Attempting to eat a whole foods diet can feel a bit daunting at first. While the idea sounds marvelous and you continue to read about all the benefits it has, it’s not always an easy thing to do when we live in a fast-paced world full of convenient options. And, to the blind eye, it may seem like a whole foods diet is so limiting. Look at all the processed foods in the grocery store … they clearly outnumber the seemingly healthy foods. However, that doesn’t mean that a whole foods diet lacks variety or that you’ll be restricted from delicious sources. In fact, you actually have more foods to choose from than you could ever imagine—there’s always something new to try!
To inspire you to embrace all the variety a whole foods, plant-based diet has to offer, we’ve created a grocery go-to list for you with 50 whole foods that you can choose from to buy and use in your kitchens this week. All of these foods can be found in recipes on our site along with many other recipes out there that focus on whole foods nutrition. If this doesn’t prove that a whole foods diet is packed with variety (with just as much as the cereal aisle will ever offer!), then we don’t know what is!
Apples are packed with fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. They’re one of the best fruits to eat for energy, a healthy heart, a healthy gut, and a top-notch immune system. Choose from any variety and keep these on hand for snacks all week long!
A common ingredient in nearly every kitchen out there, these fruits pack in energy-boosting carbohydrates, fiber, B vitamins, vitamin C, and are easy to digest. They’re also awesome for all your dairy-free recipes and make a terrific natural sweetener for baking.
Cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew just to name a handful, are some of the best sources of potassium, vitamin C, and are incredibly hydrating for the body. You can eat these fresh or even freeze them in cut cubes for frosty smoothies and sorbet!
Berries are a staple in any whole foods kitchen and within the berry family are at least four-six different varieties to try all season long. Go for blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, plus don’t forget cranberries, boysenberries, and the ever popular acai and goji berries if you like those too. Not just tasty, but also full of vitamin C and fiber, berries are some of the best foods for your overall health in just about every way you can imagine.
Though considered a veggie, peppers are a fruit and one of the healthiest at that! One red pepper has over 100 percent of your daily vitamin C needs, while yellow peppers and orange peppers are also great sources too. Low in sugar, high in fiber and rich in potassium, peppers are great snacks to keep on hand to eat in place of chips. You can also stuff them with grains, beans, and/or veggies as savory entree options.
Also a fruit, cucumbers are some of the most cleansing, hydrating, and rejuvenating fruits out there. Their skins are a great source of silica which keeps your skin healthy and in good shape, plus, they’re just delicious to snack on! Choose from regular or seedless depending on which option you prefer.
A top anti-cancer fruit, tomatoes are packed with nutrition including vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, and the antioxidant lycopene. Though cooking tomatoes does increase their lycopene content, eating them raw is a better way to absorb their other vitamins, so don’t turn down a pint of grape tomatoes as a sweet snack or be hesitant to top a dish off with an entire raw sliced tomato … they’re delicious when eaten fresh!
Lemons, limes, grapefruit, and oranges are all great for you. They’re especially high in vitamin C and good for the body’s natural detoxification process. Oranges are also a decent source of calcium, while grapefruit can be beneficial to your blood sugar. Adding a squeeze of lemon or lime to water is also a great way to work in extra vitamin C and can be used a natural salad dressing or water enhancer.
A healthy source of fats and fiber, avocados are also a fantastic source of vitamin B6, potassium, protein, and magnesium. They’re also great to use in place of dairy in all your favorite creamy recipes or just make great fillers in wraps, salads, soups, and pizzas.
Not actually a nut, this healthy, fatty fruit is a delicious way to pack tons of nutrition into one bite! Coconut’s fats are excellent for the brain and the whole fruit itself is a good source of potassium, amino acids, fiber, and even B vitamins. Whether you enjoy the meat whole, the shreds, coconut flour, or coconut butter, all of these are great ways to work the fiber and nutrients of coconut into your meals.
Many people go for olive oil, but raw olives should also be enjoyed. They’re packed with healthy fats, vitamin E, and unlike the oil, less fat per serving and more fiber. The whole fruits are also a good source of potassium and make nice flavor additions to just about anything you add them to.
One of the most well-loved veggies out there (or at least appreciated veggies) is the cruciferous veggie broccoli. Did you know this veggie packs in 30 percent of your calcium needs and 4 grams of protein in one cup? Who knew?!
A top notch detoxifying and delicious cousin of broccoli is the ever popular cauliflower. Delish! This white veggie is a great source of vitamin B6, antioxidants, fiber, and potassium. If you’re not into broccoli, at least give cauliflower a try. It’s quite the sneaky veggie to replace unhealthy foods!
While squash is technically a fruit since it’s seeded and grows on a vine, it’s so hearty, we have to include it as a veggie here. From winter squash to pumpkin and even the lighter zucchini and yellow varieties, squash can be prepared in numerous ways to keep you full and healthy. It’s a great source of B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and potassium. Try grilling it, roasting it, adding it to stir-fry or cooking with it raw; what a tasty way to get in so much nutrition with so many different varieties!
Carrots are packed with hormone-boosting benefits, vitamin C, beta-carotene that converts to vitamin A in the body, fiber, and are naturally energizing. Carrots can be enjoyed raw, steamed, roasted, or even used in baking recipes. They’re also cheap and last awhile in the fridge, so don’t forget to put these on the list!
From sweet to red to white and even purple and yellow, potatoes are a staple food that provide so many benefits. Not only are they filling, but many varieties such as purple, sweet, and red, also offer up a large dose of antioxidants and healthy-boosting benefits. Sweet potatoes, for instance, lower your blood sugar despite being a complex carbohydrate, and purple and red potatoes contain large amounts of the anti-cancer nutrients known as anthocyanins.
Roasted beets are a treat everyone should try and are just impeccable with their caramelized flavor. Beets are also some of the most nutrient-dense vegetables out there, especially for your heart, liver, and digestive system. They’re normally available year-round, so don’t forget to pick some up!
Whether you choose them fresh or buy the canned or jarred artichoke hearts, all artichokes are a MUST-have in any healthy, whole foods kitchen. These fiber-rich veggies are regulating for the body, they can help curb your sweet tooth, they’re filling, and so zesty and meaty tasting—yum! They’re also packed with protein, containing 4 grams in just 1/2 cup!
A favorite veggie for many of us to grill or stir-fry is asparagus. It’s another powerhouse of protein with 4 grams per cup, along with vitamin B6, potassium, and folate for a healthy metabolism and brain function. Buy it fresh or frozen; either way is a great choice for an easy and delicious side in just minutes!
Mushrooms are a great alternative to meat in recipes like tacos, soups, salads, wraps, and sandwiches, especially when they’re caramelized with some garlic and onion first. Or, you can use the larger varieties raw and eat these in place of bread-based buns on your next burger. Mushrooms are the only food-based source of vitamin D which makes them pretty special, don’t you agree?
Filled with potassium, natural sodium, vitamin K for your blood and bone health, and water to hydrate you, celery is one of the best munching and flavoring veggies to keep on hand. You can top it with almond butter or hummus as a snack, chop it and season soups with it, make your own stock with it and onions plus some herbs and garlic, or chop it up and use it to add a hydrating and salty crunch to salads and other quick-fix entrees.
Spinach is a top green on hand if you’re concerned about protein, staying full, and getting your greens in while actually enjoying them! A little sweet and oh so versatile, spinach is packed with 5 grams of protein, more vitamin C and iron than kale, and offers a whopping dose of beta-carotene to keep your immune system healthy. It’s also packed with folate and vitamin E. Eat it raw or cooked, just don’t leave it out!
The king of greens as many say, while we love spinach, kale shouldn’t be ignored. One of the most satiating and alkalizing greens out there—and also quite versatile!—kale can be enjoyed in a salad, steamed or stir-fried, added to a smoothie, baked or dehydrated as kale chips if you’re feeling super trendy, or can be stuffed into wraps and added to soups. Buy shredded kale or whole kale and de-stem it yourself; you can also freeze the bags if you’re not sure you’ll eat it all in time before it goes bad.
Collards pack more calcium than milk with 357 grams per cup to help you reach the 1000 milligrams you need per day. Enjoy collards cooked up on the stove for a hearty and comforting meal, or enjoy them as a raw wrap for a lower carb alternative to bread. Collards can be found year-round and are some of the best greens for your bone, heart, and hormones—don’t miss ’em!
While not more nutritious than the others, arugula should not be forgotten. It’s a good source of vitamin C and contains especially beneficial properties for the digestive system. It’s also easy to digest and can reduce inflammation. This peppery green makes especially tasty salad greens in place of bitter herbs and greens, or can be added to pizzas, soups, and raw food dishes for a nice touch of spicy flavor.
26. Romaine Lettuce
Romaine is packed with vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber, and water. It’s also a good source of omega-3 fats and is one of the best salad greens to choose from since it’s sweet, flavorful, and water-rich! Choose whole romaine when possible or go for the hearts; they all last awhile in the fridge and are inexpensive at that.
Herbs like parsley and cilantro are sold near the leafy greens and can be used just about anywhere you use leafy greens, but in smaller amounts since they’re more flavorful. They’re also packed with nutrition like greens. Parsley is a top source of vitamin C, cilantro is one of the best foods for your liver and blood, and oregano is a top antioxidant-rich and mood-boosting herb to keep on hand.
28. Turnip Greens
While not the most popular green out there, these sure make a hearty dinner … and they’re cheap! Turnip greens can be bought whole or pre-bagged and all you need to do to enjoy them is cook them in a pot with some onions, garlic, water, carrots, and a little black pepper. They’re delicious, filling, and packed with vitamin C.
Oats are packed with low-glycemic carbs, calcium, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and protein. They’re some of the most filling grains and can also be bought certified gluten-free if that’s a concern. Keep these inexpensive grains on hand for easy breakfast, snacks, and even as a savory porridge.
A grain-free pseudograin that many love, this tiny seed is a great option if you loved fluffed grain dishes and enjoy a nutty flavor. Quinoa is packed with magnesium, B vitamins, iron, and offers up a nice dose of phosphorus for your bones. Not to mention, it boasts all complete amino acids making it a great source of protein!
31. Rice (all kinds)
Black, brown, red, wild, and even basmati and California rices are all excellent rices to keep on hand. These inexpensive grains can be prepared for a healthy meal in no time and with little fuss. They’re also easy to digest, very high in nutrients, and go with just about anything. Just don’t stick to one kind—try them all!
A sweet and nutty little grain (and by little, we mean super tiny!), amaranth is a great option for protein if you’re tired of quinoa. It packs 6 grams in one cup and includes a huge punch of calcium along with it. This pseudograin can be cooked up just like quinoa or rice; try it for breakfast as a porridge in place oats or add some into your oats for versatility.
Buckwheat is the seed of a flower and a nice option for breakfast porridge or granola. You can also make your own granola bars or desserts with buckwheat; the flour is a popular gluten-free alternative that’s also a good source of protein and magnesium.
Teff is the tiniest pseudograin of them all, and you know what they say … the best gifts come in small packages! Teff has more protein per serving than any others with 7 grams per 1/4 cup, plus it has a whopping dose of iron, calcium, magnesium, and B vitamins. It’s also very easy to digest (likely due to its size) and low on the glycemic index thanks to its high fiber content.
35. Black Beans
These meaty little beans are packed with protein, iron, and are lower in starch than other beans. They’re very filling and one of the most nutrient-dense beans thanks to their dark black color indicating their high antioxidant content. Try them in a burger, wrap, or in a soup … you choose!
36. Lima Beans
Lima beans are sweet, protein-rich, and are easy to keep on hand (especially the frozen options). Just toss them in a soup, stew, or let them thaw in the fridge and use on top of salads. They’re an excellent source of hormone-boosting benefits and so long as you don’t overcook them, they won’t get mushy or taste bland.
37. Edamame, Tofu, or Tempeh
These soy-based options offer up a whole food source of protein and are less processed than some more processed forms of soy like veggie burgers or protein bars made from soy protein isolates or TVP. Enjoy some edamame as a snack for a nice dose of protein, add shelled edamame to your next soup or veggie burger, or use tofu and tempeh in place of meat, chicken, or fish in your next entree!
Lentils are one of the best plant-based sources of iron and protein you can choose from in just one food. They’re also delicious with a nutty flavor and come in many varieties; choose red, pink, green, or brown … you’ll love them all!
The little legume that’s getting quite the attention these days, chickpeas are a fantastic source of protein, fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. They’re a little sweet, super filling, and can be used in so much more than just hummus! Buy them in BPA-free cans if you don’t want to soak them, or just enjoy them as hummus or chickpea flour.
40. Green Peas
Sweet, so nutritious, and easy to love, this spring veggie makes the perfect protein-boosting food to add to anything in a jiffy. Green peas cook up quick, are a great source of fiber and have a surprising high amino acid profile to keep your muscles in tip top shape!
41. Peanuts or Peanut Butter
Peanuts are a legume, not a nut, and are quite the protein-rich one at that boasting 8 grams in 2 tablespoons of peanut butter or 1/4 cup whole peanuts. They’re also one of the highest source of plant-based iron, magnesium, and B vitamins. If you’re not allergic or intolerable of peanuts, do enjoy them often—they’re great for you!
Following up to peanuts’ high protein profile are almonds, offering 7 grams in one cup, plus a high dose of calcium, 30 percent of your daily vitamin E needs in just 1/4 cup, and nearly 10 percent of your daily magnesium needs for energy and a healthy nervous system. Almonds are also a good source of biotin, a B vitamin for your skin, hair and nails, plus they’re some of the sweetest, most flavorful nuts of them all!
These nuts are one of the highest in manganese for a healthy metabolism and are a top source of vitamin E. And let’s be honest … they’re just delicious and so satisfying! Enjoy them in a trail-mix, snack on them raw, bake with them, or add them as a garnish to any dish of your choosing.
45. Brazil nuts
One of these will keep your thyroid working properly since they’re high in the metabolic-boosting mineral selenium. Brazil nuts are also very low in carbs if that’s a concern, and offer 3 grams of fiber per serving.
46. Macadamia nuts
Macadamia nuts’ fats are much like coconut’s fats—they’re great for your brain! Rich in heart-healthy plant-based sources of fats, macadamia nuts are also very satisfying. Their tropical flavor is also a nice alternative to other nuts and they’re simple on the digestive system for easy assimilation.
47. Pumpkin Seeds
Containing iron, protein, magnesium, and the relaxing amino acid tryptophan, pumpkin seeds are also an alkalizing seed that makes for a nice snack, energy bar ingredient, or simple topping to any dish.
48. The “Super Seeds”- Flax, Chia, and Hemp
These seeds can be grouped together for a few reasons; they’re terrific sources of omega-3 fats, iron, magnesium, and are amazing sources of fiber. We’re sure you’re familiar with them, but just in case, see the differences between flax and chia here, and all the many benefits and uses of hemp here.
49. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds and sunflower seed butter offer vitamin E, minerals you need for energy and focus, and are easy to add to just about anything! Sunflower seed butter is also a surprisingly similar alternative to peanut butter if you’re allergic.
And last but not least, walnuts are the nut we all know and love! Packed with vitamin E, magnesium, and brain-boosting, heart-healthy omega-3 fats, walnuts are a star nut to enjoy. Just a few are very satisfying, and can be ground into breadcrumbs for a low-carb coating, or ground and used in place of meat in dishes like tacos and burgers. Or, just top your next breakfast with them and call it a day!
And there you have it, fellow Green Monsters! These 50 foods are packed with goodness for you, and the beauty is, you can use them all to create multiple meals, snacks, desserts and more. Oh, and of course, there’s always a little room for chocolate too, just in case you were wondering! Feel free to include any other foods like dried fruits, any nuts or seeds we didn’t mention, or any other whole, unprocessed food you enjoy to this list.
Once you base your main grocery purchases off of these, the possibilities are endless for nutrition! See how to eat a whole foods, plant-based diet on just $50 per week with many of these foods if you’re on a budget, and get even more tips for working whole foods into your diet here. What’s your favorite list of whole foods you stock up on each week?
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