What is Whole-Food Plant-Based (and What Are Indulgent Plant Foods)?

To understand a whole-food plant-based diet, let’s start with plant-based. 

Plant-based focuses on eating a wide variety of plant foods, but also means you’re not eating any animal products. That includes meat, fish, poultry, dairy, and eggs. Plant-based puts the emphasis on the plants, and not just eliminating animal foods. 

Whole-food means minimally processed. Think whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. 

On 80/20 Plants, we’re striving for a whole-food plant-based diet 80% of the time — simply put, that means we focus on minimally processed plant foods. 

What about pastas and breads? By definition, these are processed foods. But if they’re whole grain and oil free, they’re not considered highly processed, and are totally fine to eat in moderation. 

Here’s a graphic to help break down the different categories: 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are store bought milks considered a processed food?

This is a great question, and unfortunately the answer isn’t black and white. 

But, in short, plant milks land in the minimally processed category.

Where it gets complicated is that this varies depending on whether the milk has a bunch of added ingredients like sweeteners (i.e. added sugar), vanilla flavoring, etc. 

If you’re up to making it at home, here’s a great, easy, whole food hemp milk recipe to make at home (no straining needed).

https://hookedonplants.ca/2017/06/23/hemp-milk-recipe-ditching-dairy/

But when in the store, be sure to check the back of the label. Look for the milk with the least amount of added ingredients, and always try to avoid ones with palm oil.

What is best - canned or frozen?

Fresh is always best (bonus points if it comes straight from your garden :-), but convenience is key for sticking to this lifestyle, and that’s where canned and frozen come in. 

When you can’t go fresh, frozen veggies are typically best. They’re frozen at their ripe state, and freezing them keeps them pretty fresh and locks in the nutrients. Frozen veggies are particularly great during the winter months, when fewer fresh options are available. (And they’re usually in a form that you can just pour into a pot or pan and cook away!)

Canned is also a good alternative. But if you’re going for canned anything, make sure there’s no extra preservatives, oils, or sugars added.

Is the saturated fat in coconut a bad fat?

The best way to consume it is from the coconut in its whole form, with the fiber and nutrients still intact.

Fat in coconuts is medium-chain fatty acids that are better absorbed than animal saturated fat and is said to have anti-inflammatory effects. Fresh coconut meat is actually considered a great superfood, so a little bit here and there isn’t bad at all for fat content in your diet.

Where you do need to watch out is when it comes to coconut oil, which is the refined fat from coconut meat. That’s why it’s so high in saturated fat, and also why we say to limit oils if you’re looking for optimal weight-management and heart-disease prevention.

Coconut chips and coconut milks still have some fiber in tact, so it digests more slowly. Coconut milk is great to add to stews for creaminess and it is a far better option than dairy of any kind! Still, I wouldn’t go too crazy with these products.