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Whole Foods Plant-Based (WFPB) Diet

  blog post author icon   blog post published date icon   01/04/21


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.

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    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.

    Whole Food

    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.

    Go Vegetarian

    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
    • Iron
    • Calcium
    • 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.

    We're here to help you find the right supplements. Contact us today for questions regarding our comprehensive offering of professional-grade supplements from FirstFitness Nutrition and NuMedica.

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