The whole foods diet focuses on eating natural foods, not processed foods. Learn about what you can eat and the pros and cons of the diet
The whole foods diet is not a specific eating plan and may be better interpreted as clean and healthy eating—a way of life rather than a temporary diet. In general, the goal is to eat whole foods instead of processed foods, i.e. eating potatoes instead of potato chips.
Whole foods are close to their original state in nature and are not made in a factory. They don’t have added sugars, starch, artificial flavors and colors, or other manufactured ingredients. Whole foods are generally considered nutritious and are higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals than processed foods.
There are very few restrictions on what you can eat. For example, you can eat the following on the whole foods diet:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Nuts, seeds, and beans
- Milk and some dairy products
- Meat, poultry, and seafood
- Minimally processed foods
- Sweeteners such as maple syrup and honey instead of sugar
The following foods should be avoided.
- Pre-prepared, ready-to-eat, or fast foods
- Heavily processed foods
- Refined carbohydrates
- Foods with added sugar
What are the pros and cons of the whole foods diet?
Switching to eating whole foods can help you lose weight, prevent diseases. and improve your overall health. Other benefits include the following:
- Safety. The whole foods diet covers all main food groups and avoids unhealthy additives, making the diet safe and nutritious.
- Sustainability. Because there are few restrictions, most people can adhere to the diet and turn it into a way of life.
- Suitability. The whole foods diet is suitable for most people, although you should always consult your doctor if you have any underlying medical conditions.
- Cost and availability. Whole foods tend to be more expensive and difficult to obtain. They may not be available at all grocery stores.
- Practicality. Processed foods are more easily available, so adhering to a whole food diet would require more planning and prepping, especially if you are traveling.
- Overdoing it. Clean eating can lead to an unhealthy obsession with avoiding all “impure” foods.
What should your meals look like?
The USDA’s MyPlate model is a great way to make sure you are getting all food groups in the right proportions. Fruits and vegetables fill half the plate, whereas proteins and grains fill the other half. Here’s what your meals should look like according to MyPlate:
- Vegetables: 40%
- Grains: 30%
- Proteins: 20%
- Fruits: 10%
- Dairy: 1 cup or milk or yogurt
Medically Reviewed on 7/30/2021