Whole Food, Plant Based Eating for Fall and Winter

Published by Annie Barrett: 
October 12, 2020

Updated October 30, 2023

Eating a whole food, plant based diet offers many benefits from improving your energy, mood, and weight to lowering your risk for many chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline and diabetes.

What is a whole food, plant based diet?

Unlike most diets, a whole food, plant-based or plant-forward diet is defined by what it focuses on, not what it excludes. When you eat a plant based diet, you emphasize eating whole, minimally processed nutrient-dense plant based foods while minimize or avoid eating highly processed and refined foods, and animal foods. Vegetables, fruits, beans, seeds, and nuts make up the majority of your diet. Animal products are limited or avoided.

Food writer, Michael Pollan, coined a 7 word phrase: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

"Eat food" means to eat real food (vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and small amounts of eggs, fish, and meat if you wish), and to avoid what Pollan calls "edible food-like substances.“ (You can watch Michael Pollan's take on healthy eating in the PBS documentary: In Defense of Food. You can also read his book Food Rules, An Eater's Manual.)

Here are a handful of food rules from Michael Pollan's book Food Rules that you can start using right away:

"Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."​​

"Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry."

"Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle." Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad.

"Eat only foods that will eventually rot."

"Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature."

"If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't.

"Treat meat as a special flavoring or special occasion food."

"Eat your colors."​

Whole Food, plant-based items to add to your diet this fall and winter:

  • Seasonal fruits like apples, pears, quince, pomegranate, and citrus. Eat fruit on its own, add fruit to breakfast porridges, or enjoy fruits in baked goods.
  • Leafy greens such as, kale, arugula, bok choy, chicory, spinach, and chard. Enjoy greens steamed, sauteed and added to soups and salads.
  • Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, and kohlrabi. These vegetables are delicious in to stir-fries, roasted, and in soups.
  • Root veggies like turnips, parsnips, carrots, beets, celeriac root, and rutabaga are wonderful roasted and stewed.
  • Squash varieties like pumpkin, butternut, spaghetti squash, delicata, and acorn. Enjoy squash roasted, in soups and or baked.
  • Nuts and seeds like sunflower, pumpkin, flax, chia, walnut, almond, brazil, pecan, and hazelnut. Add nuts to salads. Sprinkle them on your morning oats or eat them by the handful.
  • Legumes such as lentils, mung beans, split peas, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans and black eyed peas. Soak your legumes before cooking them to improve digestibility. Season them with warming spices and eat them on their own or add them to soups and stews.
  • Whole grains such as quinoa, millet, buckwheat, bulgar wheat, brown rice, basmati rice, wild rice, oats, and barley. Eat whole grain porridges for breakfast. Enjoy whole grains next to stirfries. Add grains added to soups. Choose whole grain varieties of pastas and breads.
  • Healthy oils such as extra-virgen olive oil, sesame oil, canola oil, avocado oil, and flaxseed oil.

Simple plant based meals for fall and winter using the Instant Pot
Nothing beats the cold like a warm bowl of stew or soup. I'm a huge fan of using the Instant Pot to feed my family warm food in the fall and winter. Many of you readers will already know about or own an Instant Pot, but in case you're new to the game, check out this great guide in the NY Times: How to Use an Instant Pot.

Once you get the hang of the Instant Pot, you don't really need a recipe, but if you're looking for recipes, the internet is full of Instant Pot recipes. Here are a few that you might want to try this month:

For more recipes, check out my list or curated recipes here.

Healthy whole food, happy plant based eating!