Try the Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet for Your Health and Maybe to Save Your Life

This article provides a short description of the whole food, plant-based diet. If for health, ethical, gourmet, or other reasons you are interested in following it, I also show you how to easily get started.

I became an adherent after my Internist, Dr. Weiss of, recommended the book, “How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease.” The information in the book made sense to me and following its recommendations significantly improved my health, outlook, and well-being, something in short supply as I discovered I had breast cancer in early-2016.

Whole Food, Plant-Based Basics

All recommendations for plant-based eating are “evidence-based.” This means specific scientific studies and observations back the advice given.


Dr. Greger’s book runs to 700 pages, although only the first 500 or so are pertinent. To more quickly digest what he has to say, visit his website,, and search its video section on topics of your concern, such as “breast cancer.” These videos run between 3-to-5 minutes and feature a speaker whose voice is set against pictures of the journals and other reference materials that support what is being said.

For more detailed instruction on the plant-based diet, visit Dr. McDougall’s website, Dr. McDougall’s Health & Medical Center. Dr. McDougall offers “study and advanced study” workshops on the subject, but you can learn The McDougall Program, which steps you through an eating plan, free on his site.

Diet Ingredients

“Whole food” refers to non-processed food, which is the state in which plants originate, i.e., wheat as berries versus wheat flour derived from ground berries.

The plant-based diet eliminates all meat and meat-related products, including dairy (milk, cheese, eggs, yogurt, etc.). Recommended foods must not be processed or refined, such as bread made from refined flour, or pasta. Approved food includes:

  • Grains of any type
  • Beans and legumes (reconstituted dried, or canned)
  • Soy products such as tofu
  • Nuts (unsalted)
  • Any vegetable, starchy or not
  • Citrus fruit (not juice)
  • Fruit

This diet is different from veganism in that it is not associated with a political or social movement (“save animals,” for example). Like veganism, eating organic, chemical-free, and non-GMO plants is encouraged. Refined and packaged products, however, are not, nor is consuming oil of any type or sugar. Salt is greatly reduced.

Karen’s Rule Breakers: I follow about 95% of this diet’s rules. Eating out, for example, makes following all the rules of this diet almost impossible. And to save time, I buy some packaged food that may contain ingredients that are taboo. I also use oil sparingly to season pans, but do not use olive oil to flavor dishes. Dr. McDougall, for example, recommends that all oil be eliminated, even that used for pan seasoning. And last, I eat very dense, whole-wheat bread or crackers from time to time.

Getting Started

The basic diet consists exclusively of grains and vegetables. If you only eat vegetables, without any starchy vegetables, however, you will not consume enough calories to sustain your life. If you are hungry within an hour after what you considered to be a large meal, you need to add starches to your diet.

My biggest problem when I started this diet was knowing what grains to consume as I had limited knowledge on the subject. The following tips helped me overcome this shortcoming:

  • Surprisingly, many Sam’s Clubs have sections that sell packaged grains. Buy a variety of packages, then experiment with them. At first, I especially appreciated products produced by Seeds of Change. These are pre-cooked grains, packaged 6-to-a-box for around $11 at Sam’s Club and I’ve seen boxes for a similar price through Individual packages easily feed two people.


  • In my opinion, Lundberg’s “Wild Blend Rice” is the ultimate multi-grain product. I usually mix 1 cup of Wild Blend Rice with 1/2 cup of any other grain to reduce the crunchiness. When finished cooking, I add one to two cans of rinsed black beans for protein, making enough food for two people for five days, in addition to other vegetables.


  • Stuck for ideas on what to serve? Frozen food sections, such as those in Trader Joe’s, feature interesting, pre-made servings of grains. Buy. Taste. Then once you become comfortable with the tastes, start cooking your own from scratch. Here are some examples of what is available:



  • Include potatoes, sweet potatoes, and squashes! Cook (roast or steam), but do not add butter, oil, or cream. Season with lemon, lime, or even with a bit of balsamic vinegar, instead.
  • Need more ideas? Visit vegetarian and vegan restaurants, as well as Indian, Middle Eastern, and Chinese restaurants, to sample grain-based or vegetable-based meals. Discover what dishes you like and replicate similar dishes at home, but without “forbidden” ingredients.
  • Sauces are king, especially when you can’t have any dairy (sour cream, cheese, or yogurt) to go with your dishes. Instead of pouring over cookbooks trying to figure out how to replicate these sauces, simply explore ethnic sections in large grocery stores, then buy a number of bottled sauces to try at home. Throw away what you don’t like, chalking the purchase price up to “educational expenses.” Note that the ingredients and means to make packaged sauces are probably not recommended by Dr. McDougall, the man who defined what pure adherence to this diet should be.


Here are some examples of sauces to explore. Ideally, select low salt, oil, and sugar varieties. In all probability, however, you will not be smothering your veggies in any of these, nor will you be consuming a sauce as though it is soup, so worrying too much about their contents might not be necessary. Instead, regard them as “dipping sauce,” and dip with restraint.

  • Curry (I am now addicted to curry sauces . . . use on the side for dipping, not smothering)
  • Soy (probably too salty, but a little can go a long way)
  • Tomato / Italian sauce varieties (avoid a high sugar content and added cheese or meat)
  • Mustard (any type)
  • Balsamic Vinegar or Apple Cider Vinegar (I actually use a lot of balsamic vinegar on grains)
  • Chinese sauce varieties
  • Japanese sauce varieties
  • Check sauces related to other ethnicities, such as “Middle Eastern,” “African,” “Turkish,” or “Greek.”  For the best selections, visit small shops that cater to specific ethnicities.
  • BBQ and other sweet sauces (I find BBQ sauces too sweet, however, they might be your guilty pleasure, especially over beans. Just don’t glob it on.)

Generously squeezed citrus juice alone can serve as a sauce!

  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Orange

And then there are canned broths, which you can use on veggies as well as for liquid in grains. Low-salt, vegetable broth is blah, so before you use it, punch it up with your own veggies, such as onions, garlic, carrots, tomatoes, spinach, and whatever else you have in your frig.

Tip:  To avoid using broth when boiling your grains, it is more authentic and tasty to include finely chopped veggies, like peppers, onions, and carrots, in the cooking process.


Bread is a “processed food,” and as such, some gurus suggest avoiding it. No matter what their recommendations, I eat a very dense, whole-grain bread, such as Dave’s Killer Bread.  Dense bread especially good toasted and smeared with hummus.



Beans, such as black or red beans, navy beans, chickpeas (and hummus), legumes, and soy, mixed with your grains or eaten alone, provide protein.

I started making my own hummus, but caved into buying pre-made hummus simply because it was easily available and reasonably priced. If you are lucky enough to live near a  Trader Joe’s, you’ll be blown away by its selection.

The advantage to making your own hummus, however,  is that you can control the amount of salt you use, as well as eliminate all fats (such as olive oil) and preservatives. Basically, simply mash beans and add whatever you want to them.


Hummus fulfills my need for a sandwich spread, a snack with vegetable chips (as a substitute for potato or corn chips), and protein. If you never had hummus, or would like to know more about it, click this link for more information:’s Article on Hummus’ Nutritional Value

Video Tutorials Versus Cookbooks

I’ve learned more from video tutorials on cooking grains and vegetables than I have rummaging through cookbooks. I especially like tutorials produced by, which have numerous presentations within each title. If I need more information, I simply search YouTube and other video portals.

Do you consider yourself a fast learner? Run videos at 1.5-times normal speed. You’ll get used to the sound quality in less than a minute.

Cooking Grains

While I had an electric rice/grain cooker, it held a limited volume and took 45 minutes to an hour to cook anything. Because of that, I switched to stove-top cooking. In order to keep grains from sticking to the bottom of my pot, however, I invested in an Italian-made “Ilsa Cast Iron Heat Diffuser Reducer,” which I bought on


Here is how I use it:

  1. Place the heat diffuser on a burner, then turn the burner to high or medium high to warm it up.
  2. Place your covered pot containing water and grain on a different, high-heat burner, bringing the water to a roiling boil. Remember to stir the grain periodically during this stage.
  3. Once the grain water is roiling, turn off the heat under the pot, then transfer the pot to the top of the diffuser. Lower the heat under the diffuser so that the pot remains at a low boil. I prefer using pots with glass lids so I can keep an eye on things. Note: My grains are usually done in 20 to 25 minutes.


I hope you find this article and its links helpful! Email me at should you have questions.


  • Dr. Granger, author of “How Not To Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Desease,” also produced an invaluable video information library –
  • T. Colin Campbel, author of “The China Study,” distributes information on the plant-based diet through his website, The Center for Nutrition Studies –
  • Dr. McDougall, an authority on the plant-based lifestyle, provides a free online course on how to start and maintain your plant-based diet –
  • Dr. Wiess, founder of My Ethos Health –
  • Forks Over Knives, a film and website about how food affects health. This film is for the “unconvinced.”
  • A free tutorial entitled “Creative Ways With Whole Grains by Anna Bullett” is available. Ms. Bullett also hosts a fee-based tutorial on cooking with vegetables, as does Ivy Manning in her course “Vegetable Know-How.” All three tutorials are great for people like me who need to start from scratch on the subject.

Video Searches for Vegan Recipies


This article was written by Karen Little for and was published on August 28, 2016. Photos are by Karen Little. For permission to reproduce this article and/or photos, contact Karen Little at All rights to this article and photos are reserved by and Karen Little.