What does “Whole-Foods Plant-Based” Mean?
“Whole-Foods” means any foods that have undergone minimal to (ideally) no processing and is free from additives or other artificial substances.
“Plant-Based” means a diet strong in whole grains, fruits, legumes, and vegetables, with little or no meat. Typically, if you eat whole-foods plant-based you are not eating meat. A plant-based vegan diet is recommended by the Physicians Committee.
When you combine them, you are talking about a vegan lifestyle where you avoid/minimize eating processed foods and focus on eating plant-based alternatives.
Of course, this lifestyle can be a little challenging. Instead of getting caught up in whether or not I’m following a WFPB diet perfectly, I focus on following it as closely as I can. I still eat some slightly processed foods, though I try not to make them a substantial part of my diet. .
What Do I Eat on a WFPB Diet?
You are Not eating:
- Any animal products (no meats, no dairy, nothing coming from an animal)
- Any cheeses or cheese substitutes (too much fat, sodium, and sometimes oils)
- Any oils and any foods with oil added to them
- Refined sugars and high-fructose corn syrups (sodas, candies, cookies, etc.)
- Processed grains (white flour, white rice, white pastas)
You Are eating:
- All fruits
- All whole grains
- All legumes
- All vegetables
You are minimizing:
- Processed foods (stick to whole-foods)
- High fat whole foods (such as avocado and nuts or nut butters)
Label Reading Rules:
- Never believe the claims on the outside of a package or box. They’re trying to make a sale — they don’t care about your health. Just because it says “natural” or “healthy,” that doesn’t make the product natural or healthy for you.
- Read the nutritional information box as well as the ingredients list of every product.
- If you see this in the ingredient list, don’t buy it:
- Any bread product without the word “whole” in the ingredient list. (Whole semolina or Whole durum wheat is fine, but durum, durum wheat, or enriched durum wheat is not)
- Any product with the word “oil” anywhere in the ingredient list, no matter what kind of oil it is. Oil is not good for you!
- Added sodium (sea salt is acceptable, but salt should be minimized in your daily diet)
- Added sugars (specifically refined and processed sugars—these are empty, unhealthy calories)
- Any kind of dairy product or added fats (butter in particular, big no-no) .
What do I keep stocked in my kitchen? (a snapshot of store-bought products)
As a quick beginning note before getting into the lists: while I do provide links to different brand websites or store pages, you can find most of these items online and in large chain grocery stores. Try Googling the product to see if you can find it in your local store!
Breads, Grains, Flours
- For bread slices I either make my own bread or I use store-bought breads like Ezekiel 4:9 Low Sodium Sprouted Whole Grain bread (also gluten-free variations!), or my current favorite: Dave’s Killer Bread (which, as of the time I am updating this page, does not contain oil in the ingredients list)
- Tortillas are a definite staple in my house. At the moment I exclusively use Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Tortillas; I have not had much luck finding other whole-grain tortillas in my local grocery stores
- Yellow corn tortillas
- Brown rice (short- and long-grain)
- Wild rice
- Yellow stone-ground cornmeal, I like Hodgson Mill’s
- Rolled oats and Quick oats, occasionally I pick up Steel-cut oats
- I don’t eat much cereal (expensive and I try to minimize eating processed things), but when I do I look for Ezekiel 4:9 cereals or “Barbara’s” cereals. Cereal is tricky because they often add a lot of sugar and/or don’t use whole grains
- Whole grain pastas, rice pastas, spinach pastas
- Ground whole grain flours. Bob’s Red Mill is basically exclusively what I use. I particularly keep whole wheat flour and whole wheat pastry flour in stock at all times, though I also sometimes keep sorghum and oat flour handy
Staple Items – Canned, Jarred, Bottled, Packaged
- Canned beans, in particular I keep stocked: black, pinto, kidney, garbanzo, and cannellini. Kroger, my local grocery, sells their own “Simple Truth Organic” brand canned beans that I liked to buy because they are oil-free, preserved only in water and with sea salt.
- Dry beans of the above varieties (easy to cook up in an Instant Pot!)
- Canned fruits, stored in fruit juice or water (no syrup)
- Canned fire-roasted tomatoes & diced tomatoes. Usually Muir Glen but I also pick up whatever’s on sale and free of added oils.
- Tomato sauce and tomato paste (squeeze tubes for tomato paste is a lifesaver)
- Canned lite coconut milk
- Red curry paste. Any brand should be fine, but I use Thai Kitchen red curry paste.
- Miso. Any brand should be fine, but I mostly use red and white miso from the brand Hikari Miso.
- For vegetable broth/stock I use Pacific Organic Low Sodium Vegetable Broth or any other brand I can find that offers a low-sodium veg broth option
- Tofu. So much tofu! I usually keep a couple extra-firm tofu packs in the fridge.
- Salsa. I search for oil-free, reduced sugar/salt. My favorite spicy salsa is Mateo’s Salsa (sold at Costco!), but I’ve found a few brands at Kroger that also work well for WFPB
- Peanut butter. It’s crazy-hard to find a good one without tons of oil or added salt in it. You want to find something from the health food section, or try to find a grocery store that lets you do your own peanut grinding in the store. I’ve used a few different brands and every one of them makes my recipes come out differently, so it’s tough for me to advise you any one particular brand, but my go-to is typically Costco’s Kirkland brand peanut butter, which seems to be the most WFPB-friendly of the ones I’ve seen. My advice is to find a brand that lists peanuts, minimal added salt, and no oil on the ingredient label.
- Jelly. I buy Kroger’s “Simple Truth” brand strawberry preserve jelly. They carry a number of fruit jellies that use organic cane sugar.
- The only pasta sauce I use (when I’m not making it myself) is Muir Glen’s portobello mushroom pasta sauce (Note: As of June, 2021, they have started adding oil to their mushroom sauce so I’m back to hunting for a new marinara sauce to use)
Sauces, Vinegars, Condiments
- Yellow and Dijon mustards
- Low-sodium ketchup (Simple Truth, Muir Glen, or Heinz Organic)
- Low-sodium Tamari and Soy Sauce (Kikkoman and Simple Truth or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, a natural soy sauce alternative, found at most grocery stores)
- Sriracha sauce
- Hot sauce, my favorite is Cholula (original flavor)
- Liquid smoke
- Balsamic vinegar
- Red and White wine vinegar
- Red and White cooking wine
- Apple cider vinegar
- Rice vinegar, unseasoned, sodium- and sugar-free (I use Marukan’s)
- Somewhat recently I discovered you can buy squeeze bottles of Ginger, which has been a game-changer for making stir-fry! I know – I live under a rock.
Nuts, Fruits, & Veggies (fresh and frozen)
- Whatever fresh fruits & veggies I am in the mood for. I try to buy things in-season and on sale as much as possible. Apples and bananas are staple fruits in my house, but we’ll also get whatever other fruits are on sale.
- Potatoes. Sweet potatoes and Yukon gold potatoes.
- Onions. Green onions, Red onions, and Yellow or sweet onions. I go through millions of onions.
- I keep frozen fruits (bananas, strawberries, mangoes) and veggies (corn, edamame, spinach, oil-free hash browns, and peas) pretty much at all times.
- Herbs, like Cilantro and Parsley
- Leafy greens, like spinach, green lettuce, and kale
- Cashews, walnuts, peanuts
Milk, Egg, & Cheese Substitutes
- Unsweetened, original or vanilla flavored, Almond and Oat milk (Silk, Blue Diamond, or Kirkland brands are typically what I get)
- Unsweetened applesauce is a great egg/oil substitute, depending on the recipe
- Bananas are also a great egg/oil substitute, again depending on the recipe
- Aquafaba, the leftover juice from cooked chickpeas (the “juice” in a can of chickpeas), can be easily hand-whipped into an excellent egg replacer
- Ener-G egg and Neategg are fancier egg replacers you can buy, though I rarely use them myself
- Ground flaxseed meal can be used to make flaxseed “eggs”
- Nutritional Yeast is frequently used in recipes to add a nutty-cheesy flavor. Also great over popcorn! Click here to learn more about nutritional yeast.
- Cheese alternatives can be made using things like cashews to make cashew cheese or cauliflower to make cauliflower cheese. One of my favorite cauliflower-based cheeses from my local Kroger is their Simple Truth Plant Based Spicy Queso dip.
Sweeteners, Sugars, and other tasty things for baking treats!
- Raw sugars, like turbinado and coconut sugars
- Stevia for my coffee! Stevia is a natural sweetener alternative to regular sugars. Note: I’ve seen some debate in WFPB recipe books and online communities about whether or not Stevia is acceptable for a WFPB diet. I opt to use it because it seems relatively unharmful, but wanted to include this note so you can make your own decision.
- Agave nectar, love this stuff
- Pure maple syrup
- Medjool dates & Golden raisins
- Unsweetened cacao powder
- Unsweetened baking chocolate (make sure the cacao content is as high as possible)
- Dandie’s vegan marshmallows, which might technically not be WFPB? But they seem pretty okay to me, so I made the call that they’re allowed in my diet!
Great article! I’m a bit confused when the ingredients say whole grain durum wheat flour….think that’s a no no?
Durum wheat is a no-no, but Whole Grain durum wheat is fine! I am following the guidelines of the Forks Over Knives and Engine 2 whole-foods plant-based diet. Whole durum wheat vs. processed durum is discussed here (Click on “Page” at the top of the snippet to see the whole section on whole wheats). Unless their view on whole durum wheat has been updated since the publication of the book, I believe it’s still okay to eat.
I want to make my own tortillas and I am not sure if masa harina is wfpb
Hi there! Some people might split hairs about whether or not masa harina “counts” as WFPB, but in my opinion, my answer is: Yes, masa harina is WFPB 🙂 If you can find it as an ingredient on websites like Forks Over Knives – which you totally can! – then you’re good to go.