How to Choose Foods on a Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet

image_pdfimage_print

My husband took a small desk plant to work, and won the scrutiny of a clever co-worker who looked at the plant, and laughingly said: ”So you brought your lunch to work today?”

Umm…no!

But isn’t this a common misconception, that all you eat on a plant-based diet is grass? 

If not, then what?

A whole food plant-based diet is based on eating unprocessed or minimally processed plant foods. It’s centered on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, tubers, nuts, and seeds. It avoids animal products like meat, fish, dairy, and eggs, and also excludes highly refined foods, including artificial foods with additives like excitotoxins, food dyes, trans fats, and sugars.

That may have been a lot to take in, but here’s what you should know: a whole food plant-based diet leads to a longer, healthier life. Numerous studies link this lifestyle to an abundance of health benefits, including lower cholesterol and lower blood sugar, while preventing and even reversing chronic diseases. 

And this diet is increasing in popularity. Forbes Magazine published an article declaring 2019 as the year more people “embrace a plant-based lifestyle”. In fact, according to The Good Food Institute and the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA),  plant-based food sales jumped 11% in the past year. Clearly, there’s an exponentially growing interest in foods that heal our bodies and enhance our lives.

But if you’re not careful, you could easily fall prey to the many “all-natural”, “vegan” and even “plant-based” food labels that aren’t truly whole-food, plant-based options at all. 

For example, researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that those who ate high-quality plant-based foods, such as whole grains, nuts, vegetables, and fruits were less likely to gain weight than those who ate less healthful plant-based foods, such as french fries, refined grains, and sugary items. 

So how do you choose wisely on this lifestyle and avoid pitfalls? Here are four fail-proof principles I use to guide my food selections that are sure to help you as well.

Principle #1: Stay as close to nature as possible

Stick with whole, unprocessed foods and ingredients. Processed foods generally refers to intentionally altered items. This includes physical changes, chemical additives, and artificial substances not originally present. Whole food, on the other hand, refers to unrefined or lightly processed foods. To gain the most nutritional benefit, the goal is to aim for food as close to its original form as possible.

For example, if you enjoy canned peaches in heavy syrup, eat the actual naturally juicy peach instead. 

Principle #2: Fresh is best 

The fresher the food, the more nutritious it is. Food picked straight from the farm or your garden gives you the highest amount of nutrients possible. Over time, however, freshly picked food produces enzymes that cause loss of nutrients, color, and flavor. So eat food closest to its harvest time to maximize nutrient benefits.

This may not always be possible, however, and that’s where fresh-frozen food is a win. It’s harvested and frozen when ripe, sealing in nutrients, color, and flavor. Nutrient-destroying enzymes that deplete your fresh food of vitamins and minerals are also deactivated when frozen. 

A good tip is to buy a mix of both quality fresh and fresh-frozen food for nutrient-dense options. And take advantage of the summer season to freeze fruit so you can have quality fruit all year-round!

Principle #3: If sourced from an animal, it’s not going in

Animal-sourced refers to meat, dairy (milk & cheese), eggs and other animal by-products. Note, some plant-based munchers occasionally eat honey sourced from bees. This may be the only exception–and a personal choice. 

Why avoid animal-sourced foods? While it’s true that meat and dairy consumption provide needed nutrients like protein and calcium, animal products also bring a litany of damaging health effects. Copious studies document links to cancer, heart disease, a shorter lifespan and more. Plant-based options are more than plentiful and still provide needed nutrients without negative side effects.  In fact, they increase your life-span and are better for the environment. 

Principle #4: If it contains added fats, sugars and ingredients that you can’t pronounce, stay away. 

Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health puts it best. “A plant-based diet could include consuming large amounts of sugar, refined starch, hydrogenated oils, and soda, which would be about the worst diet possible.”

Lengthy, hard-to-pronounce ingredients are often chemically derived. Chemical food additives carry consequences that include brain-exciting food addictions and carcinogen-induced diseases. So pay attention to food labels! 

A whole food plant-based diet is absolutely doable and enjoyable!  Follow these four easy principles to make selecting healthy food easier. Most importantly, let God guide you step-by-step towards becoming a healthier version of yourself. Each step is your declaration that says, I’m choosing my health!

Recipe: Ground Walnut Meat

This nutrient-rich recipe is so versatile!  You can use it in burritos, wraps, sandwiches, or on Taco Tuesdays, topped with a rainbow of crisp veggies, drenched in cashew sour cream. You can even enjoy it as a spread or savory crumbles added to your meal to give it extra pizazz. The options are endless.

RECIPE LINK & VIDEO: www.choosingmyhealth.com/groundwalnutmeat

Servings: 3 Prep Time: 10 min Cook Time: 0 min Total Time: 10 min

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups of raw walnuts
  • ¼ cup of soaked sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ½ a date (or whole date for a sweeter taste)
  • ½  Tbsp smoked paprika
  • ¾  Tbsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp of cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp of sea salt (or more to taste)
  • 3 Tbsp of water or sun-dried tomato water (recommended) or more as needed.

Instructions:

  1. Soak sun-dried tomatoes and date in warm water for 5 minutes. 
  2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until slightly chunky in texture.
  3. Taste and adjust as desired. Add cayenne for extra kick, water for a smoother texture, and salt to personal preference.

Get creative! Stretch the recipe by adding cooked lentils, quinoa, or cauliflower.

More from Melissa Webster

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.