B

Annie

I just found this site so I apologize if this question has been asked already.
I’m wondering about legumes. Where do they fit in?

Lisa

Wow Megan, II admire your paience with some of these questions where you have provided the reply. I am about to start food combining but on a day to day basis so Day 1 will be protein only, Day 2 starches and Day 3 Fruits & vegetables as a detox – what are your thoughts on this? I am doing it for weight-loss and also just to see how it makes me feel as I work as a Personal Trainer and amd always trying to find ways to help my clients lose weight and feel generally healthier.

Marcel

Hi Megan, thanks posting the chart!
I have simple question, would it be okay if i have nuts as my afternoon snack (around 3-4pm, in small amount)? Also what can i combine with? Can i drink hot unsweetened cocoa (without sugar) together with it plus some acidic fruits such as citrus? Thanks before

aford

The most helpful thing I’ve learned about fruits is that they are digested in the small intestines as with all sugars. Starches begin digesting in the mouth, and proteins in the stomach. If you combine fruits or sugars with starches or proteins they will not digest. Eat time alone, except for limes and lemons. Don’t over think it:)

Megan

While tomatoes are technically a fruit, the sugar content of a medium tomato is 3.2 grams, while the sugar content of a medium apple is 19 grams. That’s a pretty drastic difference!

Gretchen

Oils are in the neutral category, which can be combined with ANY other category.

Annie

I just scrolled down a bit and saw your comment on tofu and beans in general. Thank you, that clears up this question for me.

Megan

That’s definitely one way to do it! Make sure you’re including raw and/or cooked non-starchy vegetables, like leafy greens, zucchini, broccoli, etc. on your protein and starch days, so that you don’t overload your body with too many concentrated foods– even when properly combined, too much concentrated food will make digestion more difficult and drain your energy. Hope you enjoy the results!

Cristy

How do fermented foods, like sauerkraut, fit into this?

Crystal

Cristy, They would be considered a non-starchy neutral vegetable! They’re a great addition to ones diet if they’re raw 🙂

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