Holistic Eating for Beginners

Holistic Eating for Beginners

“Holistic eating” is a style of eating that deeply nourishes and fuels your body and brain, while also feeding your soul, bringing you joy, and promoting optimal health and wellbeing.

It’s not a diet, but rather a dynamic way of living in alignment with what your mind and body need to thrive and function optimally.

However, in my experience, the overall concept and practice of holistic eating still isn’t very well understood or easily adopted in mainstream culture.

In this article I’ll share guidance and insights on all things holistic eating for beginners, in efforts to clarify and simplify what it means to follow a holistic eating plan. Please take what you need, and leave the rest! 

Disclaimer:  This article was written for general educational purposes, and should not replace 1-1 medical/nutritional advice working with a doctor and of course, a holistic registered dietitian / holistic nutritionist as needed!

What does “holistic” mean?

“Holistic” in this context describes an approach which addresses and supports the WHOLE person – mind, body, and spirit.

It’s also referring to the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  

  • For example, when it comes to nutrition, generally in most cases, it’s less likely for ONE food to be enough to move the needle on your health journey.  
    • The culmination of all of your food choices over time will have a much bigger impact on your health and quality of life.

What is holistic eating?

Holistic eating, in essence, is the embodiment of holistic nutrition in real life. 

It’s a way of eating that can help you to function more optimally, thrive, and live your best life. (Cause what we eat has a profound impact on how we think, feel, and function!)

This style of eating is not rigid or dogmatic; it’s dynamic and customizable. 

To follow a holistic diet is all about eating in accordance and in alignment with your highest good, which can look very different from one person to another.

Now, let’s dive into the 4 cornerstone pillars of a holistic diet, as a lifestyle practice.

The 4 key pillars of a holistic diet

A holistic diet (or way of eating) should be designed to support you as a whole person (rather than an emphasis on a specific type of diet or “superfood” which is more reductionistic and one-size-fit-all).

There’s no one right way to follow a holistic diet, as long as you’re leaning into the following pillars which make this approach truly “holistic”.

Pillar 1:  Balance and quantity

A holistic diet is generally nutritionally sound and balanced.  That’s because the nutrients from the food we eat serve as the fuel and building blocks for our mind and body.  

Getting the right types of nutrients in healthy amounts can make or break the way we think, feel, and function day-to-day.

Examples

A balanced diet should include a healthy balance of macronutrients (carbs, proteins, and fats) as well as micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids) from nutrient-dense foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, good quality protein, and healthy fats.

Balanced meal plans should also provide the right amount of fiber relative to what your body needs. (Fiber is a type of indigestible roughage found in most plant foods; it’s shown to benefit our digestion, heart health, blood sugar balance, and lots more.)

So, eating “balanced” may include staying mindful of portions and ratios of each food group at meals – with a focus on quantity.

For your reference, I’ve included a ”holistic” version of the balanced plate method, which I refer back to often in my private practice! Feel free to check it out below.

The Whole-istic Living Balanced Plate by Jenna Volpe

TLDR:  Nutritionally balanced food choices aren’t optional on a holistic eating journey!  If your diet is lacking in essential nutrients, you can’t thrive or live your best life – cause nutritional deficiencies (whether clinical or functional/”subclinical”) will make you feel like crap.

But a truly holistic eating plan isn’t just all about quantity – it’s also important to consider the quality of the foods we’re eating.

Pillar 2 – Natural alignment and quality

From a quality standpoint, a holistic diet is made up of wholesome foods aligned with nature and not too far-removed from their source.

(You might often hear this type of food referred to as “real food”!) 😉

Think; natural, organic, minimally processed, pastured (eggs and chickens), and/or grass-fed (if eating meat and/or dairy products) compared to their chemically-sprayed, genetically-modified, ultra-processed, factory-farmed counterparts.  

Examples

Examples of eating in natural alignment with high quality standards include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Choosing food products made with just simple ingredients your great grandmother would be able to pronounce and recognize as food in a local market (cause we come from nature, and so should our food)
  • Opting for antibiotic-free poultry, grass-fed meats/dairy, and/or pastured eggs when grocery shopping
  • Preparing food in a way that makes it easier to digest (i.e. soaking beans, soaking oats, or making/choosing sourdough bread)

Opting for high quality food is often referred to as being “orthorexic” among certain health experts … but in my opinion, it’s all about being health conscious and proactive.  

These all used to be basic standards for all food, before corrupt industries started taking over and hijacking our food supply. It’s not wrong to hold food companies to higher standards.

This concept of opting for better quality versions of food (which is also often referred to as “clean eating” in wellness culture) may become detrimental only if we become too obsessive or rigid about it. Flexibility is key. (I talk more about flexibility in Pillar #4!)

Recommended reading:  

(Disclaimer: I realize these higher quality standards can get more expensive and it’s not always feasible…but this stuff can really culminate and make a big difference over time! Think of everything being on an entire quality spectrum versus “all or nothing.”

There are some fun, creative ways to get economically savvy here.  Consider joining a community garden/local co-op, getting a Costco membership, buying stuff in bulk, bartering a service in exchange for some of your neighbor’s chicken eggs/garden tomatoes, etc.)

TLDR:  The quality of the food you’re putting in your body matters. Health is about SO much more than calories, macros, sugar, and fiber.

That said, let’s talk about customization

Pillar 3 – Customization

One size never fits all, especially when it comes to holistic nutrition!

A truly holistic way of eating must accommodate your bio-individual needs and preferences. 

Think of it as selecting foods (from each food group) that are compatible with your genetics, your immune system, your digestion and gut health, your hormones, blood pressure, blood sugar, etc.

Examples

For example, certain “health foods” like raw celery and almonds are inherently GOOD for most healthy adults… but I’m actually allergic to both of these foods!  (How ironic for this to happen to a dietitian? Lol.)  So, MY holistic way of eating doesn’t include any raw celery or almonds, sadly.

Other examples of customization to consider when choosing the best types of foods to incorporate as regular staples in your holistic diet may include:

  • Medical conditions impacted by food (i.e. irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel, polycystic ovarian syndrome, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, kidney stones, etc.)
  • Genetic mutations (i.e. congenital sucrase-isomaltase deficiency)
  • Food intolerances
  • Food sensitivities 
  • Personal preferences (you should be loving what you eat, and looking forward to tasty meals on-the-reg!)
  • Cultural considerations

(In my world of gut health and adverse food reactions, holistic eating is especially important because it’s exponentially easier to become deficient in nutrients and experience unintentional weight loss.)

I also consider intuitive eating to be a key element of dietary customization, because what works for you will be unique to you in terms of meal times, portions, types of food, etc.

Examples of intuitive eating may include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Eating when you feel hungry and stopping when you feel satiated
  • Choosing foods that honor specific cravings

TLDR

A holistic way of eating should be customized to meet your bio-individualized needs, preferences and unique hunger/fullness cues.

(Spoiler alert:  intuitive eating becomes exponentially easier when you’re following the holistic eating fundamentals outlined in this post! We dive deeper into everything in my Holistic Eating Blueprint online course.)

Pillar 4 – Sustainability

The BEST diet and lifestyle on paper (even if meeting all of the above “criteria”) is useless to you, if you can’t sustain it.

So, this final pillar is all about eating in ways that are realistic, feasible and sustainable.

Think:  moderation, flexibility, letting go of perfection, being realistic, and picking your battles. (Lots of important mindset work here!)

Examples

For example, buying organic groceries can get expensive AF.  At the same time, too much glyphosate (aka “Round-Up”) is associated with lots of health issues which is why this controversial herbicide is banned in many other countries around the world.

If going all organic isn’t in your budget, consider checking out the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s “Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen” to determine which produce is most important to buy organic

Another example of flexibility is opting for organic versions of certain staple food items when grocery shopping, but not worrying about eating organic (or grass-fed, etc.) when traveling, attending special events, or dining out at restaurants.

(What we eat most of the time matters a lot more than what we’re eating once in a while.)

Still, it’s important to know where to draw the line and stay somewhat on track versus just going “off the rails” sliding back into old habits every time you travel, go out to eat, or have a special event coming up!  

TLDR:  practice moderation and flexibility, not just in your choices but in the way you’re thinking about your food choices – so you can sustain these ways of eating and living with ease.

Benefits of holistic eating

The sky’s the limit when it comes to all the incredible benefits that follow a nutritionally-sound and balanced diet made up of tasty, high quality foods and meals that you actually LOVE and look forward to.

But some few top-of-mind benefits of holistic eating include:

  • More energy
  • Improved mental clarity and focus
  • Sounder sleep
  • Better digestion
  • Stronger immunity and resilience
  • Healthier, younger-looking skin
  • More positive mood
  • Happier hormones
  • Feeling amazing in your body

More resources

Final thoughts

The nutrients from food serve as our fuel and building blocks for every cell in our body. 

A Mercedes Benz won’t run smoothly if you feed it Diesel fuel.  And similarly, you can’t achieve optimal health (and crush your goals) if you’re running on crap fuel!

Enter: holistic eating… where balance meets natural alignment, customization and sustainability.

A holistic way of eating is flexible in that you can eat holistically on almost any type of diet.  But it should be nutritionally balanced, customized, sustainable, made up of natural, high quality foods that you enjoy.

We come from nature.  Our bodies, while incredibly resilient, have a much better chance of THRIVING when we fuel them with foods closer to their natural source. 

Sure, we can survive on ultra-processed stuff made in a lab.  But is that really in our best interest, when we’re sitting on a gold mine of so many wonderful alternatives? 

Imagine how amazing you can feel when you make the right tweaks and swaps in your diet!  

(If you don’t believe me, give this a try for 30 days.  Then let me know how it feels to switch back to a standard American diet.) 😉

Next steps

Did you found this intriguing? Would you like to learn more?  If so, make sure to download my free sample 1-day holistic meal plan (PDF) for a more detailed example of what a day in the life of holistic eating can look like!

Or – to dive deeper into the world of holistic eating step-by-step, enroll in my Holistic Eating Blueprint online course.

The Holistic Eating Blueprint Online Course - Learn More

 

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