Updated: Nov 2, 2022
6 simple strategies for incorporating more whole foods in your diet.
Katie Dienes, BSN, RN
Whole Foods? Like the store?
No, not quite.
Though a great resource for buying whole foods, the store in and of itself is not what I’m talking about here.
From here on out, when I talk whole foods, I’m referring to things that come directly from the source. This means no packaging, no processing (or should I say bare minimum processing), no ingredient lists. Just plain, old fashion, straight-up food.
High quality animal products
Look at those beauties listed there! Ugh, I’m hungry already!
So anyway, moving on…
Why Whole Foods?
What’s the deal with whole foods? What makes them so important in our lives?
Whole foods are what will pack a powerful punch of nutrition and provide us with the building blocks that we need to function and thrive. Full of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants, phytonutrients and not to mention… DELICIOUSNESS, whole foods are hugely important for our health and wellbeing.
Without incorporating whole foods, there truly is no way to get the fuel that we need while avoiding the fuel that drives disease. Could you take a supplement everyday instead of eating whole foods? Sure. But if you’re doing that INSTEAD of eating whole foods, what are you eating in their place…? Might they be, disease provoking ultra processed food-like substances…?
Supplements are a topic for another day, and they certainly have their place but for now let’s stay focused.
Let's Get to it!
Now, you may be thinking this is all fine and dandy, but where do you start?
So let get into the reason you’re really here! Here are some quick tips to help get you started in your transition to eating a healthier, whole foods diet:
1. Eat the Rainbow
And no, I’m not talking Fruit Loops and Skittles people.
When I say eat the rainbow, I’m referring to the beautiful pigment of colors offered through various fruits and vegetables. We eat with our eyes first, and nothing beats seeing a beautifully bright and colorful plate. As an added benefit: the more color on our plate, the wider the array of powerful phytonutrients we’ll be getting. And those phytonutrients are essential to our health!
2. Start Small
Does the thought of transitioning from fast food to whole foods intimidate you a little? Not sure what to eat instead? That’s totally okay and those thoughts are completely normal!
You don’t have to overhaul your entire life and kitchen in one night, just start somewhere. Commit to adding 1 vegetable to each meal, just 1. See how it makes you feel, then you can start to gradually work your way up to adding more, and more, and more.
Before you know it, you’ll be wondering what you were ever afraid of!
3. Mind Your Meat
This one can feel a bit more overwhelming, but is something that warrants mentioning:
Ever hear the saying that red meat is bad? Egg yolks are bad! Only eat fish! Don’t eat any meat!
Does it give you a headache?
Here’s the thing about meat and animal products:
They are HUGELY important and beneficial in a well-balanced, whole foods diet. Now, if you choose not to eat meat or animal products for personal or ethical reasons, my hat’s off to you. I myself experimented with veganism for quite some time and though I felt better initially, it personally wasn’t for me. When I returned to a diet rich in high-quality animal protein I saw a huge turn around in my energy, strength, skin and overall health. The truth is, there are many nutrients that animal products provide that we simply can’t get from plant foods alone.
So the problem isn’t really with the meat itself, but really where it comes from. The bulk of our meat comes from what I’ll refer to as “industrial agriculture”, where animals are shuttled together in ill-fitting cages, pumped full of antibiotics and hormones, fed food that is anything but natural to them, prone to infection and disease, then we eat it. Sounds super appealing right? Ew. (Not to mention super sad to think about)
High-quality animal products, on the other hand, are raised in conditions that are conducive to their health, which in turn becomes conducive to OUR health. Animals raised in near-natural conditions with plenty of space to roam and fed on their natural food of choice, while being treated with the love and appreciation they deserve sounds much more appealing from an ethical and a health standpoint, does it not?
Some labels to look for when searching for high-quality meat include:
Grass fed-grass finished beef
Grass fed butter
Paster raised poultry & eggs
Wild caught sea food
4. Experiment With Sweets
Sweet tooth got you feeling stuck? I know mine did for quite some time!
And again, not Fruit Loops and Skittles here. When I say experiment with sweets, I’m talking naturally sweet whole foods.
Upping your intake of sweet alternatives such as:
Dark chocolate (85%+)
Can help you explore what your palette really enjoys and help to keep those brutal sugar cravings at bay.
5. Be Gentle With Yourself
If you’re the kind of person who can successfully stop something cold turkey and be successful long term in it then congratulations! But for those of you that are not in that small minority, this is a gentle reminder to be kind to yourself as you begin this venture.
Eating healthy isn’t a destination, but rather a journey full of beautiful twists and turns, ups and downs. To think that you’ll never have a piece of cake at a birthday party again, or to think that you’re suddenly “bad” for choosing the potato chips after a rough day at work is not being very fair or realistic with yourself.
Nobody, I repeat: NOBODY is “perfect” in their healthy eating journey. Healthy eating looks different for each person, as we all have bioindividual wants & needs. Instead of beating yourself up next time you reach for something that you feel like maybe you shouldn’t have, take a second to consider how that food fulfilled you:
Was it a sweet piece of pie that reminded you of a special event?
Brought back memories of cooking with grandma?
Or maybe it didn’t really serve a purpose at all and you were using it to fill a void.
Whatever the outcome, you know for next time & can use that response as information to empower you to make a healthier choice next time. No harm, no foul.
6. Be Unapologetically You
There is no one “right” way to eat, no one-size-fits all diet or approach that is going to work the same for everyone. The truth is, we are all unique beings with our own special, unique needs, and what works for some may not work for others. Use the concepts of healthy, whole foods eating as a guide, not a rigid, set-in-stone structure.
Don’t be afraid to branch out and try new things and experiment with what works for you. Maybe you’re the kind of person who thrives on some high-quality dairy, while others may find that dairy in any form really hinders their wellbeing.
Be unapologetically you and don’t let anyone try to tell you that what works for YOU is wrong, or that what works for THEM is what you should be doing. You are the only true expert of your body and its unique needs. Learn to listen to what it’s telling you and OWN that super power of yours. Forget what anyone else has to say about how “right” or “wrong” your healthful eating is for you.
Take a Deep Breath
Does any or all of this seem overwhelming? Not to worry! It may very well feel that way at first, but remember: you don’t not need to overhaul your life or your diet overnight.
Everyone starts somewhere, but the important thing is that you start. Once you get rolling with something that lights you up inside, you can continue to build on your healthy habits from there.
And there you have it!
6 simple strategies for getting started with your whole foods diet. Be sure to check out this week's YouTube episode of Katie's Corner now!
Looking for some individualized guidance and support!? A health coach is an excellent resource for just that! Head on over to www.kd20wellness.com to learn more about myself and what I offer, or simply click the link to book a discovery call directly with me!
Can’t wait to chat more, talk to you in the next one :)