Essential Advice from Our Healthy Eating Specialists

Originally published on Whole Foods Market's Whole Story blog

Did you know that many of our stores have Healthy Eating Specialists? These team members answer customers’ healthy eating questions and can assist you in choosing the most nutrient-dense ingredients, suggest satisfying healthy recipes, help you create a meal plan in keeping with your health goals and much more. They’re one of our favorite get-healthy, stay-healthy resources, and we hope they become one of yours.

Find your local store, then select more info about the store to see if there’s a Healthy Eating Specialist near you. If there isn’t, don’t worry. We’ve asked our Specialists to send us their best tips, which we’ll be sharing with you throughout January.

We’re starting off with a challenge: We asked our Healthy Eating Specialists to narrow down their knowledge to the one, most essential piece of advice they’d give to someone who wanted to start down a healthier path. Ladies and gentlemen, we offer you these, their crown jewels.

Start by Adding Food

Surprised? This was our Specialists’ top tip: They suggest that actually adding food to your diet — before removing or changing anything — is the best first step to take. The trick is what and when: Add greens, vegetables and other whole, nutrient-dense foods to every meal (think green smoothies for breakfast and salads for lunch) and eat them first if they accompany other dishes.

Heather Braaten, from the Capitol Hill store in Washington, DC, says: “Begin by adding in more plant foods. When you think in terms of adding in the good, instead of taking out the bad, you won’t feel as though you’re making sacrifices.”

Jeremy Bartel of the Glendale store in Glendale, Colorado, suggests, “Try to fit in a green salad as a side dish for your lunch and dinner. Make the salad a little bit bigger every week. Crowd out some of the food that is unhealthy with salad!”

After all, as Stephanie McCubbin from the Pearl store in Boulder, Colorado, says: “We are what we eat, not what we don’t eat!”

And Start Small

Radically changing your habits is just that, radical. Even if you’re not making a major overhaul, big changes are overwhelming, and that’s no way to create sustainable habits, say our Specialists.

Angela Mazur from the Potero Hill store in San Francisco says, “Don’t feel like you have to change everything at once!  Make small goals that you can accomplish, one at a time.”

Allison Godfrey of the Tenleytown store in Washington, DC, says, “Real lifestyle changes will only come from taking steps that you feel good about — and that you can keep. Make compromises on what you’re willing to change and what you’re not willing to change.”

And if you’re just getting started on an exercise program, Joy Chen of the Fremont store in California suggests first doing little things, like parking your car further away from a building’s entrance, then adding exercise in 15 minute increments. “Consistently evaluate where you are to make small changes,” she says. “Before you know it, you’ll have progressed further than you would’ve imagined!”

Do It With Purpose

“When someone approaches me about wanting to take steps towards a healthier lifestyle,” says Mary Russ from the Tallahassee store, “I always suggest that they slow down and take the time to truly think about what they are eating and how it makes them feel afterwards. Some of the biggest revelations come from slowing down long enough to make the connection between your food and your health. From there you can start to really see the impact that the changes in diet and lifestyle are making.”

Our Specialists advise that you approach your meals with mindfulness. Be aware of your motivations. Are you snacking because you’re hungry or bored? How is that food really going to make you feel? The more you connect your food to the affect it has on you (does it give you energy or a stomach ache?), the easier it will be to make good choices for you.

Have Fun with It

And don’t forget, our Specialists advise, food is fun! There are so many amazing ingredients with a world of color and taste. Experiment with new foods from the produce and bulk sections to expand your repertoire.

Lois Dorotiak from the Winter Park store in Florida says, “Play with your food! Really! Start with something familiar, say a bowl of steamed broccoli and portion out small amounts for the purpose of adding a new spice then taste. Or add a nutrient-dense sauce or a no-oil salad dressing. Have several options on hand and “play” until you find what you love. Then expand to those foods with which you are not quite as familiar.”

Build a Support System

Journeys are always more fun with a friend, aren’t they? Emily Forbes of our Portland store advises, “Try to find a friend or family member to journey with you. It is nice to know you aren’t all alone in the experience, and it gives you someone to share wins and struggles with.”

Make a Plan

According to Jennifer Buchanan of the Roosevelt Square store in Seattle, “Preparation will lead to success. Whether that means stocking a healthier pantry on day one, batch cooking, or keeping lots of cookbooks and food recipe blogs bookmarked.”  That also means anticipating urges to snack by having easy-to-eat veggies and fruit on hand or pre-making a healthy breakfast to make sure you start off the day right.

Creating a meal plan makes sticking to your health goals throughout the week – and they take the stress out of choosing what to cook. Your local specialist can help you make a plan, or check out one of our weekly menu plans online.

Keep on Your Path

Making strides toward a healthier lifestyle is a lifelong pursuit, our Specialists say. Slowly, steadily, you make small changes that you can sustain and you will transform your health. And even if you have setbacks, stick with it. You’ll see results over the long haul.

As Lindsey Kane from the South Street store in Philadelphia says: “Temporary changes lead to temporary results. The key to long-term success is to make small and simple changes that can fit nicely in your daily routine and can be maintained for the rest of your life.  Over time, these small changes will accumulate into positive results.”

Remember to Be Kind

And don’t forget, our Specialists say, changing your relationship with food and your health is no small undertaking. It will take time and effort, so if you fall back into old habits, forgive yourself and keep on.

“Changing one’s eating habits and taste preferences can take time,” reminds Elizabeth Johnson of the P Street store in Washington, DC. “Persistence, patience and resolve are required. You can do it!”

Have you been helped or inspired by one of our Healthy Eating Specialists? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Whether you’re just getting started or are well on your way, Whole Foods Market’s got great resources for your journey to health.

Disclaimer: This information is for reference purposes and is not intended to substitute for medical advice. You should not use this information as self-diagnosis or for treating a health problem or disease. Consult a health care professional for further information about dietary changes, food allergies or sensitivities and other health topics.