Today, we’re talking about making, “whole a goal”.
In my 30 day, healthy eating program, Ctrl+Alt+DelEAT, one of the biggest shifts we make is dietary: moving from processed, pre-prepared foods to alternates, substitutions and eating whole food. But, for some reason, just like veganism and eating organic, there seems to be a lot of confusion around how to eat a healthy, whole foods diet.
You may have noticed my tendency to try and make more and more of my food choices “vegan”. I’m definitely trying to improve my own eating habits and make more plant-based choices. I thought we’d break down together what eating a healthy, whole foods diet looks like in everyday life.
Following a whole food diet involves maximizing your nutrient intake from natural sources and avoiding nutrient-poor processed foods. Whole foods mainly include plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits and nuts, and animal foods such as eggs, meat, fish and poultry. A whole food diet can provide you with all of the nutrients you need for optimal health.
– Source: SFGate
Cool. So you maximize your nutrient intake…wait — what exactly does that look like? Does it mean I have to now account for the number of nutrients my food has along with calories?
Honestly, with so much information out there on these topics, I like to keep things really simple. Simplicity means you’ll be able to replicate again and again. It’s why I break down the change of your eating, cooking and meal prep habits in 4 different weeks in Ctrl+Alt+DelEAT — because, really, change needs to come in incremental shifts and if it gets too complex…I’m definitely not going to do it, so why would you?
To help you begin to eat a whole foods diet (the way nature intended!), I’m including a 5-day whole foods meal plan FREE for download at the end of this post so be sure to grab that.
The Skinny On The Whole
Eating a whole foods diet means eating (mostly or completely) food that hasn’t been “messed” with and is still, pretty much, all-natural or as close to its natural form as possible. It’s minimally processed (or not at all) and it’s so beneficial for your body because all the natural nutrients and fiber of your fruits, veggies, lentils, nuts and seeds are still perfectly preserved. So you get the max benefit when you consume these.
The idea is that the human body, after years of evolution, still works best with a mostly natural diet. Our ancestors used to forge berries and roots and, while you certainly don’t have to forge in favour of using your handy crockpot, your body definitely runs way more efficiently when you eat all-natural or “whole” food.
I mean, really, think about: what is your body going to have to work harder to process? A super stringy, oily, salty fry (things that don’t naturally occur in nature’s produce) or a good old potato, that you may have baked, boiled or roasted? If you give your internal gut and body less work to do, you’re going to see results in your external weight, energy and even a shift in the way you see food in your life.
Pre-packaged and heavily processed foods are not only created for so-called “convenience”. I personally don’t think it’s convenient to “snack” on a bag of chips and then feel like shit afterwards. Who’s it convenient for? Your body? Nope. The pockets of manufacturers? Yep, you got it. One reason that manufacturers process food is to concentrate flavours and jack-up your tastebuds so that you’re hit by cravings for things like cheese nips and microwave popcorn. Neither of these two items “occur” in nature, by the way.
And that’s a great way to keep your diet mainly all-natural. Ask yourself if what you’re about to eat actually grows or is produced in nature? If the answer is no, chances are, your body is going to have to work overtime to digest it. So, really, don’t line their pockets with your hard-earned money. Line your body and fortify it with the foods you deserve.
Those cravings are totally “manufactured” and, when you take a step-wise approach to changing your eating habits, cleaning up your kitchen, and introducing new, natural foods into your diet, like we do in Ctrl+Alt+DelEAT, shifting to whole foods means you can actually totally stop “counting” calories.
I’ve included my favourite whole food breakfast/lunch/dinner/snack options in an easy, 5-day whole foods meal plan at the bottom of this post!
A Word on the Process
Eating a (mostly) whole food diet also does not mean that you have to forgo pre-packaged items completely.
There are whole foods that we can “process” ourselves and we do, everyday — think of my recipe for almond milk, strawberry chia seed jam, any time you make a green smoothie, or making oat flour from rolled oats. These foods started out “whole” and totally natural and we then minimally process them by blending, cooking, simmering, etc. But there are two upsides to this: one, it’s minimally processed which means your cooking it or changing it in some way but not necessarily adding preservatives or colouring or any of that crap that’s going to make it “stay” on a shelf longer. And, secondly, you know where your produce came from because you were responsible for buying those raw ingredients. This means you get to control if it’s organic or not.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that simply because you’re in control of the “process” that you can’t transform a healthy ingredients for a pancake into a calorie-dense, junk-fest. So adding extra sugar, butter, adding too many chocolate chips instead of fresh berries — these are all additions to make “minimally-processed” food
You want to be smart about what you do to your ingredients and, of course, which ingredients you use. Many conventional pancake recipes can be made “healthier” with a reduction of ingredients (like my 3-ingredient Pancakes) or substituting flours and oils and including additions like hemp hearts or protein powder (if that’s your thing!)
But back to minimally-processed or packaged foods: many of these are ones that you can definitely use (and probably already do) such as cooked, canned whole foods like beans, tomato puree, veggies, frozen fruits and vegetables like corn and green beans. Feel free to sub your usual dairy drinks with non-dairy options (I’m a big advocate for this and I explain why Non-Dairy is the best for your body here!) And condiments like mustard and salsa are totally fair game (though, really, you can make your own salsa and guac…right? :p)
Read your ingredient lists and try and grab items with the least amount of oil or salt content. Here is a great list of the 10 healthiest packaged foods that are fair game.
So what’s your kryptonite? You’ll want to avoid (or go easy on) things like chips, crackers, snack bards and candy, pre-prepared soups (seriously, soups are an amazing way to feel full AND lose weight so just make your own), frozen dinners, packaged pizzas (and pizza/pasta sauces) & most boxed cereals.
So are you ready to start eating a healthier, whole food diet? If you’re with me now, chances are, either you’re already starting to incorporate many of these options in your everyday life, making those incremental changes we’ve been talking about here on Staceygreenliving ) or, after reading this, you’re one step closer to making the shift. Here are few things to keep in mind:
Not “better late than never”
Make like Danielle LaPorte and make more trips to your local grocery store for produce rather than over-buying, over-stocking and having all your produce go bad. Eating whole foods also means you have the advantage of eating fresh foods so you’ll want to plan to consume your foods within two to three days of your bringing them home. You can use frozen veggies to help you in your meal-prep, that’s totally okay too, because these are flash-frozen very soon since the time of being harvested.
A whole grab ‘n’ go routine
Instead of grabbing a bag of mini crackers to tide you over, you know what I love to do? Grab an apple, slice it up real quick, pop some nut butter in a tiny box and, voila, I’m snacking in traffic. It’s a myth that pre-packaged and pre-processed foods are more “convenient”. Dried fruits and legumes, nuts, seeds, trail mix you make yourself, dehydrated fruit (like apricots, anyone? Yum!) make for seriously delicious companions for camping or just everyday snacks.
Where to buy
Your first choice: farmer’s markets, produce stands and CSAs (community-supported agriculture). If you’re not sure where the closest options in your local neighbourhood are, just pull up an online search! Your second choice (slightly less better but still really great, especially if you go every couple of days and buy only what you need each time): your regular grocery store’s produce section.
Shake it up!
Once you’ve brought, planned, washed and stored your whole foods, the next question is undoubtedly about actually prepping and incorporating these foods weekly. I like to vary up my days and my dishes by consuming a whole range of whole foods. This way, I’m covering my body’s nutrient needs and my tastebuds are not super-bored. I may start my morning with a green smoothie or a jar of overnight oats. For lunch, I’ll do a big green salad, chick pea tacos or a big bowl of soup. I’ll also make sure to have plenty of snack on hand and these are my favs like hummus and cut veggies, greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey and fresh walnuts and, for dinner, a mixed bean chili with a small green salad.
To help you begin to eat better and include whole foods in your diet STAT, I’ve created a 5-day whole foods meal plan. Download it here and get eating.
Now share with me in the comments below! Are there whole foods you’ve been wanting to use in your weekly meals but are not sure how to create recipes around them? Are you having trouble planning your meals? What are some your “minimally processed” options?