What is a Whole Food Plant Based Diet?

Whole Food Plant Based Diet WFPB


Full disclosure: Sometimes I eat pizza. Full, cheesy, greasy, not-at-all-good-for-you pizza. And cake. I live my life in full abundance and don’t follow any extreme all-or-nothing diet or lifestyle plans.

The diet that follows is simply meant as a guideline to assist in your pursuit of a healthier lifestyle. It is in no way meant as a moral or ethical stance and is not meant to be taken as a strict or rigid set of rules on how to eat. As a rule of thumb, I follow this diet approximately 90% of the time, with the other 10% of my food choices being based on intuitive eating. Simply put: Sometimes we all need a little cake. Don’t make yourself wrong for doing so occasionally. 

What is a WFPB Diet?

If you’ve been wondering what a Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB) diet is, you’re not alone. This term has been popping up everywhere lately from our favourite health food bloggers to industry news articles. In fact, the hashtag #wfpb has over 600K posts on Instagram. But with so many different labels out there now like “vegan” “plant based” and “flexitarian”, many people aren’t sure just what it means. So, what is a WFPB diet anyway? And why is it so popular?

A WFPB diet is a diet that encourages the consumption of whole or minimally processed foods and a reduction or avoidance of animal products. Think clean eating meets a not-so-strict vegan diet.

When I was in my mid-twenties I thought I ate relatively healthy, but I always felt really tired and had some fairly bad mood swings. Eventually, after hearing the advice over & over again, I decided to cut refined sugar out of my diet. But when I realized that it was hidden in almost everything I was eating, I was shocked.  Why is there sugar in my potato chips?! And what the heck is maltodextrin?

This made me start to think about what is put into my food. Should we be consuming all these additives? Why are we even eating this way? I mean, food was fine as it was right? And we’ve evolved to eat actual food, not food-like substances. 

A WFPB diet consists of two elements:

  1. Whole Foods: Whole foods are single ingredient foods that haven’t been processed at all or have had minimal processing to them. For instance, almonds are a whole food. And if you grind them down you will make almond flour and eventually almond butter. Since none of the nutrients have been stripped from the almonds in this process, these are all considered whole foods and fine for a WFPB diet.
  2. Plant-Based Foods: Plant-based foods are foods that come from plants. Fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes are all foods that come from plants. When consumed in their “whole” or minimally processed forms they are all acceptable on a WFPB diet.  

WFPB and Veganism often get confused because the term “plant based” is often used interchangeably with vegan. But they aren’t the same type of diet for a number of reasons.

A WFPB diet encourages whole food eating. Oreos are technically vegan, as is a ton of fast food and junk food. Vegan diets consist of eating only foods that do not contain animal products or by-products, but the focus is not necessarily on eating whole foods. Although some vegans do eat a whole food diet, some do not. 


Why Choose a WFPB Diet?

There’s a reason so many people are choosing this diet and lifestyle. On a WFPB diet you have more energy and your moods and emotions level out due to a reduction in sugar crashes. You have improved mental functionality, less “brain fog” and have clearer skin. 

Elements of the WFPB diet have also been implicated in a number of studies to reduce the incidence or control heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and cognitive decline.

I’m not one to cite unsubstantiated health claims. But the science is in, folks, and a WFPB diet does seem to assist with a number of diseases. A diet – ANY diet - is in no way a cure for all that ails you, but the research is showing a trend toward this being a very beneficial diet for our health. 

What Can I Eat on a WFPB Diet?

The beauty of a WFPB diet is that you can enjoy most foods. WFPB is all about abundance and doesn’t limit you based on calories, carbs, fat, or any other macro you can name. It’s not complicated but rather is about simplicity. Eat as many of the foods below as you wish with at least half of your focus being on fruits & vegetables. Incorporate lots of green vegetables in your meals.  

  • Fruits: Bananas, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, papaya, melon, mango, avocado, etc.
  • Vegetables: Carrots, broccoli, kale, lettuce, cucumber, celery, potatoes, squash, onion, tomatoes, etc.
  • Whole Grains: Whole wheat, barley, rye, oats, brown rice, quinoa, etc.
  • Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pine nuts, etc
  • Legumes: Peanuts, black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc.
  • Seeds: Sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, etc.
  • Spices & herbs: Garlic, basil, oregano, cilantro, dill, etc.
  • Beverages: Water, sparkling water*, coffee, tea, naturally sweetened kombucha, plant based milks*
  • Condiments*: Lime Juice, lemon juice, soy sauce (or tamari), guacamole, mustard, coconut cream, tahini, honey, maple syrup

* Check ingredient list first to ensure there are no additives. “Natural flavour” isn’t as natural as it sounds and is indeed an additive.

** A note on oils: Many WFPB diets encourage eliminating oils from your diet. The reason for this is because they considered “moderately processed” foods and therefore don’t qualify as a whole food. As a personal preference, I do use oils in my food in moderation. When I use them, I choose high quality ones such as Extra Virgin Olive Oil & Cold-Pressed Organic Virgin Coconut Oil. You can choose to include these in your diet or eliminate them. The main thing is to incorporate a WFPB diet into your life in a way you can sustain it. So, if that means including oil, you should feel free to do so in moderation.

What to Avoid on a WFPB Diet

  • Refined or partially refined sugar: Table sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, sucrose etc.
  • Additives: Maltodextrin, artificial sweeteners (i.e. Splenda), msg, guar gum, dextrose, etc.
  • Processed or Boxed Foods*: Microwavable meals, chips, cookies, crackers, granola bars, etc.
  • Fast Food: Burgers, pizza, fries, chicken nuggets, etc.
  • Animal Products: Chicken, fish, beef, pork, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, whey, etc.

 *Not all convenience foods are off limits, although most are. Check your ingredient list. If there are only whole food ingredients on your box of crackers (e.g. Mary’s Crackers), then you are good to go.

It's All About Abundance

As you can see, the list of the foods you can eat is far longer than the list of foods to avoid. A WFPB diet is all about abundance and I encourage you to find new and creative ways to incorporate all your favourite whole foods into your diet.  For some ideas, check out our recipes here.


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