What are Primary Foods? | Institute of Integrative Nutrition

We’re so grateful that we made the decision to study with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN). It opened our eyes up to the world of Primary Food. When you hear these words (unless you’ve studied with IIN) you’re most likely thinking Primary Food = fresh produce, meats and whole foods.

Here’s the low down on Primary Food…

Food is more than what you find on your plate.  Healthy relationships, regular physical activity, a fulfilling career and a spiritual practice can fill your soul and satisfy your hunger for life. When primary food is balanced and satiated, your life feeds you, making what you eat secondary.

It makes sense right? When we heard Joshua Rosthenthal (founder of IIN/amazing guy) speak about the Primary Foods we were like OH MY GOSH this is it! This is the key to optimal health, happiness and life satisfaction! Pretty major, hey!

It simply explained that our diet and therefore health is quite literally controlled by Primary Foods (relationships, career, physical activity, spirituality, finance, confidence to name some). So, if we’re in a negative relationship or if we hate our job, we’re more inclined to eat unhealthily. 

There were some serious brain waves when we heard this. Before we had even heard the term Primary Foods, we realised that we had slowly but surely been improving them. We’d already began to recognise what no longer served us, the negative stuff that was holding us back form reaching our goals. We began making changes to become more happy and healthy.

IIN use the Circle of Life (pictured below) to portray the Primary Foods. You can use it to work out what Primary Foods are out of balance or need more attention. We like to do this exercise at least once a month to make sure we’re on track with our health and happiness. 


Integrative Nutrition Circle Of Life

Integrative Nutrition Circle Of Life


This interactive exercise will give you a clear visual picture of where your life is thriving – and what areas could use a little more work.

How it works:

Use the circle of life in the picture and recreate one for yourself on a blank paper. Shade each section from the center to the outer edge to represent how satisfied you are with that area of your life. The circle represents primary food and provides a starting point for determining how you may wish to spend more time and energy to create balance and joy in your life. The rounder and wider the circle the healthier and happier you are!

The bottom line is: when you are nourished and happy in the ways that truly matter, food becomes secondary. 

Here are some of the things we consider to be Primary Foods:

  • Regular physical movement

  • Meaningful positive relationships

  • Fulfilling work

  • Some form of spiritual connection (whatever that means for you)

  • Following your personal passions

  • Non-dietary forms of self-care

  • Playfulness, creativity, and fun

We believe these things are very important, don’t you?