Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
3 Nov

Introducing the New Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid

When I got involved with this blogging thing, I figured I’d stick with it for a year or so and then run out of things to say. 365 posts in 365 days seemed like a tall order by itself, let alone maintaining such a schedule into perpetuity. I felt I had something to offer people, and I knew what I was talking about, but that there were limits. Yeah, 365 posts would do nicely. I could get some stuff off my chest and maybe help some folks in the process. Why not?

So much for that.

A year passed and I just kept writing without even noticing. Yeah, I had exhausted all the topics for which I’d originally planned, but new ones kept popping up and grabbing me. Sometimes as I researched a topic, I’d discover something totally unrelated (but extremely interesting to me) to that topic. Little niggling thoughts about health/fitness/nutrition tend to embed themselves in my brain and wiggle around until I acknowledge them, so once I was finished with the original piece I’d usually dig into the new one and come up with a new post. Other post ideas arose organically, usually from some offhand comments by a reader.

As my readership grew, I started receiving a lot of feedback via email and comment sections. They’d bounce ideas off of me and each other, and I off them, and it was like this great big undergrad setting with ideas rattling around (inside and outside my head). There was no shortage of post fodder, but best of all, my ideas about health, fitness, and nutrition were evolving day by day. You guys proved to be the deepest source of ideas and innovation. Or, put another way, knowing I had an ever-growing team of sharp readers watching and judging my ideas kept me from slacking off.

Which brings me to the new Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid, published in the recently released Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation.

The old one was working just fine. Its basic message – eat lots of plants and animals – is still my basic message, and you’d be hard-pressed to eat poorly while following its recommendations, but is that good enough? Is “just fine” good enough for you? It isn’t for me. I want (and expect) simplicity, succinctness, both of which the old pyramid has, but also clarity and thoroughness (gosh, “thoroughness” just sounds awful; is there a better noun form of “thorough”?). The old pyramid left a lot up to the reader to figure out, and I think it could have been more clear and thorough. With the new pyramid, I addressed those and other concerns.

Well, before I explain the differences, let’s take a look at the two so you can see for yourself.

Here’s the old pyramid (click to enlarge).

Old Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid

Here’s the new pyramid (click to enlarge).

New Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid

The most noticeable change is making meat/fish/fowl/eggs, rather than produce, the base. It’s actually not a huge thematic change, as I’ve always suggested that animal products comprise the bulk of calories, but now it’s clear. Before, I’d often have to clarify to people that yes, vegetables may often make up the bulk of your food by sheer volume, but no, they will probably not make up the bulk of your food by caloric content. The repositioning of the two sections makes that clearer and less confusing.

I added an entirely new section: “Moderation Foods.” My thinking on certain foods has changed over the years, and this is my acknowledgment of that. Fruit, while an awesome, delicious method of seed dispersal that I’m glad plants employ, may not be right for everyone in unlimited quantities. Dense carb sources like starchy tubers and wild rice, while probably worth limiting and outright avoiding for people trying to lose weight, can be useful in the right situations. Dairy is another tool that many find extremely helpful (and tasty), and I’ve realized that nuts/nut butters/nut oils aren’t like other sources of fat, and that moderation is probably prudent. When thinking changes, so to must the products of that thinking.

You’ll also notice that I’ve added more sub-sections. So, instead of fruits and vegetables (including starchy tubers and roots, presumably) being lumped together, I separated them. Why? Well, a fruit is not a vegetable is not a potato. They all rely on photosynthesis, leaves or leafy-like things, water, a good loamy, nutrient-rich soil, and the caring hand of either Mother Nature or a grizzled farmer to come into existence, but they confer very different metabolic and health effects. In the old pyramid, rice is a grain (and therefore not allowed) and a sweet potato is a vegetable, but the new pyramid acknowledges that they share more commonalities than differences. For athletes looking to increase their carb intake, both are good ways to do it. The old pyramid didn’t make that clear, while the new way of classifying foods makes it obvious.

I also sacrificed brevity for clarity. Consider what the old pyramid said: “Approved Fats and Oils.” Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and I still stand by the fact that you should only consume “approved fats and oils.” But what is an example of an approved fat and oil? You might know it off the top of your head, but what about the person who’s just getting into this? The pyramid isn’t just for the person who can bust out a list of every animal fat arranged in order of omega-6 fat content on the fly. It’s also for the person who still has a tub of margarine in the fridge. It’s also for the guy whose browser doesn’t autofill “Paleohacks” when he so much as thinks about typing a “P.” And for those folks, for the beginners (and the curious who want a quick idea of this Primal Blueprint nonsense without reading blogs or books), giving a rough idea of what I mean by “approved fats and oils” is extremely helpful. “Oh, butter, coconut oil, and animal fats for eating, and avocados, macadamia nuts, and olives/extra virgin olive oil for eating? That’s easy enough for now, and if I need more info, maybe I’ll check out the articles on the website,” is what we’re shooting for here. I still think it reads well and reads quickly. I don’t think the brevity “sacrifice” was a crushing one.

I also included a nice serving of “why” along with the “what” and the “which.” See, the Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid is a lot of folks’ introduction to the PB. And people want justification. They don’t just want to be spoon-fed rules, or be given blanket prescriptions without knowing why they’re being given out. Especially when it’s telling you to eat the bulk of your calories in the form of animals and animal fat. I mean, this could be the first time they’ve ever read the words “saturated fat” without the “artery clogging” modifier. We’ve got some ‘splainin to do; we can’t just gloss over it and assume they’re aware of the current science of saturated fat.

I tossed in “Sensible Indulgences,” because I realized that those indulgences weren’t just some throw-away option that a few people take advantage of. And it’s not just cause I wanted to justify my own red wine and dark chocolate habits. They were actually crucial parts of the Primal Blueprint, and in my experience dealing with thousands of people over the years, I’ve learned that the red wine and the chocolate (among others) are often what makes following the PB a realistic, sustainable alternative to conventional wisdom.

With all that said, the pyramid remains essentially the same. The focus is still on the importance of eating whole, real food. Grains, vegetable oils, and sugar are still woefully underrepresented. And the dietitians are still going to hate it (heck, they’ll hate it even more than before!). The thinking is more refined (or, gasp, processed), but that just means it’s even better than before.

If I didn’t make it abundantly clear already, I’m always open to refining the new pyramid, either because something is more confusing than helpful, or if new research dictates that changes be made. Lay into me (and it) if you must. And that’s a standing offer.

Okay – I’m done for today. If you have any questions about the new pyramid, leave them in the comment section. Thanks for reading.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I wanted to add that as humans we have an amazing capacity to learn new things. When someone insists on remaining stagnant in old belief patterns–being dogmatic–one ceases to grow and thrive. When we learn something new, and upon further research and investigation discover that it is correct or an improvement upon our previous knowledge, this indicates that we are adaptable and eager to learn. So, Pete, you really are barking up the wrong tree. Additionally, what is so wrong about “capitalizing” upon an idea, when you are so passionate about it that you make it your life’s work??? I say, more power to Mark and the Bees, and thanks for making your vast knowledge available to us.

    Kim wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  2. What about cheese?

    Is cheese part of the “High-Fat Dairy”?

    I love grated cheese on my huge salads.

    Syler Cider wrote on November 3rd, 2011
    • If you’re lactose tolerant and dairy doesn’t really cause problems for you, cheese is fine. Mark has a big post on cheese selection. “Play it snooty” and go for the aged, good cheeses. I have yoghurt, cream, and cheese and all’s good and rolling. :-)

      Milla wrote on November 3rd, 2011
      • Milla, I agree with you on the aged cheeses (also the full fat yogurt and cream). I had read that aged cheeses had no lactose, that it was converted by the aging. Sure enough, when I got my next 18 month aged cheddar, the nutrition label reported 0 grams sugars. So, lactose tolerance is not an issue.

        Chris Johnson wrote on November 3rd, 2011
    • As a condiment it is ok – Grok didn’t have access to cheese….

      Jo-Anne wrote on February 19th, 2012
  3. anyone got any info on the wild rice vs tubers portion? I thought white rice was the least offensive grain and that roots/tubers were still better.

    Max@flavortogofast wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  4. Mark,


    That is all that needs to be said. I really like the new pyramid!!!

    -Ryan D

    Ryan Denner wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  5. Hmmmm. I’m undecided. The new pyramid is right on the money for those who understand caloric values, but unfortunately so many do not. The new chart, to a casual observer (and dare I say the bulk of Americans on the SAD), would look at it and their takeaway will be “Eat mostly meat/poultry/fish etc.” And not eat nearly enough veggies. The chart is correct in stating it intends to convey bulk of calories, but most people (not us) will infer it means “mostly meat/poultry/fish/eggs” from a “servings” perspective.

    Before going primal, had I glanced at this chart, I would think I could cut back on the servings of veggies and eat more meat. When in fact, from a “serving size” perspective, the salad I am eating at this very moment is a HUGE bowl of greens and veggies, with about a cup of grass-fed ground beef. A lot of people would read the chart and feel it means its better to have a huge pile of ground beef, with a little salad on the side.

    I think to not be “attacked” by the doubters, it needs some tweaking in the explanation of what you mean when you put the base as meat/poultry/fish/eggs…staress that you are talking about CALORIES, not portion size.

    Just my initial thought, keep up the great work.

    Peter wrote on November 3rd, 2011
    • Even if people did misinterpret the “volume vs. calories” issue, I don’t see that being a problem. Animal protein is almost universally self-regulating from a satiation standpoint, therefore making it difficult to overeat.

      Better to eat the base of the pyramid to satiety–with vegetables to taste–than the other way around.

      Further, one proposed health promoting mechanism for vegetables is via hormesis (see Kurt Harris’ article). If this theory is true, too much plant food may even be harmful.

      Nice job Mark. Looks similar to the Jaminets and JStantons recs- which is a good thing. Nice to see continued alignment among the paleo “pillars”.

      James_M wrote on November 3rd, 2011
    • I agree. When I look at food pyramids, I see the different tiers of total VOLUME of food eaten, not calories. I don’t count calories, but I can easily eyeball how much of something I am eating.

      On the whole, the new pyramid is more helpful, but I would switch meat and vegetables, perhaps with a note on the bottom stating that the pyramid represents volume of food, not calories consumed.

      Mike wrote on November 4th, 2011
  6. Perfect. Nicely done, Mark!

    JT wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  7. Ressembles more the book I am reading: Primal body-Primal Mind! GREAT BOOK

    frank wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  8. Mark,

    How does this fit in with this pyramid: ? When I saw this post I hoped you would be incorporating & clarifying that one as well.

    Erin wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  9. This is fantastic – as someone who has been Primal for 2+ years and constantly tries to share the info with almost everyone I meet, this revised tool will be of great help in that endeavor!

    Emilie wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  10. Amazing food pyramid :). Coconut milk is missing though =P

    Luke wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  11. I’ve been following the PB for 6 months now, I love the new pyramid and can’t wait to show it to my husband. It’s quick and concise, and clears up a few questions I had- good job!

    Rosanna wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  12. Thanks Mark, to me this is much clearer than the former pyramid, definately makes a good “handout” and I like following your evolving thought processes and your very thorough posts. Super job as always!

    Helen wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  13. Poster please!

    sue wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  14. Soak your raw organic nuts in filtered water for 8 hours. Dry them out at 105 degrees in a dehydrator for a couple days and eat a handful or 2 a day – every day. They are super good for you and will not stall weight loss efforts. Pecans, almonds, brazil nuts…’s
    ALL GOOD…and good for you!

    As far as reasonably priced free range meats: Find a friend that hunts and they will gladly give you lots of free deer, elk, or whatever they hunt.

    Cook it in a crock pot – add plenty of grass fed butter and it’s every bit as good as beef!!

    Ed Dudley wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  15. The new pyramid is mostly an improvement. It gives the basic ideas in just one picture. Nice.

    I was wondering whether the title “Moderation foods” would be clearer as “Optional foods”. Someone above already thought he *had* to eat wild rice, while it would be better to communicate that you could try eating rice. You also do not have to eat dairy, potatoes and nuts (in moderation), but you may try them and see whether is works for you.

    If you call it “Optional foods” this may also be a better place for the “Sensible indulgence” and personally I would also see “Supplements” as optional.

    Victor Venema wrote on November 3rd, 2011
    • I too think “optional” is a better way to phrase it.

      becky wrote on November 4th, 2011
      • “optional” seems like a great idea. People seem to define “moderation” very differently.

        Erin wrote on November 4th, 2011
    • Agreed.

      Susan Mintz wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  16. Exactly, Bruce. There’s no need for someone to be a hater on here… I have only been Primal for 3 weeks so I’m still one of the newbies (I think I still even have a tub of margarine… I really need to clean out my fridge!) so my opinion might not count for much, but one thing I have truly appreciated about MDA is that information is freely available and that while there is huge benefit from purchasing the book, the supplements, etc, there is no “buy my products and I’ll tell you the secret to my success” that is so prevalent among “fad diets” and “commercialized weight loss programs.” I truly appreciate Mark’s passion for sharing the knowledge and wisdom that he has WITHOUT COST. Besides, isn’t there something absolutely fulfilling and rewarding in being able to make a living doing what you love and are passionate about? Thanks, Mark, for everything you do!

    Stacy Fenner wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  17. I wish I loved macadamias as much as I love almonds, pecans & walnuts. I just can’t stand them, and I cant do anything about it! I really can’t keep them down, macs literally give me gag reflex. I don’t know why. But I’ve always been very moderate with nuts, so I suppose, no problem…

    Milla wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  18. More steak? Yes please :)

    Mauricio wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  19. I’ve already got the new book with the latest pyramid in it. Well done and I don’t mean the way I like my meat (that would be rare). This is pretty much how I have gravitated to eating over the past 10 months, and it seems to be keeping my energy and mood at a constant harmonious level. Also, no cravings for any food in particular. I just eat when I feel the need and as much as I want without any repercussions. Reveling in the FREEDOM that comes with following a primal/paleo lifestyle.

    Eva LaRoche wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  20. Thank You!!! For a newbie clear and to the point works!

    Trish wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  21. Is there any way to get the pyamid in poster size? I would like to frame it and put it in my kitchen. It would give people something to conversate about too.

    Joanna wrote on November 3rd, 2011
    • You could probably print off the image of the pyramid and take it in to a UPS Store/Staples or some sort of print shop and have them do it. Not sure but it’s worth a try.

      Joe wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  22. I would just like to say that I don’t think herbs should be lumped in with spices. Herbs are closer to a vegetable, for instance, when I go and pick greens for a salad (rocket,spinach,mizuna,lettuce etc, I always pick mint/s, basil/s, coriander, parsley etc in very liberal quantities as well. Also in cooking I use herbs in quantities similar to vegetables.

    Kate wrote on November 3rd, 2011
    • Yes, I agree. Herbs really are a vegetable.

      Susan Mintz wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  23. Thanks Mark…As always your insight/information is greatly appreciated…Rock Out with you Grok Out!!!

    Dennis wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  24. I will take this to work. It will definitely confuse and frustrate those who have personal trainers and “nutritionists”. You know, the crooks who tell overweight women to eat “gel packs” during their workouts? What is gel, anyways?

    Mia wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  25. I like the updates. The new pyramid is more inline with my dietary intake…which insures me that I have been doing in right from the beginning. Thanks again Mark!

    Erik wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  26. what makes macadamias so much better than all other nuts? i must have missed that post! i have heard time and again that they are king, but was never sure why exactly…

    Anna wrote on November 3rd, 2011
    • Unlike most nuts, they have low PUFA omega-6 content. PUFA=Poly Unsaturated Fat. Those are the bad guys because they’re easily oxidized (rancid).

      The Mono-Unsaturated and Saturated fats are better for us because they’re stable.

      raydawg wrote on November 18th, 2011
  27. Mark, I love these updates! The bulk of what I do is teach patients how to eat. Now I can point them to your pyramid to simplify things. Thanks for making my work easier.

    Dr. Carpenter wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  28. what do you think of maca? it’s a tuber that grows around south america that it’s believe to raise testosterone levels.

    k wrote on November 3rd, 2011
    • Seems to be very good stuff. It raises testosterone levels indirectly – that is it provides all sorts of micronutrients such as magnesium, zinc, etc.

      Supposedly, it can also help prevent prostate overgrowth.

      Found some at a local Hispanic supermarket in the spice section, which I like better than the local supermarket since they have a lot more varied fresh food, and even have a fresh fish stand. So you probably don’t need to order it from a specialty place if you look around.

      I do like the effect, but don’t over do it, or you won’t get any sleep. :)

      raydawg wrote on November 18th, 2011
    • Grok probably ate what he saw [it’s been a while since I read the book] and did he see tubers other than what he pulled up with the greens. Use as a treat or a condiment not a staple.

      A Naturopath told me to imagine a flower in three sections, including the root system….Flower, Leaves, roots….see it?
      In nature the leaves [greens] are more prolific….eat abundantly.
      The flower [the fruit and vegetable] is seasonal….next in abundance.
      The root [tubers etc] and seeds….eat sparing and only if there is no leaves or flowers…..they are there to grow the next crop of greens, fruits and vegetables or as a back up and we modern Groks don’t really need backup because we are carrying it around on our belly, hips and thighs.

      And that’s my theory….

      Jo-Anne wrote on February 19th, 2012
  29. Well done, Mark. The new pyramid groks! Very clear. I’m happily all moved into it. It’s nice to see a graphic of what I essentially follow every day.

    And, of course, I love how I feel – never sick, a lovely state of equilibrium, clear skin, no cravings. It’s nice to both (a) love the food I eat on a daily basis; and, at the same time, (b) not be super food focused.

    What I mean by that is that food is important to me when it’s time to eat. Otherwise, I’m not all distracted by it like a lot of people are.

    Sure does leave a lot of time and mental energy open for other interesting things.

    Well done :-)

    Susan Alexander wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  30. Nice update Mark, keep up the great work.

    Steve wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  31. Please make this into a poster we can download and print. Puhleeeeeez?

    Bert wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  32. Mark, as usual this information is way too concise. Pyramids, pie charts, and other infographics are SO Microsoft Office ’03, and there is NO WAY anything as simple as this could possibly be correct and helpful. Way to pollute the blogosphere even more with your “common sense” and “reason”. Shame on you, Sir. Shame!

    Tim wrote on November 3rd, 2011
    • Yes. Heaven forbid that something simple might actually BE correct and helpful. Mark goes “back to the basics”. This is healthy, sustainable and very enjoyable way of life. Read the success stories on this site. You will find a common theme. People reversing all kinds of chronic diseases (including ones that most people think aren’t curable) by doing something SIMPLE!!
      Love this Pyramid, Mark!! I was gravitating toward this, too. I found a lot of veggies were giving me digestive distress, too. Am slowly weeding out the “bad” ones.

      Heather wrote on November 4th, 2011
      • I think Tim is being sarcastic.

        oxide wrote on November 4th, 2011
  33. I love the new food pyramid!

    PaleoDentist wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  34. More meat. Win.

    steffo wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  35. How are macadamia nuts with weight loss? Also what about palm oil?

    Kristen wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  36. Good question as Bread/Pasta are shown on that pyramid as “infrequently” – seems to me they belong in the “never” category. Although to be fair, it does say in the blog text that this is Mark’s way of eating so I’m assuming it doesn’t act as a model for the rest of us—–

    PrimalGrandma wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  37. Anyone having trouble viewing the images? I’m so keen to see what the pyramid looks like but unfortunately am getting a broken link :(

    Mike wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  38. I picked up a copy a few days ago, and I am almost finished with it. I had already read the Primal Blueprint, and while I felt like it was pretty clear. I am enjoying this guide and call to action a lot. Even when I reread material I am familiar with, I pick up new things. It also motivates me to keep going with my weight loss. I have lost 20lbs this year, but I was slacking off a bit. I may have a sugar addiction. Anyways, it’s a great book and I really love your approach to fitness. I like the new pyramid as well!

    Tony Elam wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  39. @Mark, When you use the word moderation, especially when referring to fruit, how often is one to eat fruit in order to still eat them in moderation?

    Ryan wrote on November 3rd, 2011

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