Have you ever wondered ‘what is a wholefood?’ We all constantly hear and read about good foods and bad foods, but what does this really mean and what role do whole foods play in our diet?
What is a wholefood?
For me as someone who loves to grow their own vegetables, I believe ‘good’ foods are wholefoods. It’s the produce that our beautiful and amazing planet provides for us. Whole foods are eaten in their natural state or with a minimum cooking process to make them edible.
Whole foods are: fruit, vegetables, grains, beans, pulses, legumes, nuts and seeds. Part of a whole food diet can include dairy, fish and meat too, again minimally processed. These foods when in their natural state, all coincidentally play a major part in a Mediterranean Diet, where the populations’ life expectancy is among the best in the world!
Wholefoods are NOT processed or refined, once foods begin to be altered they can lose many of their health and nutritional qualities and with other ingredients added to them, such as sugars, bad fats, additivies and preservatives can quickly turn into ‘bad foods.’
Eating whole foods is less about a type of diet but more about lifestyle. I don’t think of it as eating a certain amount of this type of food, or that type of food, there are no scales, and I definitely don’t count calories. It is about cooking with real food, and eating a varied diet as possible. I personally eat little dairy as I am lactose intolerant and I don’t eat read meat more than a couple of times a week.
I have found it so much easier looking after my body and eating healthily once I had made a decision: that wholefoods would be the types of food that I will consume as part of my every day life. It became a habit, like brushing my teeth. I made a personal agreement that I wouldn’t eat ready meals or convenient foods.
I’m don’t over think it and when I go the shops, I simply stick to the fresh food aisles. This is a significant shift in my shopping habits, but once I realised you don’t need to go down the cake and biscuits aisle, or the snacks aisle, you forget they are there.
What no treats, no bites of deliciousness ever again?
Absolutely not, I’ve realised the moment I am told I can’t have something, the more I want it and I’m positive that’s the same for a lot of people. The great news about a diet full of wholefoods is that there is so much variety and you don’t have to miss out on anything. Below there is a recipe for flapjacks that I hope you enjoy!
However, if your most favourite piece of cake in the world is a slice of Victoria sponge, then once every couple of months, bake a cake and enjoy it! Use butter rather than margerine and buy a jam high in fruit and not full of fructose syrup, these small changes can collectively make a big impact. BUT and you knew this was coming, for the majority of the time there is a better way of eating and I promise you it’s enjoyable. I will be publishing a free book of recipes for the autumn, where I’ll be sharing lots of idea for you to try, if you want any inspiration now feel free to follow me on my instagram account where I post every few days with new ideas, being a chef it means I can’t help but keeping thinking up new recipes!
What are the benefits of eating a wholefood diet?
As whole foods are raw, or have only slightly been processed (this might mean frozen, washed and bagged, pre soaked), they hold on to more of their nutrients. It means the benefits are
- whole foods will offer you a good balance of vitamins, minerals and nutrients to your diet, which are essential for our general optimum health.
- Wholefoods are higher in fibre than their processed counterparts, which is so important for healthy digestive systems.
- Diets where we consume higher levels of whole foods and less processed ones have shown to have the biggest impact on an overall health. A 2014 study by Yale University, researching all the different diet types found ‘a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plant, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention’
- The UK and US have high levels of the population struggling with obesity; which can lead to health problems including: heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. These can have a serious impact on our health and could even ultimately kill us; making simple changes can make an impact on our health.
- Quite often processed foods can be calorie high too, so when we switch to a whole food diet another benefit can be weight loss, especially if you begin a new exercise regime.
Simple changes to support a wholefood life style.
SWITCH TO WHOLEGRAIN BREAD
EAT PLENTY OF FRESH FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
EAT FISH (OILY FISH IS PARTICULARLY GOOD FOR US)
INCLUDE BEANS AND WHOLEGRAINS TO A DISH AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE.
REDUCE YOUR INTAKE OF RED MEATS, ESPECIALLY PROCESSED MEATS, ETC SAUSAGES AND BURGERS
READ THE FOOD LABELS
Understanding food labels
Before you make your next shop, have a careful look at the foods you have in your cupboards and refrigerator. You maybe surprised at what you find. Read the packaging and look at the nutrition label. Some companies have adopted a traffic light systems on their packaging, which can be helpful, to know if foods are high in fats, carbohydrates and proteins.
The ingredient list is key too, have a look at your cereal packets, jars of sauces, tins of fruits, bottles of juices. It is important we educate ourselves and know exactly what there is in our foods. Quite often packaging may give you the impression that the meal you are about to eat is full of vegetables, when it may contain hardly any.
You may read ingredients which you’ve never heard of before and would seem more approporiate in a scientist’s report, instead these chemicals will end up in your body. Our government’s have guidelines to ensure our food is safe, but it doesn’t mean it’s healthy. People don’t wish to be told what they can and can’t eat either, so it is down to the individual to educate themsleves and make their own decisions.
Quality of our food matters
The truth of the matter is that processed foods are made to taste addictively moreish, unfortunately this nearly always means that their nutritional value is poor; often containing high levels of sugar, salt and hydrogenated fats, together with a whole hosts of additives and preservatives.
Understanding that the foods our bodies require are ones grown in soil, farmed in a sustainable way, so that when we eat this produce, it serves us well. It is worth considering an organic diet where food is free from artificial pesticides and insecticides. From the beginning we know that the food we are eating is nutrient rich and grown in the best possible environment.
Organic is not always available and can be expensive, it is far better that you have fresh vegetables grown from a more traditional commercial farm than it is to eat fast foods or snacks.
Recipe for Flapjacks/Oat Bars
To show you how easy it is to incorporate more wholefoods in to your diet, I have put together a Flapjack recipe, which I hope you’ll give a try. Remember this is still a treat food, but it is a lot better for you than many shop bought ones! I think when we cook our own meals it helps us to connect more with our health and diet. They’ll be plenty more blogs where I’ll be sharing recipes for you to try at home. If you want a little more inspiration, please follow me, on Instagram
For any wholefood ingredients, I really recommend Buyonlinewholefoods.com their produce is fabulous and customer service is great too. In the recipe below, I’ll put in links so that you can get hold of the wholefood ingredients that you need.
FLAPJACK/OAT BAR RECIPE
ADDITIONS (optional and you could use any nuts, dried or glace fruits,)
20g pecans, or hazelnuts (roughly chopped)
20g dried cranberries,or raisins, or apricots
You need a baking tray 20cmx30cm, 8inx12in, buttered and lined with parchment paper
Preheat oven to 180C 350F
In a med/large sized pan melt the butter, sugar and honey. Stir regularly and until sugar dissolved.
Add the oats, nuts and dried fruit and mix in well, ensuring all dry ingredients are coated with butter mix.
Pour your mixture into your lined baking tray. Smooth to the edges and corners with a palette knife or back of a spoon.
Bake for 15-20minutes until just golden, but still slightly soft in the centre.
Leave them in the tray, till they are completely cool, then portion into squares.
Eating wholefoods will have a positive impact on our diets. Understanding when we do choose convenience over cooking, (and for many of us do) remember to check your food labels and understand what it is, that’s in your food.
By planning our meals we can also be more organised and it is so much more likely that we will succeed with eating a wholefood diet, if we have the groceries we need in the cupboards and fridge, and we know we have factored in the time for preparing it. On a previous post I’ve talked about a healthy eating plan, please feel free have a read, in this article there is a download so you can print off your own weekly meal planner, which will help with getting organised.
I hope you enjoy adding more wholefoods to your diet! If you try out the recipe, I would love to see a pic, and if you have any questions or comments on wholefoods, please do leave a message. I’ll get back to you, before you know it!