Sep. 22. 2016
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped® and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

What is a whole foods lifestyle and what does it mean? Dietitian Nutritionist McKel Hill explains.

I’ve been sharing the basics of the Nutrition Stripped Lifestyle from building a supportive community, managing stress, to working out. Today I’m sharing the fourth pillar of the NS lifestyle, staying nourished! If you’re new to a whole foods lifestyle and don’t know where to start or just need a refresher, start here with these food principles for better health and wellbeing.

Here are the five basic pillars of a whole foods diet:

No. 1

Back-to-basics. Be a hunter, forager, and gatherer in the 21st century! Go local. Go organic. Eat REAL whole foods that you can trace back to the source.

No. 2

Plant-centric: Scientific research has clearly shown the many health benefits of eating a diet high in plant foods from the earth: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, pseudo-grains (none of the industrial/agriculturally mass-produced grains), legumes and beans. We don’t need science to tell us how good eating plants makes us feel, try it for yourself and befriend these powerhouses of nutrition!

No. 3

Get to know your farmer! If you consume animal proteins in your diet; make sure they have be humanely raised and have been fed their natural diets. Again, be able to trace your food back to the source of where they were raised, fed, and how they existed (i.e. grass fed, wild caught, pasture raised, free-range, organic, etc.).

No. 4

Don’t consume anything with a longer expiration date than you! If you can’t pronounce a food ingredient listed on the package OR if you wouldn’t be able to find it in your grandma’s pantry…walk away and look for the real deal to simply recreate yourself. Better yet, go with something without a food label and make a meal in your own kitchen from scratch.

No. 5

Enjoy in mindfulness! Nutrition isn’t all about counting calories, grams of fat or fiber, nor is eating only for the purpose of sustenance. Food plays many roles in our social, mental, emotional, cultural, and physical aspects of our lives. We should respect all the ways food is involved in our lives. We all, myself included, should start taking a little more time enjoying and more time “freeing” our brains from the mathematics of food, diet fads, and nutritional dogmas; and get back to bare basics of consuming whole foods as much as possible while finding what works for your body.

What does it mean to eat a whole foods diet?

Eat mostly plants: if you look at your plate or bowl, let vegetables make up about 75% of your plate.

Eat colorfully: in the span of a day, consume a wide variety of colors from fruits and vegetables. More colors = more antioxidants and a larger spectrum of nutrients.

Eat the right fats: not only will they help your body absorb fat-soluble nutrients, fat is vital to our health on a cellular level. Include nuts such as almonds or walnuts, seeds such as chia or hemp, coconut oil, avocado, salmon or other omega-3 rich foods, etc. at every meal. Avoid vegetable oils and of course trans/hydrogenated oils.

Eat animal proteins mindfully: since vegetables fill up your plate, use animal proteins as a “side” and always consume ethically raised and treated animals.

Befriend seaweeds: enjoy seaweeds on a weekly basis to ensure adequate iodine amongst numerous health benefits. New to seaweed? Try kelp flakes.

Add boosters: you don’t have to use “superfoods”, but these nutrient dense foods pack a punch for their small volume. Try maca, bee pollen, goji berries, cacao nibs, and medicinal mushrooms to fight inflammation, or check out your spice cabinet for cinnamon, ginger, garlic, and turmeric.

Steps to incorporate a whole foods lifestyle

Limit or avoid dairy: cows milk is for cows; if you do consume dairy, go organic. Otherwise, explore the world of nut and seed milksm– the possibilities are endless (and delicious!).

Limit or avoid gluten: especially if you’re sensitive, explore gluten-free grains such as quinoa, millet, amaranth, or starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes or other tubers.

Limit or avoid sugars: processed and refined sugars of any kind and be moderate with the use of natural sugars such as those found in fruit, maple syrup, honey, dates, etc.

Focus on balance: balance each meal with plenty of fibrous vegetables, healthful fats, proteins, and carbohydrates like gluten-free grains, legumes, starchy vegetables, or fruit.


Superfoods 101

How to Make a Healthy Back to School Lunch

10 Steps to Meal Prep Like a Boss

The Basics of Fats: What are Healthy Fats?

10 Foods to Keep in Your Fridge

I hope this post was helpful in building your foundation of a whole foods lifestyle or was a good refresher for those of you who have been living the NS lifestyle! If it seems like a lot, my advice is to take one or two actionable steps to implement at one time. For example, you can start by improving any sources of animal protein and trying out eating mindfully. You got this!