Primary vs Secondary Foods: What’s the difference?

I often get asked what the basis of my coaching programs is, and how I am able to get incredible results for my clients. And although that is quite a large question that cannot be answered in a single blog post, one of my favourite modalities to share is the concept of Primary and Secondary Foods.

As you’ll likely have noted on my website, I am a true believer in the fact that there is no right or wrong, good or bad, or ‘one way’ to doing things when it comes to wellness. Each of our journeys is so unique and must be approached in that way.

The concept of primary and secondary foods is one I believe strongly in and use to guide a large part of what I do. I often say ‘you could be the most dedicated person on the planet eating the healthiest meals and working out every single day- but if you’re in a toxic relationship, a career you hate, or some other stressful situation in another area of your life, you’re going to struggle’.

For some that shows up as a disease or illness later on in life, for some it’s just an unwanted symptom, and for some it might even be intoxicating levels of unhappiness.

The truth is, in order to TRULY be healthy, we must find balance in all areas of our lives.

That is what we will be discussing today- the difference between Primary and Secondary foods, exactly what they mean and why they are important, and how you can use them to ‘fast track’ your way to success in your own wellness journey.

What’s the difference?

Well, if you guessed that both Primary Foods and Secondary Foods refer to your nutrition, unfortunately you’d be wrong!

Primary Foods are what we often refer to as our lifestyle factors, and are the pieces of our lives that should come first. That is why they are called primary!

The twelve areas that this includes are: Spirituality, Career, Finances, Education, Joy, Creativity, Physical Activity, Health, Home Cooking, Home Environment, and Social Life.

Secondary Foods are what is actually on our plate- our nutrition- and the idea is that this should be the area of our life that we focus on AFTER our lifestyle factors.

So, what is the idea behind this?

Truthfully, there isn’t one area of our lives that doesn’t affect another.

Everything in our lives is interconnected, and experiencing an imbalance in one area of our life directly impacts another. Similarly, when we experience an abundance or overflow in one area, other areas of our lives will be positively impacted!

Think of this scenario for instance:

You’re trying to get healthy and lose weight, so you decide to start working out every single day, eat healthy and get enough sleep. But, you’re in a toxic career that drains you and causes severe stress. You’re often working 12+ hours a day on the computer trying to ‘catch up’, and as such, your sleep, eating patterns and workout routine are directly impacted, resulting in your goal being extremely hard (if not impossible) to reach.

However, if you were in a supportive and healthy career that you loved instead- imagine how different that scenario would be for you. You’d be able to go to bed early, wake up feeling refreshed and energized, be able to tackle that workout and wouldn’t feel the need to stress or binge eat.

This is just one example on how each area of our lives is connected, and how there is ALWAYS a root cause connected to why we are struggling with a certain area (or areas) of our lives.

In holistic medicine, we take the focus away from the one problem that we are facing, and instead focus on our health as a whole. We get to the root cause and figure out why we are feeling, acting or thinking in a certain way, and we take small consistent steps to make radical and sustainable change in all areas of our lives (rather than just a quick fix).

By taking the focus away from our nutrition and instead focusing on our happiness and satisfaction in all areas of our lives, we are then able to truly transform our lives in all capacities.

How to incorporate this into your own life:

In order to get a clarity around what areas of your life are feeling good or what could be improved, I recommend first heading HERE to complete this online measurement tool.

In my programs we use a hard copy of the wheel for more accurate measurements, but this online tool is a great resource to get an idea of where you are sitting in each of our your primary foods.

Once you have completed this and can see how full your circle is, you’ll likely recognize an area or two that could use a little love. However, a word of advice as you begin- please do not let this first measurement scare or disappoint you.

This is a completely new way of looking at your health and despite being ‘visual creatures’, we haven’t been taught to view the areas of our lives like this. Trust me, I have seen EVERY type of circle imaginable, and no matter what your initial one looks like remember that this is just your current location, not your final destination.

If you end up with more than one area that needs some love (which is super common), it’s a great idea to stop and just think for a moment.

Ask yourself if you are experiencing significant challenges in one of those areas that might be impacting another (or all of the rest). And if not, which area would you currently list as a priority or the most important one to focus in on?

This can give you immense clarity on what direction you need to go and what you need to be focusing on in your own life.

But what about nutrition?

As you begin to shift your focus and make changes in your lifestyle factors (aka primary foods), your nutrition will likely begin to shift for the better as well.

I recommend taking some of the stress and pressure off of yourself for ‘getting it right’ and instead just focus on small steps you can take to eat healthier and nourish your body.

Simple things like increasing your vegetable intake, drinking more water, swapping simple carbohydrates for complex ones, and eating quality snacks can go a long way in improving this area.

As a whole, remember that we are each built differently and require very different things. So what works for my body and my life won’t necessarily work for you and yours. Changing your nutrition and eating patterns is something that takes time and patience, so try to really give yourself some grace here.

At the end of the day you know your body best, and by focusing on the things that really matter in life, you’ll be able to eat healthier with ease and without obsession.


I hope this helps inspire you to take a deeper look at your life and assess where you could make some changes to improve your overall health and happiness.

You can also checkout my video HERE that I made to explain this subject as well.

Best of luck babe- I can’t wait to hear what you learn!



Brianne xx

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Hi, I’m Brianne

Here at The Holistic RN you’ll find a place where holistic healing and western medicine come together to create a brand new way of looking at your health- including real food recipes, easy to understand information and overflowing inspiration. Let’s get started!

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