In this ultimate guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about the WFPB Diet including the benefits of adopting this lifestyle, how you can heal your body, and the 5 essential steps to get you started.
With so many conflicting diet information out there it’s near impossible to know what to eat to feel your best.
In truth, we’re all different people with different needs, but one thing is for certain, we need to eat more plants!
In this article, you’ll also find a beginner’s WFPB diet shopping list, meal plan, and suggested readings.
Be sure to grab my FREE Plant-Based Fridge and Pantry Staples Shopping Guide.
What is a whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet?
Simply stated, following a whole food plant-based diet means you consume primarily natural whole plant foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, tubers, and legumes, with a minimal amount of animal protein and dairy (10% or less) if you choose.
Whole Foods are natural foods that are unrefined and not processed.
Plant-Based are foods that come from plants and are not derived from animals or any type of animal ingredients including animal protein, milk, eggs, and honey.
Many people following a plant-based diet do not consume any animal protein or dairy, while some choose to consume these foods in small amounts.
Whole food plant-based ingredients are as close to the way nature intended as possible, meaning minimally processed, not packaged, or originating from a factory.
What are the health benefits of following a WFPB diet?
The overwhelming support through academic studies and research demonstrates that a plant-based lifestyle greatly reduces your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.
Food has the power to deteriorate our health but also has the amazing power to heal our bodies. When you eliminate processed food and fill up on natural whole plant-based foods your body has the power to heal itself in many (not all) cases.
Improved Heart Health
A plant-based diet has the power to greatly improve your heart health. Following this diet can help you lose weight, lower your cholesterol, and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Reduced Risk of Developing Cancer
It also has the potential to help you fight cancer. In the article How Plant-Based Foods Help Fight Cancer by the Mayo Clinic, they explain that those who eat less meat and fill up on healthy nutrient-rich foods such as plants, and legumes consume more phytochemicals that protect cells from damage.
Those that eat plant-based also come more fiber which is also associated with a lower risk of developing cancer.
In addition, dietician Angie Murad of the Mayo Clinic, suggests that those following a vegan diet consume fewer calories on average, which helps them to maintain a healthy weight, which reduces the risk of developing some types of cancer.
Reduces Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes
In many cases following this lifestyle has the potential to not only reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes but also to reverse it. By consuming low-calorie, nutrient-rich food sources, and reducing or eliminating high fat, high sugar foods, you can improve and in many cases reverse type 2 diabetes.
Weight Loss, Improve Energy, and Reduce Inflammation
In addition, a plant-based lifestyle promotes weight loss, and increases your intake of fiber, which has proven to lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. When consuming fruits and vegetables and eliminating saturated fat found in animal products you could even see improvements in your skin and vision.
When you combine a healthy diet, moderate exercise, and stress reduction practices you’ll have the full power to reverse overwhelm caused by chronic stress, and heal your body from within.
How does a plant-based lifestyle help the environment?
In addition, a plant-based lifestyle helps the environment and does not promote animal cruelty. Whatever your reason for desiring to make the transition, you are probably feeling overwhelmed, and confused.
You can go one of two ways. You can completely eliminate all animal products from your diet, or you can take a more moderate approach and reduce your intake to 10% or less. Whichever you choose you will making a commitment to fill your diet with mostly plant -based foods.
What can you eat on a WFPB diet?
There are so many delicious foods you can eat when following this lifestyle. I’ve created this infographic to help you visualize your plate when making the shift to this new lifestyle.
- Fruits-You can eat any and all types of fruits including berries, bananas, apples, and more!
- Vegetables-All types of vegetables are allowed from lettuces, spinach, kale, corn, and more!
- Tubers-These are root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, and sweet potatoes.
- Whole Grains-This includes brown rice, quinoa, oats, barley, farro, and whole grain cereals. You can also use whole grain flours to create baked goods.
- Legumes-This includes all types of beans, lentils, and pulses.
- Nuts and Seeds-Small amounts of nuts, nut butters, and seeds including almonds, cashews, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, and more!
- Tofu/Tempeh-Made from soy beans tofu and tempeh are allowed in moderation.
- Plant-Based Milks-Unsweetened plant-milks such as almond, rice, soy, cashew, coconut, and others are also allowed in moderation.
What foods are avoided on a whole food plant-based diet?
- Animal Protein-This includes red meat, chicken, pork, turkey, fish, and anything that is derived from an animal.
- Dairy-This includes milk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, butter, and anything that contains dairy products.
- Eggs-No eggs including egg whites.
- Oils-While oil is not derived from animals, it is processed and contains high amounts of fat. It is also not nutrient rich. So all oils including vegetable oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil are avoided.
- Sugar-Refined sugars are avoided, however natural unrefined sugars are allowed in moderation.
- Refined Flours-This includes white flour, all purpose flour, and any other type of refined flour.
Is a WFPB diet the same as vegan?
In my article Plant-Based vs. Vegan: What’s the Difference I go into a more in-depth explanation.
Vegan Diet-If following a vegan lifestyle you do not consume any animal products including meat, dairy, eggs, and honey. However, a vegan diet does not eliminate sugars, refined flours, oils, or other types of processed ingredients that are derived from plant sources.
Whole Food Plant-Based Diet-When following this diet you also avoid animal products like vegans, but you also avoid all types of processed ingredients including oils, sugars, and refined flours.
How to Start a WFPB Diet for Beginners – In 5 Simple Steps
If you’re ready to ease into the transition to a plant-based lifestyle, I’ve identified 3 essential steps to get you started.
Step 1: Reduce Your Intake of Dairy
Begin by reducing your dairy intake, and try subbing with a plant-based milk such as almond, cashew, soy, or rice milk. Breakfast is a good time to try subbing out milk.
A green spinach apple smoothie in the morning made with almond milk, or coconut milk in your coffee is a good place to start.
Try different milk alternatives to see which one you like the best. When choosing a milk substitute make sure you pick one that is unsweetened to reduce added sugar.
You can also try making your own plant milk with this recipe for homemade oat milk.
If you’re not a milk drinker, begin with removing cheese from one of your meals each day. This is difficult for many who can’t imagine their life without cheese. If you’re a regular cheese eater, try removing it as your go-to snack and pick up a fruit or vegetable instead.
I do not recommend buying processed vegan cheese alternatives. If you’re used to eating regular cheese these are going to disappoint. They do not taste like real cheese, and often don’t melt the same way. In addition, they are highly processed which does not follow within a WFPB diet.
Step 2: Reduce Your Intake of Animal Protein/ Increase Your Intake of Fruits and Vegetables
Animal protein and fish are greatly reduced when converting to a whole food plant-based lifestyle.
Begin with removing animal protein from your lunch, and try adding a plant-based protein in its place such as beans, seeds, nuts, or quinoa. Try this delightful Vegan Tuna Salad Sandwich! It’s an easy recipe that has become one of my family’s favorites.
When you have a good handle on lunch move towards removing animal protein from one of your dinners each week until you’ve reduced to one or two nights a week of animal protein, or none at all.
This recipe for Vegan Sloppy Joes made with lentils is a big hit in our house!
At your meals increase your intake of vegetables and whole grains. Half your plate vegetables, a little less than a quarter of your plate a whole grain, and a quarter of your plate plant-based protein is a helpful visual when putting together your meals.
Step 3: Embrace Whole Grains
Carbs get a bad rep. Not all carbs are created equal. There are carbs that are high in fiber and nutrients, and then there are carbs that are high in sugar and low in nutrients.
While the first is essential to ensuring you get a balance of the nutrients you need for optimal health, the latter is sure to leave you nutrient deficient and increase your intake of sugar, putting you on a crash and burn roller coaster of high sugar intake.
You want to eat carbs that come in their whole and natural state. That means bananas, squash, potatoes, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain breakfast cereal, whole wheat bread, green peas, and corn.
These foods are delicious, filling, and high in fiber and nutrients that will keep you feeling fuller longer.
Embrace whole grains, but avoid processed grains such as anything that is listed as having enriched wheat flour, crackers, chips, pretzels, and cookies. If it’s packaged avoid it. If it’s in its natural state, embrace it.
Begin by going through your pantry and donating or throwing out any products that contain refined flour. Look at the ingredients and if you see “enriched flour” throw it out. Get rid of crackers, pasta, bread, bagels, pitas, cereals, and anything that does not include whole grains.
Stock up on whole-grain products. Use my Fridge and Pantry Guide as a tool.
It can be challenging to embrace grains if you’ve been on a high protein high-fat diet in the past. Read my article about 3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Deny Yourself Carbs for more information.
Step 4: Consume Healthy Fats
Prior to transitioning to a WFPB diet, you were likely getting most of your fat from dairy and animal protein.
Now you will get your fat from nuts, nut butter, seeds, and avocados, and limited amounts of oil.
As I mentioned above, it is recommended to eliminate oil on a WFPB diet, while some people use it sparingly.
This is up to you. If you choose to use oil in your cooking go for high-quality olive oil or coconut oil.
When sautéing vegetables, use vegetable broth. Want a salad dressing, use vinegar, need oil for baking, try applesauce.
There are so many creative ways you can get around using oil in cooking and in dressings. Check out my 18 Oil-Free Salad Dressing and Sauce Recipes for some ideas!
Step 5: Increase Your Plant Protein
Plants have protein! I know, it seems crazy, but it’s true!
Vegetables actually contain protein, but the highest concentration of protein is going to come from beans, lentils, quinoa, and peas. You will also get protein from nuts and seeds, but I count this towards healthy fats.
Throw some beans in your salads, make a soup, a chili, a bean burger.
Here are some of my favorite recipes to get you started!
I’ve compiled a list of the 10 Best Plant-Based Diet Books. You’ll find informational books from reputable doctors and scientists. In addition, you’ll find easy cookbooks to help you with your journey.
A few of the books included are How Not to Die by Michael McGregor, MD. This is an in-depth look at the science and research behind adopting a plant-based lifestyle. It also shows how it will transform your health. McGregor also goes into the “how” of making a plant-based diet work in your life.
T. Colin Campbell is one of the pioneers behind the plant-based diet. The China Study is the largest study done regarding the relationship between our health and our diet. For an in-depth research study on how changing your diet can change your health, this is the go-to!
I also recommend his book Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition.
Get your whole food plant-based meal plan!
If you’re ready to jump in and start cooking I’ve got a collection of easy and delicious recipes to try. Be sure to grab my complete WFPB Family Meal Plan with recipes and a shopping list to get you started!
The journey towards a plant-based lifestyle is a learning process. Some people are ready to embrace the challenges all at once, while others want to step into the transition. Reducing dairy and animal protein, embracing whole grains, increasing intake of fruits and vegetables and plant protein will go a long way in helping you look and feel better on the inside and out.
For more information about starting a WFPB diet, check out these additional resources!
- Plant-Based Vegan Grocery List for Beginners
- Top 10 Vegan Kitchen Tools
- How to Raise Plant-Based Kids
- Tips for Picky Eaters to Embrace Plant-Based Foods