First of all, let’s drop the ‘diet’ thing. This isn’t a diet, nor a fad. A whole food plant based diet is also different to a vegan diet.
Whole Food – This describes natural foods that have not been processed (or minimally). Whole and unrefined. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes.
Plant Based – Food that has no animal in it, nor any animal derivatives.
I’ve had been a vegetarian since I was about 11, and only became entirely vegan much later. It was only then in the early days of being vegan I understood that switching to predominantly whole food based would be the best option – I regret not switching earlier for sure. I was stuck in a lazy and selfish mindset that I don’t like to be reminded of if I’m honest. I/we still have an amount of junk vegan food of course, but I do my best!
The important part here is the ‘whole foods’ part. It has nothing to do with being vegan. Vegan is a way of life, vegan is choosing to avoid eating or using any products that are made from, or contain animal derivatives, due to ethical reasons such as animal cruelty.
However, it’s still quite easy (and getting easier) to be an unhealthy vegan as much as an unhealthy non vegan. There is a vegan alternative to everything, and just because it’s vegan does not make it healthy. Vegan mayonnaise? It’s just spun oil. We don’t need more oil in our diet! Vegan ice cream? Similar fats spun with a non dairy base. There is nothing whole foods here!
I can’t admit to being 100% whole food plant based, as I do have processed vegan trash as much as the next vegan… BUT I do try and make sure that my regular meals are as whole food based as possible (they are always still plant based though!)
What are whole foods?
Whole foods are unprocessed or minimally processed foods, so foods such as:
Grains: such as wheat, wholegrain rice, bulgur, quinoa, barley.
Beans and legumes: such as lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas
Nuts and seeds: such as unsalted almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.
Fruit and vegetables: obviously!
Whole food plant based diet benefits:
- Reducing the chances of the number one killer, heart disease
- Reducing chances of type 2 diabetes
- Reducing chances of cancers
- Reduced inflammation
- Overall health gains
- Easier weight management
- No having to be counting calories
- Better Environmental footprint
- Cheaper living
How do I eat out in restaurants while on a plant-based diet?
It used to be a thing that it was hard to find whole foods on the move, but in the UK and the US there is almost always an option these days. If not, just ask for something specific that you know is wholefood, or at least as ‘whole’ as you can!
How can I eat a whole-food plant-based while traveling for work?
Same as above really, I’ve not found it to be much of a problem in the UK. When I’m on the road for work, any M&S Food, or Waitrose Food stops have pre prepared dishes that are super nice. Even starbucks has a great 5 grain porridge and decent vegan sandwiches.
Is it possible to eat a plant-based diet on a budget?
Eating plant based food IS eating on a budget by default. The expensive stuff is always the process food. Buying fruit and veg, making a few meals in one go are key ways to save money. Learn to like Dal, Hummus if you don’t already – a key staple for me. Dal is insanely cheap, just a bag of lentils, some garlic and herbs and you can eat it all week for less than the cost of a coffee. Humus the same, buy bags of dried chickpeas, leave to soak, add a lemon and tahini and away you go. Easy, cheap and super clean.
How will I know if a whole food plant based diet alright for me?
Try it and find out, I think you’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel after not that long at all!
How can I make sure I get the nutrition I need?
A common question, so I have broken it down by the key nutrients most people ask about. Fundamentally you want to just eat a wide range of natural, fresh produce, daily! But you do need to pay some attention (regardless of whether you eat meat or not!)
Plant based Calcium sources include:
Dark green leafy vegetables, soya, fortified plant milks such as almond, oat or soya milks. We have the fortified (blue carton) Oatly oat milk in our house, as that has around 120mg of Calcium per 100ml, with no added sugars. Tastes great too and the kids love it.
Plant based Protein sources:
Tofu, lentils, pulses, beans etc.
Nutritional research studies have found potential associations between a diet high in plant protein and the following beneficial effects:
- Lower risk of allergies
- Lower risk of bladder cancer
- Lower blood pressure
- Smaller BMI and slimmer waist
- Lower total cholesterol
- Phosphorus management for those suffering from chronic kidney disease
- Lower risk of Crohn’s disease
- Lower risk of endometrial cancer
- Lower heart disease and cancer mortality
- Lower risk of inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis
- Life extension
- Beneficial effects on psychological disorders linked to low serotonin levels
- Better preservation of muscle mass as one ages
- Beneficial effects for Parkinson’s disease patients
- Lower risk of premature puberty
- Slower progression of prostate cancer
Plant based Omega 3 and 6 sources of DHA and EPA – Algae, this is one of our supplements, we use testa DHA / EPA
Plant based Vitamin D sources – Fortified foods, and / or 15-30mins outside per day
Plant based Iodine sources – Seaweeds such as nori
Plant based B12 sources – The cheapest way to get our B12 is probably a sublingual, chewable, or liquid supplement of cyanocobalamin
Plant based Iron sources – Lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, kale, dried apricots and figs, raisins, quinoa and fortified breakfast cereal.
Plant based Selenium sources – Brazil nuts!