Figuring Out What to Eat on a WFPB Diet

By Jane Birch

Figuring out how to eat a healthy plant-based diet is difficult for several reasons:

  1. Our taste buds are accustomed to meat and processed foods (with lots of salt/sugar/fat), so it takes time to learn to really appreciate whole foods. (Don’t give up until you get there because real food is very delicious!).
  2. Learning new ways of preparing food takes time.
  3. Cooking whole foods from scratch inevitably takes longer, especially at first, so we have to readjust our thinking and habits. (Once you master new skills, you’ll find all kinds of ways to cook very quickly when needed.)
  4. Everyone’s tastes and habits are different so there is no one set of recipes that works for everyone. (Others can provide ideas, but you have to work out the solutions on your own. Enjoy the adventure!)

For some people, making this change can feel a bit overwhelming at first, especially if you are trying to feed a family. Keep it simple! Don’t expect to be perfect overnight. Even though it takes effort, you can do it, especially if you decide you’re going to keep working until you succeed.

I know it is do-able because I started with literally zero cooking skills. I struggled so much that I finally got on the McDougall Discussion Board to plead for help. Others with experience responded with lots of great recipes and other ideas for succeeding. (You can read the posts here: “Help! I’m NOT enjoying my new food.”) I can now feed myself relatively quickly with minimal effort, and I VERY much enjoy my food. It does not feel like a sacrifice. It feels like a GREAT blessing.

With this diet, you will primarily be cooking from scratch—there is really no way around it. Unless you can afford to hire a cook or know someone who will cook for you, you will be doing a lot of cooking (or if you plan ahead: reheating).

You can find literally thousands of free recipes online. Of course, you don’t need thousands. Most people do fine most of the time with 6–12 recipes, but you may need to explore more than that before you figure out what you like and what works for your lifestyle. 

Beginner Strategy to Finding Foods You Will Like

You can find foods you like before you begin the diet, or start the diet right away with a few foods that you already know how to make while you explore new recipes.

  • Make a list of all the foods you currently enjoy that already fit within the guidelines of this diet. Add to that list any foods you like that you can make fit the guidelines with minimal adjustments (like replacing meat with mushrooms, beans, or squash; using whole wheat pasta; or cooking with water/broth instead of oil). See WFPB Guidelines.
  • Try WFPB recipes to find additional foods you think you’d enjoy, ones that work for you in terms of taste and preparation time. See WFPB Recipes.
  • After you have a basic set of 3–7 meals you like, continue to use them over and over each week. This takes the stress out of having to cook a bunch of new recipes. (You may want to make a detailed weekly menu so you can get all your shopping done at one time and be prepared for the full week. Make large batches so you don’t need to cook every day. See Meal Planning.)
  • As you have time and interest, try a new recipe, but don’t make the process harder or more complicated than it needs to be. Try one new recipe 2–3 times a month as you have time and desire.
  • Don’t get discouraged if you make a recipe, and you don’t like it! Especially if it took a long time, this can be discouraging, but it is a natural part of the process. Make this a chance to figure out how you can “improve” the recipe to your tastes. Trying adding more spice, hot sauce, salsa, onions, garlic, and/or salt.
  • As your taste buds change, you’ll naturally find you enjoy more and more WFPB foods, but don’t pressure yourself about the process. Keep it simple! Have faith!

Remember: if at first you are not enjoying this food, don’t panic. This will not last forever, just a relatively short time period. Not enjoying your food for a few weeks is NOT the end of the world. We humans are designed to enjoy wholesome plant foods. The food industry has hijacked our taste buds. We can reclaim them and learn just how wonderful and delicious the wholesome plants God created are.

See also: Kid-friendly WFPB Recipes, Food Ideas and Resources

Example Foods

The following are typical WFPB foods. There are lots of recipes for these that follow the WFPB guidelines. See:  WFPB Recipes

Typical breakfast foods

  • Breakfast burritos
  • Cracked wheat or oats with almond milk and fruit
  • Hash browns with fruit
  • Muffins or toast with 100% fruit jam
  • Pancakes, French toast or waffles
  • Tofu scrambles or omelets

Typical lunch foods

  • Chips with “7 layer” dip
  • Lentils with chips
  • Pasta salad
  • Peanut butter and honey sandwich
  • Salad or soup with whole wheat bread
  • Veggie sandwich

Typical snacks

  • Crackers with hummus
  • Energy bites
  • Fruit
  • Peanut butter and celery
  • Popcorn
  • Veggies with hummus

Typical dinner foods

  • Burritos, tortillas, tacos
  • Chili with corn bread or baked potato
  • Enchiladas or tostadas
  • Haystacks
  • Pastas
  • Pinto beans with tortillas & salad
  • Pizzas
  • Potato bars
  • Rice and/or bean bowls
  • Salads
  • Sandwiches
  • Shepherd’s pie
  • Soups and stews
  • Spaghetti
  • Stir-fry over rice
  • Veggie burgers
  • Veggies over noodles

Practical Suggestions

  • Clear out your fridge and cupboards of all non-compliant foods, or if that is not possible, stick them in a place where you can’t see them unless you make a concerted effort.
  • Stock up on staples that can last awhile: cans of low-sodium beans and tomatoes; whole grains and other starches; frozen fruits and veggies; spices and condiments. Here is a good list of “WFPB Kitchen Staples.”
  • Make a menu plan. If you are cooking for a family, check out this page on “Meal Planning.”
  • Do produce preparation soon after shopping so that you have already chopped/prepped veggies for a quick meal.
  • Cook food in large quantities so you have lots of leftovers (or freeze for later).
  • Use frozen vegetables and fruits and some canned goods like tomatoes and beans. These are already chopped and can save LOTS of time. The nutrient loss is very minimal compared to the time saved. The biggest problem with canned foods (besides a difference in taste) is sodium. Get reduced salt or no-salt varieties when possible.

Cooking Tips

Food Management Tips

  • Be sure to eat enough food every day so you are not hungry. If you eat until you are full at each meal, you’ll do much better. If you are hungry you will be tempted to eat something unhealthy. Be prepared: on this diet, the volume of food will be larger than what you ate before. (However the cost can be much cheaper, especially if you buy in bulk and prepare most foods at home. In some areas of the country, you can eat WFPB for as low as three or four dollars per day.)
  • Have some healthy snack foods available when you need something extra or want to munch on something. Keep some healthy snacks in your car, office, or anywhere else you spend lots of time. See WFPB Snacks.
  • Don’t cut out salt entirely, especially at first. A little salt can make a big difference. If you tend to use too much, tackle the issue after you’ve found foods that you can enjoy and your tastes have changed.
  • Find local restaurants or health-food stores with a big salad bar or other WFPB compliant foods so that you have a resource for healthful meals away from home or to recommend when friends or family what to eat out.

Dealing with Other Challenges

More WFPB Food Resources

Last updated: December 29, 2016

Comments

  1. I am writing this not to provoke controversy, accuse anybody of anything, or call into question what works for you. However, I would like to hear your thoughts.

    I just started to read The China Study by Dr. Campbell today, which is cited in one of the personal stories shared on your website (Julie Brown). Already he has laid much of the healthcare problems at the feet of dairy products.

    Perhaps not coincidentally, I also saw this news article today explaining how the Dutch are some of the largest consumers of dairy products, at the same time changing from some of the shortest people in the world to the tallest. I checked on the rates of liver disease, liver cancer (which Dr. Campbell says is largely due to casein consumption), obesity and heart disease amongst the Dutch. In all cases, they ranked very low. In fact, they have some of the lowest obesity and heart disease rates in the world. They also rank well when it comes to longevity (79 years for men and 83 years for women).

    http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-34380895?utm_medium=email&utm_source=digg

    This information certainly doesn’t seem to mesh with anything taught here or in Dr. Campbell’s book. I am honestly seeking answers, not trying to be argumentative or cause contention. Do you have a response for this?

    • Great question, Kim! Health is determined by a very wide range of dietary factors. The consumption of dairy is just one. Are you aware that Japanese people are among the healthiest in the world? They have also been big cigarette smokers. Does that mean cigarette smoking is actually not bad for your health? Or might it mean that the Japanese have done plenty of other things that outweighs the negative effects of the cigarette smoking?

      Sound scientific analysis controls for multiple factors and compares apples to apples and oranges to oranges. When this is done, the research shows that diary consumption is an overall negative factor in health. That doesn’t mean every person who consumes dairy is unhealthy, but most people would enjoy much better health if they gave it up. As healthy as the Japanese and Dutch may be, they’d be even healthier if they gave up smoking and diary.

      See also: “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: What About Dairy and Eggs?”

      Take care! Jane

      • Thank you for your thoughtful response, Jane. I appreciate that you answered this question in the spirit it was asked and I enjoyed the article link you sent.

        Thank you again for taking the time to address my question!

        Kim

  2. I am in agreement with almost everything that you are teaching here. However, I do not see anywhere in the WoW that gives us counsel regarding the elimination of healthy fats from the diet. I enjoy eating nuts and avocados, olive and coconut oil. As a healthy woman with no weight problem, I simply do not see the need to eliminate these foods from my diet. I understand that the Forks Over Knives diet makes this recommendation, but I have not seen any evidence in the WoW to convince me to give up these delicious, natural, God given foods. Please explain.

    • Hi Jennifer! Good question!!

      The Lord teaches us in principles. It is up to us to interpret and apply the principles in our individual lives, according to the dictates of our own conscience. The first dietary principle in the Word of Wisdom is found in D&C 89:10-11: “And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man— Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.” Note that the Lord ordains “wholesome herbs,” which means “wholesome plants” to be used with “prudence and thanksgiving.”

      I personally agree with the whole food, plant-based experts who use excellent scientific and clinical evidence to demonstrate that oils, including coconut and olive oils, are anything but “wholesome.” Like sugar, they are highly processed foods created by isolating one part of a whole plant, thereby leaving out the bulk of the nutrients God packaged naturally with that whole plant.

      Nuts, avocados, and olives are whole foods and are packaged with all the nutrients. Eaten in moderation, they can be part of a healthy diet, especially for people like you who are healthy with no weight problems. But because these foods are very high in fat and addictive for some people, for some people eating more than a moderate or even sparing amount may not be using “prudence” as the Word of Wisdom recommends.

      You can do the research yourself and decide whether you think oils are wholesome or eating large amounts of nut, avocados, and oils is using “prudence.”

      Here is my analysis: “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Healthy Fats & Vegetable Oils.” You may be interested in following up with the references in the notes.

      Best wishes!
      Jane

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