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I am a vegetarian, mostly happy with my diet. I noticed that some meals are a bit harder to digest for me than others, which lead me to Google for “good” food combinations. As usual, I feel a bit lost in all the information and I feel that there aren’t many good combinations left :-)

One of the rules that’s repeated quite often (and therefore got through the first sanity-check information filter) is that proteins should not be eaten with carbohydrates. Doesn’t that leave out some very common food combinations like bread + cheese or bread + scrambled eggs? What about common side-dishes like potatoes or rice, aren’t they disqualified once the meal includes a big source of protein? And what about foods that are a good source of both carbohydrates and proteins? (The rule seems to break down completely there.)

I’m not taking this too seriously and I’m certainly not going to starve here. But I am quite interested in good food combinations from the practical perspective. (Where “practical” means “not willing to eat single-food meals all day long”.) So, returning back to the core question, how to mix food sensibly? What combinations are bad for most people?

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Nutrition is now off topic according to the faq. –  Baarn Mar 27 '13 at 20:12
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closed as off topic by FredrikD, Kate, Matt Chan Apr 4 '13 at 11:24

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1 Answer

The best approach is to try mini experiments for what works for you. Some people can handle carbs better than than others, and some people are only sensitive to certain kinds of carbs.

In my "maintenance" guidance after I lost weight, I got the following guidelines:

  • Protein with every meal, 4 meals a day
  • Breakfast: combine one portion each of carb, protein, and a fat
  • Lunch: combine one portion each of protein and fat
  • Dinner: combine one portion each of protein and carb
  • Snack: just protein
  • Drink plenty of water (minimum 2L a day)
  • Carbs should be whole grains or other slow to digest carb (like beans)
  • Fats are things like cheese, nuts, butter, milk, etc.
  • Once a week have a fun day followed by a no-carb day

The reasons for those guidelines were:

  1. Carbs and fats mixed together can cause you to put on weight--so limit it once per day and avoid mixing them when you can
  2. Carbs take up to 12 hours to process, so eat them later in the day so you don't have a rush of energy when you should be sleeping
  3. Carbs in the morning and evening meals give you the rush of energy when you are awake and can use it.
  4. The fun day is there to throw your metabolism off to keep it from adapting to your normal diet (and having the pounds creep back up). The no-carb day is there to compensate for the fun day.

Now, those are guidelines. Even within those guidelines, some people can't handle certain carb/protein combinations or carb/fat combinations. Others can handle it quite well. When you can't handle a combination your body responds in a couple ways:

  • Excess water weight due to bloating
  • Indegestion (those with celiac disease can't handle gluten)
  • Higher than normal weight gain.

Your body will fluctuate within a couple pounds daily, but if you notice that the morning after you have a meal that you really don't feel well and the scale is up, think about what you had for dinner. It could be one of the ingredients didn't agree with you. That's when you know the combination is bad for you.

While the above guidelines do work for maintenance, it's not the only way to maintain. If the way you eat works for you and keeps you where you want to be, great.

Now, unfortunately, there is no list of combinations that are bad for "most people", or if there were that the list would necessarily apply to you. We're all different, so we'll have to adjust. For example, you may find that you are perfectly fine with potatoes + cheese + eggs, but not using bread instead of the potatoes. Or you may find that only certain breads are a bad combination for you.

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