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The When, Why & How of Food Combining

food combining

The HyelifeMeredith @feelthehye is a holistic wellness guide, health coach, fitness trainer and podcaster. She is certified by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and helps clients shift their mindset and develop specific strategies to improve their wellbeing.

Today’s topic is something they certainly don’t teach you in school, but boy do I wish they did: Food Combining 101. Food combining sort of operates on a spectrum of rules, ranging from general guidelines to super specific pairings, so you have to be your own judge for what works best for you. I like to keep the general rules in mind when prepping meals or ordering out, and find this usually suffices for me. But of course, everyone is different and you may be overly sensitive to certain foods that cause reactions most people can tolerate— if this is the case, also know that it is likely due to either an IGg sensitivity, or a gut imbalance that you must address and heal in order to then tolerate those foods! You can test for gut imbalances with an organic acids and/or HTMA test.

Now before I get into it, I want to state a little disclaimer: do not let this stress you out! That is the opposite of what we want! I often don’t mention food combining to my private clients at least initially, because I want them to focus on first getting as much fruits and veggies into their diet as possible. Only if they then experience digestive issues do I consider food combining. It don’t want you to view this as a diet or restriction or yet one more way to “fall off the wagon”— rather I want this to be a tool in your toolbox, something you keep in mind and be aware of but not feel the need to abide by it to the point that it makes your eating experience stressful.

OK now let’s talk!

Below are the general guidelines, and then I will explain why and give a sample day of how to properly food combine.

  1. Fruit should be had on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning is best, or at least 2 hours after a meal (never directly after cooked food). Fruit can pair with raw greens like spinach, romaine, cucumber and avocado.

  2. Carbs/Starches & proteins do not pair with each other. You can either keep your starch and protein separate by having more carbs at lunch and keeping protein for dinner, or you can alternative days for carbs and days for protein.

    • Carbs/Starches include root vegetables (potatoes, yams, parsnips, beets, yuca, winter squashes), as well as grains (brown rice, quinoa, barley, sourdough breads), beans and legumes

    • Proteins include nuts and seeds (soak and/or ground them first!), animal meats, fish, and dairy

  3. Non-starchy veggies pair well with most everything, but try to avoid mixing raw with cooked veggies. Cooked veggies, as well as blended, are easier to digest as they are already partially broken down. Raw veggies are great for you, but they are harder to break down and you have to CHEW— a lot.

OK so why is this even a thing? I once heard the analogy of cars on a highway. Fruit is like your sports cars— they drive the fastest and are digested in about 30 minutes. Carbs/Starches are like your SUVs, taking anywhere from 2-4 hours to digest. Proteins are like your eighteen-wheelers, moving the slowest at about 4-6 hours for digestion. When you start mixing carbs and proteins in the same lane, you’re gonna get some traffic! All that congestion is going to create fermentation in the gut (aka bloat city), pressure on the stomach from some foods trying to move faster than others in front of them, and oh yes— hella gas. This also keeps your body from absorbing all the nutrients from your food, while taking lots of your energy to break down the foods as best they can under pressure. Not a great mix for vitality and, in case you were wondering, this does play into early aging!

A simple google search will come up with several charts for food combining, and you’ll notice some break things down even further, for example getting into fruit categories like acid v. sub-acid v. sweet fruits. Again, you can experiment with this and see what you can tolerate, as it can be a little overwhelming.

Sample Day:

Breakfast: after warm water with lemon + optional celery/green juice…

  • smoothie with blueberries, spinach, banana, water/coconut water, vegan protein powder

  • 1/3 cup oats with water, ground flax seeds, soaked almonds, cinnamon (can add a banana if you can handle it, as it’s not a water-based fruit, but just experiment)

    *can eat either/or, and can also eat both if desired, just have oats 30 mins after smoothie


  • Spinach & Sweet potato salad with tomatoes, artichoke hearts, avocado + quinoa, lemon juice


  • Stir-fry with cauli-rice, green beans, onions, mushrooms, kale & protein of choice (edamame, tofu, shrimp, free-range chicken, etc)


If you want to work out with Meredith 1-1 and create a totally custom meal plan just Shoot her a note or visit her Instagram!

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