When I started my plant based journey 3 years ago, I thought the excess 20lbs that I’d been grudgingly carrying around since my late 30’s would suddenly disappear and I’d never again have to worry about my weight, or even think about what I was eating ever again. I though just eating a diet based in plant foods would be enough – how wrong I was!
You see, there’s a little secret when it comes to the plant based diet for weight loss that nobody told me about back then and has only just come to light now (for me anyway), and that is this: eating just any old plant based foods isn’t enough. Think vegan junk foods for starters such as chips, crisps, fries, vegan nuggets, burgers, sausages, cheeses, pasturised plant milks, SUGAR in all its forms, trans fats and other oils – ALL these baddies are technically plant based, right?
Now, I didn’t really think at the time that I ate junk foods at all, and especially did not eat most of the above. I am quite partial to the new mycoprotein burgers and sausages, and definitely LOVE (too much) my dark chocolate, but other than that I eat about 12 portions of fruits and veggies a day, so to my mind I was doing grand.
Why I wasn’t losing weight
I think my point is this: eating “healthier” types of plant foods (whatever they may be) just isn’t enough. Don’t become too reliant on shop bought burgers, sausages, nuggets, protein bars, coconut oil, and sweeteners such as xylitol, stevia and maple syrup. Even though most of these things may not be considered true junk foods, they do all have one thing in common – they are NOT ‘whole’ foods.
And this is one big lesson I recently learnt after doing more homework on the plant based diet and joining plant based social media groups. It’s eating ‘whole‘ food plant based that has all the amazing benefits I was looking for, and that includes weight loss.
On the average plant based diet I was still struggling to lose the weight I wanted to lose, so I knew something was out of sync. And I also knew I needed to lose if I was to become the role model for this lifestyle that I wanted to become, and luckily the solution was right in front of me the whole time. So, therefore I’ve begun another journey to yet another level of health, and I’m feeling and seeing the rewards already.
Moving towards ‘whole’ food plant based
So, what you might not get told with all the hype right now about veganism and plant based eating, is the fact that it’s actually the WHOLE food plant based diet that had all those amazing benefits that people are raving about. There’s not much mention of this, not even in the much raved about Netflix film ‘The Game Changers’.
Whole food plant based is quite literally a completely new level from anything else, and harder to do unfortunately, but I’m going to teach you the basics in this post.
Changes I have made so far to more WHOLE foods
- Started making my own almond milk, due to the fact that shop bought ones are not very healthy and often full of thickeners, sugars, preservatives and other not so great things depending on the brand. It’s really easy to make your own nut milks: you literally just soak your nuts for 24 hours starting them off in hot water, then blend in a high speed blender with water and a few dates for sweetness. Stain through a muslin cloth and you’re done. Or, you don’t even have to strain if you are just using your milk for cereals, as the lumps and graininess will just make it tastier, plus keep the milk more of a ‘whole’ food. If you do strain, then be sure to use the pulp for doggy biscuits/food filler; or just throw it in homemade muffins or cookies for extra bulk and fiber.
- I don’t buy shop bought mycoprotein/soya burgers, sausages, nuggets or any other shop bought isolated protein products anymore. You can buy whole food versions of these, you just have to check labels to make sure there’s no isolates or other rubbish. If you see the words mycoprotein or isolated pea, wheat or soy protein then you know it’s not a whole food.
- I now make my own plant based burgers from scratch using one of the many recipes online.
- I’ve cut down drastically the use of refined oils and fats, including coconut and olive oil, also vegan margarine’s, butter, dark chocolate (my one addiction), yogurts and cheeses. I still use them, but WAY more sparingly; in fact, pretty much anything you normally use oil for can be left out without too much difference to taste, you’d be surprised. I now dry fry things such as tofu, vegetables and burgers etc. OR, just add a little stock/water and lots of herbs and spices. Do remember to get your whole fats in in the form of avocados, nuts, seeds and quinoa, as it’s not healthy to leave them out completely
- Generally, I’m now eating more naturally sweet foods such as bananas, dates, other dried fruits (some are actually specifically good for fat burning), and even making my own cookies and cakes out of mashed up very ripe bananas, apple puree and homemade date paste.
What is a whole food plant based diet?
Whole food advocates steer clear of any food that has been refined or taken away from its original source, such as oils (coconut, olive, and other nut and vegetable oils), free sugars such as table sugar, maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, and sweeteners such as stevia and xylitol. Also, juices are off and smoothies are on due to the fact that a juice has had its fibers extracted, and a smoothie can be made with whole fruits and veggies. You get the gist.
Even though these foods are considered healthy by many, they are also fractured foods that have been extracted from their original source and usually have had their fibers taken out. The school of thought is that nature intends us to eat the ‘whole’food as it is, because it’s already perfect. So, when we refine it we lose nutrients and fiber, therefore making it higher GI and also easier to over consume, which makes sense when you think about it.
So, moral of the story: try to keep your plant foods as whole as possible if you wish to receive the greatest health benefits. Mother nature makes things already perfect; and there is much to choose from so it’s not as hard as you may think.
Whole plant foods list
- NUTS – cashews, peanuts Brazil nuts, macadamia, almonds, hazelnuts, chestnuts, walnuts, pine nuts, pecans, coconut.
- SEEDS – Pumpkin, sunflower, chia, hemp, flax.
- 100% PEANUT/NUT BUTTERS
- HOMEMADE OIL-FREE HUMMUS
- WHOLE FOOD BURGERS AND SAUSAGES
- ORGANIC TOFU
- ALL FRUITS
- ALL VEGETABLES
- NO ADDED SUGAR DRIED FRUITS
- PULSES AND LEGUMES – Chickpeas, lentils (red, green and puy), black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, cannellini, flageolet and butter beans.
- HERBS AND SPICES
- WHOLEWHEAT – Flours, flakes, pasta.
- BUCKWHEAT – Flours, grouts and flakes, noodles and pasta.
- MILLET – whole, flakes, puffed and flour
- AMARANTH – whole, flakes, puffed and flour
- QUINOA – whole, flakes and flour
- PEARL BARLEY
- OATS AND OATMEAL
- WHOLEGRAIN RICES
- 100% OATCAKES
- 100% ICE CAKES
- 100% CORN CAKES
- HOMEMADE NUT MILKS
Benefits I have noticed on WFPB so far
I may not be at 100% yet, but even with being about 90% whole food plant based I have started to notice some small but significant changes, such as:-
- My stomach just feels better, somehow lighter now that it’s not trying to digest too many oils.
- I’ve lost a couple of pounds in weight (something that I was struggling massively with).
- My skin and eyes are clearer and brighter. My skin was good before due to my general plant based diet and consumption of so many fruits and vegetables, but it’s definitely got even better.
- I’m pretty sure I have less food/sugar cravings than before.
- I have more energy. I especially notice this at the gym, or when I’m swimming. Also, if I eat a whole foods meal before exercise I am sustained for longer.
- My mood has improved, especially around hormonal times of the month.
Losing weight on the plant based diet
When it comes to plant foods, keeping them as whole as possible will mean greater benefits, especially when it comes to weight loss. In fact, being a member of quite few online plant based groups and communities, I have heard it said by members many times that once you start adding more whole foods to your diet you will start losing excess weight naturally.
It’s often the hidden refined oils and fats that we consume way to many of that are the problem, so sticking to 90% minimum whole foods will help negate the health risks of too many oils.
Keeping foods in their natural state
You can take your health to any level you like depending on the amount of effort you are willing to put into educating yourself, learning new ways of preparing food, and forming new habits around food.
One huge step in the right direction is to not only keep foods as whole as possible, but also to keep heat treatment and prep to a minimum. It’s true that some foods are actually more nutritious for being cooked such as tomatoes, potato, carrots and spinach (all of these are better heated due to the release of their antioxidants during the cooking process), but for the most part a highly raw diet will literally take your health to uncharted heights.
How to incorporate more raw foods into your diet
There are lots of little tips and tricks to get more raw foods in, even if you are very unused to thinking and eating this way. Here’s some of mine:-
- Make your own almond milk to use on your morning cereal, or on this amazing fat burning muesli which is pretty much raw too! Plus add more fresh, chopped fruit on top.
- Fill your fruit bowl high and eat fruit as your snacks.
- Always eat raw (not roasted or salted) nuts and seeds.
- Make lots of homemade smoothies with green veggies and detoxifying superfood powders.
- Make lots of salads for lunches and dinners. You can easily make them more filling by using nuts, seeds, sweetcorn, grains, avocado and dried fruits, then tossing in a thick and hearty dressing. It then becomes a meal in itself.
- Keep chopped up vegetable sticks in your refrigerator for when you fancy a go-to snack. Great veggies to use are celery, cucumber, carrots, bell peppers, broccoli and cauliflower.
- Eat fruit salads for deserts and liven them up with grated lime zest, chopped nuts and seeds.
Food combining for complete meals
If you want to stay satiated and full, then it’s good to get some low GI carbs, protein and healthy fats at your main meals. This way you will be less likely to snack in-between meals, thus helping to keep the weight off. Here’s a chart of the different food groups for your reference.
Gradually converting your diet to a more whole food plant based way will bring about some great health benefits for the future. Don’t feel like you need to make ALL these changes at once as studies show that you are much more likely to stick to bite-size chunks (excuse the pun) when it comes to forming new habits and building new neural pathways in your brain.
Thank you for visiting Zestforever today, please don’t forget to join up below↓↓↓ for your dietitian approved 1st week meal plan with shopping list. It will give you an amazing start in learning how to put nutritionally complete meals together, and will also set you on the right path moving forward in your plant based lifestyle.