As we have talked to many people about a plant-based whole foods lifestyle, we have found there to be a handful of questions that commonly come up. We had many of these questions ourselves when we were just beginning to explore this lifestyle. Below some of the more common questions we tend to hear.

What are plant-based whole foods? +

What are plant-based whole foods?

Let’s break it down into the two parts. First, foods that are “plant-based” include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.This excludes animal-based foods such as meat, fish, dairy, and eggs.  

“Whole” foods refer to those that are as close to their natural state as possible. These exclude highly refined and processed foods. There are some products that do have a minimal amount of processing and are still considered whole foods. As Dr. Michael Greger from defines it, whole foods are “those that have nothing bad added and nothing good taken away”.

Is following a plant-based whole food lifestyle the same as being a vegan? +

Is following a plant-based whole food lifestyle the same as being a vegan?

While there is overlap between the two they are not the exact same. A vegan is someone who avoids consuming or using animal products. So if you follow a plant-based whole food lifestyle then you are by definition a vegan. 

However, while a plant-based whole food lifestyle focuses very much on whole foods, one can be vegan without ever consuming a whole food – or plant-based food for that matter.There are many foods that are technically vegan but are highly processed and/or made completely of sugar. Consuming these types of products on a regular bases (vegan or not) is going to be detrimental to your health. 

There can and should be room for “treats” in a plant-based whole foods lifestyle but they should be occasional and could also remain true to the whole food definition. Strict rules are very unappealing for most and can often be the cause of a diet gone bad so I try to steer clear of thinking about having rules (which we all love to break) and instead try to think of it as values (which most of us like hold tightly to).

Another thing to consider is that a plant-based whole food lifestyle, and particularly veganism, often extends way beyond the plate. Many start down the path of veganism for reasons completely unrelated to food – like mistreatment of animals. Others may start on this path for health reasons alone but quickly realize there are implications far beyond the plate – like the furniture we have in our homes, shoes and coats we wear, bags we carry, body and household products we use. Animals are used in many of the consumer products we use on a daily basis and many times in ways and ingredients we would never have considered (such as glycerin in soap). But let us not get overwhelmed right at the start thinking we must immediately purge everything containing animal products. While some may have the financial means to do this, for others this would be completely impossible. Think of it as a gradual process. The first part is increasing our knowledge and then it is the responsibility of each person to decide how they are going to respond as they become more aware.

Can I really eat as much as I want, every meal, every day of the week? Don’t I need to count calories if I want to lose weight? +

Can I really eat as much as I want, every meal, every day of the week? That doesn’t seem possible. Won’t I overeat and gain weight? Don’t I need to count calories if I want to lose weight?

We know this is a paradigm shift for many people when they move to a plant-based whole foods lifestyle. It certainly was for us. Because plant-based whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are typically higher in nutrient density and lower in calories compared to foods in the Standard American Diet (SAD) such as meat, cheese, and eggs, you do not have to focus on limiting the amount of these foods you consume. Research even supports this fact. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine published a study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that showed a plant-based diet can help you lose weight even with the absence of calorie counting and increased exercise.

There are a few caveats that are worth adding about this particular topic. One thing you do have to be careful of is over-consuming nuts due to their higher fat content. While nuts are mostly the “healthier” unsaturated fats and are known to have many benefits, this doesn’t mean you should be eating large quantities on a consistent bases. Most of the recommendations we’ve found are no more than 2 servings per day.

Another caveat worth mentioning here is that it is important to listen to your body’s hunger cues. When we say that you can’t “overeat” on a plant-based whole food diet this assumes you will listen to your body and stop eating when you are full rather than continuing until you are uncomfortably “stuffed”. Your body knows what it needs and when you are done so it’s important to listen.

If I don’t think I could make a complete change all at once, what is the best way to go about easing into a plant-based lifestyle? +

If I don’t think I could make a complete change all at once, what is the best way to go about easing into a plant-based lifestyle?

There is no specific way that you need to go about making changes in your diet. Some people (like Megan) prefer to jump "all in" to any changes while others (like Scott) like to ease into it with a more gradual approach. The key is to do what works best for you and is more likely to help you be successful in the long-term. Take it as slow or fast as you want. Our plan can help you take either of these two approaches.

If you would prefer to take small steps then our first suggestion would be to start the day off with a plant-based smoothie and/or breakfast! This way you give your body the jump-start it needs right away. As you transition to more plant-based foods, you will notice your cravings for the “other” stuff will subside. You will start to notice the differences and will begin to crave the foods that make you feel good.

What do I do if I feel overwhelmed about changing my diet so much and the meal preparation that goes along with it? +

What do I do if I feel overwhelmed about changing my diet so much and the meal preparation that goes along with it?

The first step is the most important and that is to make a decision to prioritize your health! We stress the importance of having a compelling “WHY” - your reason for making a change. While changing your diet may take some time to adjust, it is no different than making any other positive change. Change is hard and comes with some growing pains (or "change pains"). There is no way around it. However, it can help to think in terms of the big picture. A commitment to health is an adjustment for many of us. Optimal health cannot be achieved through a drive-thru. The quick and easy solutions we have sought (and continue to seek) as a society have come at the cost of our health. Many of us have tried to take control of our health countless times without follow-through or success. Making positive changes and establishing new habits (whether dietary or something else) will bring about invaluable long-term gains that cancel out any temporary pain from the initial adjustment period. This plant-based journey is a learning and growing process, but one that is well worth it.

A very practical suggestion is to think of this as a three-week experiment. Give it your all for three weeks. To help make the transition smoother, provide resources in the WNY22 plan such as a sample meal plan for the entire three weeks, time-saving tips, and meal preparation and planning tips. We also provide “Quick & Easy” recipe ideas for situations when you have less time or energy for meal prep.

I have so many cravings for “bad” foods like chips, candy, ice cream and chocolate. How will I be able to resist these intense cravings? +

I have so many cravings for “bad” foods like chips, candy, ice cream and chocolate. How will I be able to resist these intense cravings?

Research has shown that the microbes or bacteria in our guts affect the cravings we experience. So when we fill our bodies with these types of foods we experience cravings for those very same foods. But, when we clean up our diet and start to fill our bodies with plant-based whole foods, we will begin to crave these new whole foods instead. This is not an overnight phenomena (at least in our experience) and you may experience a period of time where you have strong cravings for foods that used to be part of your diet but the cravings will subside.

Proper caloric intake of the rights kinds of foods will also directly impact cravings. If you are constantly depriving your body of the calories it needs (especially whole food carbohydrates - fruits, veggies, starches, grains), you will most likely experience intense cravings for sugar (this could be in many forms - desserts, simple carbs or alcohol for example).

So, in summary - with time (to allow your body to rid itself of the microbes that set off the cravings) and proper fuel (whole food carbs in particular), your cravings will go away! There is so much freedom in this alone!

Isn’t eating plant-based whole foods really expensive? +

Isn’t eating plant-based whole foods really expensive?

Bottom line is it can be but it doesn't have to be. It can get expensive if you only eat fruit and veggies. One way around this is to fill a lot of your plate with starches and legumes to balance out cost. You should also seek items in season and use less expensive items like bananas. Plant-based whole foods are actually less expensive than a lot of processed foods that people consume on a regular basis when you consider cost per nutrient.

Knowing this a consideration for many people, the WNY22 plan has a detailed section on Money Saving tips.

Aren’t you being too restrictive and depriving yourself of all of the “pleasure foods”? +

Aren’t you being too restrictive and depriving yourself of all of the “pleasure foods”?

This is a critique we received early on from some of the people closest to us. We spent a lot of time thinking about it and came to some powerful realizations about how our society views food and the general idea of restriction. The first thing we realized is that restriction is not necessarily a negative thing. At its core, restrictions are meant to establish boundaries that protect us from things that cause harm. It would be irresponsible to be completely “unrestricted” with our children or ourselves in any area of life.

The second thing we realized is that setting restrictions (or boundaries) up front can actually lead to more freedom over the long run. There is an interesting relationship between restriction and limitation. If you are “unrestricted” in the types of foods you consume (meaning anything goes), then you will need to provide limitations on the amount of certain foods you can consume. Unfortunately, our society is experiencing the negative consequences of having unlimited amounts of these foods.

If your circle of “allowable” foods is restricted to only health-promoting foods, then you do not have to worry about limiting the amounts (other than the high-fat plant foods). As we have stated throughout this document, when you focus on low-fat, plant-based whole foods you can literally eat whenever you want and as much as your body wants. There is no need to focus on counting calories or measuring portions. We can not even begin to explain the freedom that comes with not worrying about food in that way. You must experience it for yourself!

Lastly, we have found that there are many “pleasurable” foods that we can still enjoy in our lives. We allow our kids (and ourselves) to enjoy treats or indulgent foods. There are countless ways to creatively make foods that are similar and actually far better than their traditional counterparts. Point in fact, we have had several instances where we have taken plant-based desserts to social events and ours was the first dish cleaned out!

The key to overcoming this mindset is to focus on what you CAN eat rather than what you can not.

Ready to experience the benefits for yourself?

The WNY22 is a 22-day plan centered on plant-based whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes (beans, peas, lentils, etc.). It provides the information, resources, and support to guide you through the first steps into experiencing a plant-based lifestyle!

Get Started!

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All information presented on this website is for educational purposes only. This website and our products are not substitutes for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Please seek the advice of a healthcare professional for your specific health concerns. Individual results may vary.