Eating right doesn’t have to be complicated. When people try to lose weight or eat healthy, they make extremely complicated rules. They place restrictions on themselves about everything. Dieters hold beliefs that they can’t eat carbs or that fat is bad for them. Soon, they can count on one hand the foods they can actually eat. People worry about counting every calorie and exercising to burn off extra calories. This approach can work for a little while, but it isn’t sustainable in the long run. Restricting certain foods, counting calories, and exercising to burn calories creates a negative approach to food. Food is something to be enjoyed; creating a negative experience around food results in the yo-yo weight gain and loss we see so often. A whole food diet is the best way to conquer your health.
How do you create a sustainable approach around food? It’s actually a lot simpler than you think. A lifestyle of healthy nutrition begins with an unprocessed whole food diet. There is no evidence that one certain type of food or macronutrient is “bad” for you. Each person is different; you will have a different response to a piece of whole grain bread than the next person. The key is to base your diet around unprocessed foods. Unprocessed whole foods fill you up and leave you satisfied. They give you the macro and micronutrients to power your day. It is a simple approach to begin building healthy nutrition habits for life.
Why is a Whole Food Diet Superior?
A Whole food diet provides sustained energy throughout the day and increases satiety. Try eating the same calories of candy and chicken. Which one fills you up more? Which approach leaves you feeling hungry an hour later? Whole, unprocessed chicken leaves you satisfied and gives you the nutrients you need. You can lose weight eating the same amount of calories in chicken and candy, but the candy diet is incredibly unstainable. You will increase your cravings, create nutrient deficiencies, and increase stress. My nutrition certification company Precision Nutrition has a great article on the differences between processed and whole food diet calories.
Besides sustaining energy and satiety, a whole food diet can also increase thermogenic effects. This means that your body will take more energy to break it down. A Whole food diet increases your metabolic rate so that you can eat more and still burn the same amount of energy. The benefits of a whole food diet are numerous. A calorie really isn’t a calorie.
What is a Whole Food Diet?
You would be very surprised at how companies can alter a whole food to make is something processed. The one rule that is almost always true for a whole food is that it is unaltered. It is coming to you in the state that it was grown or cultivated. An apple comes from a tree while apple juice is processed and contains added ingredients such as sugar or preservatives. Often the best way to pick out a whole unprocessed food is by the ingredient list. If it contains ingredients you know like water, chicken, or milk, then it is much more unprocessed. When you don’t understand anything on the list, you should be worried.
The easiest way to pick out whole foods is to buy fresh and local. Fresh food doesn’t contain a host of ingredients or preservatives. Meat like chicken, beef, wild caught salmon, and turkey have one ingredient! It’s the same with fresh vegetables and fruits. They don’t come in a package or box; you know exactly where they came from. This should be your go-to foods! Bonus points for buying local. Local means fresher with more micronutrients.
How to Add in More Whole Foods
Adding in whole foods can be a process, but it creates health for life. Too much of our diets are centered on processed, prepackaged foods designed for convenience. As a result, people don’t know how to prepare food from scratch. Switching to unprocessed food may sound easy, but it can be a bit of a process. I recommend working on one meal at a time. Keep your other meals the same and work on adding in an unprocessed ingredient to a meal you are struggling with. This could be frying some eggs in the morning or eating a salad instead of fries. You could even buy a precooked rotisserie chicken at the store. Remember something is better than nothing and good is often better than perfect. Don’t go into healthy eating with an all or nothing mindset. Make small changes along a continuum, and before you know it you’ll be transitioning to a whole food diet.
Cooking skills and meal prep can also help you stick to a whole food diet. These are skills to develop that take time. Start small and build. Cook easy things like eggs or baked chicken to start. The more complicated the ingredient list, the less likely you are to cook. Cook everything in large batches. You can freeze leftovers and eat the rest at another meal. Pretend you are cooking for double the people. Check out this infographic on how to do better weekly meal prep.
How to Stay Unprocessed on the Road
Eating a whole food diet at home can be all well and good, but these strategies can go out the window when on the road. People often use traveling as an excuse to eat fast food or highly processed foods. How do you keep up the good habits you have built while traveling?
In some aspects, it’s easier to eat whole foods while on the road. Food in other countries is often much more local. In the developing world, it’s much cheaper to walk out your front door and grab the lettuce from your garden. Local restaurants and street vendors use these ingredients to make tasty dishes. Go to local restaurants and avoid the fast food chains to get whole foods by proxy! Even treats like ice cream will come from the cow around the corner! Break the “travel norm” and eat healthy on the road.
In developed countries, you may have many more temptations. Find restaurants that use a whole food diet. Usually, these are health conscious restaurants such as farm to table or vegetarian. Avoid foods cooked in vegetable oil and opt for grilled or baked instead. Centering your meals on a salad or vegetables is a great method. Carry some whole food snacks to avoid temptations. Check out my comprehensive post for eating right at home and on the road. Also, check out my post on my four tips for better nutrition while traveling.
Eat a Whole Food Diet to Create Better Nutrition Habits
A whole food diet is the first step to better nutrition. They help you avoid the up and down weight loss that we have all experienced. They keep you satisfied and they nourish your body. To create a lifestyle of good health around whole foods:
- Understand the differences between a calorie of whole foods and a calorie of processed foods
- Look at ingredients and packaging to get unprocessed ingredients
- Buy one ingredient foods
- Buy local and fresh
- Add in more whole foods at your own pace
- Learn how to cook and meal prep
- Eat whole foods during your travels
Whole unprocessed foods are the backbone of any healthy diet. They keep you healthy at home and on the road. It is one of the first steps towards creating nutrition that will last a lifetime. Take these simple steps to change your body and your life.
How do you integrate more whole foods into your diet? Where do you shop for the best food? How do you find unprocessed food on the road? Let me know in the comments!
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