Whole Foods Plant-based (WFPB) Diet
How many times have you jumped on-board the diet train with high hopes of weight loss and improved health, only to discover limited food choices, difficulty staying on-track, and few measurable health benefits? Diet fads come and go, but one - the whole foods, plant-based diet (WFPB)- isn't a fad.
It's not only based on common-sense food choices but also sustainable and good for the body and the mind.
If you've not yet explored the WFPB lifestyle, you'll want to read this post from beginning to end! We've shared the basics, including the best foods to choose from and even a few tips on creating meal plans.
In a Nutshell
A whole food, plant-based diet is, at its core is so uncomplicated you could break it down into two principles based solely on its name. Whole-foods and plants.
When you think about what counts as a whole food, look for foods in their natural state. Also, choose minimally processed foods and those that contain limited (or none) refined ingredients.
People who follow WFPB diets don't eat any foods containing animal ingredients. That includes meat, eggs, milk, or honey.
Choosing a whole-food, plant-based diet allows you to meet your nutritional needs by choosing foods in their natural state. You'll also want to focus on minimally-processed foods.
In a minute, we'll talk more about what you can eat on a WFPB diet, but first, take a look at the current state of affairs for the American diet.
The Sad State of the American Diet
Before we explore the statistics, you're likely curious about the heading for this section. Maybe you're asking yourself, "what is the American diet, and why is it sad"?
S.A.D. is the acronym for the standard American diet.
The source of 63% of the calories consumed by Americans is processed and refined foods. Processing doesn't disqualify a food from an acceptable status on the list of healthy foods. It's all about the level of processing.
On most grocery store shelves, you'll find foods ranging from minimally to heavily processed. Minimal processing includes prepping foods for convenience. Think bagged lettuce, chopped vegetables, and shelled and roasted nuts.
Most frozen dinners, microwaveable dinners, and some ready-to-eat foods such as chips and crackers are heavily processed. Your favorite carbonated beverage is one of those food items on the heavily processed list for all the soda lovers out there.
Minimally processed foods have a place in the American diet. Sadly, only 12% of our calories come from minimally processed and plant-based foods. The most sobering fact is that only 6% of our calories come from plant-based foods: the other half comes from French fries!
How sad is that? Sure, potatoes in their natural state, baked or steamed lightly, are a healthy vegetable choice. French fries, cooked in oil, do not qualify as healthy food. Their status on the health and wellness charts is low.
Americans Remain Blissfully Unaware
Until they experience a diet-related health condition, most people assume they follow a relatively healthy diet. Even those who dine on fast-food all the time don't always realize the harm they're doing to their bodies and minds.
Most of us realize unhealthy diets can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. What we don't take into consideration is the effects our diets can have on mental health.
Diets rich in heavily processed and refined foods may contribute to mood disorders, anxiety, and depression. On the flip-side, people who consume fresh fruits and vegetables, the primary ingredients in whole food, plant-based diets may enjoy protection from depression and anxiety.
Next, we'll further examine what a whole foods plant-based diet is and what it isn't.
Defining the Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet
When you hear the word diet, what comes to mind? It's a word that comes heavily weighted with emotion, mostly if you've spent your life struggling with weight and other diet-related issues.
One refreshing aspect of the whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet is that in many ways, it's not a diet at all. Instead of a strict playbook of dietary do's and don'ts, people who choose WFPB have the freedom to choose from a variety of healthy foods. Think of it as a lifestyle!
Earlier, we simplified the WFPB lifestyle to two primary principles. Now, let's expand those principles by looking further at how they define the WFPB way of living:
- Whole Foods
- Minimally Processed
- Avoid Animal Products
- Focus on Plants
- High Food Quality
Another principle followed by many people who choose a whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle is consuming locally sourced, organic foods whenever possible. Whether you have access primarily to conventional grocery store produce or you're fortunate enough to buy from a local community supported agriculture group (CSA), either will offer a wide range of healthy and colorful fruits and vegetables.
Eat This Not That
Since the focus of the whole foods, plant-based lifestyle is on eating plants, you might wonder if you'll be eating nothing but salads and fruit. While fruits and vegetables are at the center of this lifestyle, there's so much more you can eat.
Besides the common plant foods, you'll also eat whole grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts. Unlike other similar eating lifestyles, you're not prohibited from eating animal products.
If you're like most people, when you buy a new diet book or join a diet program, you gravitate towards the list of items you can't eat or drink. Some diets forbid eggs, dairy, or red meats. Others require cutting out all fats (good and bad) or leave out otherwise healthy foods like pinto beans or oatmeal.
The WFPB diet, on the other hand, is more flexible. Followers eat mostly plants, but animal products aren't off-limits.
Pick up any WFPB guidebook, and you'll find permission to eat an array of foods, including nuts and seeds, bread made with whole-grain flour, plant-based milks, and tofu. The key is to add these foods in moderation. Since they're more calorie-dense than some of the other food choices, they can contribute to weight gain.
You don't want to eat refined foods, especially those made with added sugars, processed oils, and white flour.
Making Small Changes Is Key to Success
Anytime you make a significant change in any area of your life, there's a learning curve. It's no different when you start a WFPB diet. These tips will help get you started on this healthy lifestyle:
Focus on Vegetables
At lunch and dinner, fill one half of your plate with colorful vegetables. If you eat snacks, pair vegetables with salsa or hummus.
Change Your Relationship with Meat
In your old life, meat was the centerpiece of most meals. In your new life, eat smaller amounts and use meat as a garnish, not the main act.
Banish Those Bad Fats
The community of proponents for healthy eating now understands that avocados are good fats. Vegetable oils-not so much! If it's not a whole food, it doesn't belong on the table in a WFPB home.
One night each week, eat vegetarian-style. Create meals combining beans, vegetables, and whole grains.
Say Goodbye to the Breakfast Blues
Once you're eating the WFPB way, those cute little toaster pastries and big, fluffy doughnuts will no longer have a place at your table. Replace those fat and sugar-laden breakfast foods with healthy choices such as oatmeal or quinoa. Mix in some nuts, seeds, and fresh fruit, and voila, you have a delicious, healthy breakfast.
You Are Not on a Dessert Island
One of the first things most people cut out when trying to eat healthier is dessert. How sad is that? You can still satisfy your sweet tooth if you keep a selection of fruit handy, including watermelon slices, peaches, and apples.
So You Do Not Like the Green Stuff?
Were you one of those children who fought back against eating greens? Now that you're a grownup, it's time to give kale, spinach, collars, and Swiss chard another try.
We've all seen the boring side salads offered by restaurants. When you build them yourself, a salad takes on a different dynamic. Fill the bowl with an assortment of fresh greens followed by your choice of vegetables, beans, or tofu.
Instead of lathering greens with butter, or pouring bottled dressing on your salad, look in one of the WFPB books or on the author's website for a healthy alternative to salad dressing.
Meal Plans Whole-Food Plant-Based Style
When starting a new journey, most people want a roadmap, at least until they acclimate to their new digs. The same goes for those choosing a healthy lifestyle.
It's critical to have a meal plan with several days worth of meals, including snacks.
You can manage meals by doing some online research. You'll find more recipes and meal plans than you'll ever need, but it's a great start.
The key to success is variety - didn't someone once say, "variety is the spice of life?"
Even though we're creatures of comfort and usually prefer the same short-list of favorite meals, you'll find it easier to stay focused if you include both the familiar and the novel.
Once you're secure with meal planning, whole foods, plant-based diet-style, you may even feel confident enough to create a few of your own recipes and meal plans.
What Is the Science Behind a WFPB Lifestyle?
Earlier, we mentioned fad diets, and it seems like there's a new one every week. How can you know for sure whether there's any concrete proof that changing to a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle will improve your health?
There have been (and still are ongoing) studies on WFPB lifestyles and how they impact health.
In some cases, there isn't yet enough evidence to say with 100% certainty that eating a diet based on foods in their natural state, or at least minimally processed, guarantees a person a lifetime of health. However, current studies do point to multiple benefits of choosing a WFPB lifestyle, including:
- Lower Blood Pressure
- Lower Cholesterol
- Lower Blood Sugar
- Reduced Body Weight
While a WFPB diet won't promise perfect health or longevity, the health improvements associated with the lifestyle may mean you're at a reduced risk of some of the most concerning health conditions today.
The big three -cancer, diabetes, and heart disease - could be a worry of the past when you choose to change your diet.
What About Taking Supplements?
Everybody has an opinion about nearly every facet of life, including your eating lifestyle. You've likely heard both sides of the coin regarding supplements.
One camp believes if the diet is balanced and full of whole, organic foods, there's no need for vitamin and mineral supplements. They feel you should be able to satisfy your nutritional needs solely through the foods you eat naturally.
The other camp feels strongly about the benefits and even the necessity of taking supplements.
If you're contemplating a WFPB lifestyle, you'll want to make sure you give your body what it needs. There's a list of supplements suggested for people who follow a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle.
Some of the big ones include:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D2
- Omega 3's and Omega 6's
Ready to Supplement Your New Healthy Life?
We hope we've given you enough information to make an educated decision about whether a whole-food, plant-based diet is something you'd like to start. The benefits to your health far outweigh any slight inconvenience you may fear regarding food choices or limitations.
Jay Todtenbier is an original founder of SupplementRelief.com in 2010 and has operated the business ever since. Formerly he spent 25 years in business development, technology and marketing with startups, and well-established organizations having gone through the tech boom of Silicon Valley in the 90s. He became passionate about, and began studying and practicing Wellness as a Lifestyle, after experiencing chronic, personal health challenges, including auto-immune diseases, and being overweight, that impacted his ability to live a healthy, vibrant life. Since then, he has been passionate about encouraging others to live better through whole-foods nutrition, stress management, reasonable exercise, and the use of targeted, high-quality supplements.
Learn more about Jay Todtenbier.
Related Wellness Resources
We encourage you to take advantage of these FREE Wellness Resources on our website.
Common Sense for Living a Healthier Life
An estimated 95 percent of the world's population suffers from some type of medical condition according to recent reports from the healthcare sector. More than a third live with as many as five simultaneous health issues.1 At the same time, one in four people currently suffer from a mental illness, and this number is expected to increase during the years to come.
Healthy Living Whole Foods Cookbook
Many people know "what" to do to be healthy, but HOW do you do it? One of the best ways we have found is to show people how we eat as a family. This customizable, whole foods cookbook features two hobby chefs! Sara Kosmiski is an amazing RAW foods expert, and Libby Wright shares good foods for beginners in healthy cooking. We hope you enjoy these recipes and encourage you to share them with your family and friends!
Help for Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Living
Eliminating or minimizing Gluten and Dairy from your diet isn't necessary for everyone but some certainly benefit from making these lifestyle changes. Regardless, we all benefit from eating more natural, whole foods and less processed foods. Learn more about gluten-free and dairy-free nutrition options and take advantage of the educational resources, shopping list, and recipes.
How to Grocery Shop and What to Eat
We are what we eat. Studies from reputable health organizations suggest that 40-60% of Americans are living with one or more chronic diseases, which negatively impacts their quality of life, reduces employment productivity, and drives up health care costs.1 Lifestyle choices, in particular, the foods we choose to put into our bodies, are making us sick. However, we do have choices regarding our nutrition.
Learn practical tips for healthy and affordable grocery shopping and consider using a list similar to the recommended natural, whole foods grocery shopping list provided to get you off to a good start!
What Is the Standard American Diet (SAD)?
How aware are you of what's going into your body? Are you eating to live or living to eat? In reality, we all have different nutritional needs, but the standard American diet (SAD) doesn't suit most of them (or most people, for that matter). Your diet might be making you sick, sluggish, and at-risk.
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Omega 950 provides omega-3 essential fatty acids for a stronger heart and improved brain function in a lipid concentrate form for convenience.
Vegan-friendly NuMedica Osteo Vegan Rx contains plant-based calcium and D3 for bone density and health.
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