Hunter/Gatherer Meal Frequency

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created April 02, 2011 at 11:06 PM

What is the meal frequency within modern HG tribes?

Do they wake up and break their fast? Do they eat before taking off for the hunt? Do they take food with them while on hunt? Snack while hunting on forage?

In addition, on the above what was the meal composed of.

Please quote sources for your information.

Siderequest: I'd like books or long articles where the author went and lived long term with the tribe that detail their lives.



on April 03, 2011
at 03:07 AM

I would love to know this also, however, I'm pessimistic that an accurate (at least accurate enough for extrapolating diet recommendations) answer exists because of practical problems with observation in the field. See here:http://www.paleonu.com/panu-weblog/2011/1/5/guest-post-professor-gumby-essay-001.html

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3 Answers


on April 03, 2011
at 05:33 AM

Regarding the side-request, probably the most famous such author in Paleo & low-carb circles is Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who wrote My Life with the Eskimo in 1912.

In addition to documenting his time with the Inuit, he participated in a year-long study where he subsisted on nothing but meat. The research can be found here: http://www.jbc.org/content/87/3/651.full.pdf

His work influenced several of the early low-carb writers, including Dr. Richard Macarness who wrote in 1958, Eat Fat and Grow Slim. With chapters like "The Calorie Fallacy" and "Facts and Fancies about Obesity," it's reminiscent of Taubes. http://www.ourcivilisation.com/fat/

The late Owsley Stanley wrote about "Stef's" influence on him via Macarness, in his essay, "Diet and Exercise." http://thebear.org/essays1.html#anchor496162


on July 07, 2011
at 07:04 PM

Here is a contact link for a Saami cultural society:


Here is an article about their food:


Roast reindeer and char

Traditional Sami food can be summed up in two words: meat and fish. The food has been supplemented with herbs and berries when these have been available. The dishes vary somewhat from area to area and between different families, although there are many similarities. If the Sami in the past had been vegetarians, they wouldn't have survived!

Traditional food In the past, food consisted of masses of fish that people caught themselves. The fish was eaten fresh, salted, dried and smoked. In addition, the Sami ate a lot of reindeer meat, either fresh, dried or conserved according to old methods. Elk meat and bear meat were also eaten. Flour and salt were purchased. The Sami used every part of the reindeer, and this knowledge lives on today. They even use the skull, hooves, marrowbone and blood. The intestines and the reindeer's stomach can be cleaned and used to make black pudding and buoidecalmmas (a type of smoked, minced reindeer meat mixture). In the past the reindeer were milked, and cheese was produced in low basins. Reindeer milking is not practised any more. In the 1930s many Sami had their own mountain cattle and goats, and they made their own soured milk, cheese and butter, but this practice has also ceased.

The Sami dishes have not changed, but new dishes have been added through external influences. However, nothing can beat a proper renkok (reindeer stew)! Once a reindeer has been slaughtered, the fresh meat, usually from the back, is cooked along with a piece of fresh liver, bread baked with blood and rye flour, as well as black pudding made of reindeer blood and flour. This is eaten with potatoes, soft, sticky bread and a drink of broth. Dried reindeer meat is a delicacy. In the late winter and early spring, the meat is salted, smoked and hung up outside in order to dry in the air. In some areas the meat is not smoked. Smoked reindeer meat that has not been dried is called suovas, and is fried in thin slices.

The most common fish on a Sami family's dinner table are own-caught scaly fish. These include char, whitefish or freshwater salmon trout. They can be boiled or fried, and are usually eaten with butter and potatoes. Fish cakes, a type of potato dumpling with roe and fish intestines, are one old dish that has almost disappeared.

Herbs and berries When possible, herbs and berries were also used in the past as part of the diet. During the summer months, the Sami picked all the edible berries they could find, thereby providing themselves with necessary vitamins. Cloudberries, lingonberries and bilberries are a natural part of the diet in the north. Something that many elderly Sami remember is the mixture of reindeer milk and herbs such as mountain sorrel and/or buds of the angelica flower. The plants were first cut and then boiled to make a green pulp. When the pulp was heated with reindeer milk, the milk thickened. This porridge could be saved in a keg through the winter. Leaves from mountain sorrel can be picked and boiled to make a porridge. The tender stalk of the angelica can been eaten fresh. The stalk is peeled and eaten raw. It is also good when toasted over the fire.

Who cooked the food? In the old nomadic society, cooking was carried out by the man. He was the one who handled the meat and cooked the stew. In exceptional cases, the woman was allowed to stir the stew. According to sources from the 17th century, she was allowed to prepare dairy food and to clean and boil fish. The woman was not even allowed to stir the sacred bear meat and was rarely allowed to eat it. Nowadays, of course, the women also prepare food, but many Sami men are very skilled at cooking and baking bread.



on May 06, 2012
at 03:18 PM

I'm curious about this, too, so hopefully people will have more to add.

In Marjorie Shostak's Nisa and Elizabeth Marshall Thomas's The Old Way there is some food described for the Bushmen/!Kung. The women collected nuts, tubers, and fruit that would last a while (like maybe a few days) for the group, plus anyone might trap small animals. The men would hunt big game (mmm, tasty ungulates) during the appropriate season. But it sounds like there was always some food on hand. Nisa talked about asking for food, and they'd cook it up right then, but I can't tell if that means they ate only when hungry, or if they ate regularly and Nisa was just extra hungry sometimes.

I'm curious about this because my instinct is to eat little and often throughout the day. For example, I'd have a balanced breakfast (ground beef or steak sauteed with a tuber and garlic), but after that I like to eat one item at a time: a banana here, some chicken there, an orange a little later, etc. I don't normally eat like that, thought, because I suspect it's better for blood sugar regulation to have 3 balanced meals. I just find it difficult to eat a third of my daily calories at once (and usually it takes me 30 or more minutes to work through it). My blood glucose goes from a fasting level of about 90 mg/dL to a peak of 120 mg/dL, so I don't seem to have problems regulating my blood sugar and insulin levels. I wonder if other peoples ate sporadically, one item at a time, like that. It seems to me like keeping blood glucose elevated all day wouldn't be a great idea, especially for fat loss.

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