Thinking about transitioning to a WFPB diet? Confused about where to start? Don’t worry. I was there too. That’s exactly why I created this Whole Food Plant-based Diet Food List and Tips To Help You Succeed post.
You’ll be super confident about everything you need to begin a more nutritious, health-promoting lifestyle. This is a simple guide to food items will become the basis for your delicious and healthy meals.
Sounds simple. And it is. So let’s get stuck in.
But, first, let me quickly remind you what a whole food plant-based diet is.
What does a whole food plant-based diet mean?
Since there’s no clear definition of what is a whole foods plant-based (WFPB) diet, many variations exist. And this is not a bad thing. Everyone has there own preferences, tastes and nutritional needs. No one diet will work for everyone.
But the foundations of all these diets, are whole, plant-based foods. And that’s it. It really is that simple. No matter what the variations, many doctors and health experts have achieved some astonishing results with their patients. So clearly there’s something great in these whole, plant foods.
But let’s not just take my word for it. Take a look at the research. It’s clearly evident that we could all stand to eat more whole, plant foods in our diet.
So plant-based diets can vary greatly depending on the extent to which a person includes animal products. The Center for Nutrition Studies, is one of the main variations of the whole foods, plant-based diets. It focuses on whole foods, rich flavors, and natural health. It excludes meat, dairy, and eggs.
What’s the difference between a whole food plant-based diet and a vegan diet?
The WFPB lifestyle is often confused with that of a vegan diet. While both are similar, they are not the same. A vegan diet is defined by what it eliminates.
Vegans will not consume meat, eggs, or dairy products but will also avoid other products that use animal ingredients. These include gelatin, honey, carmine, pepsin, whey, casein and some forms of vitamin D3, for example. Likewise, they will obtain from using products like leather and believe that animals have a right to be free from human use, whether it’s for food, clothing, entertainment etc.
On the other hand, a WFPB diet focuses on the health-promoting effects associated with little to no animal food consumption. And is defined by what it emphasizes—a large variety of whole foods. Whole foods are natural foods and foods that are minimally processed.
Now don’t get me wrong, a vegan could be eating whole, plant-foods. But just by definition, being vegan does not necessarily mean that you are eating healthy, nor that health is the primary goal of eating such away. You could eat Oreos and highly processed foods if you are vegan. Whereas, someone following a whole-food, plant-based diet would not be consuming those products.
Plant-based = Food from plants.
(Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts)
Avoid = animal products or limit consumption of these.
Whole foods = Natural, real, unrefined or minimally processed foods.
(Aim for locally sourced, organic food when possible. Shop in fresh produce section of supermarkets.)
Avoid = refined foods such as white flour, added sugars and processed oils.
What are the Reasons for adopting a whole food plant-based lifestyle?
Let’s just quickly look at some of the reasons why a whole food plant-based diet is good for your health.
Based on his research, T. Colin Campbell, co-author of “The China Study”, observed that populations with mostly plant-based diets (grains, nuts, and fruit) have longer lifespans. While the populations that eat mostly animal products have higher rates of chronic disease.
Processed, artificial foods can be high in sugar, sodium, trans fats, and preservatives, and are stripped of original nutrients. These are not great for our health. Plus rich, fatty food and sweets offer no nutrients and create addiction-like cravings.
Dr Michael Klaper, who is also an advocate of the whole food plant-based diet says:
“Obesity, clogged arteries, high blood pressure, diabetes and asthma. These aren’t mysterious illnesses. They are the result of running high-fat, overly processed, meat and dairy based foods through our bodies.”
He suggests that adopting the whole food, plant-based diet can cause many of these diseases to go away. Obesity melts away, the arteries open up, the insulin receptors clear out and joints stop hurting.
Klaper adopted this lifestyle back in 1981 and now he is a slim 70-year-old who runs 8 km a day and takes no regular medication. He puts his health down to eating plant-based whole foods for 36 years.
Interested in learning more about the benefits of a whole food plant-based diet? Check out: What is a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet?
Now, let’s take a look at the food.
Whole Food Plant-Based Diet Food List
The food listed under each category is just an idea of what you can use to make some super delicious meals. There are plenty more nutritious plant-foods available, so just because you don’t see it listed here, that doesn’t mean you can’t eat it.
The key to eating fruit is to consume a variety of colours throughout the day. Aim to eat at least 1 serving of berries each day. When it comes to other fruits, try to consume at least 3 servings a day.
Fruit is a delicious, healthy snack that is loaded with plenty of vitamins and minerals. It is a great way to satisfy any sweet cravings, not to mention a tasty way to get in some more fiber.
When it comes to vegetables, there really is no limit. Strive for at least 1 serving of cruciferous vegetables, at least 2 servings of green vegetables, and at least 2 servings of other vegetables.
Beans and Lentils
Beans loaded with nutrient and are great for our gut health. You can add some into your diet by having a 1/4 cup of hummus or bean dip, or a 1/2 cup cooked beans, lentils, or tofu for example.
Beans and lentils are also a great way to get in some iron. To learn what other plant foods are good sources of iron check out What Plant-based Foods Are High In Iron?
Nuts and Seeds
Evidence indicates that nuts and seed are incredibly healthy, and packed full of nutrients. But if you’re trying to lose weight, you may need to be careful not to consume too many since they are high in calories. A typical serving of these would be 2 tablespoons of nut or seed butter or 1/4 cup of nuts or seeds.
Whole-Grains and Pseudocereals
Try to consume 3 servings of whole grains per day. Typical serving sizes of grains are 3 cups of air-popped popcorn, 1/2 cup cooked grains and pasta, 1 cup cold cereal and 1 tortilla or a slice of bread.
Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices can make simple ingredients burst with flavour. There are no maximum servings of these taste-enhancers, but there can be a huge amount of benefits. Turmeric has well known anti-inflammatory benefits for example.
Make sure when you’re buying dried spices or spice mixes that they just contain the ingredients below. Sometimes, additives and preservatives can also be present, which we want to remove from our diet.
Other useful foods to keep in mind
Water (drink plenty)
Tea (black, green, peppermint, chamomile, chai etc)
Coffee (not too much)
Unsweetened or minimally Milk Alternatives:
Organic soy milk
Coconut and rice milk
Superfoods & Smoothie Boosters
Raw cacao (powder or nibs)
Dried goji berries
Maca root powder
Sauces & Condiments
Organic soy sauce
Apple cider vinegar
What to Limit or Avoid Entirely
(This depends on how strict you want to be with your plant-based eating)
Meat and poultry
Processed animal meats
Refined grains – white flour, white rice, quick cook oats
Soy protein isolate
These are just some of the foods that can be eaten on a plant-based diet. Again it’s always up to you how you just to follow it. Obviously, if your doctor or registered dietician has instructed you to follow it a certain way then it is best to do so.
For otherwise healthy individuals looking to live a more healthful life even just upping your intake of whole, plant-based food is a great place to start.
Before you go, let me just finish with some tips that can make this lifestyle a smooth ride.
Check out below!
Useful Tips for Preparing Food on a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet
Keep Plenty of Frozen vegetables and fruit on hand
These are really incredibly handy to have in your freezer. Plus, they often contain higher nutrient content than fresh food that’s more than a few days old. Frozen vegetables and fruit are typically picked and frozen straight away. 1
Flash freezing retains most of the nutrients and requires less chemical manipulation to help them stay fresh in transit. So in this regard, they may be healthier than those fresh fruits and vegetables that have been grown across the world and spend considerable time in transit.
Eat the skin on fruits and vegetables
The skin on fruits and vegetables often contain most of the nutrients and fiber. So where you can be sure to eat these.
It also protects them from decay. Therefore it is a good idea to keep them uncut or store in an airtight container.
Steam or microwave your vegetables
Steaming your vegetables can be a great way to ensure you’re getting maximum nutrients. When you boil your vegetable, the water-soluble vitamins readily leach into the cooking water. This makes steaming a better option.
Meal plan for the week
Meal prepping makes eating healthy super easy. To do this, pick a day each week where you have time to dedicate to prepping all or most of your meals for the week ahead.
Plan out the meals you would like to eat and then make a list of all the ingredients you will need. This way you’ll know exactly what you need to buy when you go shopping.
Buy some extra fruit and veg
This is a good idea if you’re trying to lose weight. You can use them to bulk up your meals or create some healthy plant-based snacks. Having fruit around the house instead of “junk food” makes it so much easier to grab something healthy when you get one of those cravings.
And, there’s no limit to the amount of fruit and vegetables you can snack on. Remember this is not a calorie-restricted diet. Give your body real, whole, natural foods and it will reward you.
Bring some fruit or a healthy granola/oat bar with you when you are out and about
Having a healthy snack with you when you’re out and about can make life so much easier. This way if you’re feeling hungry you have something to eat rather than trying to find a suitable snack.
Plus, depending on where you are, it can sometimes be difficult to find something healthy on the go. Also, some vegan foods often contain oil, sugar etc. So if your striving for 100% WFPB, these would not be the best for you.
Don’t rely too heavily on supplements
While there is a need for some supplements if your following 100% whole food plant-based diet, for example, B12. The whole idea is to obtain as many nutrients and minerals your body needs from the foods you eat. Generally speaking, if you’re eating a healthy, well-planned plant-based diet you will not need to rely on supplements. The more processed the food, the less nutritional value it will have.
But it’s also important to remember we are all different and have unique nutrient needs so it’s always best to seek the advice of a registered dietician before taking supplements.
Preparing foods with minimal cooking and processing
Doing this helps to lock in more nutrients and lead to greater long term health benefits. Your goal is to eat more whole foods and retain as much of their nutritional value as possible.
You don’t always have to buy organic
It is always recommended to get organic and locally grown where you can, but don’t put pressure on yourself. The benefits of eating plant-based are still derived from using non-organic foods.
However, some foods are more likely to contain pesticides than others. For more information on this here’s EWG’s 2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.
Eat your fats
Aim to eat fats as a whole rather than consuming them as an oil. Obtaining your healthy essential fats is important, but the high fat intake, especially from highly processed or animal foods, may increase your risk of heart disease, some types of cancer and high blood cholesterol.
It can also contribute to excess weight, which increases your risk of diabetes and hypertension. Try stir-frying with water or vegetable stock instead. If you want to use a dressing on your salad, it’s simple to make homemade, oil-free dressings.
If you want to use some oil in your salad dressings, for example, strive for using less than you usually would. Use extra virgin olive oil or some hemp oils.
Avoid refined sugars
Reducing your intake of refined sugars is important. These are absorbed faster and as a result, they lead to higher blood glucose levels, which leads to an increased risk of diabetes and other diseases.
Again, like fats, aim to eat sugar in its whole form such as fruit. When we take in sugar in this form it will be housed with all the other vitamins, fiber and water.
Plus, refined sugar is highly addictive. When you first begin your transition towards a more whole food plant-based diet this can be quite difficult to give up. The cravings will ease, but for me, the first few days were the hardest. After that everything else I ate, like sweet potatoes and fruit, became insanely delicious.
Watch your salt intake
The body does indeed need salt to function but it’s very easy to take in excess amounts of salt. Especially when you buy processed food.
Why is this bad?
If someone is not efficient at removing excess salt it can lead to high blood pressure. Too much salt can also increase the risk of stomach and oesophagal cancer. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that healthy adults consume 1,500 mg (1.5 grams) of sodium per day 2.
When you start cooking your own meals this will help reduce the excess amount of salt in your diet. When adding salt, it’s a good idea to do it just as you’re about to serve the food where you can. This will help you not to overcome salt in your meals. Likewise, using lower salt soy sauce and vegetable broth is another way that helps.
Don’t be afraid to try new foods, experiment with flavours, and mix foods together. This keeps the excitement in what you’re doing strong and it’s much easier to stick to if you don’t feel like you’re eating the same things over and over again.
Now it’s up to you.
What are you going to do first to move towards a plant-based lifestyle?
Let me know in the comments below.
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