“Is this a whole food?” – A Guide to Whole-Food Alternatives to Common Processed Foods

If you are still wondering why on Earth it matters that foods should be whole foods, look into Whole foods FAQ. That article addresses the “Why?” part of the question. Why whole-foods? Why not processed foods? Why low-fat? Why no oil? Why no salt? Why no sugar? Basically explaining why there is a problem.

What about the solution?
Well, the present article is the “What?” part of question. What is a whole food? What is not? What to buy instead? What to do instead?


~ WHOLE-FOOD MENU ~

whole or not

INTRODUCTION
OILS/ADDED FATS
ALTERNATIVES TO OIL / ADDED FAT / HIGH-FAT FOODS
SWEETNESS AND SUGAR
ALTERNATIVES TO SUGAR TO SWEETEN FOOD
SALT
ALTERNATIVES TO SALT
RICE
LEGUMES, PULSES, BEANS, AND PEAS
PASTA
BREADS
DRESSINGS
LEAVENING / RISING DOUGHS / BAKING NEEDS
PICKLES, FERMENTED AND PRESERVED PLANT FOODS
HOW TO DO WHEN EATING OUT?
Do we really need restaurants and take-aways to “eat out”?
Restaurants, take-aways, cafés, and other food venues
COMMENTS? SUGGESTIONS?


INTRODUCTION

There are two ways I know to explain which foods are whole food, which are not, which are acceptable health-wise and which are not. Different people learn in different ways. Some prefer to learn by concepts, some prefer by examples.

If you learn with concepts, what to chose is easy, neat and concise:

“Eat nothing else but low-fat whole plant foods.
If it’s not entirely made of plants, don’t have it.
If it doesn’t look like a plant, make sure the low-fat whole plant food was used and nothing was discarded, nutritionally damaged, extracted nor added that is not a low-fat whole food plant itself.”

That’s it, done. I always prefer positive wording. Simple powerful concepts like this work really well for me. The whole-food concept is a like an alphabet. Once you get the new concept right, the pantry and fridge look more like it, and you then build upwards from that and can’t possibly go wrong. That approach can’t possibly be mistaken for something restrictive. There’s no right way to eat the wrong foods when it comes to health, so drop meals and products that contain processed foods altogether, don’t try to fix processed foods. That strange planet of delicious disease is already obsolete. Just focus on building a *whole* new edifice, that of delicious health, with solid whole-foods foundations.

Now, if you learn best through examples, it’s a bit different. There’s no other way for this than go through a “good/not good” list which may look like a long prohibitive list. But what is really prohibitive? Could it be the insane extent of our reliance on processed foods that is prohibitive to our health? Reading this, chances are that you leave animals alone and off the plate. So imagine making a list of all animal foods people should replace or stop having? It will inevitably be a long list, and will inevitably seem restrictive to some. But you would know better, you would know the reality of it from experience. You would know, that there is no restriction/prohibition when you actually eat far more nutrients, add more years to your life and more life to your years. You would know, it’s not about cutting/eliminating foods (or rather non-foods), it’s fundamentally about having the right foods and nothing else.

Particularly nowadays, and particularly in certain foods cultures, listing all the processed foods we should be weaning from or replacing to eat the right foods can be quite a mouthful!
But I braced myself today to put it all down so it can go to help whoever wants to go whole-food; starting from where many people are (processed foods from supermarkets, restaurants, cafés, take-aways) and moving to food compatible with health that you prepare yourself from whole plants.

Finally, I must insist on two points:

  • Of all processed foods or non-foods below, oil, salt, and sugar will be of particular concern due the particular health concern with these. Please do not use them and consider instead the easy alternatives offered below.
  • Every transition in life can take time to be operated painlessly and sustainably. This list should not scare you. It took us about a year from quitting sugar to being almost 100% whole-foods with no oil, salt, or sugar. With the advice below we could have done that much faster! If you can operate all these changes cold-tofu, do it, you have all the tools now! If you need time, do them one step at a time, just keep challenging yourself until you reach the destination. Pain should not be part of this journey. Do observe priorities: Start first with eliminating oil and high-fat foods. Meanwhile, reduce down to zero your use of sugar and salt gradually enough so it’s not a pain. Meanwhile also, replace the non-whole foods by whole foods. Start with those you eat most, what is it for you? pasta? bread? and rice? Then expand to other things. Expanding your whole-food repertoire can also be done adding whole foods you never had before. We’re learning for example how to prepare whole grain groats as a staple, or legumes. It’s not a very Anglo-saxon thing to do but if other cultures figured it out, and it’s whole foods, that’s more options for you!

OILS/ADDED FATS

In short: no oil *at all*, nothing that is high-fat. What does that mean? For an adult who is 100% oil-free low-fat whole-food nutrition (already a big pre-requisite) : no more than 1~2 tablespoons daily total of any combination of nuts/seeds/avocado. Coconut best avoided. Absolutely zero of all of these of recovering from cardiovascular disease.

Oils and fats are found naturally in all low-fat whole plant foods in sufficient amounts. By energy: kale: 12% (of calories are from fat); brown rice: 6%; potatoes : 1%, etc. Given enough diversity in a low-fat whole-food plant diet, *all* our fat nutritional needs are met, including omega-3. Yes, from just plants only. The addition of fat whether extracted from whole foods (i.e. oil) or even high-fat from whole foods (i.e. nuts and avocado) in large amounts  is not just unnecessary, but majorly harmful. It contributes greatly to cardiovascular and metabolic disease; ending in heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, higher incidence of cancer, and of a number of degenerative diseases. In short, the unforgiving price to pay for our by-default under-informed, over-optimistic illusion of “moderation”.


Not whole foods, because all oils are extracts, or TO NOT EAT:

Everything that is called “oil” when you buying it from a supermarket, an online store,  “health” store, organic shop, or even if you press it yourself from your uncle’s fair-trade organic locally-grown olives. It doesn’t matter. Do not have any oil, whether it’s:

  • Cold-pressed oils
  • Extra virgin oils
  • Extra virgin cold-pressed oils
  • Organic oils
  • High-end oils
  • High-quality oils
  • Vegetable oils
  • Coconut oils
  • Olive oil
  • <plant> oil
  • Minimally-processed oil
  • coconut cream
  • coconut milk
  • grated coconut
  • all chocolate (=> cocoa powder although not technically a whole food, is a high-fiber less-high-fat food, a far more acceptable alternative to chocolate if you’re going to use chocolate)

If you are recovering from any cardiovascular disease (from impotence all the way to  surviving a stroke or heart attack) the above was the #1 (plant) things you must start having  an absolute zero amount of, besides of course ditching absolutely everything of animal origin.


Whole foods, but use at most in very low amounts*:

* Very low amounts = ~1 teaspoon per person per meal, maximum. Absolute zero if recovering from cardiovascular disease.

  • nuts and seeds
  • cocoa beans
  • avocado

Whole foods, but best avoided or kept for occasional use*

* Occasional use = 1 tablespoon per person once a month at most maybe. Absolute zero if recovering from cardiovascular disease.

  • coconut flesh from fresh coconut (even then still among the worst possible whole-food fat there is, almost entirely saturated fat). At home we cut one yearly and freeze it for the whole year. That’s becoming how much coconut we have yearly for two people. Amazing taste, but not worth it as a staple.

ALTERNATIVES TO OIL / ADDED FAT / HIGH-FAT FOODS

Just skip the oil. Below is how to do that for common instances where most people use oil. I know it’s hard at first to think it’s even possible to prepare food without oil. But, trust me, let go of being anxious around this, everything below is based on 6 months of kitchen experience of home-cooking without any oil at all.

How to replace oil to heat up spices
If you need to develop the aroma of certain seeds like is done in Indian cooking, just dry roast on less-than-medium heat for a few minutes while stirring, then add wet foods (like chopped onions/garlic) first, then ground spices.

How to replace oils for stir-fries and caramelizing onions/garlic:

There are a few alternative options to oil-frying:

  • Water-frying on high heat with just enough water so it won’t stick nor burn. Add ground spices if needed only after the onions/garlic have softened and become transparent.
  • OR: Chop onions and garlic very finely and stir on less-than-medium heat in a pan on its own (no added water). Because it is chopped finely it will cook at similar temperatures as with oil, without burning because finely-cut onions/garlic give off their own water.
  • OR: If stir-frying or frying is important to give a certain taste to food: consider baking instead. It works for French fries, potato wedges, garlic, bell-pepper etc. If you ever find that it makes the foods too dry, then bake a combination of dry/hard foods along with moist/wet foods. You will end up with nice glossy foods that look and feel exactly as if they were stir-fried.

These may not always give exactly the same result as with oil of course, but close enough that  people will not even notice you changed something.

How to replace oil/added fat in baking:

Don’t be anxious, just skip the oil, it works in many cases for cakes, breads, etc.

In cakes and breads, oil serves the purpose of holding moisture, that can be done with prune paste. The amount of prune paste* is amount of oil needed divided by 3, there will not be a prune taste. Don’t worry your final food will not taste of prunes. Try for yourself, we did, as recommended in the China Study Cookbook.

*For Wellington, large bags of prunes can be found at reasonably low cost, in bulk, at Moore Wilsons. Store them in the freezer, and you’re good to go for ages.

Other ingredients help hold moisture as well: certain flours more than others, aquafaba, ground flaxseed, applesauce, and other whole-food vegan egg replacements. Also wet foods like applesauce, zucchini, beetroot, bananas, give great moisture-holding.

For dressings and dips:

See Section below “Dressings”.

To prevent sticking:

Use baking paper, non-stick pans, cast iron pans if you don’t like non-stick coatings, or even any regular stainless steel pot with lower heat.

SWEETNESS AND SUGAR

Most sugars even the “brown” ones are generally extracted saps from trees or flowers, roots or corn, etc. Them being brown or having some nutrients does not make thin either health promoting not whole-foods. They are of similar concern as white sugar.

The sugars naturally found and consumed in whole foods do not pose health problems.

Commercial sweeteners are absolutely not whole foods, they are not even foods. Do not use them.

Besides, some do pose health concerns (like stevia or aspartame) others are experimental (erythritol) and may well be the next aspartame or MSG scandal, a risk we don’t run with corn or dates natural sweetness. The only safe whole-food sweetener I know that is a powerful natural sweeteener called Luo Han Guo (more below)

Sweetening sources that are not whole foods – DO NOT USE

Anything that doesn’t look like a whole plant food, and with the word sugar, syrup, or molasses in it, to list only a few:

  • raw cane sugar (or Sucanat)
  • raw sugar
  • brown sugar
  • coconut sugar
  • palm sugar
  • blackstrap molasses
  • maple syrup
  • rice syrup
  • malt syrup

ALTERNATIVES TO SUGAR TO SWEETEN FOOD

The most powerful alternative to sugar is to let your taste buds have less sweet foods so that they can learn to become more sensitive to the natural sweet taste of food and beverages. That should allow you to enjoy beverages with no added sweetness of any kind, and to enjoy food at a lower sweetness level. This being said, there is nothing wrong with enjoying sweetness or sweet foods, as long as that comes from whole foods and not extracted sugars.
There are some very common whole-food sources of sweet flavour that you can use:

  • Apple sauce
  • Date paste
  • Date sugar, homemade only, when it’s made from dried pulverized dates = “date flour”, not the commercial “date sugar” which is often date-extracted sugar and therefore just as mertabolically hazardous as any other sugar.
  • Prune paste
  • Banana
  • Raisins, currants, sultanas and other dried fruits but read the ingredients: some come loaded with oil, sugar, preservatives which you can tell form the ingredients or the sodium content for preservatives.
  • Sweet potatoes like baked orange kumara
  • Jackfruit*
  • Sweet corn
  • Whole-food sweetener: Luo Han Guo*, found in the near tea in many Chinese Shops. Boiled in water it is a very potent natural sweetener with, a long history of usage and not a single known health concern to my best current knowledge after researching it. It might be pulverizable into a powder for use in cooking, baking etc.

* For NZ-Wellington: This can be found at Yan’s Supermarket off Webb Street, or in NZ Lower Hutt’s Davis Trading for Lo Han Guo, see tea section.

SALT

The issue with salt has little to do with whole-food or not. Salt is simply not a food, so the wholeness (process salt vs unprocessed sea salt) is secondary and does not matter at all. Added salt is used as a flavour enhancer, for people who have grown a habit for it and not yet weaned off.

Unfortunately it is the source of unnecessary stress/damage on cardiovascular health because it creates a state of hypertension to push the sodium out of the body.

Hypertension leads to serious health concerns, and is considered a cardiovascular disease, yet it is virtually entirely caused by eating a lot of salt or preserved/processed foods. The sodium naturally occuring in plants is more than we need.

There is no right way to eat the wrong foods so all the salts below are salts and should never be part of food:

DO NOT USE:

  • Himalayan pink salt
  • Sea salt
  • Kosher salt
  • Celtic salt
  • Guerande salt
  • black salt (also known as “kala namak”)
  • blue salt
  • soy sauce
  • or anything with the word “salt” in it or with outrageously high amounts/concentrations of salt or sodium in it.

If you buy partially processed products (like the jarred salt-free tomato paste we use off-season*) always read the ingredients and nutritional content. Sodium per 100g in  whole foods is rarely ever above a few dozens: 5 mg, 10mg, 20mg are numbers that shouldn’t worry you. Just make sure it’s mg (milligrams) not grams like I see sometimes. If you start seeing hundreds, something’s wrong, except for a tiny handful or expections that are naturally high-sodium inside them.

Be aware that salt and sodium also are virtually everywhere in processed foods, from canned foods to cookies, to even dried fruit! In restaurants you may order salt-free food but if they relied on processed foods like pasta, or sauces, etc, those also come generously loaded with sodium. As I said in introduction, do not waste your time trying to fix a broken system, build your own, without any of the otherwise inescapable nonsense.

ALTERNATIVES TO SALT

Quitting all salt, and processed foods, is the single best alternative to salt and sodium.
It can be done painlessly over 3 weeks to 3 months. After only 3 weeks most people start developing a dislike for salted foods and a preference for unsalted foods. Yes, your taste buds are magical, and you need to harness this power you already have.

Immortalizing the moment when we stopped using salt at home :)

Immortalizing the moment when we stopped using salt at home 🙂

What to do about flavour? Preparing food for people that are used to salt?

Simply use more of natural flavours!

We put more of the flavourful foods in our cooking: slightly more spices, more carrots, more celery, more onion, garlic, more whole-food sweetness to lift up the taste without salt, more sourness (from lemon or tamarind) or more whole-food sweetness from dates or other naturally sweet foods. If you hit the tongue right it won’t need a bang from salt, even the highly-demanding tongues and palates of people who have not yet weaned off salt.

People on low-sodium dietary lifestyles have used all sorts of spices instead of salt. They like to go by “salt alternatives” and “salt replacements”. I don’t like those phrasings because when you don’t need salt, you don’t need to replace salt.

I offer to transcend the idea of even replacing salt, and simply understanding that our tongue (and nose) is full of sensors for all sorts of things (for the tongue: sweetness, sourness, bitterness…) and your tongue likes a good whip to be happy. So whip up your tongue (wut-tish!) with everything you have that is an actual food, it will thank you for it.
When we quit salt, my first natural urge was to add sourness (lemon/lime) to everything, but that’s just me.
My tongue loves sour,  bitter, sweet but not too chilli-hot, I like pungent but not too garliquey. For my partner it’s completely different. My partner likes NOT sour, NOT bitter, NOT as sweet as I do. She likes VERY spicy, NOT pungent, but VERY garliquey. If food isn’t chili-hot, for her, it’s not food! For me it’s the same but with sour.
So each person’s tongue likes to be whiped its own way. Find your taste spot and give it what it needs!

How to do about salt-containing products? like canned chickpeas, dried fruits with high sodium, spice mixes, etc? Simple: dont’ use them. Find salt-free options if it’s trivial to find, or just save time and make your own.

If you have concerns about health:

  1. The sodium in whole plant foods is far more than sufficient to meet our body’s needs in sodium. Look around, how many land mammals and animals do you see walking around with salt shaker? Salt does not contribute to health.
  2. For iodine which is important, you don’t have to have get it from chronic hypertension (i.e. salt, iodized), just introduce unprocessed seaweeds *gradually* (for safety) and check their iodine content before using them. While you sort that out an iodine supplement is very encouraged. I wrote a guide to common New Zealand seaweeds you can forage, how to desalt them, and their iodine content.

RICE

Not whole-foods:

  • Any white rice, because it is “milled” = removing the nutrient-rich outer layer (rice bran), then polished after milling to make it look good again.

Whole-food alternatives to milled/polished white rice:

  • Brown rice
  • Red rice
  • Black rice
  • Brown Basmati rice
  • Brown Jasmine rice
  • Brown Thai rice

Note: There are different “whole” grades of the rices below. Some rices that look whole (with a bran on top) are actually partially milled (to remove bran partially) or partially polished. Producers undoubtedly derive extra profits from bran as a by-product, sold as animal feed, for rice bran oil, etc. Ideally you want a rice that is unmilled and unpolished. Visual examination might be enough, I’ll start paying attention and see if I notice differences.

LEGUMES, PULSES, BEANS, AND PEAS

Not whole foods:

  • Split peas
  • Split beans
  • Red lentils (they are what’s left when you remove the highly-nutritious brans)

Whole-food alternatives to split legumes:

  • The unsplit whole grains, i.e. your typical chickpeas or lentils or beans with their skin.

PASTA

Not whole-food:

  • Standard pasta. This is why:

Whole-food alternative to white pasta:

  • Wholemeal or whole grain pasta
  • Any pasta made at home from whole grains or whole grain semolina.

Note: Commercial use of the term “whole” can be abused in “wholemeal” pasta due to expectable partial amounts of whole semolina or recombined whole semolina made from refined semolina some extracted bran or fiber to give a whole “feel”.

BREADS

Not whole-food:

Most breads marketed as “whole meal” or “whole grain” use most often only a small amount of whole-meal flour 10% to 25% only typically. The rest is baker’s white flour, a highly- refined product. Besides whole-food aspects, baker’s flours or bread flours and the wheats they come from are generally under a lot of pressure to be high-protein, high-gluten, and have extremely specific characteristics all highly focused on one thing: to make their final processing standardized and idiot-proof. That requires both high selection of the wheat, and high processing, both of which make the job easy for bakers but has led to wheats that can nutritionally poor since nutrition never was the concern, unnecessarily high-protein, unnecessarily high-gluten, and which generally seem to cause more health issues than more traditional wheats, not specifically selected or refined for bread or bakers. Few people that are not bakers or cereal producers know this.

Commercial breads also come with high amounts of salt/sodium. About a gram of salt per 100g, and I know from personal experience it’s outstandingly easy to eat not just 100g of bread a day, but many hundred grams, which is utterly unnecessary hypertension on our blood vessels and the organs they supply.

Whole-food alternative to store-bought non whole-food breads:

I already wasted ample time looking for truly 100% whole and salt-free bread, let me save you some time. Like many quests to find healthy foods processed by industry, looking for a truly whole and salt-free bread in shops and bakeries was a quest for the Yeti, the Bigfoot, and the Unicorn combined. I would have made enough bread healthy bread for the year by actually not looking for one.

Solution? Make your own bread at home, with baker’s yeast or a sourdough culture, no salt, and if you want to flavour it maybe throw some fennel seeding in the dough. That’s what we’ve been doing.

If you are a breadoholic, invest 50~100$ into a kneading machine and visit op-shops for secondhand baking trays, rolling pins, whatever you may need.

We don’t often make bread anymore, maybe once or twice a month, about 2 kg, and it never lasts as long as we wish it did! At that pace, I actually love and very much enjoy the (minimal) kneading that is required. No machine or fancy equipment here. Home bread-making can be made very easy and very  time-efficient.

There are many recipes online to make bread from 100% whole flour from any grain or seeds that’s suitable to you.

DRESSINGS

Not wholefoods:

  • Pretty much all commercial dressings, primarily due to oil, sugar, salt and other refined ingredients.

Whole-food alternatives to dressings:

  • Find recipes for oil-free dressings, and remove salt, replace sugars by whole sweet foods, and high-fat foods by low-fat foods.
  • Create your own: Play with sweet whole foods (e.g. apples, raisins and dates), sour whole foods (like lemon or lime) and instead of fatty base like oil or cashews use a starchy base like blended and cooked pea, beans, or grains with enough water will make a nice and runny cream.

LEAVENING / RISING DOUGHS / BAKING NEEDS

Not whole-foods:

  • Baking powder (+ extra concern with sodium content as it is sodium bicarbonate)
  • Baking soda (+ extra concern with sodium content as it often contains sodium bicarbonate or other sodium salts)
  • Citric acid
  • Tartaric acid
  • Various essences, either natural or artificial flavours

Whole-food alternatives to baking needs:

  • Baking yeast
  • Sourdough cultures
  • Aromas: spices, spice-seeds (fennel, caraway, etc), herbs, real vanilla, grated lemon, dried fruit, orange peels, bananas, etc.

This will not rise instantly, the rising processes takes longer, but good news: you don’t have to sit and stare at breads and cakes leaven! Yeasts are shy and prefer making babies when no one is starring at them and desperately waiting for them to be done 😛 Set an alarm and go on about your life while it’s rising 🙂

PICKLES, FERMENTED AND PRESERVED PLANT FOODS

These are of particular concern to health not because of the whole-foods being pickled, but because of the ridiculous amounts of salt, oil, sugar and preservatives used to keep those.

I created a project group on Facebook especially for the purpose of pickling and fermenting foods without resorting to any salt, sugar or oil: sauerkraut, pickled lemon, etc.
Whole-food plant-based fermentation, no oil, no sugar, no salt

Salt-free purple cabbage sauerkraut culturing as I write

Salt-free purple cabbage sauerkraut culturing as I write

HOW TO DO WHEN EATING OUT?

It’s a very good question!
We all like to go out, have lunch and dinners with friends.
How do we do?

At this point of time, my partner and I eat about 90% of our meals from home-made food. It’s all low-fat, whole-food vegan, with no oil, no salt, no sugar.

We eat from restaurants and cafés about twice a week, that the 10%. The food we eat out is not always perfect, but we try, and it’s been worth trying so far, even if sometimes it’s a bit of a sport. Restaurants like all businesses care first and foremost about one thing, that is making profit. The health officer in that trade is you and you alone, so you get what you encourage and ask for. Restaurants follow what the people holding the money want, and these people need to express their needs.

Do we really need restaurants and take-aways to “eat out”?

Everything you didn’t make yourself from scratch using whole plant foods is eating out. If you got your act sorted out, that eating out remains the only possible source of unhealthy eating.
Before zooming on restaurants and take-ways, let’s talk about “eating out”.
First of all there are a number of reasons why people eat out. Convenience, hanging out with people, getting food inspiration, etc…A number of these needs can be met without having to go to a restaurant. Since it can be a bit of challenge getting truly healthy whole foods from restaurants, with the help of like-minded friends we have been federating a culture of healthy eating among our friends and communities. So we’re having more potlucks, more dinners and meals at each others house, etc. To some extent, so many restaurants could exist only on a base of lack of community bonds, lack of time spent in the kitchen, and lack of direct sharing in people’s life. This is easy to remedy: Share and make foods for yourself *and* your friends!

Picture-163_bis

That’s our growing whole-food gang, meeting for a lovely autumn picnic. We’re heading towards doing this at least twice a month.

There is also nothing wrong with bringing your own food to work, going to the company/school canteen with your boxes, and sitting at your friends table with your own food. The spotlight won’t be on you too long if you know why you’re doing it and how to articulate it. In fact you may get them to join you…who doesn’t want to spare themselves a heart attack? diabetes? hypertension and all the plagues of animal-based eating?

Restaurants, take-aways, cafés and other food venues

When eating out we skip everything that is deep-fried, or fried, expect stir-fries, more below on this. What’s left is either vegan or not, and to keep choices large, I include non-vegan options so I can explore if it can be veganized (in passing that encourages vegan options). If something is a stir-fry, I ask to water-fry as I ask for “vegan, no oil, no salt, no sugar”.

“No oil” is currently the most frightening new challenge for most restaurants. Oil is still very central to restaurant/café kitchens and it often seems unconceivable for them to not use oil, either for cooking convenience, time-saving, or for taste. It’s not rare that the person taking our order would go and check with the kitchen to see if they can do that.

Good news though: most often restaurants can remove oil, sugar or salt to some relevant amount, if not entirely. There is of course the odd one out where the waiter “vegan, no oil, no salt, no sugar” and the food comes either stir-fried with oil, or drizzed with it, or far too salty or sweet, it happened…but quite rarely. There is also the odd one out where a restaurant would insist “The chef doesnt’ want to do a stir-fry with no oil, he/she/it needs oil”. Other times, they would honestly say they wish but they can’t because the food is batch-prepared with oil, sugar, or salt. But most of the time they can remove something, if not all.

Where my face is not familiar yet, waiters taking my food order the first time often (unwittingly) patronizingly tell me that the food will not be very good. But that’s their worried untrained palate speaking, so it’s worth insisting that they shouldn’t worry about taste and that I eat like that everyday and like it a lot. They can get surprisingly insisting that your palate will not find it tasty basically, afraid perhaps to serve a customer a very unpalatable experience that may convert into bad business. But be “kindly firm” in those cases. And when you’re done with your meal and thank them before leaving, tell them what you thought about the food (it’s usually good!). It’s usually only the first time, it gets smooth and easy when you go regularly to the same food places. Once you develop relationships with them, if they’re open to it, they eventually get interested into your motivations to order in this unusual way for them.

A friend, Caitlin, also gave me the tip of ordering a few hours in advance, ahead of peak hours. Not sure why that works, but it works for her and for other people apparently.

We have had some really lovely restaurant experiences, some waiters, chefs or restaurants owners that would have dealt with disease themselves or through a close person. They’d know about why eating the way we do is vitally important, and they were accommodating. Such a breeze when that happens!

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Rangoli Restaurant, Kapiti, NZ. Highly recommended!

Such an accommodating place served us this, everything is no oil, no salt, no sugar. 3 out of 4 plates here are low-fat whole foods: Kachumber (Indian salad), wholemeal bread (Indian roti), and the best chana masala (Indian chickpea curry) I’ve had in my life. Only the rice on the top left is not a whole food, but white rice. Not bad at all overall relatively. The restaurant is Rangoli, in Kapiti, NZ. Great friendly/kind service, rather cosy, amazing food, some vegan wines too.

So far, I talked oil, salt, sugar, but that doesn’t make a tofu burger whole-food, does it?
No it doesn’t. At this point of time, most breads in restaurants are white breads (less so in Indian restaurants), pasta is still always refined white pasta, rice is not yet routinely brown rice or another whole rice, etc…We make do our best with what we have at hand. More and more, I do ask though about the wholeness of the pasta, rice, breads. I would know the answer in advance most of the time, so why do I keep asking? Because customers’ questions always act as subtle requests and they are! It can start very constructive educational conversations for the staff and restaurant, as well as for us in terms of the challenges that they encounter, which we may able to help with.

A restaurant we often go to even started to put on the menu that whole-food options are available with no oil, sugar or salt. The owner, it turns out, already had a preference for oil-free food and whole foods and just needed someone to request it to feel motivated to pursue that route.

Adulis Restaurant, Wellington, NZ. Highly recommended!

This restaurant is in Wellington NZ:  Adulis African restaurant, proposing currently essentially Ethiopian/Sudanese foods. Currently in the process of going using more whole foods and pro-actively encouraging options with no oil, salt, sugar. Wonderful! This is at long last the future that many of us have been waiting for, it’s amazing! And again, restaurant owner also very cheerful and friendly person, and so is staff generally. That’s becoming more and more one of regular healthy go-tos.

COMMENTS? SUGGESTIONS?

Was this helpful to you?
What did you learn from this?
Do you feel I forget something important in this list?
Is there something you want to suggest adding?
Do you have short videos (< 5 min) that show clearly the products we’re used to being processed from a whole food to an extracted, refined, nutritionally damaged product?
What struggles are you facing with going WFPN (whole-food plant nutrition)?
or with quitting salt, sugar, and oil?

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One thought on ““Is this a whole food?” – A Guide to Whole-Food Alternatives to Common Processed Foods

  1. Thank you so much. I am new to this way of eating and I learned a lot. I enjoyed the short videos as well.

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