An Eating Guide
Choosing a high-quality diet and fueling yourself consistently is one of the purest forms of self-care. What we eat influences a large part of how we feel and function – it also protects health and quality of life. We all know that modern medicine can keep us alive well into our 80, 90s, etc. but we want to live those long lives as vibrant, active people – not bedridden or with severe restrictions. Lifestyle, especially nutrition, is how we do this.
YOUR NUTRITION CHALLENGE: adopt a whole-food eating pattern.
This approach is commonly called “clean” eating but it has nothing to do with cleanliness, or dirtiness, or any of that. It is centered on choosing unprocessed, or minimally processed, real food. Foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. If you can envision the path the food took to get to you – and it’s a simple path – it’s a quality choice (here’s an example: apples!). If you must think really hard about a food’s origin and images of chemicals, machines and people in lab coats come to mind, we want to choose something less processed (these lab-created foods (sticking with our apple theme) include things like apple jack's cereal, apple poptarts, or sour apple jolly ranchers).
SO WHAT DO I EAT?
Produce: any and all fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables! As much as possible. They can be eaten raw, sautéed, roasted, grilled, baked, and so much more. If you want to lower the fat content of your veggies, omit the oil in most recipes and use parchment paper to prevent sticking on pans.
Aren’t veggies and fruits carbs? Aren’t those bad? We want you to focus on the whole food and less on the macronutrient. Carbohydrates are life-giving, rich fiber sources which feed our microbiome, manage our weight and hunger, and help manage blood sugar levels (fiber slows uptake of glucose).
I don’t like vegetables. Not even one? What about peppers? Onions? Either way, taste buds CAN change! If you give time and exposure to new foods, you can slowly adapt to the new flavors and textures. Our senses have been overloaded with processed sugar, fat and salt. Once we remove this, there is a time where our body must recalibrate. Give yourself this time – it’s worth it.
Beans / Lentils / Legumes: a powerhouse of fiber, carbohydrate and protein, these little guys really do it all. Canned or dried are fine. If using dried beans, make sure to soak or use a pressure cooker. For canned, look for no sodium or rinse the beans before use.
Beans always give me gas: That’s natural. You can reduce this by soaking your beans, cooking them well, chewing and eating slowly, or reducing the portioning until your gut acclimates. Digestive enzymes, like Beano, taken before the meal can be wonderful in reducing any discomfort. Your body will acclimate – be patient.
Nuts and Seeds: Choose dry roasted and unsalted – better yet, raw is a great choice but is not always as appetizing. The main thing to remember about nuts and seeds is that they pack a punch energy wise. Be mindful about portioning: sprinkle on salads, in oatmeal, make a DIY trail mix, or enjoy directly but keep portions to ¼ cup or less.
Fun Food Alert: Put flaxseed meal and chia seeds on your radar (and store in the fridge!). These are wonderful sources of omega 3 fatty acids. Simply sprinkle 1 TBSP of flaxseed on oatmeal before eating, mix into a smoothie, or try Chia Seed pudding (so easy to make and delicious!).
Nut Butters: Look for 1 ingredient on the label. We don’t need sugar, fat or salt to make them and this is gets our taste buds used to super sweet things.
Grains: Whole grains are a wonderful source of vitamins, fiber and energy! Typically, grains are soaked and cooked in water. They will expand in volume so ½ cup of dry grains may produce 1 to 1.5 cups worth! Whole grains include quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, oats / oatmeal (steel cut, rolled/old-fashioned, or groats are the best options, but quick oats can help, too!), brown rice, farro, etc. We can also process grains into minimally processed products like breads, crackers, and pastas. We want to keep the ingredients on these minimal and look for 100% whole wheat or whole grain as the first ingredient.
Plant Protein: Plants have all the protein we need in them – just how do you think elephants, bison and gorillas get so powerful? Some classic plant-based protein sources include tofu and tempeh. We also have options like seitan or textured vegetable protein but pay attention to the ingredients here. It’s easy to go from a minimally processed food into a super one by how much is added or taken away (I’m looking at you, Impossible burgers). Other whole food sources of plant proteins already mentioned include legumes, lentils, and beans. Grains even have a nice chunk of protein in them!
Animal Protein: If this is a part of your diet, we recommend eating it a few times per week vs. every day (this is the pattern of the world’s longest living people!). Please also focus on including only humanely raised, sustainable animal proteins. We cannot recommend eating red meat or processed meat (like sausages, bacon, etc.) as it is related to increased risk of colon cancer. Meat should be a VERY small part of your diet. If you choose to forego (I encourage you to try!), I promise you will not be protein deficient or any of that nonsense. Read more about plants and protein here.
Herbs & Seasonings: A quality diet should be delicious! That all comes down to the herbs and seasoning used to spice it up. These also pack a huge nutritional punch so feel free to experiment.
Condiments: Also a must for making food delicious! We recommend simple ones like vinegars, small amounts of high-quality plant oils, mustard, ketchup, etc. If the list has a lot of unrecognizable items listed (or more than 5 grams added sugar per serving), it might be time to simplify.
What does this eating style not include? We want you to limit or avoid dairy products (milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, etc.), simple table sugar (opt for a drizzle of maple syrup, date syrup or agave when needed), high fructose corn syrup, deep fried foods, packaged snack foods, coconut or palm oil, and all highly processed food as much as you can.
EASY SWAPS FOR WHOLE FOOD EATING
Highly Processed Food
Whole or Low Processed Alternative
Olive Oil Avocado Hummus Tahini
Unsweetened Oat Milk
Unsweetened Soy Milk
Unsweetened Almond Milk
Unsweetened Pea Milk
Air Fried Potatoes
Chip Cut Carrots
Corn Tortillas cut and baked at 350 degrees for 10 minutes
White Bread, Tortillas
Whole Grain Bread (first ingredient 100% whole wheat)
Whole Wheat Tortillas
I like Ezekiel Brands, Dave's Killer Bread, Sprout's Sourdough or Tortilla Factory
Saltines or White Crackers (Ritz)
Triscuits (Reduced Fat)
Mary's Gone Crackers
Cashew Cheeses (so many recipes!)
Sausage or Bacon
Flavored Soda Waters
Fruit Infused Water
Hibiscus Tea (unsweet)
Green, black or herbal tea
Eat the whole fruit (orange!)
Maple Syrup (the real stuff!!)
For baking, unsweet applesauce or mashed banana can do wonders!
WHOLE FOOD RECIPES
There are so many delicious and wonderful recipes out there! Check out our recipe page for some ideas or websites we love (Including those from the sample meal plan or at least similar ones).
SAMPLE MEAL PLAN
One of the most challenging parts of changing nutrition is seeing how it all fits together! To help, we’ve created a sample meal plan, but we strongly encourage you to customize while maintaining a whole food diet. And yes, this works for the whole family, too – nutritious foods are nutritious for everyone.
A note on timing: It’s important to give your body regular access to fuel! We recommend not skipping meals – instead, aim to eat every 3-4 hours. Read more about this in the Intentional Nutrition section.