What we eat makes all the difference in how our bodies operate. Our food affects our most basic functions, and the food choices we make help determine our productivity, longevity and performance. By making the right food choices, we can prevent (and even reverse) disease, and significantly improve performance. No matter what your stage of life, or how fit you are, it’s never too late to change unhealthy eating habits, and to make a commitment to yourself – the commitment to long-term, excellent health.
So let’s talk about what a whole food diet is.
A whole food diet is one without processed foods, but realistically, it allows minimally processed foods (those with limited ingredients). It is predominantly plant based which includes lots of vegetables and some fruits, from a range of colors and families; and for those who can tolerate it, beans and lentils. It includes:
Fermented foods - this is also a type of minimally processed food but is a significant source of beneficial bacteria and is important for immune function, hormone production, production of Vitamin B
Healthy fats - full fat dairy if you consume dairy, lard, tallow, nuts, seeds, and the right kind of oils such as avocado, olive and coconut
Grass fed animals - raised to graze (not feed lot livestock)
Limit consumption of sugars - consumption from minimally processed sources such as raw honey (not for children under 1), and dark amber (B grade) maple syrup. I would encourage cutting as many sources of added sugar as possible
Dairy - (for those who tolerate dairy) minimally processed foods like unsweetened, full fat yogurt and whole milk cheese
Whole grains - I mean the whole grain, such as rice, quinoa, farro, barley, oats, etc., and its products such as Ezekiel, sprouted and real soured dough breads, whole grain pasta (seriously, read the label) and flours
Whole food is real food, it’s not manufactured food product. It’s foods that are grown in the ground, raised on pasture, caught in water or hunted on land.
What actually goes on your plate?
No matter what program or diet you follow, building your plate begins with making vegetables your focus. That means you should have vegetables fill at least half your plate. If you eat a grain free diet, those vegetables will cover three quarters of your plate. The complex of nutrients in vegetables and fruits are also what gives them their color. I know you’ve heard the phrase ‘eat the rainbow’ before, but here’s why it’s so important - by eating different colored fruits and vegetables, you are ensuring you get a broad spectrum of those nutrients. Therefore, it’s a great idea to have at least two colors represented on your plate. (Sidebar: juice is too high in sugar and too low in fiber and nutrients to count. Don’t do it.)
One to two palms full of protein per meal is a great, though very general, rule of thumb for ensuring adequate protein intake. Amounts will vary based on your macronutrient needs. If you are eating grains, strive to make them the whole grain, and a serving should be approximately one cupped handful (a serving is a lot less than people think). Every meal should have fats included, and a good idea for serving size is to measure with your thumb (which is pretty close to a tablespoon). A tablespoon of good quality oil, a quarter cup of nuts and seeds, and/or one quarter to one half an avocado completes your plate. Though these serving suggestions will vary based on macronutrient need, and your specific dietary needs, it gives you a general idea of how your plate should look when following a whole foods diet.
Eating real, whole food is about nourishing your brain, and your body, while breaking the habits that don’t support optimal health. It’s not easy to break those old habits, but it’s essential if you want measurable results. Hold yourself accountable, because I guarantee it’ll turn into success very quickly. Approach this with the same determination and grit you use when you grind through a WOD. You should be no less committed to your diet.