Early Taoist diets were very different from present-day ones. While present-day Taoist diets call for eating lots of grains, ancient diets called for the eating of no grains at all. This was because early Taoists believed the rotting of the grains in the intestines attracted demonic creatures known as the 'three worms.' These demons loved eating decaying matter in the intestines in the hope that they could kill the person and devour his corpse. Some Taoists advocated eliminating many foods from their diet. This position might have resulted from a mythological vision of an early "golden age" where humanity did not need to eat at all. An early Taoist text, the Taipingjing, suggests that early people who were living completely "as they are" (ziran) would not need food, but instead would live only by absorbing the cosmic qi of Yin and Yang. This ancient state has since fallen away, however, which is why the Celestial Master of the Taipingjing says that food is now one of two absolute essentials for human existence.
For regular eating Taoists believe in eating a frugal diet that is based primarily on cereals. Meals are served in order of seniority, with the elders being served first, and the youngest last. Every three, five, ten or fifteen days, some families will also observe a periodic vegetarian feast.
The regular diet is enhanced by the frequency of festivals which take place at least every ten to fifteen days. Each festival was associated with a certain kind of food. For example, the New Year’s festival’s special food is rice cake. During the Dragon Boat festival, it is steamed dumplings and glutinous rice packed in bamboo leaves, and during the Mid-Autumn Festival the special food is mooncakes. These festivals also give Taoists the opportunity to eat far more than their diet usually proscribes. Rich food such as meat and wine is also a part of these festivals.