You probably know by now just how important your diet is not only for your overall health and figure, but also for your mood stability, psychological wellness, and even your longevity. As a result, whole foods – namely those which have been minimally processed and lack any extra preservatives or additives – have started gaining momentum within the nutritional world as the ‘it’ item to stand at the basis of any wholesome diet.
But how do you actually integrate them into an eating regime that would be both highly nutritious and easy to put together? Before you say that this is not possible, here are 5 tips to add healthy whole foods to your diet without having it feel like drastic change after all:
People tend to think that switching to whole foods might make their diet boring or harder to put together on a daily or weekly basis. The truth is that not only will whole foods make you healthier and happier in the long run, but they will also enrich your flavor palette by a landslide.
The great thing about whole foods is that they come in a variety of shapes, textures, and aromas that can be used for anything from small snacks to entire meals. You can start by making it a habit out of having at least one whole food in the makeup of every dish you experience throughout the day but with a different twist every time you use it.
For example, whole grains, fresh fruit, and non-homogenized milk or yogurt are great choices for breakfast, whereas vegetable salads and minimally prepared lean meats (fish, chicken breast, turkey, lamb, etc.) can be mixed in matched to create the perfect lunch or dinner. In addition, non-processed seeds (quinoa, sunflower, etc.) and nuts (walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, etc) are satiating and nutrient-filled snacks that can be very easy to have on-the-go even during the busiest of days.
Gradually, you will notice your body ‘craving’ these various combinations of whole foods instead of their heavily processed counterparts, especially if you stick to a diverse and flavourful regime. While processed foods might tempt you with their fatty and sugary aromas, whole foods are in fact much more likely to satisfy your body’s vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant needs. ‘Training’ your brain to pick these wholesome nutrients over empty calories might be tricky at first, but you will definitely find the diversity of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruit, and nuts to be both more satisfying and delicious over time.
While it is true that you won’t be able to actually switch to a whole foods diet overnight, this does not mean you cannot pave the way for healthier eating beginning with today.
The first step in this sense is to become more skeptical of what labels are telling you – healthy and unhealthy foods alike. While the latter might be easier to ‘decipher’ due to the complicated names of ingredients that are in themselves a red flag for their unwholesome additives, preservatives, and artificial flavors, seemingly health-friendly products could also turn out to be unfit for your dietary needs.
For instance, check whether your choice of bread and other grain-based items such as cereals are actually made from whole ingredients or whether the ‘wheat’ or ‘multi-grain’ specification is nothing but a façade for simple white flour. The same goes for packaged fruit, which can sometimes contain large amounts of sugar as a preservative and flavor enhancer.
In fact, you should actually consider switching from dried fruit snacks to their whole food alternative, namely that of freeze dried fruit. This technique locks in all the good nutrients of fresh fruit in a more long-lasting format, but without all the added chemicals of other types of preservation such as canning or drying, let’s say. Again, check the label for this specification to be sure you are buying the product you want and need in order to maintain a healthy body in the long-run.
Being more mindful of the labels on your foods will help you understand why exactly a whole food version of them is more valuable for your body and lifestyle as well. Acknowledging that a change for the better is required in your dietary regime is the first step, while becoming more careful with what you put on your grocery list is the complementary one to get you started on the right track.
With the previous tip in mind, it is now time to put your wellness plan into action when going to the supermarket. As a matter of fact, this is exactly where you should begin: by staying away from large commercial centres in the first place.
Local farmers’ markets or fish markets are a much healthier and wholesome alternative because they offer you a myriad of whole foods choices without the temptation of processed products lurking at every step. Moreover, you are more likely to purchase vegetables, legumes, fruit, and meats which have been kept away from pesticides and growing hormones respectively. Conversely, supermarket goods are notorious for their extended shelf life – fresh produce and animal-derived products included – which tells a lot about the preservatives which get into them one way or another.
On the other hand, if you do not have the possibility to avoid supermarket shopping, then try to make the most out of this experience by following a few simple guidelines. Firstly, go for veggies and fruit which have the ‘bio’ specification; although they might be a little more expensive, you will avoid unnecessary substances being introduced into your organism via such produce. And don’t be afraid to get an apple or a salad which looks a bit bruised or ‘stained’ – the fact that they respond to outside factors in this way is a clear cut sign that they are more wholesome than their ‘picture perfect’ matches on the opposite isle.
Farm fresh eggs, non-homogenized dairy, and meat derived from grass-fed animals are also a good way of increasing your whole foods intake, especially since these are versatile ingredients that can be successfully integrated into your breakfast, lunch, and dinner routine. Just be sure to maintain their processing at a minimum when you cook them by resorting to boiling, sautéing or light grilling to preserve their nutrient content as much as possible.
Furthermore, steer clear of canned, bagged, and microwavable meals that bring more calories than valuable nutrients into your life. If you don’t pack your shopping cart to the brim with processed snacks and sweets, then the temptation to eat them will automatically disappear as well.
Instead, choose to buy primary ingredients which you can then cook for yourself at home and in full awareness of what you are putting both onto your plate and into your body.
One of the easiest ways of introducing more whole foods into your daily diet is by trying to cook yourself as much as possible. Admittedly, busy schedules and hectic workdays are not really very helpful, but they shouldn’t be an excuse not to determine an effort in this sense either.
To make things easier for yourself in the future, choose one day of the week – preferably during the weekend – to get yourself organised for the days to come. If you buy fresh vegetables at the farmers’ market, then wash, chop, and separate them into either individual bags or mixes of your choice. These can be then stored in the refrigerator for simple to obtain salads or as a garnish that can be prepared in no time (by boiling, light sautéing, etc.).
Eggs can also be boiled in advance and either consumed as a breakfast item or in a lunch salad, for instance. Additionally, raw desserts can be put together very quickly if you have the right ingredients, so keep your refrigerator and pantry stocked with fresh or frozen fruit, whole grains, non-homogenized dairy, etc.
Flavour is a big part of commercially processed foods, so you would naturally want to replicate those aromas, but with much more wholesome results. Hot or mild spices, fresh herbs, seeds, and nuts are the go-to ingredients that can make anything from a salad to a soup or stew achieve restaurant-level deliciousness. Aside from adding a flavour kick, these also contain satiating and metabolic boosting substances of their own, which is definitely another bonus of using them on a regular basis.
Cooking can be an equally practical and empowering activity when it comes to long-term health and personal happiness. So portion your meals into single serving containers, label them accordingly, and you will be then able to enjoy a nutritious and filling meal every day of the week!
As previously mentioned, there is no denying that steering towards a whole foods diet is not something impossible, but neither a change to be taken as a light task.
The road to success is more often than not paved with little steps, so make it a habit out of acknowledging every small or big milestone you achieve in terms of consuming whole foods regularly. Whether it’s an extra apple instead of chips as a snack or a particularly wholesome salad recipe you’ve put into practice that day, make sure you notice your success and celebrate it as well. On the other hand, ‘cheating’ by eating processed foods won’t be the end of the world as you know it, but it is just as vital that you understand why you resorted to such processed foods instead of whole ones.
In most cases, cravings for sugary or fatty foods actually disguise thirst, a nutrient deficiency, glycemic fluctuations, different forms of psychological stress or simply boredom. Determining the root of your unhealthy regime can then aid you better understand your eating needs and, as a consequence, meet them through raw and minimally-processed foods.
As you progress with this type of antioxidant-rich and nutrient-filled type of dieting, you will start to notice an improvement in your general wellbeing, from a clearer complexion and increased nail and hair strength to weight loss, fewer chances of developing serious illnesses, and considerably meliorated psychological stability.