There are many arguments about which diet is best for you.
Nevertheless, health and wellness communities agree that diets emphasizing fresh, whole ingredients and minimizing processed foods are superior for overall wellness.
The whole-foods, plant-based diet does just that.
It focuses on minimally processed foods, specifically plants, and is effective at stimulating weight loss and improving health.
This article reviews everything you need to know about the whole-foods, plant-based diet, including its potential health benefits, foods to eat, and a sample meal plan.
WHAT IS A WHOLE-FOOD, PLANT-BASED DIET?
A whole-food, plant-based diet lets you meet your nutritional needs by focusing on natural, minimally processed plant foods, and is based on the following principles:
- Whole foods describe natural foods that are not heavily processed. That means whole, unrefined, or minimally refined ingredients.
- Plant-based means food that comes from plants and doesn’t include animal ingredients such as meat, milk, eggs, or honey.
A Whole-Foods, Plant-Based Shopping List:
- Fruits: Berries, citrus fruits, pears, peaches, pineapple, bananas, etc.
- Vegetables: Kale, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, asparagus, peppers, etc.
- Starchy vegetables: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, etc.
- Whole grains: Brown rice, rolled oats, farro, quinoa, brown rice pasta, barley, etc.
- Healthy fats: Avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, unsweetened coconut, etc.
- Legumes: Peas, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, black beans, etc.
- Seeds, nuts, and nut butter: Almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, natural peanut butter, tahini, etc.
- Unsweetened plant-based milk: Coconut milk, almond milk, cashew milk, etc.
- Spices, herbs, and seasonings: Basil, rosemary, turmeric, curry, black pepper, salt, etc.
- Condiments: Salsa, mustard, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, etc.
- Plant-based protein: Tofu, tempeh, plant-based protein sources, or powders with no added sugar or artificial ingredients.
- Beverages: Coffee, tea, sparkling water, etc.
If supplementing your plant-based diet with animal products, choose quality products from grocery stores or, better yet, purchase them from local farms.
- Eggs: Pasture-raised when possible.
- Poultry: Free-range, organic when possible.
- Beef and pork: Pastured or grass-fed when possible.
- Seafood: Wild-caught from sustainable fisheries when possible.
- Dairy: Organic dairy products from pasture-raised animals whenever possible.
Foods to Avoid:
- Fast food: French fries, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, etc.
- Added sugars and sweets: Table sugar, soda, juice, pastries, cookies, candy, sweet tea, sugary cereals, etc.
- Refined grains: White rice, white pasta, white bread, bagels, etc.
- Packaged and convenience foods: Chips, crackers, cereal bars, frozen dinners, etc.
- Processed vegan-friendly foods: Plant-based meats like Tofurkey, faux cheeses, vegan butter, etc.
- Artificial sweeteners: Equal, Splenda, Sweet’N Low, etc.
- Processed animal products: Bacon, lunch meats, sausage, beef jerky, etc.
A Sample Meal Plan for One Week:
Transitioning to a whole-foods, plant-based diet doesn’t have to be challenging.
The following one-week menu can help set you up for success. It includes a small number of animal products, but the extent to which you include animal foods in your diet is up to you.
- Breakfast: Oatmeal made with coconut milk topped with berries, coconut and walnuts.
- Lunch: Large salad topped with fresh vegetables, chickpeas, avocado, pumpkin seeds and goat cheese.
- Dinner: Butternut squash curry.
- Breakfast: Full-fat plain yogurt topped with sliced strawberries, unsweetened coconut and pumpkin seeds.
- Lunch: Meatless chili.
- Dinner: Sweet potato and black bean tacos.
- Breakfast: A smoothie made with unsweetened coconut milk, berries, peanut butter and unsweetened plant-based protein powder.
- Lunch: Hummus and veggie wrap.
- Dinner: Zucchini noodles tossed in pesto with chicken meatballs.
- Breakfast: Savory oatmeal with avocado, salsa and black beans.
- Lunch: Quinoa, veggie and feta salad.
- Dinner: Grilled fish with roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli.
- Breakfast: Tofu and vegetable frittata.
- Lunch: Large salad topped with grilled shrimp.
- Dinner: Roasted portobello fajitas.
- Breakfast: Blackberry, kale, cashew butter and coconut protein smoothie.
- Lunch: Vegetable, avocado and brown rice sushi with a seaweed salad.
- Dinner: Eggplant lasagna made with cheese and a large green salad.
- Breakfast: Vegetable omelet made with eggs.
- Lunch: Roasted vegetable and tahini quinoa bowl.
- Dinner: Black bean burgers served on a large salad with sliced avocado.
THE BENEFITS OF A WHOLE-FOOD, PLANT-BASED DIET:
There are several major benefits to moving to plant-based nutrition, all supported by excellent science. These benefits include:
- Easy weight management: People who eat a plant-based diet tend to be leaner than those who don’t, and the diet makes it easy to lose weight and keep it off—without counting calories.
- Disease prevention: Whole-food, plant-based eating can prevent, halt, or even reverse chronic diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
- A lighter environmental footprint: A plant-based diet places much less stress on the environment.