A whole-food diet simply means to eat foods that are unprocessed and close to their natural state. Certain diets incorporate whole-food eating, particularly ones emphasizing strength training. However, a true "whole food diet" is a lifestyle rather than a fad diet.
Jillian Michaels, fitness expert and bestselling author of "Master Your Metabolism," considers whole food anything that "had a mother or grew from the earth." Whole foods undergo minimal processing, and are typically found around the perimeter of the supermarket. For example, a plain potato is a whole food, but a bag of preservative-laden potato chips is not.
Because whole foods do not contain the chemicals, hormones or preservatives added by man, they exist in their purest state, with the highest levels of vitamins and minerals.
Some foods that health experts consider whole deviate slightly from this formula. Steel-cut oats and plain frozen vegetables, for example, are considered very healthy whole foods, but do undergo some processing. However, the type of processing most thought to damage food and affect human health is the addition of chemicals, which steel-cut oats and frozen vegetables would not have.
Although eating whole foods is a habit more than a diet, certain diet plans greatly emphasize whole food. Fitness model and "Oxygen" writer Tosca Reno created the Eat Clean Diet. "Eating clean" emphasizes whole food and encourages the elimination of processed food. Other aspects of Reno's diet (which she considers a lifestyle) that have become associated with whole-food eating include five to six smaller meals throughout the day, including lean protein and complex carbohydrates in every meal, and engaging in an active exercise plan.
Jillian Michaels' book "Master Your Metabolism" stresses the elimination of non-whole foods as critical for health, because of the hormone disruptors and toxic additives found in processed food such as trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup.
Many natural bodybuilders, such as bodybuilding champion and author of "Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle" Tom Venuto, also stress eating clean for minimal fat and maximum muscle gains. A popular bodybuilder saying that appears on many websites such as GrowMyMuscles.com is "six-pack abs are made in the kitchen." According to Tosca Reno, who competes in figure contests, a lean figure is 80 percent nutrition.
A common factor in these diets is minimization of processed foods such as Cheetos and the incorporation of as many whole foods as one's pantry can hold. All maintain that as long as one is in a moderate calorie deficit, eating clean will result in weight loss, but more importantly, good health.
Sample Meal Plan
The following would be an example of whole food eating.
Breakfast: Oat bran with ground flaxseed, bee pollen, blueberries, and a side of scrambled eggs.
Midmorning Snack: An apple with a handful of almonds
Lunch: Sprouted tortilla wrap with chicken breast, cucumbers, lettuce, and Greek yogurt, with a side of beans and freshly prepared salsa
Midafternoon Snack: A protein shake made from lowfat milk and protein powder without artificial sweeteners or additives (such as IsoPure)
Dinner: Grilled sirloin with steamed broccoli, cauliflower, and a sweet potato drizzled with olive oil