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

Katie

Hi, I just wanted to say I found your article super helpful. I’ve read through all of the comments and just have a few questions I couldn’t find answers to (here or elsewhere on the net!). What can chia seeds be eaten with? I know they’re a seed, but since they’re so high in protein I thought perhaps they would be chunked into that group instead. If it’s at all possible, I would really appreciate a specific food example or two, since I used to load chia into everything and now I’m lost! Also, I read that you said coconut milk gets lumped into the nuts and seeds catagory, but almond milk does not. I just wanted to make sure I understood that correctly, because I love coconut milk and find almond milk to taste kind of like plato.

Regards,
Katie

the wild hog

Wonderful website. Plenty of useful information here. I am sending it to some friends ans also sharing in delicious. And obviously, thank you on your effort!

orcamom

I’ve been using food combining for some years now – without it I get chronic indigestion, acid reflux, heartburn, etc, etc. By combining my foods properly, I can save myself a lot of pain and discomfort!

Sometimes I go “off” the combining, and just have to put up with the consequences, but at least now I have a choice. Previously I was taking medication that didn’t do much, and the dosage had to be increased all the time – I hated that.

One added bonus was that I lost weight without even trying when I first started food combining!

Thanks for the info, the chart is useful!

Jay

Hi, in the morning, I usually make a fruit smoothie with coconut milk almond milk and frozen berries. Is that okay to combine??

Mary Ann

Hello!

I have a question about the fresh fruit category. So is it not a good idea to let’s say, have yogurt in the morning topped with fresh blueberries? Or even putting a sliced banana in your cereal?

Thanks so much!

Claudia

Hi Megan,

I am new to your site… (I have hardly been able to work I am so addicted to your site!!). I have the Raw Food Detox Diet and I LOVE IT. I have recently picked it up again and started to make a HUGE lifestyle change. I have a hard time quitting grains completely… and I was wondering how you felt about Ezekiel Breads and Tortillas? I like to make delicious (mostly raw) wraps with them, and also avocado sandwiches. I admire you going grain-free!! I may try sometime in the future. I am trying to lose weight and get my health back (I fell completely off the wagon after 15 years as a juicing, almost raw vegetarian). Oh I also wanted to ask about Brown Rice. I find it easier to ask for brown rice as a substitute at restaurants and I also love to eat it at home with roasted and grilled veggies. One last thing- I recently bough bulgur at Trader Joe’s (I live in LA too) and I was trying to come up with some recipes with it. How do you feel about bulgur?

Thanks for your help and advice!! And thank you so much for this amazing website!!!!!

Namaste.

    Megan

    I think high-quality grains can definitely be a part of a healthy, detox-lifestyle! I’m not 100% grain-free, so I still enjoy Ezekiel products and whole grains, as well. I’ve never worked with bulgur, but it sounds like something fun to experiment with!

    Best of luck to you!

Angie

Just want to say i love love love your blog!!! So thankful i stumbled across it as your recipes are quick easy and simple ingredients that are easy to have around!!!! Just wondering if you have an instagram i can follow? I am currently at uni studying to be a nutritionist.

Peggy

Hi, just came across your site, and can’t stop reading, going to give it a try, after all I’ve tried everything else in hopes to shed unwanted wieght gain and nothings been working.

Lisa Stice

I was wonderimg about BBQ sauce on meats and butter on breads, I am confused about the condiments.. so what spread do you put on breads? How to flavor potatoes? Butter yes/no?…. ok for Honey to be used with butter on toast? I think I understand the rest of it but not quite sure how to flavor foods? No artificial sweetner either?

    Megan

    Butter and honey, and small amounts of other condiments, can be considered neutral. Flavorings, such as herbs and vinegars, are also considered neutral. I avoid all artificial sweeteners.

Weedlab

Hello there. I have a few questions. If I wanted to eat oatmeal for breakfast, what other foods would you suggest with it? I’m also looking at blood sugar levels.

Secondly, I tend to make a smoothie that contains blue berries, spinach, kale, a cup of blue berry kefir, a banana and I throw things in like maca and cinnamon in it. Is this okay? I’m worried about the combining, particularly the kefir and now the banana after reading your post.

Let me know what you think. Thanks!

Brittany S.

Hello!

I stumbled upon your site and now I follow regularly. I love your recipes! If you have the time I was wondering about your feelings on combining fresh fruit with a raw vegan protein powder. In the mornings I usually do a spinach, fresh fruit, almond milk smoothie with some sun warrior protein which is a blend of pea, cranberry, and hemp protein fortified with coconut oil. I feel great having this for breakfast but is it miscombined?

Thank you! 🙂

henk

How the hell can you ever get enough calories if you’re a vegetarian (vegan +eggs) and limit yourself to food combining rules..?

I should be eating nuts all day.. i’m nearing anorexia (on the bottom of my bmi score and still falling)

What the hell should i do.. my brain is starting to hurt (though that could be because of a lack of some vitamins or whatever??)

I eat a whole lot of vegetables but those things dont have calories..
i might be lucky if i get over 1000 calories a day, but i think i don’t even get there, while an adult male should at least get over 2000.

If i eat nuts i’m not allowed to eat anything for 4 hours correct? if i eat eggs i can’t eat nuts and can’t eat for 4 hours correct? if i eat starch i can’t eat nuts and can’t eat for 3 hours correct?

There’s absolutely no way to get enough calories unless the only thing you eat is nuts all day.. or a rediculous amount of nuts at once..

    Priya

    hi! i dont know how old your comment is but i hope this helps!
    i dont follow food combining completely, but i hope this helps. food combining as detoxinista said, isnt for everyone.

    try this: in the morning, have a big bowl of berries or melon (or some fruit), about an hour later, a bowl of oatmeal with some protein powder and non dairy milk

    for lunch, leafy greens w 1+c lentil or bean salad with diced raw veggies or roaseed vieggies, roasted squash or other carb also

    for snack, 2 sevrings trail mix (1/4c nuts & 1/4+c dried fruit)

    for dinner, a big sald (2+c leafy greens), 2 eggs, 1c diced raw veggies, 1 roasted veggies, salsa, etc, yogurt

    add in snacks, like she said dark choc or milk or non dairy milk as you see it! hope it helps and good luck<3

Dominic

Megan
Thanks for this very simple explanation of food combining. I have hereditary gout and recently cut way back on my protein consumption. I had instinctively followed many of these guidelines and it is great to have some understanding behind it. I went from a 33 to 30 waist in about one month(nice side benefit). Keep up the good work.
Dominic

Katie

Trying to figure out where pumpkin fits in-is it considered a starch?

Piet

On what do you base that nuts and dried fruit combine well, since every other site about food combining explicitely says that that’s a very bad combination?

I hope you’re right cause i’m making bars with that stuff now.. but we’ll experience that soon enough probably.

Lucy

Is it acceptable to have oatmeal made with almond milk when following the rules of food combination? Thankyou

    Megan

    Yes, almond milk is considered neutral for most purposes, since the fiber is removed.

Diana

Hi Mega, I wanted to know on what category would put tomatoes. I thought tomatoes were fruits and tht they could not be pares with staches. I saw your spelt pasta recipe that has marinera sauce and was confused becasue the sauce has tomato which is technically a fruit.
Thanks, Diana.

    Megan

    Non-sweet fruits, like tomatoes and zucchini, can fall into the neutral category with other raw vegetables.

Kenzie

Hi,

I’m allergic to almonds, coconut, peanuts, and much more. I was wondering if you have any suggestions for flours I can use that serve the purpose of food combining. I love to bake, but I want to make it better for digestion. Also, what category would you put quinoa in?

    Megan

    Any type of flour can work with food combining, if you pair it correctly. Traditional grain flours would work best in vegan baking, since they don’t combine with eggs or flax. I consider cooked quinoa to combine as a grain, but it may also fall into the nut/seed category for some, since it’s technically a seed/pseudograin.

Diana

Hi, many smoothies have veggies and fruits with some kind of nut added for fat. I was wondering, isn’t that a bad combination since nuts and seeds are in one category and fruits in another ( I know that veggies are neutral so they would not be a problem).
Thanks, Diana.

CINDY LEW

What catagory does a glass of red or white wine fit in?

    Megan

    Since wine is a liquid, it does not involve much digestion and can be enjoyed in moderation with almost any meal.

Carol

Is Minestrone okay to eat due to having pasta, beans and vegetables?

    Megan

    I typically combine beans as a starch, so in that case, the Minestrone would be fine.

irene

if you cook the fruit, then can I combine it with other items? thank you.

    Megan

    Cooking the fruit will slow down its digestion, so in that case I will occasionally combine it with nuts and seeds (like in a grain-free peach cobbler) and it doesn’t seem to cause too much of an issue.

Jennifer

Does peanut butter and other nut butters fall into the nut/seed category?

    Megan

    Yes, nut butters do fall into the nut/seed/dried fruit category. Peanuts are not a nut, they are technically a legume, so they fall into a “gray area” with food combining and are best consumed with simple meals (like a raw salad) for best digestion. Many food combiners avoid peanuts in general to avoid potential aflatoxin exposure, but I consider them fine as a treat if you stick to the organic variety.

Piet

Dried fruits (sugar) and nuts (fat/protein) is the worst possible combination you can make, this is the only website that says the opposite.. and out of experience i know it’s a bad combination..

Ofcourse tastewise it’s great combination, but that’s not what this is about.. it’s about digestion.

Devendra Madhavan

In India people have yoghurt with Rice and vegetables with necessary spices regularly and maintaining good health please advise the Health benefits.

Antonio Spellman

How about a meal with plant protein and starch? I didn’t notice too much of a problem with a small sweet potato with tofu and salad.

josie

Hi Megan:

This website is beautifully done. I appreciate all of the information, recipes, and creativity you generously share. I was wondering if you would please tell me how soon after a meal do you wait until you eat dark chocolate?
I find your food combining information a breath of fresh air; there is a daunting amount of confusing charts and such online, and yours is the clearest.

Thanks!
Josie

    Megan

    I usually wait 30 minutes or so for dark chocolate, just because that’s when I usually crave something sweet after a meal, but since dark chocolate is pretty neutral, there’s no need to wait a specific amount of time.

Adam Stenftenagel

Love this blog. The food combining chart makes a lot of sense. Do you have any more in depth charts with “all” foods listed? What things count as fruits and what counts as a vegetable? Are there other exceptions to the rule? Like, what about sprouted grain breads (Ezekiel)? What about fresh corn (as opposed to corn chips)? Vegetable or starch or both? Regardless, there are so many foods out there, it’s hard to know where everything fits. Is there a bigger list that we can reference?

Thanks a bunch!

Peter

Hi Megan,

Is it OK to use avocado with a protein? For example chicken with avocado?

Cheers

Kenric L. Ashe

What actual scientific peer-reviewed evidence is there to support the alleged benefits of food combining? Maybe there’s something I’m not aware of but this is starting to look more like an unsubstantiated hypothesis than a well proven theory.

http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=food+combining

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10805507

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/food-combining

http://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/diet-tips/ask-diet-doctor-does-food-combining-diet-work

    Megan

    As I’ve mentioned above, there is definitely a lack of scientific studies in regards to food combining– most likely because there is very little profit to be made from it, so no company is willing to fund this type of research. I personally think that food combining works because it encourages the consumption of whole foods in simple combinations, rather than the complicated, processed meals our society has come to expect at mealtime. From personal experience, I do feel better eating this way and so do many others, but it may not be any more scientific than the fact that this way of eating encourages making healthier choices overall.

      efrain

      thank you! for your blog. i learn a lot from the questions and answers.

Andrea

Hi, I’ve tried this diet before and it’s great. I ran into a problem in the winter, though, as fresh fruit is hard to come by. Are there other breakfast options for the winter months? thanks!

Jade Mazarin

Hi Megan,

Thanks for the article! Is it possible to go through detox when one starts food combining? Seems strange, but I was curious because since starting I feel like I’ve had detox symptoms. I would so appreciate your thoughts!

Jade

Dwight Juras

What do you mean that bananas are exception the rule and can be eaten with seeds and nuts. Where did you get this from?
Dwight

Zoe

Love your website! Question that I have not seen answered above but is mentioned in other food combining sites I have found. Typically, how many items from each category can be eaten together? Especially in the flesh category

Stacy

You may have answered this, I may have missed the answer on my scan through the comments, where do legumes sit on this chart? Peanuts are supposedly out, but you put in hummus as an example on the nuts and seeds group. Where exactly do chickpeas, black beans, etc. sit?

Brad

Anything that has a flower and then ‘fruits’ is botanically a fruit. Tomatoes, yes, but also cucumbers, winter and summer squash, eggplant, peppers, peas, and beans.

Saying that, this is not really relevant to their nutritional content. It would be wise to separate the botanical definition of fruit from the nutritional one, especially for this list. Here, just assume if it’s sweet to eat raw, it has a high fructose content and would be in the fruit column.

On peanuts, I’ve never really understood the statement from the raw food community that they are not a nut and why that’s really relevant. Sure, a typical jar of peanut butter isn’t that good for you, but that’s because of the added sugar. If you actually compare raw peanuts to an ‘actual’ nut like almonds, they are nutritionally very similar – http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/legumes-and-legume-products/4355/2 vs http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3085/2 (switch the second almond link from ground to 1 cup whole to compare). Peanuts actually have a slightly higher nutrient balance, protein quality, and lower inflamation factor, tho they do have double the saturated fat than almonds per weight.

Pankaj

What about having a meal that contains Bread(made of wheat) with cooked vegetables followed by Rice and lentil. This is very common diet mostly in India.

Nikki

Hi Megan,
I was wondering what type of dark chocolate you eat. Would you consider cocoa powder neutral?
Love your site!
Thanks,
Nikki

Nikki

-and what would you consider young coconut meat?

Marie

So.. what are non-starchy vegetables?

janet

Love this too….just a bit confused on Avolcado, can you combine it with say tuna, feta, tomato and onion? it’s by favourite salad and I see it should be eaten alone?

Brenda Weatherby

I love this food combining chart but where does beans come in? What category are they in?

Ivy

Love this site – just so well done.
First thing in the morning I use a protein powder in a smoothie with almond milk, frozen berries. Sometimes I use a vegan protein mix – is that OK. Or should I drop the protein altogether?

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