- What are whole foods?
- 2 reasons whole foods help you lose weight
- Make the transition from processed foods to whole foods easy
It’s easier to start eating whole foods when you understand why they help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. But don’t change what you’re doing all at once. It’s important to slowly introduce whole foods so they become a healthy habit.
What are whole foods?
When food is in it’s most natural form it’s considered a whole food.
Whole foods are foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible, before being consumed. Whole foods typically do not contain added salt, carbohydrates, or fat.
Whole foods are sometimes referred to as real food, because they’re natural. Some examples of whole foods are:
- whole grains
- lean proteins
- healthy fats
Processed foods are the opposite of whole foods. Processed foods are also known as factory foods. Think of chips, cookies, crackers and food that comes in a bag or box. Fiber is generally removed during processing and replaced with added sugar, salt and fat. Food colouring and artificial flavours are also added, along with preservatives to extend the shelf life.
2 reasons whole foods help you lose weight
1. Whole foods help you know when you’re full
The changes made to processed foods make it difficult to know when you’re full. Studies show that added ingredients in processed foods make it hard to know when to stop eating.
Added vitamins or not, heavily processed foods are loaded with excess sugar, fat and salt, which work against the biological mechanisms that let us know when we’ve eaten enough …
-Adriana Barton, health reporter at The Globe and Mail
For example, it would be easy to drink a cup or two of orange juice, which is equivalent to eating four to eight oranges (along with all the additives found in orange juice). But it would be pretty tough to eat, much less want to eat, four to eight actual oranges in one sitting.
When your meals and snacks are made with whole foods, it’s difficult to eat too much.
2. Whole foods keep you full longer so you don’t overeat
Processed foods like orange juice are refined. So the sugar from these foods are easily and quickly digested. When your body absorbs energy fast you get a sugar high. When you have so much sugar in your system your body has to quickly store it. Then you have a sugar crash which makes you feel hungry again.
When you eat whole foods, like an orange, your body has work to do! It has to break down all the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients which takes time. So the energy is released slowly and steadily. That’s why natural food keeps you full longer (and thus, eating less) than when your meals and snacks are made of processed foods.
In short: Eating natural food prevents overeating.
How can I make eating whole foods easy?
Cooking meals from scratch is an easy way to eat whole foods. Recipes made with natural ingredients are basically whole foods mixed together. A roughly balanced meal made of mainly whole foods can be as easy as:
- crushing 2 boiled eggs on toast with ketchup
- eating an orange
- having a coffee with cream
If you have a glass of milk or a latte, your meal will be more balanced. Whole grain toast instead of white bread is a way to include more whole foods in your meal. Ketchup isn’t a whole food. But if you like ketchup on eggs, use ketchup. Or salsa can be a less processed option.
Don’t try to eat the perfect whole foods meal. I used to put tuna on bread straight out of the can because I was afraid to eat mayonnaise. But when I started making small changes to my meals, like including mayonnaise in my tuna fish sandwich, I actually lost weight because my meal was more balanced. (Our meals should include some fat. And real mayonnaise is less processed than the lower fat varieties.)
When you’re getting used to eating more natural food, just make substitutions here and there. Keep your goal in mind (eating balanced meals and balanced snacks made of real food) and slowly work toward it.
It’s important your transition from what you’re doing now to including more whole foods in your choices, is gradual. Habits aren’t built with the flick of a switch. Small changes allow your preferences to adapt. Soon you’ll find yourself craving a whole food snack when you’re hungry. Baby steps make change easy and lasting.
A lot of healthy people aim for the 90:10 rule. Once they’re in the habit of eating real food, they eat them 90% of the time and 10% of the time they’ll choose foods that aren’t whole foods. Eating cake at a birthday, a cookie for a snack or a hot dog at the school fundraiser, makes you flexible and stops you from feeling deprived. These approaches to eating lead to long-term success. It’s so important you can eat in everyday situations.
Weight loss is not about restricting your food choices
When I was overweight I was too rigid. This approach set me up to fail.
Initially it felt wrong to be flexible because I thought losing weight was about taking extremes and being disciplined. Now I know that’s a recipe for short term results. Soon I found that adding the odd processed food or higher-fat whole food (like avocados or red meat) stopped me from feeling unsatisfied.
This change was important. Including fat in my meals and eating the odd dessert prevented me from having cravings and overeating; something that always eventually happened when I was following a strict diet.
Here’s an easy recipe for a balanced meal that’s made mostly with whole foods.
The Whole of the Moon, by The Waterboys
Sharing what I learned makes those 10 years worth it
Real food, fresh food, whole food … we’ve been eating them since the dawn of time. What do you call whole foods at your house?