How to Choose Whole Foods for Your Pantry

Whole Foods Are Healthy

Foods to eat on a whole food diet will depend on your definition of whole food. For some people this means eating foods in their natural form, uncooked--which is known as a raw food diet. For others whole foods are interpreted to mean foods in their natural form plus foods that have not been overly processed and still contain natural nutrients and fiber. In the case of the second group, it's important to learn how to read labels.

Stocking Your Pantry With Whole Food Staples

No matter which approach you take to eating whole foods, it will require a restocking of your pantry. For this article, we'll focus on the whole food approach that includes cooked food.

When preparing to move to a diet including whole foods, it's a good idea to stock your shelves. It not only saves unplanned trips to the store, but also encourages you to stay on your healthy diet plan. Besides things like unrefined sea salt, pepper and other spices you'll use to flavor your food, other items to have on hand include:

  • Almonds
  • Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar (Cold Pressed with the mother in it)
  • Braggs Liquid Amino (Cold Pressed) - Makes a great salt substitute
  • Brown rice
  • Coconut Oil (Cold Pressed Virgin) - Used in cooking
  • Dates
  • Flax seed
  • Flax seed oil (Cold Pressed)
  • Garlic (fresh)
  • Lemons (fresh)
  • Olive oil (Pure Virgin Cold-pressed) - Used for to make salad dressing.
  • Raisins
  • Rice milk (or other milks such as almond milk or soy milk)
  • Seeds to sprout
  • Tahini (Raw)
  • Unrefined honey
  • Walnuts
  • Whole grain cereal
  • Whole grain pasta

Keeping these whole food ingredients on hand will make cooking and eating whole foods easier and the transition to your whole food diet tastier, too.

Benefits of Choosing a Whole Foods

In our culture today, most people don't begin to realize how much nutrition has been stripped away in foods that have been over-processed. For an example, look at white rice in comparison to brown rice:

Brown Rice Vs. White Rice

Brown rice and white rice actually start out from the same grain which has several layers. The outer layer, known as the hull, is removed leaving the edible portion-and what is known as brown rice. This process leaves the most nutritional value, and because the rest of the layers remain, it is a whole food. White rice takes this same grain and processes it further. The bran and germ layer are removed through milling, and then the grain in polished to give it the white look we've come to recognize as white rice. This polishing process removed the grain layer which houses the essential fats found in brown rice. This is done to extend the shelf life of the product. This refining process actually strips away:

  • 67 percent of vitamin B3
  • 80 percent of vitamin B1
  • 90 percent of vitamin B6
  • 60 percent of the iron
  • 50 percent of manganese
  • 50 percent of the phosphorous
  • Dietary fiber
  • Essential fatty acids

Then in an attempt to make the white rice nutritious, manufacturers enrich the white rice with man-made versions of some of the vitamins and nutrients that were stripped in the refining process. The problem is, that these substitutes don't really compare to the real thing and it leaves you with a high caloric food with almost no nutritional value. It doesn't really nourish the body.

The benefit of whole foods over refined foods is clear, but learning to identify whole foods takes a little looking into.

Reading Labels on a Whole Food Diet

Reading food labels is important when trying to include only whole foods in your diet. The simpler the ingredient list, the more likely it is a whole or less-refined food. Whole foods are foods kept close to their original form. Good rules of thumb to follow, if you can't pronounce it, or have never heard of it, steer clear of the product. To help identify whether or not to include foods in your pantry, avoid buying packaged foods with the following types of ingredients:

Ingredients to Avoid When Choosing Whole Foods
acesulfame potassium caprocaprylobehenin octa-esters of sucrose propyl gallate
ammonium chloride certified color hydrogenated fats propylparaben
artificial colors cyclamates disodium inosinate saccharin
artificial flavor cysteine irradiated food sodum aluminum phosphate
aspartame DATEM lactylated esters of mono-and diglyceride sodium aluminum sulfate
azodicarbonamide dimethylpolysiloxan methyl silicon sodium benzoate
benzoates dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate methylparabe sodium bisulfit
benzoyl peroxid disodium calcium microparticularized whey protein sodium diacetate
BHA disodium dihydrogen monosodium glutamate sodium glutamate
BHT disodium guanylate natamyacin sodium nitrate/nitrite
bleached flour disodium inosinate nitrates/nitrites sodium propionate
bromated flour ethyl vanillin partially hydrogenated oil sodium sulfite
brominated vegetable oil ethylene oxide polydextrose sorbic acid
calcium bromate ethyoxyquin potassium benzoate sucralose
calcium disodium FD & C colors potassium bisulfite sucroglycerides
calcium peroxide foie gras potassium bromate sucrose polyester
calcium propionate disodium guanylate potassium metabisulfite sulfites
calcium saccharin hexa-esters of sucrose potassium sorbate tetrasodium EDTA
calcium sorbat hepta-esters of sucrose propionatee vanillin

Instead of the above, look for food ingredients that contain the word "whole" such as whole wheat, whole grains, etc. among the first ingredients. Other whole grain ingredients include brown rice, oats, and wheatberries. In order to be "whole" they need to contain all the parts of the grain. Many whole food products today bear the Whole Grain stamp which makes identifying the foods you want easier with just a glance.

How to Choose Whole Foods for Your Pantry