Many people find that a whole foods lifestyle is intimidating, too expensive, or perhaps just a waste of time. Meal prep, special shopping, giving up some of their favorite processed foods, or being too busy to cook their own dinner are often some excuses that are given when people eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) are asked to try a whole foods lifestyle. What is a whole foods lifestyle exactly? It’s avoiding all processed foods, and eating in the way we were originally intended to. It’s choosing food made in our homes over processed or fast foods, and it’s being conscious about where our food comes from at the grocery store. By doing so, we eliminate almost every chance of developing disease, and spending our lives in the pharmacy, when they could have been spent shopping smarter. To help others see that a whole foods lifestyle isn’t only possible, but also worthy of every effort, check out a few of my tips below. I hope to show anyone that even the busiest schedules have room for a positive change, one step at a time.
1. Stop Buying Boxed
If you’re new to a whole foods lifestyle, it’s completely fine to start small, wherever you can. One of the first things I’d suggest anyone do is to simply stop buying boxed food. Buy plain, basic food. I know veggies, lean protein and healthy fats don’t look as exciting as a box of that colorful cereal or candy you love, but guess what? Whole foods actually fill you up and give you nutrition. Colorful boxes of cereal or candy are merely a waste of calories, and your money, no matter what the front of the package might tell you.
2. Stop Buying Canned
Instead of canned food, opt for the original food itself. Canned tomatoes are one of the worst sources of toxins, including the most well known BPA. Even those with BPA-free liners still contain heavy metals in the cans that are incredibly detrimental to your body. Instead of buying canned, opt for the real thing. Trust me ,there’s nothing like the taste of fresh tomatoes in a soup instead of canned, and fresh green beans are so much better (and lower sodium), than their canned versions.
3. Buy What’s on Sale
If you’re one of those people who turn away from a whole foods lifestyle because it seems expensive, try a tip I use every week. When shopping in the produce section, just stick to what’s on sale. At first, when you’re new to this, don’t fret if everything isn’t organic. If the cost isn’t much higher than conventional, then by all means, please choose organic, but if you’re on a budget, stick to what’s on sale instead of going for the “all or nothing” organic mindset.This will help you start eating more fruits and vegetables and show you that a whole foods lifestyle is doable, no matter how small or big your budget may be.
4. Try Frozen
You should most definitely avoid frozen meals, snacks, and even healthy treats sold in the freezer section, which are usually full of additives, sugars, or fake sugars. Instead, go for the plain frozen fruits and veggies. These are usually lower in pesticides than fresh conventional vegetables since the vegetable preparation of blanching them before freezing actually eliminates most of the pesticides, and if you can, opt for organic. All frozen fruits and veggies are frozen at their peak harvest, which means you’re getting more nutrition for your dollars. Also, I always suggest stocking up on these if you’re low on time, and low on money. Frozen veggies are especially cheap, and you never have to worry about them going bad.
5. Be Meat-smart
If you eat meat, and even eggs, and dairy, be smart about what kinds you buy. Conventional meat is full of anti-biotics, hormones, nasty fertilizers, pesticides, and toxic sludge! It’s better to not eat meat than to eat conventional meat. Instead, rotate your meats and buy a really high quality source. Choose chicken one week, or perhaps fish the next. Organic, Certified Humane Eggs are an even better option, and more budget friendly. Also, go for grass-fed and organic yogurt when you can. These might be a couple dollars more, but they are so much better for you. Being smart about what you buy from animal protein is one of the best things I’d suggest anyone do on a whole foods lifestyle. It teaches you to appreciate what real food is, and know when to avoid the fake stuff.
6. Try Vegetarian Proteins
Even if you don’t care a thing about being a veg-head like myself, I would still ask you to try some really delicious, whole foods vegetarian sources of protein. Raw nuts and seeds are pricey, but if you buy them in bulk, you get a steal of a deal. These are great to snack on in moderate portions, and are wonderful sources of protein. For your meals, two great suggestions that most people tend to like are lentils, which have a nutty, creamy taste and are easier to digest than beans, along with quinoa, a grain-free seed that is high in protein and cooks up like a grain. These two “superfoods” are high in protein, inexpensive and are easy to prepare, usually in just 15 minutes. They can also easily be cooked in a slow cooker or rice cooker while you’re at work. Did I mention they are about 90% cheaper per serving than meat? Yeah, now there’s a real reason to give them a go! Try them seasoned with some garlic, oregano, a dash of high quality sea salt and black pepper. It’s delicious!
7. Try a Whole Foods Smoothie
Breakfast is often the hardest struggle for people on a whole foods diet at first. The first thing I suggest if you’re short on time is a smoothie. Get a decent blender (high quality is optimal, but even a low grade will do), and add in 1 cup almond milk ( unsweetened and low calorie), 1 cup ice, 1 cup spinach, and ½ cup your favorite frozen fruit. Then, add in either ½ cup nonfat Greek yogurt, or 1 scoop of a clean, whole foods protein powder. I like plain hemp seed protein, along with a raw, vegan blend by Sunwarrior called Warrior Blend. This will give you 100% whole food nutrition for breakfast, all in a delicious smoothie. Feel free to add in cinnamon, some 100% cocoa powder, or even a dash of vanilla extract to enhance the taste. A smoothie can be made in 3 minutes, and guess what? You’ll never taste the spinach, I promise!
8. Keep It Basic
You might be tempted to approach a whole foods lifestyle with great zeal and zest at first. Slow down there! You’re not in a race, and trying to go too fast too soon might become exhausting. So, instead, keep your meals basic. No need to start going crazy with ingredients and far out recipes. Just make your meals from whole foods, and find recipes that suit those. Basic gluten-free whole oats with real blueberries and not jam is a perfect example. Instead of a sandwich at lunch, have a salad with some protein, vegetables, and some avocado or nuts. Dinner can be as simple as a cooked sweet potato, some steamed greens with garlic and onion, and your choice of protein or whole grain. Keep your meals simple. These are easier to prepare ahead of time, and they are wonderful sources of nutrition.
9. Meal Prep
Lastly, no matter how little time you have each week, please do try to do some form of meal prep. This can be as simple as spending 30 minutes on a Sunday afternoon chopping up some veggies to munch on as snacks during the week. Or, perhaps, it’s baking a pan of chicken or fish and a pan of baked sweet potatoes or roasted veggies to portion out for lunches. Throw some quinoa in your slow cooker in a huge batch, and portion that out into meals for the week too. These are all things that can easily be done in 1-2 hours on a Sunday afternoon, or whatever day works for you. I promise you’ll feel better doing this for your entire week, than sitting on the couch those extra two hours instead. Make use of what time you have, and your entire week will go smoother.
I hope you see that a whole foods lifestyle can be done, no matter what your budget, time allowance, or your food preferences. I know that living away from sugar, processed foods, and refined foods is hard at first, but it is so worth it! Start where you can and take these steps above. Before you know it, you’ll be so much healthier, happier, and more aware of where your food comes from and your money goes to. What tips do you have for living a whole foods lifestyle?