5 Tips To Choose More Whole Foods

by Emily Rider, RDN, LD

Last Updated: April 12, 2021

From a plant-based diet to a Mediterranean diet, it can be confusing to find what to eat to feel your best! While there is no “one-size-fits-all” meal pattern that works for everyone, nutrition experts agree the general public would benefit from including more whole foods in their day-to-day routine. Looking at the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, these recommendations emphasize nutrient-dense foods and beverages that are jam-packed with vitamins and minerals yet limited in additives like sugar and salt...cue whole foods!

What exactly are whole foods?
Whole foods are considered items that are as close to their natural form as possible (meaning minimally processed without additives). Typically, if the food item you’re looking at doesn’t have a nutrition label, then it’s safe to say it’s a whole food choice (think fresh vegetables, fruit, or meat). However, with today’s busy lifestyle, it’s almost impossible to avoid packaged foods. Don’t worry—you can still shift towards a whole food diet while including foods with nutrition labels. Take a look at the ingredients of packaged foods and opt for fewer ingredients, minimal processing, and fewer additives.

Choosing whole foods can be beneficial because they typically contain more nutrients than processed foods—specifically vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients. They also tend to include less unnecessary ingredients like added sugar, trans fat, or additives.

How can I choose more whole foods?
It may seem overwhelming figuring out how to include more whole foods in your diet, especially if you have a busy schedule. But many strategies can help you make the shift!
  1. Look for whole food versions of your favorite convenient items.
    • Instead of fruit snacks, try fresh fruit, frozen fruit (without added sugar), freeze-dried fruit, or even That's It bars!
    • Choose granola bars made from real food like RXBar or Larabar.
    • Try topping your salad with extra-virgin olive oil + vinegar rather than processed dressings.
    • Rely on the pre-chopped vegetable section in the produce department.
  2. Take time to meal plan.
    Putting a little time into meal planning can help reduce mealtime stress, help you stick to a budget, and cut back on food waste, all while allowing for more whole foods to make their way into your diet. When planning, be sure to be realistic with yourself—plan to have leftovers and leave room for flexibility.
  3. Create homemade frozen meals.
    Who doesn’t love the convenience of microwaved meals? Cooking large quantities simultaneously and storing them in your freezer for later can be a great way to have the ease of frozen meals without all the extra ingredients. Some freezer-friendly dishes that can be made with real ingredients include chili, egg bites, or soup!
  4. Take it one step at a time.
    It’s also important to make gradual changes. Oftentimes we try to do too much at one time and may become frustrated. Instead, set realistic goals for yourself to help you make long-lasting, sustainable changes. Consider making a freezer meal once per month or swapping out one processed product for a whole food option each week. This strategy can make habit change more manageable.
  5. Focus on progress, not perfection.
    Try focusing on change in your overall dietary pattern rather than perfecting each and every meal. It’s okay to enjoy processed foods now and then (sometimes you just need to have some ice cream!) but keep in mind that it’s what you do most often that makes the most difference.

If you would like to learn more about individualized strategies to incorporate more whole foods into your diet, schedule a virtual appointment with a Kroger Health dietitian today.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Emily Rider, RDN, LD

Emily Rider, RDN, LD

Emily strongly believes in a balanced diet- choosing foods that are good for your body AND good for your soul. With this philosophy, she can help you meet your health goals without having to give up your favorite foods. In addition to a passion for nutrition, Emily loves spending time outside with her two rescue dogs.