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

A Primal Blueprint Sample Menu

Last Wednesday I published The Primal Blueprint Carbohydrate Curve. In it I provided my recommendations for daily carbohydrate consumption. I received a lot of great feedback from readers. A couple readers, namely Patrick and Heather, requested sample menus to give them an idea of what a single day that comes in at around 100 grams of carbs looks like. I’ve done similar posts in the past (2 Minute Salad and My Daily Diet) but I thought I’d offer up something a little different this time. In this variation of eating like Grok in the modern world I’ve included pics that closely approximate what I eat on an average day, followed by FitDay macronutrient breakdowns (Click on the images to see a larger version. You may have to scroll down the page a bit to view the enlarged versions.)

Breakfast

A typical breakfast for me is a cup of coffee with cream and sugar and an omelet. Sometimes I’ll throw in a little cheese, but most days I go without it. The veggies change as well from day to day.

If it isn’t an omelet it might be some leftovers from the night before, or one of my balanced meal replacement shakes (link to my store).

Also, I don’t eat breakfast every day of the week. If I’m hungry I eat. Otherwise I don’t. You’ll find this is a common theme for me throughout the day.

coffee 1

omelet

Picture2 14 Picture3 11

Lunch

The following is a variation of my Big Ass Salad. This is where I load up on all kinds of colorful vegetables. The veggies comprise the bulk of the meal and vary from day to day. Mushrooms, bell peppers, red onions, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, cucumber and snow peas are some of my favorites. I also make sure to get some protein with this meal – some leftover chicken or steak from the night before, or canned salmon are regulars. This is usually my largest meal of the day and I always look forward to it. There are nearly endless permutations. Experiment until you find something you absolutely love. This will help ensure you keep coming back for more.

salad 1

Picture10 2 Picture11 1

Snack

If I’m hungry mid to late afternoon and dinner looks to be a ways off I’ll often grab a handful of nuts. Macadamias, walnuts and pine nuts are great, but I usually reach for almonds.

almonds 2

Picture4 10 Picture5 8

Dinner

For dinner it has to be a good cut of meat and a heaping side of veggies. Of course, this changes from day to day as well. Salmon, chicken (with the skin on!) and a nice rib eye are regulars, but I’ll often do lamb, pork or some other fish as well. If it isn’t Brussels sprouts it’s broccoli, squash, cabbage, the occasional sweet potato, or a stir fry with a good mix of veggies.

ribeye

brussels

Picture6 6 Picture7 4

After Dinner

Occasionally I’ll have some fruit with a glass of wine to wind down the day. Or if I’m beginning an overnight stint of Intermittent Fasting I’ll skip it altogether.

blueberries 2

redwine 1

Picture8 2 Picture9 2

Totals

Let’s take a look at the totals. If I ate all three large meals and the snack and the berries and the wine I’m still just over 2,500 calories. Truth be told I rarely eat all of this in a single day; unless I’ve been especially active.

But what we are really interested in is the carbs. This sample menu came in at 115 g of carbs which leaves us with plenty of wiggle room. This is the take home message: You can enjoy copious amounts of fruits and veggies and still never crack 150 g. It’s important that you let that sink in. What this means is that you don’t have to count carbs like I have done here if all you are trying to do is maintain your body composition. Even if you are attempting to speed up weight loss by keeping your daily carb intake to below 100 g you can see that it can be done with very little effort or thought as long as you stick to nuts/seeds, fruits, veggies, and meat.

Picture13 1

Further Reading:

Dear Mark: Post Workout Fasting

How To: Intermittent Fasting

Top 10 Ways to “Go Nuts”

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. Thank you for this post! Its amazing how much food you can eat when its all wonderfully fresh and natural veggies, meats, fruits, and nuts. Its great to really see this visually.

    Jane wrote on January 20th, 2009
  2. I was wondering if milk fits into the primal diet. And I don’t mean store bought pasturized milk, I mean raw unpasturized stright from the cow milk. That’s how I drink it (I’m fortunate enough to live in a state where you can get it leagally). I figure it’s good, with all that milkfat and enzymes. What do you think?

    Dave, RN wrote on January 20th, 2009
  3. Mmmm.. yummy. Looks a bit like my diet. I have also gotten into the habit of including a daily salad but for me its at dinner. My breakfasts are very light, usually no more than a handful of nuts and a fruit. I’ heading to lunch right now, going to make myself some scrambled eggs with some tender loin and dried tomatoes.

    JE Gonzalez wrote on January 20th, 2009
  4. Dave, RN –

    Dairy isn’t strictly part of the Primal Blueprint. It falls into the realm of occasional indulgences. Some people do better with dairy than other people.

    Mark Sisson wrote on January 20th, 2009
    • Hello Mark,

      Im wondering if you eat potatoes? Also, is your cholesterol in good shape with all the egg eating?

      ashley wrote on June 11th, 2013
  5. Very interesting to see it all put together. I wish I could say my diet looked something like this, though admittedly mine would include more fruit and dairy (that would be the former vegetarian still pushing against too much meat). And there is that bloody love for fresh, homemade sourdough bread. Nothing quite like it.

    Katie wrote on January 20th, 2009
  6. Mark,

    cream and SUGAR?
    Is the tiny bit of sugar in the coffee negligible?? As in no damage done?

    Marc

    Marc Feel Good Eating wrote on January 20th, 2009
  7. My wife and I have changed towards the Blueprint live style over a year ago. I say “towards” since there is still dairy in our diet and I do eat a few slices of bread most weeks (homemade: 100% whole wheat, yeast, salt, water, that’s it). People noticed the change and wanted to know how it was achieved. The request for sample meals must be the single biggest question we get about our life style. That’s why my wife started putting examples up (see website above).

    Mark, I’ll take my first comment here to thank you for this great free resource! I’ve found posts like this very helpful in the past, nothing like some concrete examples to go with the theory.

    WT wrote on January 20th, 2009
  8. This was fascinating! I have to say I’m kind of surprised at how little (comparatively) your protein intake is. For some reason I thought that eating meat/fish/eggs at every meal would make this a high protein diet but your 23% comes very close to the average of 18% and much lower than, say, Zone or Atkins. I shall have to think on this much more. I daresay you’ve caused me to have an epiphany of sorts regarding the Primal Blueprint.

    charlotte wrote on January 20th, 2009
    • The Zone macros are for weight loss. On maintenance, the Zone would be about 20% protein ish, as extra fat is added once the desired body fat % is achieved.

      Mike Kinnaird wrote on August 11th, 2012
  9. Primal Blueprint & weight loss questions

    1. If I consume MORE calories than my body burns in a given day, but my carb intake is less than 100g, will I lose body fat?

    2. If I consume LESS calories than my body burns on a given day, but my carb intake is greater than 300g, will I gain body fat?

    Thanks for your help. Steve

    Steve wrote on January 20th, 2009
  10. steve thats a great question! ive wondered a few times about that

    anna wrote on January 20th, 2009
  11. Steve,

    I will take a stab at this:

    1) eating primal will make it difficult to consume more than 2500 kcal/day. Mark ate quite a bit and only consumed 2,500kcal. What I am trying to say is that “over-eating” on the prial diet is actually tough, so question #1 is kind of moot. I have often wondered if it is even possible to get fat by eating only veggies and lean meat – but eating them in unlimited quantities.

    2) This one is much easier – yes, you will get fat – especially in terms of BF%.

    primalman wrote on January 20th, 2009
    • I have to disagree with #2. I do not participate in PB and eat grains all the time. It’s not unusual for me to eat 300g or more of carbs in a day. In no way do I have a high BF %.

      Daniel wrote on November 16th, 2011
  12. Steve, thanks to the “metabolic advantage” you get from eating low carb, it’s likely that if you consume more calories than you burn, but you keep carbs very low, you won’t store any more fat. That’s the good news. But it’s also likely that you won’t continue to lose your already-stored fat, since there’s no reason for the body to dip into stores when you are getting enough fat in real-time in your diet. Also, there comes a point when you could theoretically eat so many excess calories that not even the metabolic advantage (increased metabolism, energy dissipation through mitochondria) can keep up. If your excess calories come from protein, your body might convert some of that to glucose anyway. And the bottom bottom line there is that when you eat low carb, your appetite decreases, so you have to work really hard (like maybe to the point of feeling stuffed) to overdo it to the point of storing more fat.

    Now, on the other hand, if you eat in excess of 300 grams carbs a day but consume fewer total calories than your body burns, it is still possible to gain fat and lose muscle, especially if you don’t exercise. A 300 gram/day person has programmed his/her genes to burn sugar as a primary fuel (and to spare fat at all costs). At least the exerciser can burn off the glycogen/glucose every day and help you keep muscles going (and that’s still a slippery slope to fat). But that same person not exercising is in for a rude awakening. Glycogen stores can only hold 400 grams in an unfit person. Since s/he doesn’t burn that off, most of the daily 300+ grams carbs goes to either immediate brain fuel or is stored as fat. Muscles that aren’t worked atrophy, leaving less space to store glycogen. Plus, since they don’t need any more sugar, they become resistant to insulin. Insulin rises causing sugar to be converted to triglycerides and stored in the fat cells. The person gets fatter, less muscular, has less energy, is sick more often and wonders why cutting calories (without cutting carbs) didn’t work. They wind up giving up and going back to more calories – but now they have less muscle to burn the same amount, so they gain weight faster.

    Mark Sisson wrote on January 20th, 2009
  13. Mark,

    Thanks for taking the time to answer my question. I appreciate it.

    Thanks to Primalman too. Steve

    Steve wrote on January 20th, 2009
  14. Thank you so much for posting this! I recently inputted a few days worth of food into fit day to check out my numbers and was pleasantly surprised by the results. I eat dairy most days (whole fat greek yogurt) and a few servings of fruit, but my carbs were under or right at 100 grams, even for yesterday when I had a splurge of some homemade peppermint ice cream. I gave up grains a year ago and have been cutting back on sugar and I feel great!

    Sally wrote on January 20th, 2009
  15. That day looks familiar! Mine are a fair bit higher in dairy and cheese, but besides that, this looks like a perfect food day!

    LOLfitness wrote on January 20th, 2009
  16. Thanks for the sample menu Mark. I’m quite surprised to discover that my daily carbohydrate intake isn’t as high as I thought. I usually have oatmeal in the morning (using a quarter cup of oats) and a couple of slices of wholemeal bread during the day. Apart from that the rest of my carbs are pretty similar to yours.

    Tom Parker - Free Fitness Tips wrote on January 20th, 2009
  17. the only thing I would change is – substitute a piece of dark chocolate for the sugar (no necessarily with the cofee AM, maybe with the wine PM) but seeing sugar on your menu is like treason :))

    zbiggy wrote on January 21st, 2009
  18. Great post Mark.

    You don’t seem to eat much fruit, or am I missing something?

    Also, what are your thoughts on chocolate, including 100% chocolate?

    Best regards,

    Glenn Whitney

    Glenn Whitney wrote on January 21st, 2009
  19. Sally,

    Would you care to post your peppermint ice cream recipe? We make our own ice cream every now and then and use sweetener to keep it low carb. We both love peppermint ice cream but haven’t created a good one yet. We’ve made really good cinnamon and a toasted almond also, both I think the wife found on the food network.

    Joe

    Joe Matasic wrote on January 21st, 2009
  20. Thanks for the sample!!

    I am still confused about carbs and this statement added to that “This sample menu came in at 115 g of carbs. This includes fiber. Minus the fiber and we get 82 g for the net (or effective) carbs.”

    So if you are trying to stay in a Primal level (say 100-150) are you looking for total carbs or net carbs?

    onelasttime wrote on January 21st, 2009
  21. Have you tried NuNaturals stevia in your coffee? A couple packets sweetens so nicely. Coffee with cream and stevia is such a treat in the morning.

    Good to see your menu, Mark. Is it detrimental over the long term to usually never crack 50g net carbs daily? I just don’t eat much fruit. A big salad of greens and low starch veggies doesn’t amount to many carbs.

    Lauren B wrote on January 21st, 2009
  22. That looks like my menu! Everything except the coffee, that is. Omelet for breakfast, big salad for lunch, nuts for a snack, meat and brussels sprouts for dinner. Perfect. I am glad to see that I am eating like Mark himself.

    Matt wrote on January 21st, 2009
  23. Mark,

    Little surprised to see sugar in the morning coffee. Is this for any other reason than taste? Also do you leave the sugar and cream out during a fast, as this would surely break the fast?

    Great post.

    Mark B wrote on January 21st, 2009
  24. Glenn, I didn’t eat much fruit on that day. I generally have some berries or an apple or other “low-sugar” fruit once a day. There’s not a lot of reason to have a ton of fruit for health purposes if you are getting lots of veggies.

    Several people commented on the sugar in my coffee. No big deal. a teaspoon a day is pretty minimal and it adds a tiny bit of sweetness to a big cup of coffee. The PB isn’t about deprivation. It’s about understanding the effects that certain foods and exercise have on your body and then being able to make informed choices.

    OLT, the net carbs thing can be confusing. It probably has a greater impact in your calculations as you try to lower carbs to the under-50 range (meaning you should use the net carb figure when looking for ketosis). I use the 100-150 range and use a gross carb figure (since using the net, I could conceivable take in 185 grams total but net it out to 145. That would defeat the purpose).

    As for never cracking the 50 grams/day barrier, I’d say it’s probably wise to have an occasional 150 gram day just to balance insulin sensitivity now and then. OTOH, going from under 50 every day to a 300 gram splurge will probably be uncomfortable.

    Mark Sisson wrote on January 21st, 2009
  25. Mark,
    Thanks for sharing your meal plans, great post!

    For me, my biggest meal is breakfast, medium lunch, and small dinner. During the day i snack on a piece of fruit or nuts, but, i do not snack at night after dinner. NO night snacking at all!

    I see no wrong in a tad of sugar in coffee, isn’t there a little sugar in dark chocolate, don’t we all love that and not even think anything of it!

    Donna wrote on January 21st, 2009
  26. Very very helpful. Thank you.

    Fit Mommy wrote on January 21st, 2009
  27. Thanks, Mark. I’m late to comment and I’ll be reviewing this more closely, but this is a great post. There are some great ideas and I think I’ll have to try my hand at tracking my daily intake on Fitday.

    Heather wrote on January 21st, 2009
  28. Hi Mark,

    What about chocolate?

    Glenn Whitney wrote on January 21st, 2009
  29. Glenn Whitney –

    A good, quality dark chocolate in moderation is completely acceptable. Here are are some posts I’ve done on the topic:

    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/is-all-chocolate-created-equal/

    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/sensible-vices/

    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/chocolate-and-wine/

    Mark Sisson wrote on January 21st, 2009
  30. Thank you Mark for posting a sample of your meals for one day.

    I am trying to work out a compromise between your plan and Doug Kaufmann’s Phase One diet.

    Here is a recipe for a smoothie I make for DH and I.

    In blender, put in 2 handfuls of spinach, 2 cups water, 2 cups frozen blueberries, 2 scoops of your Responsibly Slim powder and one can of light cocnut milk. We love this!

    Helen Levashoff wrote on January 21st, 2009
  31. Which version of FitDay do you use; software or online? Are they both the same?

    Shawn wrote on January 22nd, 2009
  32. It’s true, if you eat the right foods you never have to count carbs or calories. I’m living proof, I’ve lost 20 lbs doing this. Breakfast is eggs & bacon, veggie egg scramble, or whole milk yogurt with berries. Lunch is either beef vegetable stew (with plenty of cream) or a spinach salad with leftover chicken thigh and bacon-fat salad dressing, dinner is meat and veggies (plenty of butter) or a creamy full fat soup. Yum!

    Kelsey wrote on January 22nd, 2009
  33. I was surprised to see you take sugar in your coffee!

    Personally, I gave up sugar for the most part only using honey for an occasional sweetener (on those delicious primal pancakes) or medicinally, and the only actual “sugar” taken premixed with very dark chocolate (85% or higher, as in Lindt bars) during menses.

    I’ve found, oddly enough to me, that after drinking coffee without sugar, my tongue no longer feels coated and fuzzy. And I don’t miss the sugar! I only take 2 tbsp of heavy cream with my *decaf* coffee (I have GERD, and caffeine is rough on the tummy – thanks for your other article re: caffeine & reflux, btw – I feel validated finally!).

    And my monster salads – I make ‘em in a medium mixing bowl, plates and soup bowls just don’t hold them. No point here, just gloating.

    Stacey wrote on January 27th, 2009
    • I’ve been thinking of doing my salad in a mixing bowl, our regular bowls just aren’t big enough! I’ve always found that if i want to make a salad a meal, it needs to be gigantic and have lots of cheese, nuts and/or meat in it. Otherwise i just doesn’t fill me up and after, my tummy feels just as empty as before i ate.

      Vikki wrote on January 19th, 2014
  34. This looks very similar to my typical day. May slightly higher in the carbs. Only because Im trying to lower my weight and so am keep the carbs right down.

    Dr Dan wrote on January 28th, 2009
  35. Hi Mark,

    I do not like eggs so my breakfast is lacking. Do you have suggestions for alternatives? Should i just drink a protein shake and have a piece of fruit?

    Thanks,

    AverageJoe wrote on January 28th, 2009
  36. Average, that works. But so does a cold chicken leg, left over porkchop, flank steak, salmon, or anything else. No one said breakfast had to be eggs.

    Mark Sisson wrote on January 28th, 2009
  37. Hi it’s Patrick (the impetus for the post: thanks Mark!)

    I had a question about balancing different nutrients. I notice that on a given day some meals may be only carbohydrate: blue berries and wine, or mostly fat: almonds. I could imagine other meals consiting of a few slices of meat, or just an apple. Is this ok, or should there be more balance meal to meal?

    The reason I ask is, as a crossfitter, the Zone is sacrosanct and a premise of the book/diet explains the importance of balance on a meal to meal basis. So, why/how is ok to just eat a handful of nuts, or bluberries, and how does this affect performance?

    Thanks,

    Patrick

    Patrick wrote on February 9th, 2009
  38. Patrick, the Zone is nearly impossible to stick with for each meal (without going bonkers trying to hit 40/30/30 exactly). Grok certainly didn’t eat like that at all. Any meal you have that’s low in carbs is non-issue, but even “carb-heavy” meals in the PB are still fairly low. They should consist of veggies or low-GI fruit that don’t really cause much of an insulin spike. Even if a meal here or there does have a higher-than-ideal carb content, it’s not thw end of the world. The PB is about avoiding the “chronic” high insulin that dogs most people day-in and day-out.

    Mark Sisson wrote on February 9th, 2009
  39. Ha, we have practically the same diet except now I can start buying wine since I turned 21.

    I made some grass-fed bison liver tonight for the first time trying to get in touch with my inner Grok but found I could barely stomach the taste…are there any specific methods one uses to quell that horrible aftertaste that liver has?

    Justin wrote on April 27th, 2009
    • I know this reply is years late — but to anyone reading this — marinate liver in fresh lemon juice for several hours (you can add a little water to the juice if you don’t want to use up that many lemons), then cook it lightly in butter or broil it — don’t cook for very long, it should be slightly pink, otherwise it gets tough. Calf’s liver is the best. Chicken livers should be made into pate or cooked with scrambled eggs. They can also benefit from marinating in lemon juice.

      Ruth wrote on June 8th, 2012
  40. That is a lot of polyunsaturated fat. Too much in my opinion.

    Brian K wrote on September 19th, 2009

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