What is a whole-food plant based diet?

There's so many ways of eating that it can be difficult to work out what is what. Is it vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian or something entirely different?

A whole-food, plant-based diet is just as it sounds – plant foods that are whole and unrefined. So, what does that mean?

  • Fresh produce not fake – I’d eat a strawberry rather than something strawberry flavoured (i.e. made from chemicals and never been near an actual piece of fruit).
  • Wholegrains rather than refined – wholemeal pasta rather than white, wholegrain rice not white.
  • Whole fats rather than refined or chemically altered – sunflower seeds rather than sunflower oil or margarine.
  • Whole fruits rather than juiced – eat an apple rather than juice it (it takes the juice of 5 apples to fill an average glass).
  • Whole beans and legumes for protein – not manufactured protein powders.
  • Whole foods that are sweet but have their fibre intact, such as dates or raisins, rather than refined white sugar.
  • Baked rather than fried foods.
  • Freshly prepared home-made meals rather than those that come out of a packet or off the supermarket shelf.

A whole-food, plant-based diet is based around five groups of food:

  1. Fruit
  2. Vegetables
  3. Beans and legumes
  4. Whole grains and cereals
  5. Nuts and seeds

There are hundreds of different types of food in these five groups. There’s far more variety, choice and freedom in plant-based eating than with a diet mainly based on animal-products. It’s really quite exciting!


The modern Western diet focuses on the three main large nutrient groups - carbohydrate, fat and protein. Opinion varies almost day to day about whether it's good to eat more protein, or fat, or carbohydrate. There is much confusion and often people doubt they can get sufficient nutrients on a plant-based diet.

A whole-food plant-based diet is just that - foods that are whole, and therefore contain whole nutrients in the balance that nature intended. It does not focus on, or define a particularly food as a 'protein' or a 'fat' or a 'carb', especially as there is so much more to food than just these large bulk nutrients. Micronutrients in the form of vitamins, mineral and phytonutrients are essential to our health and well-being; many of these are lost as soon as food moves from being whole to refined.

If you want to learn more about this, my book Eat Well Live Well with The Sensitive Foodie is packed full of information about the benefits of eating whole plant foods for the whole body. And all my recipes on the blog and in the book are based on using wonderfully tasty and healthful whole foods.