What are whole foods?
I like to think that whole food is food that is as unrefined, unprocessed and natural as possible. Many foods need processing or altering in order to be edible such as olives that are bitter unless cured. Or coconuts that through processing produce water, milk, oil, nectar, flour, flakes etc. However, many whole foods can be heavily processed, beyond a point that many would regard as necessary, such as wheat used to create refined white flour.
So how can you get more food into your life that is natural, unrefined and unprocessed? Read on for 6 simple tips:
Some people find that a shopping list helps them stick to a plan, other people find that buying food on special is the beginning of their meal planning. Either way, having a plan about what you are going to eat removes the need to hold the fridge door open, stare inside, hope for inspiration to hit and when it doesn’t, order take out instead!
On our fridge we have a small whiteboard that I picked up for about $3 (well $2.80 because everything in Daiso is $2.80, love that place!). Each week I mark out boxes for the days of the week and add in what main meal will be cooked for that day and have a seperate list of basics that need to be made (like bone broth, ghee, kombucha). Then I create a shopping list around these meals and whatever other bits and pieces we need.
It’s also easy to forget to allocate time to cooking. Check who is available to do the cooking, consider how long a dish will take, think about whether you can do any prep in the morning or on the weekend
When shopping consider what you are buying and putting in your trolley. Are you picking it out of habit, because you get extra reward points or because this is the best option available to you. Consider if you can you get something better and cheaper somewhere else, or do some research online and see if you can get bulk foods, or some fresh fruit and veg to be delivered if it’s cheaper or more convenient.
Instead of reading the nutritional panel on the pack, read the ingredient list. This is where you can find out whether the product contains whole foods or not. Check out this comparison of fresh fish from the deli section of my local supermarket and the freezer section:
- Fresh fish – fish
- Frozen crumbed fish – fish (49%), wheat, flour, water, canola oil, thickeners (1404, 1420, 464), wheat gluten, tapioca starch, maize flour, salt, yeast, sugar, acidity regulators (450, sodium bicarbonate), spices, food acid (citric), rice flour
What the?! I have no idea what the thickener numbers mean without looking them up. Are they derived from food or is it a chemical creation?!
Change the ratio on your plate and push out the processed food. Before I started focusing on eating whole foods my plate often consisted of a large serving of fillers like rice or pasta and only a small amount of meat, chicken or fish and vegetables.
Instead of doing that, crowd out the fillers and pack your plate full of protein and vegetables and then if there is space, add a little rice or pasta if needed.
Get in the kitchen! Yes, even if you think you can’t cook. Just like anything, regular practice will improve your skills and build confidence. YouTube is a great resource for the visual learner and Facebook live is becoming popular, so follow your favourite cooks and chefs and learn from watching them.
I know that processed and packaged food can be convenient and it does take time to prepare your own meals instead of just popping something in the microwave, but there is also joy and fun to be found when making your own meals from scratch. I like to cook but I don’t really like to spend time making intricate meals that need to be prepared in steps throughout the day so I just try to make dishes that are as basic and tasty as possible. Try a few recipes, experiment and see what you come up with!
Think about what processed meals or foods you currently eat and which ones you can swap for a whole food. Consider if what you are eating is as unprocessed as possible for your needs, and with as little ingredients as possible. For example when buying oats for porridge, could you buy the regular rolled or steel cut oats instead of the little packets with the added flavouring ? Even if you are buying canned food like pineapple, could you choose the one that contains just pineapple instead of the one with pineapple, water, sugar and pear juice? Or try these simple swaps:
- Breakfast cereal > hard boiled eggs
- Packaged chia pudding > homemade chia pudding
- Soft drink > soda water and lemon slices
- Chocolate bar > a handful of nuts and a couple of squares of dark chocolate