Hello best life seekers!
Want to immediately boost your health and vitality? Maybe you’re thinking of transitioning to a vegetarian diet or going vegan but aren’t ready to commit. Why not take the 7 Day Whole Foods Challenge? You’ll give your diet a needed hit of nutrition and learn new eating skills, recipe and habits that you’ll be able to keep forever.
What is the 7 Day Whole Foods Challenge?
For 7 days eat a diet exclusively of whole foods or at the very least, make whole foods two-thirds of your diet. Doing this will turn the standard American diet on its head. Currently, this diet trying to take over the world is 63% processed foods, 25% meat, and only 12% fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes (but half of this last category is french fries). This way of eating is horribly unhealthy and we see its consequences in high rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and chronic kidney disease, among others. Flipping these numbers around can only help reverse this terrible trend. If this is your diet, definitely do the 7 Day Whole Foods Challenge!
What are Whole foods?
Whole foods are plant foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible, and are free from additives or other artificial substances like preservatives, emulsifiers, conditioners and artificial or natural flavors before being consumed.
Examples of whole foods include fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, tubers, and whole grains. For the carnivores out there, I would add that fresh meat in the butcher and seafood sections of grocery stores fit the bill even though it’s not a plant. Same with eggs and milk.
Everything else is not a whole food. See my article What are Whole Foods? to get a good understanding of whole foods.
Why Whole Foods?
The benefits of whole foods are amazing:
- Cancer prevention
- Beating heart disease
- Lowering blood pressure
- Preventing and reversing diabetes
- Prevention of gallstones, kidney stones and osteoporosis
- Asthma prevention
- Better digestion
- Most sustainable diet for the planet
In the Kitchen
During the Whole Foods Challenge, whole foods should be the center of every meal, making up at least 70% of everything that goes into your mouth. This will mean passing on processed foods which include boxed meals and kits, frozen meals, most heat and serve meals, and fast food. And yes, even pasta because white flour and the foods made from it are processed. So that means bread too.
Does going 7 days without these items make your soul shrivel with horror? If you can’t imagine giving these up for even a week, keep them and other cheats to 30% of your overall consumption. Try cous cous and rice or barley for substitutes. Cous cous is technically a pasta though. Either way, making whole foods the stars of any meal and giving things like pasta or bread a limited supporting role will really help your health.
Switching to whole foods means more time in the kitchen since most convenience meals are processed or contain additives and artificial substances. For a week drop the pizza. Even a veggie pizza is 70% bread, 20% cheese, and at most 10% over-cooked and questionable veggies.
Why 7 Days?
One week isn’t a large commitment and is easy to plan. Plus you won’t feel overwhelmed by learning a ton of new recipes or feel like you’re completely giving up your eating lifestyle for good – though, hey, if you like the changes and the benefits, please continue!
Seven days are good for dipping your toes into a vegetarian or semi-vegetarian diet, learning new recipes and eating patterns, and can help you transition to eating healthier overall. And besides, who doesn’t enjoy a new challenge to get excited about?
Whenever we try something new or try to change habits, we should remind ourselves of a few things:
Firstly, we’ve been doing things a certain way for a while. When it comes to food, we’ve trained our bodies and minds to like what we’re already doing. When we try new foods, we may go into withdrawal from the removal of our usual foods. That and our gut biomes have adapted to our old eating habits and will undergo a shift when our foods change. Most people don’t realize this and think their body is reacting negatively to the new foods when really, it’s mostly withdrawal symptoms. If you’ve ever tried to give up coffee or colas for a week, you know what I’m taking about! The same is true for flour, meat, etc. Use this week to learn how addicted your body is to your current way of eating. You might find it eye-opening.
Secondly, we are creatures of habit. Don’t expect to like or love all the food recipes. If you’ve never tried something before, try it with an open mind. Think of this week as a way to experience new foods or find new recipes to incorporate into your meal rotation. See it as a fun exercise, not a drag, and you’ll have better results.
Thirdly, when we take on a food challenge, the experience is usually new. The recipes will take longer to organize and prep simply because you haven’t spent years making them. In time the ingredients and recipes become second nature and you can modify them as easily as your current meal rotations. Expect the learning curve rather than be upset by it. Most of these recipes are quick and easy for beginners.
Fourthly, food is culture. If your family and friends are meat lovers who have never seen a vegetable they didn’t hate, you may feel peer pressure over your new food selections or feel tempted to cheat and eat like normal. Remember that this is only a week-long challenge. If others tell you to cheat or give you grief, you can point out gently:
- Your health issues if you have any
- Any health issues in your family
- That you are trying to alleviate or prevent any health issues
- And that you could really use support since this isn’t easy
Many people if approached this way will be more considerate and helpful, especially if you tell them you don’t expect them to eat like you (some immediate family members will fear any food changes). Accept this and remember that you are the only person who can truly make the changes you want. Respect and love yourself enough to try what you’re wanting to do, no matter what others think.
All this said, we’re human and we get cravings. Don’t beat yourself up if you lapse during the challenge, just continue on with the next meal and be proud for what you do follow. Also, try not to make the challenge impossible by scheduling it around holidays. Only the most willful and possibly masochistic can survive holidays and their associated foods. On the flip side, if you’re trying to give up the excesses of the holidays, by all means, use this challenge as an excuse!
Now onto the nuts and bolts.
How It Works
The 7 Day Whole Foods Challenge is pretty straight-forward. You’ll be eating primarily vegetarian meals for a week. To do that:
- Pick a week to do the 7 Day Whole Foods Challenge.
- Make room in your fridge and in your mental space for the change.
- Plan out and organize your meals for the week for best results. Design them with your family or friends for added support and team-building if they’re willing.
- Make your grocery list.
- Buy the food.
- Prepare the meals yourself or for best results, with your family. Healthy food habits are teachable moments, as is food preparation. Children can’t learn healthy food habits if not exposed to them or taught the recipes. Cooking together means time together. Make cooking social.
- Eat and enjoy – the more the merrier!
7 Day Whole Foods Challenge Recipe Suggestions
It’s easiest to enjoy the challenge and keep with it if you include meals you already like that are vegetarian or whole foods based. Love your green bean casserole or cheddar mashed potatoes? Bust them out this week!
Organize around meals such as breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts. We tend to make the same handful of meals so don’t feel like every single meal for the week must be new and original. That gets expensive and stressful fast because you have to buy a larger variety of food and learn too many new recipes you may not be at all familiar with. Also, why waste any leftovers?
Check out the recommended week-long plan and more general pantry list so you can take the challenge and run with it. Feel free to mix and match however you like to make this challenge your own! Don’t like these suggestions? Check out these 20 pescatarian dinner recipes and 18 vegetarian lunch ideas for inspiration.
Now onto the week’s meal plan!
7 Day Whole Foods Challenge Meal Plan
Breakfast: Spinach and cheese omelet, cup of grapes on the side.
Lunch: Mediterranean chickpea salad
Dinner: Tilapia tacos; Substitute any white fish
Snacks: Fruit and nuts
Breakfast: Grapes and walnuts with yogurt
Lunch: Avocado and tomato salad
Dinner: Tomato soup with avocado and cucumber salad
Snacks: Yellow squash dippers and hummus
Breakfast: Strawberry, banana, spinach, coconut milk smoothie
Lunch: Tuna fish and spinach with avocado, tomato and cucumber salad
Snack: Dark chocolate or handful of mixed nuts
Dinner: Drunken mussels
Breakfast: Eggs scrambled with spinach, sliced half an avocado on the side
Dinner: Ginger veggie stir fry; Optional add-in: beef, pork, chicken or seafood
Snack: Olives and stuffed peppers from the grocery store olive bar – or anything from the olive bar
Dessert: Bananas with chopped nuts drizzled with honey or chocolate
Breakfast: Fruit bowl of strawberries and banana.
Lunch: White bean salad with anchovies; substitute chicken, pork sausage, smoked clams, mussels or oysters
Dinner: Shrimp zucchini linguine
Snack: Red pepper hummus with cucumber dippers
Breakfast: Cheese and egg breakfast tacos; Optional add-in: Ground sausage
Lunch: Lentil soup with avocado and tomato salad
Dinner: Sweet potato gnocchi and grilled salmon
Snack: Pecan-stuffed dates
Breakfast: Chocolate croissant (hey, one day of being decadent is nice, right?); Substitute blueberry and banana oatmeal
Lunch: Red lentil salad with feta
Dinner: Sexy fish stew
Dessert: Baked apples drizzled with honey and nuts
If none of these ideas tickle your fancy, feel free to find ones that do! Curries, stir fries, soups and stews make for hearty eating over the winter. Why not give them a try? So many recipe resources exist on the internet to find these and more. My favorite is allrecipes.com.
In order to cook a whole foods diet, it’s helpful to know how to stock your pantry. This is a general list, so don’t think this is your shopping list for the challenge. While a few items on this list are not whole foods, the vast majority are and these ingredients can make up a fantastic pantry for eating healthy and deliciously:
Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
Nuts – walnuts, pecans, cashews, almonds
Olive, sesame or coconut oil
White or apple vinegar
White cooking wine
Tilapia or cod filets
Canned or fresh tuna, anchovies, mussels, oysters, clams
Canned or dried white beans, chick peas, lentils, black beans
Fresh cuts of meats (be careful as even ground pork or ground turkey often now includes natural flavors – check the ingredients)
Fresh or canned diced tomatoes
Yellow squash, zucchini, butternut squash, acorn squash, etc.
Spinach, kale, greens
Rice, barley, buckwheat, oats
While fresh and from scratch is best, let’s face it, not everyone has the time or willingness. Here are timesavers and substitutions:
- Instant oatmeal and cream of wheat
- Canned beans and vegetables: drain and rinse them though
- Frozen vegetables and fruit
- Frozen fish filets
- Canned diced tomatoes
- Store-made guacamole, salsa and hummus
A Week of Healthy Eating
And there you have it – everything you need to know to take the 7 Day Whole Foods Challenge! Hopefully you will enjoy the foods and the benefits they quickly bring in terms of better health, energy levels, mental clarity, sleep and digestion, and a range of others. If you enjoy these foods and their benefits, why not permanently include these and other deliciously healthy meals in your routine?
Good luck with the challenge and happy eating!
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