IIN Food PyramidAs a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), the largest nutrition school in the world, one of my most favorite concepts that I was introduced to in their Health Coach Training Program was “primary vs. secondary foods.”

Secondary foods are the vegetables, proteins, oils, and other foods that we eat to create energy in our bodies. Secondary foods provide nutrients for our bodies, but don’t give us the joy, meaning or fulfillment that primary food provides. Primary foods are all those things that nourish us beyond the plate – our relationships, careers, education, physical activity, spirituality – the areas of life that feed us on other levels, but are just as critical to our health. (Unless you’re a hopeless foodie like myself, when cooking/ eating/ talking food can become a primary food in your life, as well!)

Think about when you first fell in love – did you stop eating as much, and think about food much less often because your brain was flooded with all those lovey-dovey neurotransmitters, and you were consumed with desire and emotion night and day? If we are lucky, we know the experience of not needing food because new love is feeding our soul and providing energy to our bodies in place of food. The same can be said for anything we feel passionate about – remember that creative project you became so immersed in, you forgot to eat?

So, while it’s important to eat an organic, local, varied diet, having balance in the other areas of your life and a healthy dose of passions and interests that feed your mind and heart is just as important for maintaining good health. As the IIN says, “When primary food is balanced and satiated, your life feeds you, making what you eat secondary.”