Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Whole Foods Diet Challenge

Over the past few months I have been having some health issues. Instead of freaking out and running to the doctor, I decided to try a different approach. I have been a "bad" vegan. For the past five years that I have been on my vegan journey I basically replaced all the omni and vegetarian foods with vegan versions that were often processed, refined and loaded with calories, excess sugar and oils. I veganized my favorite childhood foods and American foods and indulged myself in vegan junk food. When I look at my diet it was mostly "white" foods- white rice, white breads (I could eat a loaf of Italian or French bread in two days), seitan (made with white flour), white potatoes, dumplings, pasta and other refined carbohydrates with very little nutrition. And tons of processes soy products-vegan hot dogs, sausages, deli slices and fried tofu, fried tempeh and tons sweet soy yogurts. Yes, I would have some green salad or a soup and raw veggies, but the majority of my diet was refined carbs and processed foods. There were always some freshly baked goods at my house (muffins, cakes, brownies, etc) and for days when there were no baked goods I would have some store bought cookies in the pantry. The more I thought about my diet the more I realized how much damage I was doing to my body and how unhealthy I was eating. I slowly started adding big bowls of salads into my diet. Usually a baby kale, regular kale and spinach salads topped with avocado, tomatoes, cucumbers, raw pumpkin seeds and drizzled with lemon juice. I started feeling better so I slowly switched to mostly unprocessed whole foods with minimum of oils and sugar. I switched my regular almond milk to unsweetened almond milk. I replaced white rice with brown rice and pasta with quinoa. I stopped baking goodies and buying vegan junk food. My husband is a huge help and an inspiration because unlike me he was always eating quite healthy. I also found a lot of inspiration and support on Twitter and many blogs that I follow. I started adding chia seeds to my diet and other superfoods. At first I was not feeling good at all, my stomach was cramping with all the newly increased fiber and I was craving sugary baked goods, pasta, fried fake chicken and fried tempeh, and other foods that I eliminated. I am not saying that I will never have a vegan donut, piece of cake, veggie burger or a candy. I will still indulge once in a while, but as my taste buds are changing I am craving those foods less and less. This is an experiment and so far I am feeling much better. I have more energy, I have better digestion, I lost some weight (especially around my belly) and I am generally feeling better. And some of the health issues are gone! Only TWO WEEKS of cleaner diet and I see all these results, I cannot wait to see myself in a few months. I will gradually add more exercise and hopefully I will get in shape faster.

A breakfast of sugary granola and vanilla soy yogurt was replaced with "Overnight oats" with chia seeds. My daily breakfast is inspired by a recipe from the new Everyday Happy Herbivore cookbook. I add fresh fruit (such as bananas, blueberries or strawberries) or dried fruit to give them some sweetness without adding actual sugar.

I will still eat some tofu and tempeh, but baked or steamed instead of fried and I will not eat these everyday. Also sometimes I will have some plain,unsweetened soy yogurt, too. I will occasionally have some regular potatoes, because they are not that bad, but I think that sweet potatoes are healthier and more nutritious.

These are my main food staples now-kale, collard greens, oats, quinoa, lentils, beans, spinach, chickpeas, dried fruit, bell peppers, edamame, lemons, avocado, raw pumpkin seeds, raw sunflower seeds, chia seeds, German whole grain bread made with five grains
(Landsberg company-sold at most Whole Foods Markets and other natural food stores, in their international food section-even Publix and Kroger has them sometimes),shiitake mushrooms, brown rice, sweet potatoes and fresh fruits.

My Marinated Collard Greens made with green bell pepper. I prefer red bell pepper because of the beautiful color and nicer taste, but the green pepper is not that bad either.

Lentil salad made with mandarin oranges, onion and parsley

Kale, red lentil, shiitake mushroom, onion and carrot soup

Quinoa with roasted chickpeas and raw spinach

Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats breakfast with dried cranberries and raisins. Recipe from Shelley's blog. This is a very tasty and healthy breakfast that keeps me feeling full for hours and gives me energy until the afternoon.

Brown rice, peas, raw spinach, garlic, lemon juice and tamari sauce medley

Garlicky lacinato kale (recipe from Olives for Dinner blog ) served over quinoa and roasted chickpeas. I used much less oil than the recipe called for and it was still delicious! I wish I made two batches!

I love my German Five grain bread made with whole grains and no added preservatives or oils. Each slice has 6 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber, and zero sugars and only 1.5 grams of fat. I have one to two slices a day. I like making avocado, spinach and dried cranberries sandwiches with this bread. The slices are huge and the bread is very dense, rich and chewy.

Quinoa, raw spinach, dried cranberries and roasted chickpeas

Lentil, tomato, carrot, onion and spinach soup


  1. Wow- these photos are beautiful! I am doing the same thing. Trying to eat only (or mostly whole foods) and cleaning up my lazy vegan diet. There are tons of good, healthy recipes in Appetite for Reduction too! Good for you!

  2. Glad to hear you are improving your diet. I would argue that potatoes are not bad. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are very good for you and are a main staple on the McDougall plan. I eat them all the time.

  3. Wow the German bread sandwhich looks very good - is that something you make or buy? In fact, everything on here looks absolutely delicious. It's amazing how good healthy eating can be once you get the hang of it! Beautiful, filling, and flavorful foods. I am glad you are doing so well and look forward to lots of healthy vegan recipes.

  4. Do you still eat unsweetened soy yogurt, or is the plan to ditch yogurt altogether?

    Also, your German whole grain bread, do you make it yourself, or buy it local?

  5. All of these recipes look like great ways to clean up your diet. I waver back and forth a lot between processed vegan meats and cheeses and more whole-foods style meals like soups and salads, but I'd like to bring the focus back to the good stuff. Thanks for all of the inspiration!

  6. @Jen Thanks and thank you for the cookbook tip :-)
    @Myvegancookbook I agree. I love sweet potatoes!
    @Lindsay Thank you!
    @Shelley Thanks! The bread is store bought "Landsberg" at Whole Foods market and Kroger or Publix. It comes in a clear plastic wrap. They have it in the international foods section.
    @David I will still eat unsweetened soy yogurt as a treat but not as my daily diet. Regarding the bread, please see my reply to Shelley above.
    @Faith Thank you!

  7. Good for you! Great pics of the whole foods. I cut out sugar and white flour and oils about 4 months ago. I'm still around vegan baked goods all the time and you'll find them on my blog, but I haven't tried any. I feel so much better too. Yep vegans can eat junky too!

  8. Yay! That's awesome. I'm trying......sort of. I've switched to fresh Louisiana Strawberries in my morning oats instead of dried fruit & agave. That's a start. I'm making my own unsweetened almond milk too. Little steps!

  9. Wow, looks great. I'm doing this great 21 day program called the Ultimate Reset from Beachbody. I'm in the last week. Weeks 2 & 3 are all vegan. My first time ever eating vegan. And you know what, it's pretty darn good. I've lost 8 pounds and feel so much lighter... and I can see my ab muscles. Love healthy eating!