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Best Guide to the Whole Food Plant Based Diet (WFPB)

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If you’ve heard of the Whole Food Plant Based Diet and are curious about it, we give you the details! Our guide to the whole food plant based diet gives you tips on how to make it work best for you and 26 of the best WFPBD recipes for every meal.

Woman eating a whole foods plant based diet meal

Whether you’re trying to lose weight or improve your overall health, you’ve likely heard about the Whole Food Plant Based Diet (WFPB Diet) from your friends or on social media.

Eating a plant based diet is more than a passing fad and has been around for centuries in various forms and in different countries around the world.

There are numerous studied health benefits to eating a whole food plant based diet, such as improved cholesterol, weight loss, reduced BMI, reduced osteoarthritis symptoms, and more. If you have chronic health problems or want to lose weight, it’s worth considering!

In this post, we sharing details on what the WFPBD is along with a list of amazing plant based recipes for every meal to get you started. 

What is the Whole Food Plant Based Diet?

A Whole Food Plant Based Diet (also called a plant based whole food diet) is a diet consisting mostly of whole foods (foods that are minimally processed) that are plant based and not of animal origin.

Some people who eat a WFPBD eliminate meat and animal-based foods completely, while some continue to eat animal products, but only in moderation and as a supplement to a diet that mostly focuses on plant based foods. 

What foods are allowed on a whole food plant based diet?

The foods that are emphasized on a whole foods plant based diet slightly differ between people. Some WFPBD dieters restrict the consumption of moderately processed foods like oils, plant milks, tofu, etc., but others continue to eat these foods in moderation.

Market with a variety of vegetables

Either way, the emphasis in the WFPB diet is whole foods, so not relying too heavily on more processed foods like protein powders, vegan meat substitutes, etc.

If you’d like to add them, these more processed foods shouldn’t comprise the bulk of your diet. 

Here are the foods to emphasize in the whole food plant based diet:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts, seeds, and nut/seed butters
  • Whole grains 
  • Legumes (beans, peanuts, peas, lentils, chickpeas, etc.)
  • Roots and tubers (carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes)
  • Plant based milks, unsweetened preferably
  • Tofu and tempe

Foods to limit or eat in moderation:

  • Plant based protein powders
  • More processed vegan foods (like cheeses, meat substitutes, etc.) 
  • Highly processed vegan meat substitutes
  • Animal products

plant based meal prep bowls

What’s the difference between a vegan diet and a plant based whole food diet?

While a vegan diet and the whole food plant based diet seem pretty similar, there are a few differences. 

Veganism focuses on avoiding animal products not just in diet, but every area of life. So vegans avoid animal products (or products that exploit animals) in products like skincare, clothing, home products, and more.

A person following a whole food plant based diet doesn’t always avoid animal products for ethical reasons. While there is some crossover between the 2 diets, someone following a plant based whole food diet isn’t necessarily a vegan and may even supplement their diet occasionally with animal products like eggs.

Another contrast is that not all vegan foods fall within the whole food plant based diet. Some foods that are considered vegan are still highly processed (like Oreos, Ritz crackers, or sugary breakfast cereals) and would not be something you’d eat on a plant based whole foods diet.

So a whole food plant based diet is more restrictive than a vegan diet in many ways, so it’s important to make sure that you’re meal planning and prepping to make sure that you’re getting all your meals in without relying on vegan processed foods.

fresh artichokes

Benefits of a whole food plant based diet

There are many health benefits to a plant based diet that emphasizes whole foods. Here are a few of the benefits shown by studies and research:

A whole food plant based diet can provide many positive health benefits and reduced inflammation for those partaking in the diet.

Is a WFPB diet good for weight loss?

Multiple studies have shown that a whole food plant based diet can be great for weight loss, obesity management, and decreased BMI. 

When you focus your diet on whole foods (like brown rice, greens, fruits) and avoiding calorie-dense processed foods, it is easier to keep your calorie intake balanced while still eating a wide variety of food. 

Whole foods provide a variety of nutrients like fiber and protein that processed foods often lack, keeping you full longer.  

Health considerations when eating a plant based whole food diet

When beginning your WFPB diet, here are a few things to consider: 

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies

If you’re eating a WFPB diet and not eating a lot of vitamin-fortified processed foods, you’ll want to make sure that you are getting adequate vitamins and minerals in your diet.

For example, vitamin B12 is a nutrient that is found almost exclusively in meat products, so people eating a plant based diet or vegan diet need to get vitamin B12 from fortified foods or from a supplement.

Vitamin B12 is important for nervous system function, metabolism, red blood cell formation, and it regulates DNA, so taking a high quality vitamin B12 supplement is important for those who are eating a plant based diet.

woman holding a plant based oatmeal bowl

Other nutrients that may run low on a plant based diet are iron, fatty acids, vitamin D, calcium, and zinc. Consider supplementing with these nutrients as well if you’re trying a plant based diet. 

If you have special health concerns or are involved in heavy activity and sports, it’s a great idea to meet with a dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition or plant based diets to help you create a plan to meet all of your nutrient needs while on a plant based diet.

Make sure you are planning a balanced plant based diet and not skipping snacks and meals if you’re on a plant based diet to prevent nutrient deficiencies.

Adequate protein

One thing that people are concerned about with a plant based diet is eating adequate amounts of protein. Since plant proteins aren’t digested as readily by the body as animal proteins are, it’s recommended that athletes eating a plant based diet increase their protein consumption by 10% (Muth, ACE Sports Nutrition for Health Professionals, p. 353.). 

Choose foods that are whole and higher in protein (like brown rice vs. white rice) and eat a variety of foods each day to ensure you are getting the 8-10 essential amino acids in your diet each day.

If you choose to supplement your plant based whole food diet with occasional animal products, make sure that you are buying high quality animal products:

  • Eggs: free range, cage free, local farm eggs, etc.
  • Dairy products: 
  • Fish and seafood: wild caught, low mercury, sustainably harvested
  • Poultry: free range, cage free, etc.
  • Pork or beef: free range, grass fed, or grass finished

photo collage of whole food plant based diet recipes

Whole Food Plant Based Diet Recipes for every meal

Ready to start your whole food plant based diet? Here are 26 amazing plant based whole food recipes for every meal to get you started!

Breakfast recipes

Snack Recipes

Lunch & Dinner Recipes

Side dish recipes

You may also like our review of the plant-based meal service, Veestro, or our take on the Impossible Whopper!

Sarah Parker, ACSM cPT

Sarah Jane Parker is a food and healthy living blogger at The Fit Cookie, an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, ACE Certified Health Coach, Revolution Running certified running coach, YogaFit Level 1 certified yoga instructor, and an ACE Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist.

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  1. What do you think about plant protein powders – I’ve been using hemp, pea and PB2 and almond butter 2 – I’m a big guy and have 230 lbs of lean body mass -Been doing Keto for 5 years for diabetes and have kept my A1C under 6.5 but I am concerned about the amount of animal protein and fat that I eat. Also, I am in kind of a weight loss rut losing the same twenty pounds over and over. So I am giving PBWF a shot to see how it does with my weight and numbers – Triglycerides always high. Lost the twenty lbs again after a month and hoping to blast through. Sticking with it till my next doctor visit in July and seeing how I do with my numbers and weight.

    1. Hi Michael! Plant protein powders are a great option for adding more protein to your diet, just make sure that it doesn’t make up the bulk of your diet and you’re still getting a lot of whole foods.

      Are you still planning on doing keto while you do the PBWF diet? If you are, I’d recommend meeting with a dietitian who can help you make sure that you are getting enough nutrients if you are trying to combine several diets, especially since you have diabetes. If you’re eating pretty healthy and your triglycerides are high, it could be hereditary, but a doctor can help you figure that out and a dietitian can help with setting up eating plans to make sure that you’re meeting all of your nutrition needs met while still working on your weight loss goals and health concerns.