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How to be Whole Foods Plant-Based

Good nutrition is the basis for healthy living, and the key element is simple: Whole plant foods. These foods best meet our nutritional needs. They have the power to heal us and sustain a healthy and vibrant life.


A diet high in animal-based and highly processed foods makes people sick and overweight. But many of these sicknesses can be prevented, halted, and often reversed by eating a whole-food, plant-based diet. There is medical proof. There is living proof.
My goal is to provide motivation, practical guidance and a support system to profoundly improve people’s lives.

I believe . . .


    • that nature knows exactly what our bodies need
    • in science, and in the undeniable evidence behind the benefits of whole-food, plant-based nutrition
    • in sharing stories to celebrate personal transformations and achievements
    • that our bodies have the power to ward off or reverse chronic disease when
      nourished with whole plant foods.
    • that natural, healthy food should be delicious and satisfying
    • that a plant-based diet is more humane and requires fewer resources
    • that a healthy community can be a powerful, positive influence in the world

“Let food be thy medicine” – Hippocrates

Letting food be your medicine is the smartest step you can take to ensure excellent health for a lifetime.

Americans are sick, tired, and over medicated. Current research on plant-based, whole-food health shows the effectiveness of including more plants in the diet because of the role they play in combating chronic and preventable disease, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.


  • prevent and reverse the leading chronic ailments
  • reach your ideal weight
  • improve mental clarity
  • experience positive effects, not side effects
  • have a sense of well-being and empowerment
  • save time and money



1. “I need to drink milk to have strong bones.”

Many people equate dairy with calcium, strong bones, and the prevention of osteoporosis (low bone density). Generations of advertising slogans have perpetuated this idea. However, dairy isn’t the answer here. Studies show that dairy products may actually increase the risk of fractures related to osteoporosis!


The biological purpose of cow’s milk is to support the rapid growth of a calf. Humans have no nutritional or medical needs to consume the milk of cows or any other nonhuman species. Cow’s milk naturally contains female hormones, and can contain antibiotics, pesticides, saturated fat, and cholesterol — substances that definitely do NOT do a body good! Dairy has been specifically linked with prostate, ovarian, and uterine cancer, as well as heart disease and early death.


The best sources of calcium come from the earth, in foods such as kale, broccoli, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts. As a bonus, these vegetables are high in vitamin K, which is also important for strong bones. (Some greens, such as spinach and Swiss chard, are high in calcium but the calcium is not well absorbed due to the high oxalate content of these foods.) Fortified plant milk and calcium-set tofu are other good sources of calcium.



2. “I can’t eat carbs.”

Many people are mistakenly led to believe they should avoid carbohydrates, particularly for weight management and diabetes control. Instead, they focus on proteins—especially animal proteins—and fats. Sadly, this approach actually increases the risk of chronic disease and death, and it deprives people of the numerous nutrients found in carbohydrate-containing foods.


It is true, however, that not all carbohydrate-rich foods are created equal. Refined, highly processed carbohydrates can raise triglycerides, promote weight gain, and drive up blood sugar. On the other hand, starches that come from whole grains bring fiber, essential fatty acids, B vitamins, zinc, and protein, and other essential nutrients into our diets and provide an excellent source of energy. Beans, lentils, peas, starchy vegetables, and fruits are other healthy carbohydrate sources. Balancing these foods with non-starchy vegetables is an optimal way to eat for weight loss, diabetes control, and reversal of heart disease.



3. “Healthy food is too expensive.”

You don’t need to shop at a gourmet health food store to find nutritious foods. Actually, some of the healthiest foods are the least expensive, and they are readily available at most grocery stores and many local farmers’ markets. Beans, lentils, brown rice, and frozen vegetables are usually inexpensive, especially when bought dried and in bulk. (Organic fruits and vegetables can cost more, but eating nonorganic plant-based foods is still more nutritious than eating meat, chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy, organic or otherwise.)


Even when processed foods and animal products are sold cheaply, they are expensive in terms of the cost to your health. What you may save now, you could end up spending later in pharmacy co-payments and medical bills!


A whole-food, plant-based diet is centered on whole, unrefined, or minimally refined plants. It’s a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes; and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil.

You will be eating in a way that people have thrived on for thousands of years. You will find that the diet and foods are very tasty and satisfying. Following are the food categories from which you’ll eat, along with a few examples of each. These include the ingredients you’ll be using to make familiar dishes, such as pizza, mashed potatoes, lasagna, and burritos:


mangoes, bananas, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, cherries, etc.


lettuce, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, carrots, etc.
Tubers and starchy vegetables: potatoes, yams, yucca, winter squash, corn, green peas, etc.


Whole grains:
millet, quinoa, barley, rice, whole wheat, oats, etc.


kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, lima beans, cannellini beans, black beans, etc.


Now that you know generally what sorts of foods you’ll be eating, let’s delve further into what the diet is and what it most definitely is not.



A Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet Is Not a Diet of Vegetables

You may have heard that people living this way eat lots of spinach, kale, and collard greens, and that this is, in fact, the primary basis for many of the meals. You may even think we live only on leafy and raw vegetables. However, nothing could be further from the truth.


While leafy vegetables are an important part of the whole-food, plant-based diet, they are a very poor calorie (i.e., energy) source to be sustainable. We would need to eat almost 16 pounds of cooked kale to get 2,000 calories of food! We certainly don’t eat this way, and we wouldn’t blame you for thinking it sounds crazy! In fact, it is virtually impossible to get enough calories from leafy vegetables alone to form a sustainable diet. Perhaps the most common reason for failure in this lifestyle is that people actually try to live on leafy vegetables alone. If you try to live on these vegetables, you become deficient in calories. Not eating enough calories leads you to feel hungry, which over time may result in decreased energy, feelings of deprivation, cravings, and even binges. These issues are not caused by switching to a plant-based diet—rather, they are all related to not eating enough.


I certainly recommend you eat generous amounts of leafy vegetables. But these are complementary foods that you eat regularly. They are not the energy source on your food plate. So, if leafy vegetables aren’t the basis of a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle, what is?


Starch-Based Foods and Fruit Form the Basis of the Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet
In America most of us are accustomed to building our dinner plate around meat. This will change with your new lifestyle. The center of your plate is now going to be the starch-based comfort foods most of us have always loved, but that have long been relegated to side dishes or stigmatized because of a misperception that they are “unhealthy.” Yet, these are the foods that people around the world have thrived on for generations: tubers like potatoes and sweet potatoes; starchy vegetables like corn and peas; whole grains like brown rice, millet, quinoa, and buckwheat; and legumes like chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, and lima beans.


They may be prepared a bit differently—leaving out oil and dairy, for example—but most of them will nonetheless be familiar. Those that aren’t may become delightful new discoveries you’ll make as part of embarking on your new lifestyle. They come in the form of delicious dishes like Sweet Potato Lasagna, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Tuscan White Bean Burgers, Easy Thai Noodles, Lima Bean Soup, Shepherd’s Pot Pie, Black Bean and Rice Burritos, Polenta Curry, and Spicy French Fries.


Watch this great video as John McDougall discusses the Foods we were born to eat.



Whole plant foods are easily recognized because they usually don’t come in a package (unless it is just one ingredient such as brown rice or black beans) and look much the same as they do in nature. Consider a chickpea curry over brown rice. The main ingredients—chickpeas, vegetables, and brown rice—are easily identifiable in nature. On the other hand, consider the fact that you have never seen a doughnut growing on a tree.
There are other factors to consider besides appearance. For example, brown and white rice look somewhat similar. But we know that brown rice is fully intact while the fiber and other nutrients have been extracted from white rice. So, brown rice would be the preferable option.


Oil is a highly processed food, which is why I don’t use it. Oil is a bad idea because it is highly refined and its nutritional package is inadequate. How is it that we know that processed sugars are junk foods, yet we’ve allowed ourselves to be convinced that certain oils are somehow good for us? Oil follows essentially the same model as processed sugar, which is also pressed from plants. Think about what oil is: fat—and nothing but fat. All the nutrients, including protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water, have been thrown away. Oil of any kind has more calories per gram than any other food we know. And without any fiber or water in it, oil lacks the bulk to convey to your senses how many calories you have eaten; this virtually guarantees you will consume more calories at the meal than you need. So we ask you: Why would you waste calories on something that has no nutrients in it other than fat? And why would anyone believe that highly concentrated fat is healthy?


In conclusion, highly processed foods are whole foods that have been refined and that generally lack proper nutrition.



No more eating for single nutrient

The idea of eating a particular food for one nutrient is pervasive in our culture.No food is a single nutrient, and we should never think of foods in that way. Any given food has countless nutrients. What matters most is the overall nutrient profile, i.e., the whole package. Whole, plant-based foods contain all the essential nutrients (with the exception of vitamin B12), and in proportions that are more consistent with human needs than animal-based or processed foods. So our question is really this: Why waste any of what we eat on inferior packages? As long as—over time—we choose a variety of whole, plant-based foods, we will easily meet our nutritional needs.


Even on this diet, people sometimes tend to worry about eating a certain type of green vegetable for Calcium, beans for Protein, nuts for Fat, and so on. Please let go of that kind of thinking. The most important thing in this lifestyle is to choose the whole, plant-based food you enjoy most!



Reading Labels & Identifying Ingredients

When buying packaged foods, it is important that you know how to read the ingredient lists so that you can make informed decisions about what you’re buying.

Here are two rules of thumb to help guide your choice of packaged foods:

Know your ingredients. Ensure you know where your ingredients come from and consider avoiding artificial preservatives, colorings, and additives. Pay attention to the order of ingredients. The first ingredient is always the most predominant in the product. Be sure to choose packaged items in which the best, most nutritious ingredients are first on the list.



Additives & Preservatives

Many food products contain additives and preservatives that are used to make the item taste stronger, last longer and look better. However, additives and preservatives can be difficult for our bodies to process. If you don’t know where the ingredient comes from (or you can’t pronounce its name), as a general rule don’t put the item in your cart.
Watch for (and avoid) items toward the end of the ingredient list, such as:

  • monosodium glutamate or MSG
  • aspartame or sucralose
  • artificial colorings and flavorings, yellow dye #5
  • BHT (a preservative)
  • hydrogenated oils

If you see an ingredient that you wouldn’t keep in your pantry or that your grandparents wouldn’t recognize, then chances are it’s an additive or preservative that may be harmful or otherwise may not enhance your health.



Tips to go to the supermarket:

1. Make a list and stick to it: Stores are purposely designed to put you off track and encourage you to buy more than you intended. This is why it’s important to take time to know your store layout, incorporate it into your list and stick to it. In general, fresh food is kept on the perimeter of the store, while processed and packaged foods are stocked in the interior aisles.

An extra tip is to never shop when you’re hungry. Cravings or “hanger” (the point of hunger where you may be feeling angry) can lead to impulse shopping or over-buying.


2. Shop frequently (2 to 3 times per week): That big trip once a week may seem like it saves you money, but a few short trips, especially at off-peak hours, can actually make your life easier and healthier. This is especially important when keeping to a plant-based whole food diet because frequent trips ensure you get the freshest produce and reduce the likelihood of having food in your fridge go to waste. Throwing away rotten food is the same thing as throwing away money.


3. When choosing produce, be selective: At the store, avoid produce that is bruised or damaged. If you buy fresh-cut produce, be sure it is well chilled, refrigerated or surrounded by ice.


  • Choose ripe fruits and vegetables over unripe.
  • Buy whole spices and grind them yourself for optimum freshness and flavor.
  • Choose fresh herbs whenever possible for superior flavor building within recipes.



Stocking your kitchen


Pantry Items

Items in your pantry can be stored at room temperature, in airtight, sealed containers.


Dry Grains & Legumes

There are over 800 different types of legumes. They come fresh, frozen, canned and dried. Try to vary your choice of beans or grains throughout the week and try something new. Be sure when choosing canned beans that they are sodium-free.


  • whole grains such as: brown rice, quinoa, millet, oats, wild rice, buckwheat, etc.
  • dry lentils (green, black, split red, etc.)
  • beans (white beans, kidney, black beans, mung, adzuki, pinto, garbanzo, etc.)
  • whole grain pasta



When choosing dried herbs and spices, look for non irradiated organic spices that are free from fillers. Almost all herbs and spices are beneficial to your health and add a ton of flavor to your dishes.


  • sea salt (recommended only for finishing, which we will explain more in a unit ahead)
  • black pepper (in a grinder)
  • herbs and spices that you love or would love to try
  • nutritional yeast
  • vanilla beans and vanilla extract


Whole Food Fats

These ingredients are very calorie dense and we strongly encourage you to only use them in small amounts. Be sure these are without added oils and sodium when applicable.


  • nut and seed butters
  • olives and capers (not packed in oil, and rinsed well before using)
  • raw nuts and seeds such as cashews, almonds and flax seeds.



Having a nice array of vinegars will allow you to vary your dishes and dressings. Some of the more common vinegars include:


  • balsamic vinegars (e.g., red, white or black)
  • apple cider vinegar
  • rice vinegar
  • wine vinegars



There are many plant-based sweeteners that let us indulge ourselves now and then. Here are a few:


  • dried fruits such as dates, mangoes and apricots
  • liquid sweeteners such as pure maple syrup or brown rice syrup
  • granulated sugars such as date sugar, maple sugar, or cane sugar


Canned, Boxed & Jarred Goods

These items help you make healthy food in a pinch. Read the labels to make sure these ingredients are low sodium and contain no added oils:


  • tomato products
  • vegetable stocks
  • tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos
  • jarred artichokes, hearts of palm, etc.
  • hot sauces and other condiments


Refrigerated & Frozen Items



  • non-dairy milks (choose unsweetened varieties)
  • miso (from sweet white to savory brown or red)
  • tofu and tempeh (don’t rely too heavily on this category; enjoy a varied diet)



Use the freezer to stock up on ingredients that are great additions to your meals.


  • frozen fruit for desserts
  • frozen vegetables
  • frozen beans and grains

“Let food be thy medicine”

– Hippocrates


Letting food be your medicine is the smartest step you can take to ensure excellent health for a lifetime. Americans are sick, tired, and over medicated. Current research on plant-based, whole-food health shows the effectiveness of including more plants in the diet because of the role they play in combating chronic and preventable disease, such as type 2 diabetes,heart disease and obesity.

You can expect significant life-changing results when you adopt a low-fat, whole-food, plant-based lifestyle. As explained by Drs. Pulde and Lederman, some of the benefits of this lifestyle include:


    • prevent and reverse the leading chronic ailments
    • reach your ideal weight
    • improve mental clarity
    • experience positive effects, not side effects
    • have a sense of well-being and empowerment
    • save time and money