Did you know that according to CDC (Center for Disease Control & Prevention), only 1 in 10 adults in America get the minimum recommended 1 ½ cups of fruits and 2- 3 cups of vegetables in a day?
3 years ago, when I started tracking my food intake, I was shocked to notice that I wasn’t even eating half the minimum recommended vegetables and fruits in a day AND I have been a life-long vegetarian! “What were you eating?” you might ask…and my answer is no different than many others in the same boat…a lot of empty carbs, the so-called healthy processed foods, sugars and possibly some good plant-based protein here and there..
As I was trying to re-claim my health and in my research I stumbled upon a few resources that changed my ways of thinking and this blog is a humble attempt to share my experiences and learning with you.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” - Hippocrates
So what is WFPB? – A Whole Food Plant Based diet is basically what it stands for: whole, minimally processed foods primarily derived from the plant kingdom. This includes fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. WFPB doesn’t include any meat, dairy and eggs.
Why WFPB? - Based on my experience and research (links provided below), I wholeheartedly believe that Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB) approach is the most beneficial to many and has been linked to numerous health benefits including reducing risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes and cognitive decline. When I minimized dairy and eggs from my diet and added more greens, it made a huge difference with my joint aches and pains and my energy levels.
Here are 7 tips on how to get started!
It’s not All or Nothing
Whoa, wait a minute! No meat, dairy or eggs? I want you to pause and read further before you say “No Way”. Remember, although it's great to be 100% WFPB, it’s not an all or nothing proposition. Do a self-assessment on how much fruits, vegetables and whole grains (beans, nuts,seeds and legumes) you are eating every day and make small changes even if you are not giving up all the foods you love. Check out this daily dozen list provided by Dr. Micheal Greger as a guideline.
Remember, it's not a sprint, it's a marathon. You can always start slow and be steady. The key is consistency. Pick one thing you are willing to remove from your diet or add to your daily routine and do it consistently. For me, it was adding 1 green smoothie in the morning as my daily breakfast. Recipe can be found here You may also want to try to swap one animal protein per meal with a plant-based protein like beans, legumes, tofu and edamame, etc.
Get your greens
Based on research and my own personal experience, if there is one thing I would highly recommend adding to your daily intake, it would be the mighty “Greens”! I am not talking about just lettuce. There are many more highly nutritious mighty greens like kale, spinach, chard, arugula etc. Additionally, try to incorporate cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussels sprouts as they are super nutritious and the active compounds like sulforaphane in them help protect us against DNA damage and disease.
Focus on nutrition density
It's not just about how many servings of fruits and vegetables you get but rather its all about the nutrition density. If you are going to increase your vegetable intake, I urge you to add more nutrition dense foods like greens and cruciferous vegetables to your plate. Seeds and spices can add a ton of flavor with a heavy dose of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits. Flax seeds, chia seeds, turmeric, cinnamon and ginger are super easy to add to the foods that you already eat. Next time you make oatmeal, sprinkle some cinnamon and ginger on top. I add flax and chia seeds to my green smoothies for a dose of omega 3s.
As the famous saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”. Once you do the self-assessment, identify the one thing you are going to change, you need to plan and prepare for the week. This helps solidify the change and turn it into a daily habit. So what does planning/meal prepping look like? For me, I grocery shop and buy power greens (pre-washed organic greens) on Sundays so that I can easily prepare morning smoothies. To add one plant-based protein per meal, have your beans and legumes (you may buy organic/canned beans as well) available and/or prepared for the week.
Incorporating WFPB diet is not a one size fits all approach. Based on your health, personal preference and food allergies, you may have to chart out your own plan. So, educate yourself, talk to your doctor and make yourself and your health a priority.
Get family on board
Last but not the least, get your family on board. Healthy eating should be a family affair. Establishing healthy habits early on for kids is a true game changer. So, whatever change you decide to make try to apply it for the entire family. If you are adding some cooked vegetables for dinner, have the kids try some too!
Our genes may load the gun- we still get to pull the trigger by making the right food choices. So, what is the one thing you are going to change to move towards a Whole Food Plant Based diet?