A whole foods plant based diet consists of whole, unrefined or barely refined plants. It is a diet that centers on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. It excludes (in most cases) meats such as beef, chicken and lamb, dairy products, and eggs. In addition, highly refined foods such as bleached flour, oil and refined sugar are to be excluded.
When switching over to a whole foods plant based diet, it’s common for there to be a time of confusion during the transition. Often times people are at a loss as to how they can make up for the fact that meat is missing from their plate. However, it truly is simple to make the switch. Millions of people across the globe have been eating this way for centuries. You will find that this diet and these foods are delicious, nutritious, tasty and ultimately satisfying.
The food categories that you will be using for a whole foods plant based diet offer a large variety from which to choose from. You can still enjoy favorites such as lasagna, stews, tacos, pizza, and all types of tasty sandwiches.
Whole Foods Plant Based Diet Example
Here are examples of the foods that you will be eating:(1)
- Fruit: bananas, apples, grapes, mangoes, oranges, strawberries, kiwis, blueberries, raspberries, watermelon, persimmons, etc.
- Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, kale, radicchio, Swiss chard, lettuce, green beans, zucchini, pumpkin, yellow squash, potatoes, yams, corn, green peas, etc.
- Whole grains: quinoa, teff, millet, barley, rice, whole wheat, oats, buckwheat, bulgur, amaranth, farrow, sorghum, spelt, etc.
- Legumes: chickpeas (garbanzo beans), lentils, kidney beans, cannellini beans, black beans, soybean, broad bean, navy been, adzuki bean, black-eyed peas, great northern beans, pinto beans, etc.
Now that it is clear what types of foods you will be eating, let’s explore more about what this diet is and what it most certainly is not.
A whole foods plant based diet is absolutely not a diet that consists merely of vegetables and fruits alone. A widespread myth is that people who choose to follow this diet eat only leafy vegetables such as kale, Swiss chard, spinach, and romaine. This could not be farther from the truth! These greens do make up quite a bit of the ingredients utilized in plant based recipes but they are by far not the only ones. There are those who choose to live on just fruits and vegetables alone such as the raw vegans but they are merely a small subset of the plant based community.
Dark green leafy vegetables are an extremely important part of a whole foods plant based diet but they are low in calories and do not offer enough energy to our bodies to be eaten with exclusivity.
Whole Foods Plant Based Diet Calories
In order to satisfy a daily 2,000-calorie minimum one would have to eat nearly 16 pounds of cooked kale. Not only is this an unbalanced way to eat but also it’s completely unsustainable. We do not recommend that you eat a diet consisting of only dark leafy vegetables. It is nearly impossible to survive on just greens alone. There simply are not enough calories in them.
One of the most common reasons why people fail on a whole foods plant based diet is because they think that they can survive on fruits and vegetables alone. If you were to structure your diet in this way you would most certainly have a caloric deficit on a daily basis. If you don’t eat a substantial amount of calories you will begin to feel hungry and over time you will experience a lack of energy, intense cravings, feelings of distress and deprivation all of which will eventually lead to binging. All of these issues are not a result of switching over to a plant based diet but rather they are directly related to not consuming a substantial amount of calories each day.
However, we absolutely do recommend that you eat an abundant amount of dark leafy greens and vegetables daily. Just take note that these are just one small part of a whole, balanced plant based diet. These greens are not a sufficient source of energy for your body to exist on.
Whole Foods Plant Based Diet with Starches and Fruits
At this point we are sure that you’re wondering if leafy green vegetables aren’t the majority of foods eaten on this type of diet, what really is? Starches and fruits make up the basis of a whole foods plant based diet. In the United States most of the population is accustomed to eating meat as their primary source of protein. This style of eating will most certainly change your life in many ways for the better. From now on, the star of your dishes will be starched based comfort foods. We all adore carbs but are used to having them principally as side dishes. These days starches get a bad reputation as being unhealthy and are touted as causing unwanted weight gain. However, realistically these are all foods that people across the globe have thrived on for thousands upon thousands of years. Sweet potatoes, corn, russet potatoes, peas, quinoa, rice, teff, garbanzo beans, lima beans and the list goes on an on.
Although you will be preparing these foods in a different manner, such as omitting butter, eggs and oils, as an example, they will still be the same old foods that you’re accustomed to. With this new style of eating you may even branch out and try new foods and discover something that you never knew you’d even like! You can try all types of new recipes such as sweet potato lentil stew, quinoa Brussels sprout salad, mushroom Wellington, Thai peanut noodles, black bean soup, carrot fries, lentil chili and so many more!
In addition to all of the starchy foods you can indulge in as many whole fruits as you want.
Whole Foods Plant Based Diet Nutrition
The concept of eating one particular type of food for one basic nutrient is pervasive in our society. It has been hammered into our minds that we must eat meat in order to get protein, all types of dairy for calcium, a myriad of fish for omega-3 fatty acids, and so on. These concepts are misguided and harmful to both humans and animals alike. The never-ending myth that protein deficiency can kill people has created a planet that is now suffering from deadly climate change because we are obsessed with raising livestock for food. As a result of this myth people consume an excess amount of protein, which brings along with it the perils of dietary cholesterol, which can only be found in foods sourced from animals. (2)
There is not one type of food that provides a single nutrient and it’s damaging that society thinks of them in that manner. Any type of food has multiple types of nutrients, minerals and vitamins in it. The most important thing to remember is the overall nutrient makeup. Whole plant based foods consist of all of the nutrients that a body needs with the marked exception of vitamin B12. The proportions of nutrients in plant based foods are more tailored towards human needs than animal based or highly processed foods are. In the end as long as we choose to eat a variety of whole plant based foods we will easily meet all of our nutritional requirements.