Simplify and Nutrify

The four fundamentals of healthy eating aren’t complicated at all. DFN Co-Founder Dr Heleen Roex shares how easy it can be to nutrify your eating pattern. Article first published in Nourish Magazine.

A person feeling their stomach.

At last Plant-based eating is catching on at an increasing pace, and for good reasons: personal health, reducing our environmental footprint, and compassion for animals are all powerful motivators. From a health perspective, saying goodbye to animal products is a fantastic step. Even lean, white, or unprocessed meats are laden with saturated fat. Plus, animal products are the only source of dietary cholesterol and contain a host of inflammatory compounds proven to contribute to chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and common cancers.

By choosing plant foods instead, we give ourselves a tremendous head start in both maintaining and regaining good health through all life stages. But establishing a healthy plant-based dietary pattern can be a challenge, especially when we are used to a standard Western diet, and the lure of convenience foods is ever-present.

So, let’s simplify everything and focus on nutrifying your diet. These fundamentals of healthy eating will help you and your family take advantage of an abundant, life-affirming wholefoods approach to plant-based eating.

#1 Wholistic Habits

A wholefood, plant-based way of eating makes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes the stars of your plate. Keeping these in their pure state or minimally processed retains all their nutrients, taking advantage of your body’s natural mechanisms such as feeling satiated, stabilising blood sugar levels, and promoting healthy gut flora, which has numerous knock-on benefits for your overall health.

A great rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits and the other half with whole grains, starchy vegetables (such as potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, and peas), and legumes (such as lentils, beans, and chickpeas). Nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices can be used in smaller quantities for additional flavour and texture.

Like any new undertaking, there’s plenty to learn before eating this way becomes a habit, but the good news is that once you’re on a roll it becomes second nature, so persistence pays off. As you focus more on wholefoods, you’ll notice that your cravings change, too. Your taste buds will adapt, and your gut microbes will no longer respond well to processed, packaged, or animal-based foods. It’s a self-sustaining cycle, and you’ll see the rewards are worth it!

#2 Plan to Plantify

A few meal-planning basics can make including more wholefoods in your diet so much more manageable and enjoyable. A great starting place is to ‘plantify’ some familiar recipes. Perhaps spaghetti bolognese transports you back to your childhood happy place? This is a perfect example of a dish that is even tastier as a plant-based version. Adapting old favourites will help you establish a repertoire of trusted dishes, and there’s no shortage of recipes you can look to for inspiration and guidance.

If you include ‘wholefood, plant-based’ or ‘WFPB’ in your searches, you’ll be well on the way. When planning for the week, consider dishes that can be made in larger quantities so that there is plenty for a couple of dinners or leftovers for work lunches. Freezer-friendly recipes are great candidates for double batches as they can be frozen for another time, making for a ready-to-go nutritious meal whenever you need it. You can even prep up healthy breakfasts such as overnight oats or chia puddings, which are perfect options for making ahead of time.

Once you’ve got your recipes sorted for the week, it’s a great idea to jot down your shopping list before heading to the markets or grocery store. Having a list with you will avert those impulse purchases and ensure you have the right ingredients on hand at home, making it much easier to follow through on your good intentions.

#3 Oil-free cooking

Remember, vegetable oils are not wholefoods, therefore are not recommended as part of a wholefood, plant-based diet. For example, while whole olives and sunflower seeds provide a nutritious package of fibre, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, extracting just the oil leaves behind the vast majority of these important nutrients. What remains is a concentrated source of liquid fat, shifting our calorie intake away from the healthier, complete foods.

Here’s the good news! You don’t have to give up those caramelised onions or crispy roast potatoes. With a little know-how, there are many ways to cook dishes without oil – and without sacrificing the flavour.

For any kind of pan-frying, water can be