How to Properly Combine Foods for Better Digestion

How to Properly Combine Foods for Better Digestion

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a fan of dieting.

I’m all about eating whole, real food. And, I’m not a fan of starving. I mean, who is?! That being said, it usually surprises people when I tell them that I skip breakfast.

And it ALWAYS surprises them when I mention that Peter does too!

Now, I use the word ‘skip’ lightly, as we actually consume green juice, and if we’re still hungry a few hours later we’ll consume raw fruit, or a green smoothie.

The reason we do this?  >> Better Digestion <<

A standard breakfast of oatmeal, eggs, or toast, is simply too heavy for first thing in the morning. And, those can cause a lot of bloating if it’s followed by something lighter for lunch – like a fruit smoothie for example.

Ever had afternoon gas after a smoothie? It’s most likely because your breakfast was heavier than your lunch.

If you’ve heard my story before, you know that I used to struggle with the worst stomach pains. And when my stomach didn’t’ hurt, I was so bloated I looked pregnant! Basic food combining principals have helped me a lot over the years, and if you’re struggling, I highly recommend giving them a try.

Don’t let digestion issues take any more time from you living your life. You don’t have time for that, and it’s no fun!

Now, if you’re reading this, and trying to wrap your head around it – be patient. It took us awhile to understand food combining, and even longer to actually do it. I’m going to walk you through it today, and help you get started in this post.

But first, a little warning…

Food combinations are a tricky subject to master, but when you start healing your digestive system & improving your lifestyle, it won’t matter as much. However, when you’re just starting out, it can make a big difference.

Now, it’s easy to get obsessive and totally stressed out trying to combine everything perfectly. That’s what we don’t want you to do. Use this post as a guide, and do the best you can. The better you combine foods, the better you’ll feel.

And, make sure you grab our cheat sheet with the cliff note version, making it easy to refer back to as you plan your meals, trust me you’ll want something a little more convenient.

Structuring Your Meals

For optimal digestion, I recommend you eat your meals from light to heavy.  I know this is different from what you may have been taught, but this way quick Quick Exit foods never get stuck behind Slow Exit foods.

Think of your digestive system as a skinny tube – you don’t want that tube to get clogged early on. By eating your meals from light to heavy, you keep the food flowing freely – from north to south.

Worried about eating your heaviest meal at the end of the day?

Well, ideally, if you’re trying to get healthy, you’re eating healthy foods at all of your meals. I’m such a big advocate of a plant-based diet, as everything is easy to digest (once you get the hang of it, that is). And you don’t have to worry as much about going to bed with a full belly.

Here are some examples of what I mean when I say ‘Light to Heavy’….

Foods that are considered light (eat these first)

  • Green Juice
  • Green Smoothies
  • Raw Vegetables
  • Raw Fruit
  • Cooked Easily Digestible Vegetables   *such as spinach, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, beets, parsnips
  • Seeds
  • Seasonings
  • Coconut   *and coconut products
  • Avocado
  • Plant Milks   *such as coconut, almond, soy, hemp

Foods that are considered heavy (eat these later in the day)

  • Nuts
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Cheese
  • Wheat
  • Oatmeal
  • Soy products
  • Processed foods
  • Noodles
  • Rice
  • White potatoes

Foods that are somewhere in the middle (good for middle meal/afternoon)

  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Dark Chocolate   *Including cacao & cocoa
  • Legumes/Beans
  • Coffee

Want to see examples of what eating light to heavy meals might look like? Grab our cheat sheet here.

Download Free!

Phew, that was a lot, but we’re just getting started.

Now that we’ve covered the ‘Light to Heavy’ concept, below is some advice on what to fill those meal spots up with, so to speak.

Food Combinations

I like to think of foods belonging to certain categories. So below, you’ll see 5 different categories to pick from when creating a meal.

Now, ideally, you’ll pick from one category, and then fill up the rest of your plate with neutrals. That doesn’t always happen over here, but if you’re struggling with stomach issues, I strongly recommend giving this a try.

Let me break down each group…

Fruit

Eat fruit alone on an empty stomach, or mixed with green vegetables. Fruits digest fairly quickly, and are best consumed by themselves.

*Quick Note on Melons – these should be consumed on their own, away from meals (at least 30 minutes away).

We like consuming our fruit first thing in the morning. I know it’s a popular idea to grab a piece of fruit for dessert, but if you have digestive issues, I wouldn’t recommend it. I’d go for a piece of dark chocolate 70% or higher instead.

Starches

These can be combined with each other, or with neutrals in meals. This is the category we usually build our lunches and dinners from. As you’ll notice a lot of plant friendly foods fill this category :)

  • Avocados
  • Squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yams
  • Coconuts
  • Grains  *quinoa, millet, buckwheat, brown rice, wheat, spelt
  • Cooked Corn
  • Beans
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Pasta

*A note about grains – we try to keep grains to 1 type per meal, as too many grains can cause constipation.

Feeling Overwhelmed Already?  I know, it’s a lot to take in. I recommend grabbing Our Digestion Cheat Sheet with the cliff notes version, best supplements for digestion, and a few other goodies as the perfect starter package. 

Download Free!

Animal Products

These can be combined with each other, or with neutrals, less is more with this category though. As too many animal proteins in one meal, is just asking for a stomach ache!

  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Eggs
  • Fish/seafood
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Ice cream
  • Greek Yogurt

Nuts and Seeds

These can be combined with raw vegetables, other nuts, seeds, bananas, and dried fruit.

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds

*A note about nuts – nuts are very dense and seem to be harder for women to digest. If you’re trying to lose weight, or have issues with constipation, we recommend switching out seeds for nuts, and consuming nuts sparingly.

Neutrals

These can be mixed with everything, except melons. Around our house the more leafy greens and fiber filled vegetables we can get in the better.

  • All raw vegetables
  • Most cooked vegetables
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Spices
  • Non-dairy milks
  • Wine
  • Coconut water
  • Olive & coconut oil

And I can’t forget Water…

While not a food, water is a very important part of your diet, and can actually cause some serious discomfort if consumed at the wrong time!

I recommend you avoid drinking water with your meals.

This little shift made such a big difference for me. I was so used to washing everything down with soda, and then water, because I thought I needed it. But little did I know it was actually hurting my digestion.

When you drink liquid during your meal, you dilute your naturally occurring digestive enzymes & stomach acids – which makes it harder to breakdown and digest your food. Try not to drink 15 minutes before meals, and 30-60 minutes afterward.

The next question I usually get when talking to clients is usually: Cold or warm water?

Avoid cold water.

Instead, go for room temperature, as this will be easier on your digestive system, and energy supply.

Water is awesome, and I recommend you drink lots of it (especially in the morning), but space it apart from your meals.

That’s it! 

I hope this article helps you avoid bloating, constipation, and stomach pain.

And please be patient with yourself. It takes time to get the hang of food combining, especially if you have to make some changes to your meals.

For us, the biggest improvement came when we started eating from light to heavy, avoiding drinks with our meals, and keeping fruit to the mornings. Maybe you could start there as well :)

What’s The Next Step?

Grab our Digestion Cheat Sheet with all of this Food Combination info. Also included are meal pairing suggestions, recommended supplements and more.

Download Free!

8 Comments

  • Gigi

    Reply Reply May 9, 2017

    I love this!! Thank you! Super helpful!

    • Sarah

      Reply Reply May 10, 2017

      Wonderful, so glad to hear this Gigi!

  • Super helpful. A little overwhelming but I will be grabbing the cheat sheet for sure. Thank you for this resource.

    • Sarah

      Reply Reply May 18, 2017

      Hey Stephanie! So glad to hear that this was helpful. I know it can be overwhelming, so just do the best you can, and remember all of the little things add up:) I’m glad you grabbed the cheat sheet too!

  • Sarah C.

    Reply Reply May 12, 2017

    Very helpful article, thank you!

    • Sarah

      Reply Reply May 18, 2017

      So glad to hear that Sarah! :)

  • Michelle

    Reply Reply June 9, 2017

    Excited to try this! :)

    • Sarah

      Reply Reply October 11, 2017

      YAY! Keep us posted on how it goes Michelle :)

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