What is a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet?


A whole foods plant-based diet at it's core is a diet derived solely from plant-life. Vegetables, fruits, legumes, tubers, starchy veggies and whole grains comprise the main dietary elements. Meat, milk, cheese, eggs and other animal products are not acceptable if you are eating a plant-based diet. Additionally, many people who live a plant-based lifestyle also try to minimize or completely remove the usage of highly refined foods such as bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil.

Often, the term "whole food plant-based diet" will describe a decidedly vegan dietary regimen. This is certainly the case for me, however I am aware that this can sometimes lead to confusion as the term "plant-based diet" has been used by other sources to describe a range of diets such as fruitarianism, raw veganism, vegetarianism, ovo-lacto vegetarianism, semi-vegetarianism, pescatarianism, and more. There is no doubt in my mind that all of these terms can lead to confusion.

A goal of Plant-Smart Living is to help reclaim the phrase "whole foods plant-based diet." If we simply analyze the words being used, they describe the food I eat and create in my garden around the year.

"Whole food" describes any food that has not been processed (or has only undergone minimal processing). These foods are also free of additional additives and other artificial elements.

"Plant-Based" seemingly implies that the main component of your diet would be foods that are plants. Sometimes the answer is not too complicated!

When we put these terms together, we end up with a diet that is extremely simple, stripped down, and undeniably health conscious and nutritious. Modern science has even started to take notice of the long-term health benefits of plant-based nutrition, as opposed to other diets which, on the surface, may appear healthy (or maybe not at all!); but are not healthy at all!

Examples of Plant-Based, Whole Foods to Eat!

The foods we eat impact our lives in very serious ways. Most health conditions such as obesity, depression, angina, and others can be eliminated by eating the right types of foods. It is hard to imagine that human beings have ended up at a point where we are literally dying from the foods we are eating: meat heavy diets and processed foods galore. Fortunately, a plant-based, whole food based diet has a miraculous power in this equation. I don't say this lightly, as I experienced this power first-hand as I lost 65+ pounds and found myself in a healthier, younger feeling body in my 60's. Some of the staple food groups of this vegan diet are as follows:

  • Fruit: Apples, Oranges, Tomatoes, Bananas, Kiwi, Lemon, Lime, Mangoes, Grapes, Berries, etc.
  • Vegetables: Lettuce, Kale, Collard Greens, Swiss Chard, Cauliflower, Carrots, etc.
  • Starchy Vegetables & Tubers: Potatoes, Yams, Winter Squash, Corn, Green Peas, Yucca, etc.
  • Whole Grains: Quinoa, Rice, Oats, Barley, Millet, etc.
  • Legumes: Lentils, Chickpeas, Lima Beans, Cannellini Beans, Black Beans, etc.

Even if you are new to a whole foods plant-based diet, you will probably see some foods that are quite familiar and that you already enjoy. Knowing this, transitioning to a plant-based diet is not particularly difficult, it just takes a little strategizing, some self-educating, and a little bit of effort. It won't be too bad, and I hope Plant-Smart Living can help make this even easier for you!

Misconceptions of a Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet

Depending on the study source, it can be said that between 2% - 4% of people in the USA have a vegan dietary lifestyle. Given how intuitive a plant-based diet seems, these numbers are hard to believe! A major contributor to this large number is no doubt the convenience of processed, non-whole foods available, as well as meat products which take up entire businesses and grocery store sections. Another factor may just be that there is a large misconception regarding a whole foods, plant-based diet that is often overlooked in real conversation, and usually just reserved for those who are ignorant and wanting to poke fun of those living this lifestyle. That is: a whole food, plant-based diet is NOT a "vegetable diet," nor is it a diet just for birds (but with that said, we could probably learn a thing or two from them!).  

Since adopting a plant-based lifestyle myself, I have truly begun to learn how complex plant-foods can be. They are no longer just side dishes, appetizers, or garnishes on a larger meal. There is much diversity in a plant-based diet, but you have to be smart enough to break past the surface and explore your options.

Did you know: There are 20,000 species of edible plants in the world yet fewer than 20 comprise 90% of our food?

Like any diet, a whole food, plant-based diet can be really bland if you don't do it right. By exploring plant-based, vegan recipes and becoming more involved in the creation of your own food through gardening (if possible), you can find this diet to be quite exciting, tasty, and absolutely fulfilling! Not to mention, the health benefits and side effect of feeling a bit younger and like you can do more with your life will no doubt be serious pats on the back for sticking to it!

In addition to the recipes posted on our websites, we have also created the Plant-Smart Living Digital Recipe Guide, which is available for purchase if you need a quality resource for starting or enhancing your plant-based journey.

Replace Meat With Healthy, Filling Starches

As advocated by Dr. John McDougall in the best-selling book The Starch Solution, healthy starches such potatoes can form the basis of your plant-based, whole foods diet. I have come to view starches as the "meat" of my diet. They taste great, can be cooked in a variety of ways, and are very filling. I found potatoes to be especially easy to stomach early on in my transition to a plant-based lifestyle as I already enjoyed them along with steak and chicken dinners, but was now removing meat from my plate in exchange for more plant-based foods to go along with it.

One thing to keep in mind about making a big step like changing diets is something very simple: sometimes change isn't going to be quick and easy. The best thing we can do at times is find the things that help make it a little easier. It is truly a great starting place to make a core component of your plant-based diet those plant-based foods you already enjoy!

Plant-Based Nutrition is "Whole" Nutrition

The US Dietary Guidelines and the resulting education pervading our school systems and thought processes about the foods we eat suggest that we eat certain foods for specific nutritional benefits. For example, we are often told we should eat meat because we need more protein in our diets. This is a skewed perspective to take, and really is not one that is healthy.

The goal of a whole foods plant-based diet is to reclaim what plant-based nutrition can be, and what it was many years ago before big business and factories took over the modern Western landscape.

In short: whole, plant-based foods have ALL of the essential nutrients required to sustain life.

And yes, plant-based protein can completely replace the protein derived from meat. Some plants in particular have high concentrations of protein such as green peas and Swiss chard. Additionally, to better serve the growing population of vegetarians and vegans, some companies are beginning to create plant-based protein powders as a replacement to the typical whey protein shakes.

A Plant-Based Diet is More Eco-Friendly and Environmentally Sustainable

It is hard to ignore the negative impact meat consumption and big business has had on the environment. Many adopters of the plant-based, vegan diet may have drawn to this lifestyle as a result of seeing these negative components of our Western culture. Not only is the Standard American Diet (SAD) killing us slowly, it is gradually destroying our planet and the cause of depraved treatment of animal life. A WFPBD (whole foods, plant-based diet) allows me to live without carrying moral and ethical guilt regarding these things, and allows me to speak up about these poor practices and do something about it. Even in a small way, setting up my backyard garden and reaping the harvest throughout the year has allowed me to sustain myself, my friends and family, and the world I live in. The impact millions of vegans living like this could be astonishing, and lead to the replacement of the meat industry with something better altogether.

Plant-Smart Living's Place in Helping You Adopt a Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet

I have created Plant-Smart Living with the goal to teaching people to Question Everything, Uncover Truth, and Reclaim Our Health. The views expressed here are the result of personal experience and research into science and other resources regarding the plant-based dietary lifestyle. I do hope you are able to find our content useful, uplifting, and a go-to resource when you have questions and thoughts you want to share about this powerful way of living.

A whole foods, plant-based diet is powerful and is a truly "long-term" diet. It has revitalized my life and led to me adopting a full-blown, plant-based lifestyle. On a daily basis, I tend to my garden and try to help others looking to explore this way of living, whether it be you who may just be starting out, or someone else who is already knee deep in the lifestyle themselves!

If you have any questions about a whole food, plant-based diet or any other topic you can think of, feel free to leave a comment below or Contact Me. I am always happy to chat and hear new thoughts and opinions.