how to be plant-based

Thinking about trying a whole-foods plant-based diet?

Here’s everything you need to know about this clean way of eating.

What is a whole-foods plant-based diet?

Eating a strictly whole-foods plant-based diet is pretty different from your standard vegan diet. It encourages eating little to no processed food and discourages the use of oil and salt. This means that vegan meat and cheese, bread, ice cream, cookies, candy, snacks, and frozen meals are not allowed.

But, even without vegan frozen pizza, there’s still a lot you can eat on a whole-foods plant-based diet—and it doesn’t need to be bland. There are about 200,000 edible plant species in the world, but humans consume only around 200. That’s enough to give you a substantial kitchen arsenal of fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, herbs, spices, and vinegar to cook with.

What can I eat that’s whole-foods plant-based?

  • Certain condiments: Soy sauce, vinegar, nutritional yeast, mustard, salsa
  • Drinks: Coffee, tea, kombucha, sugar-free sparkling drinks
  • Fresh or dry chili peppers: Poblano, guajillo, jalapeño, Aleppo, bird’s eye, serrano, Scotch bonnet
  • Fresh or dry herbs and spices: Parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, turmeric, cilantro, gochugaru, basil, ginger … Also, salt-free
  • Fruits and vegetables: Fresh, frozen, fermented, or dried (check for added sugar and oil)
  • Legumes: Beans and lentils of all kinds
  • Mushrooms: Baby bella, portobello, shiitake, maitake, enoki, wood ear, etc.
  • Nuts and seeds: Sunflower seeds, walnuts, cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, etc.
  • Nut and seed butters: Homemade or single-ingredient (watch for added sugar and oil)
  • Other plant-based proteins: Tofu, tempeh, whole-foods vegan meats (oil-free, free from protein isolates)
  • Starchy vegetables: Potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes
  • Unprocessed sweeteners: Date syrup, maple syrup, blackstrap molasses (in moderation)
  • Plant-based milk: Look for milk made without gums or fillers, like Elmhurst 1925 or DIY it
  • Vegan cheese: Look for oil-free cheeses made from nuts or seeds
  • Whole grains and pseudograins: Brown rice, kamut, farro, oats, quinoa, amaranth, wild rice
  • Whole grain bread and tortillas: In moderation
  • Whole grain pasta or noodles: Soba, brown rice noodles, and sweet potato noodles