Everything You Need to Know About the Whole Foods Diet

A cheat sheet with for getting started, based on science and first-hand fat loss research.

These hints and tips came out of a 12,000 person research study I helped organize at Lift (now Coach.me). The study confirmed that switching to the Whole Foods Diet will lead to weight loss on par with other popular diets.


  • Your diet in a nutshell: Eat recognizable, unprocessed foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fresh meat.
  • Read this guide. If you have more questions, ask them in the responses.
  • Get a diet buddy. Ask a family member, friend or coworker to join the diet with you.


When you eat a whole food, you?re eating it in its most nutritious form; a whole potato has more vitamins than an equal serving of potato chips, as does bread made from whole grains instead of white flour. Processing foods strips them of their nutritious value and usually adds in refined sugar, salt, and chemicals, too.


Eat foods that come in their natural state. If it grows in the ground or is farmed/fished/hunted, you can eat it. Don?t eat junk/processed foods, foods with more than 5 ingredients or things made with ingredients you can?t pronounce. If it comes in a box and was made in a factory, avoid it.

What is a whole food?

Produce of any kind:

  • Fresh vegetables such as leafy greens, carrots, avocados, radishes, cucumbers, squash, and sweet potatoes
  • Fresh or dried fruit such as apples, pears, oranges, watermelon, tomatoes, grapes, and bananas
  • Dairy products without added sugar or chemical flavorings such as plain greek yogurt
  • Meat, poultry, and fish that is baked, roasted, grilled, or boiled
  • Legumes, nuts, and products made from them such as hummus and nut butter as long as it?s made without added sugar, unhealthy fats, or chemicals

What isn?t a whole food?

  • Anything with too many ingredients, chemical ingredients, or ingredients that you can?t pronounce
  • Most foods out of a box (e.g. rehydrated mashed potatoes, crackers, or cookies)
  • Most prepared meals in the freezer isle


Find your favorites meals and repeat them over and over. Figuring out three new meals each day will get exhausting! For more recipes, visit Summer Tomato.


  • Eggs
  • Whole-grain bread with real cheese
  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Yogurt with granola


  • Salad with your favorite protein and veggies
  • Sandwiches on whole-grain bread
  • Burrito bowl with avocado
  • Curry or stir-fried entree with brown rice


  • A piece of meat or fish with roasted veggies
  • Whole grain pasta with fresh tomato sauce and vegetables
  • Roasted squash, eggplant or Portabello mushroom over salad
  • Homemade soup or chili


  • Fruits such as apples, pears, melon, grapefruit, orange, dried fruit
  • Nuts such as pistachios, almonds, cashews, trail mix, nut butters
  • Snack bars made from whole food ingredients (e.g. KIND)
  • Dairy: cheese, yogurt, hard-boiled eggs
  • Vegetables such as kale chips, carrots, avocado, celery, bell pepper, zucchini
  • Beans such as black beans, edamame, lentils, and hummus
  • Preserved meats such as smoked salmon, jerky, charcuterie, sardines (highly processed meats aren?t healthy, but small quantities can be useful for curbing your appetite)

More whole food snack ideas


If you think the occasional sweet will keep you satisfied and happy, indulge every once in a while in one of the diet-friendly options below. Go cold turkey if you think it?ll derail you.

  • Dark chocolate
  • Dried fruit
  • Mint/herbal teas
  • Juice spritzer (mixed with sparkling water)
  • Fruit
  • Fruit/nut bars made with honey instead of sugar (e.g. KIND)
  • Greek yogurt drizzled with honey or agave


Drink lots of water and stay away from anything made with refined sugar. These drinks are okay, too:

  • Still or sparkling water flavored with cut fruits/vegetables
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Milk (dairy, almond, coconut)
  • Unsweetened juices (the ingredients should be fruit/veg + water only)
  • Coconut water
  • Smoothies made with only whole food ingredients


Stick to simple drinks like wine, beer, and straight liquors. Most cocktails and some liquors are loaded with refined sugar. Get tips on how to drink less

Grains (are ok!)

You can eat grains! Grains get a bad rap but intact whole grains (grains in their natural, whole form) are good for you. Examples of intact grains: oats, barley, brown rice, whole wheat, quinoa (sort of) and faro. White rice is not a whole grain, and is closer to a refined grain than a whole grain. Learn how to identify intact whole grains


Sticking to the diet when eating out

Your default strategy for eating out should be to pick meals with vegetables and whole grains (rice, whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, quinoa). Summer Tomato recommends you look for foods with these descriptions: roasted, baked, broiled, rubbed, seared, grilled, steamed, sauteed, spiced, and seasoned. Stay away from fast food, deep-fried foods, or dishes described as glazed, breaded, or creamy. More tips from Summer Tomato.

Cooking at home

Cooking at home is a great way to ensure that you?re eating whole foods, and it doesn?t have to be hard. Here are a few simple tips that?ll make cooking easier:

1.Use tongs to cook pretty much everything2. Store everything in tupperware3. Overcooking is probably your biggest kitchen mistake4. If it tastes OK but not great, it probably needs salt and maybe some vinegar or olive oil5. Fruit (other than berries) shouldn?t be stored in the fridgeMore tips

Finding whole foods at the grocery store

Stick to foods you can find along the perimeter of the grocery store and stay away from the isles except to grab nuts and whole grains. Even better, find a farmers market and butcher near you. Here are some helpful guides:

  • How to buy seasonal foods
  • How to read food labels
  • How to upgrade your pantry

Sticking to the diet while traveling

Avoiding processed foods while traveling is all about preparation. Bring healthy snacks with you like almonds, nut butters or fruit, get a room with a kitchenette, and research healthy eating spots before you go.More tips

Tips for saving money

Whole foods are generally more expensive than processed foods, but you can still find ways to save money. Buy vegetables and fruits in season, eat canned fish instead of fresh, and purchase items like beans in bulk. Also, think of the extra money as an investment in your health. If you eat poorly, you?ll spend the money on health bills later!More tips

What to eat when you?re in a rush

Stock up on foods like these:

  • Healthy snacks such as KIND bars, nuts or trail mix.
  • Hummus or yogurt in the fridge (pair them with vegetables, whole-grain pita or fruit for a balanced meal)
  • Canned tuna fish, salmon, or sardines (add veggies)
  • Leftovers from homemade meals that you?ve stored in the freezer

How to improve your digestion

Digestive issues often accompany abrupt changes to your diet. Here are tips to reduce gas and other unwanted side effects from Summer Tomato(learn more here):

1. Chew thoroughly2. Take smaller bites3. Don?t get too full4. Eat balanced meals5. Increase vegetable and fiber intake gradually6. Experiment with probiotics7. Soak your beans8. Eliminate wheat9. Eliminate dairy10. Avoid fake sugars11. Reduce fresh and dried fruit intake12. Consider medication like Beano or Gas-X

Many thanks to Summer Tomato for helping us write this guide.


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