Your Guide to a Whole-Foods Plant-Based Diet

02 / 26 / 2020


  • A plant-based diet can provide significant energy and health boosts while also being better for the planet. It can also make key aspects of meal prep easier, like portion control, seasonality, and simplicity in meals.
  • While a plant-based diet should focus on foods derived from plants—including whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and grains—it does not necessarily mean eliminating all animal products. Eggs and bone broth are two great examples of healthy animal products that can be incorporated into many plant-based meals.
  • Not all plant-based foods are equally nutritious. Avoid refined and processed foods, as well as those with alcohol, trans fats, rancid oils, and excessive sugar to maintain the principles of the Eat Clean™ Diet alongside a plant-based approach.

Your Guide to a Whole-Foods Plant-Based Diet

I’ve got nothing against meat, although I will express a strong preference for it to be grass-fed, free-range, and ethically slaughtered. Protein is a vital building block for good health, and that makes animal products essential for most people, at least to some extent.

But I’ll also go on record to say that a diet rich in plant-based foods provides incredible energy and stamina. So whether you have specific dietary needs or simply want to focus on adding more plants to your diet, I’m here to help—by showing you how to do it while following the core principles of the Eat Clean™ Diet.

What is a Whole-Foods Plant-Based Diet?

When I refer to a plant-based diet, I’m talking about basing your daily food intake more heavily on anything that comes from a plant. That could include anything from the coconut oil or mashed avocado you spread on your sourdough to the oat/almond/soy milk you drink. It doesn’t necessarily mean going fully vegetarian or vegan, although there’s no judgment from me if you do—but for myself, the key is to add more plant-based foods to my diet rather than eliminate everything else.

In keeping with the principles of the Eat Clean™ Diet, it’s also vital to choose whole foods—which means foods that haven’t been processed or refined in any way. In situations where this isn’t strictly possible, it’s sometimes okay to go for minimally processed foods (like frozen or canned fruits if fresh options are not available). But whole is always better!

My Journey Towards a Plant-Based Diet

I found myself eating more plant-based foods after my husband passed away in 2012. It just felt right—it was easier for me to control portions, eat in season, and make single-serving meals.

I realized I was consuming more and more plants when I spent a few days reviewing what I ate.  I often ask my private clients to journal everything they eat for 3-5 days, because it gives me a view into their eating habits—what they are eating, when they eat, and how it makes them feel. When I looked at my own food intake, I noticed that virtually every meal in a five-day period except for two or three, were based on plants. And without fail, I was feeling amazing!

tosca reno with an avocado

A Day in Tosca’s Life: Eating Clean on a Plant-Based Diet

Here’s a sample of what I’d eat on a given day during this period, just to show you how easy it was:

  • Breakfast: Overnight oats with chia, flax, and berries.
  • Mid-Morning Snack was three dates spread with natural nut butter.
  • Lunch: Chopped salad with loads of colorful leaves and crunchy stuff. Even the tempeh I chose for my protein source was based on plants.
  • Mid-Afternoon Snack: A handful of raw carrots and cucumbers with two tablespoons of hummus.
  • Dinner: Brown rice pilaf with roasted squash, chickpeas, toasted pine nuts, and parsley.
plant based quiche

Incorporating Animal Products

As you can see, every meal listed above was plant-based. But I still ate certain animal products to round out my diet, including:

  • Eggs: I am picky about eggs. They need to be as fresh as possible (and hopefully with the bloom still on them). Whole eggs raised in humane and even idyllic conditions give me loads of necessary protein to develop my muscles, rebuild my immune system, and more.
  • Bone Broth: Deeply nourishing, energizing, and readily digestible, bone broth is the answer to much of what ails. I make sure to get my bones from organic sources—either the carcass of a roasted organic chicken or from a friend of mine who farms his animals in the friendliest way possible.

Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

Eating plant-based is great for both you and the planet. In his groundbreaking book Drawdown, author Paul Hawken ranks hundreds of daily living habits according to how much they can help reduce carbon emissions. Going plant-based comes in at #4.

“Plant-rich diets reduce emissions and also tend to be healthier, leading to lower rates of chronic disease. According to a 2016 study, business-as-usual emissions could be reduced by as much as 70 percent through adopting a vegan diet and 63 percent for a vegetarian diet, which includes cheese, milk, and eggs.”

– Drawdown by Paul Hawken

In addition to fewer emissions and lower rates of chronic disease, going plant-based can help with:

  • Eco-Friendly Food Production: Plant-based foods often require fewer resources to harvest than animal farming, leading to a smaller environmental impact.
  • Biodiversity: Eating more plant-based foods reduces strain on wildlife habitats.
  • Water Conservation: Plant-based diets generally require less water for food production.
  • Reduced Healthcare Costs: Plant-based diets can result in fewer diet-related health issues, which lowers healthcare costs and allows for improved accessibility.
  • Weight Management: Many people who include more plant-based foods in their diets experience weight loss and have a lower risk of obesity. Plant-based foods tend to have high fiber content and a low glycemic index.
  • Lower Cholesterol: A diet rich in plant-based foods can positively affect your cholesterol levels and improve your cardiovascular health.
  • Athletic Performance: Plant-based diets can help make you leaner, improve tissue oxygenation, reduce oxidative stress, and decrease inflammation. This can boost your endurance, aerobic capacity, and recovery after exercise.
Elderly woman enjoying vegan meal at home caring for her body

Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet

With all the compelling reasons to embrace a plant-based diet, the only question is: how do you start? With me, that’s how. As I’ve written elsewhere, Eating Clean™ is eating green, too!

Meanwhile, here’s a list of foods to get you up and running:

Choosing Nutritious Plants

Not all plants are created equal—some have more nutritional value than others. I recommend that you choose your plants using the SILOH acronym:

  • Seasonal: Eat foods that are in season to experience the highest nutritional quality.
  • Indigenous: Indigenous seeds are those that are produced, growing, or living naturally in a particular country or climate. These seeds preserve their original genetic code and have been selected and managed by local people in their local growing environment.
  • Local: Locally grown foods benefit the farmer and you. These foods are generally pesticide-free, preservative-free, and not gassed for transport. As a result, they tend to deliver better nutritional value.
  • Organic: Organic foods are grown without pesticides, herbicides, toxins, and preservatives in organic soil.
  • Heirloom: Heirloom seeds come from open-pollinated plants that pass on similar characteristics and traits from parent to child plants.

Foods to Avoid

Remember, this isn’t just about eating plant-based foods—it’s also about following the Eat Clean™ Diet. There are plenty of foods made from plant matter that aren’t exactly good for you (looking at you, potato chips), so here’s a list of what to avoid:

  • Refined and Processed Foods: These include highly processed snacks, pre-packaged meals, and fast foods that often contain unhealthy additives and preservatives.
  • Alcohol: Yes, it comes from plants—but it’s also high in calories, has little nutritional value, and has numerous other ill effects on your health.
  • Trans Fats: Commonly found in fried foods, baked goods, and some margarines, trans fats are linked to plenty of health problems.
  • Rancid Oils: Oils that have oxidized due to exposure to air, light, or heat can be harmful and should be avoided.
  • Sugar: Whether it’s refined or not, sugar isn’t your friend when you’re trying to Eat Clean™. Strike sugar out of your diet for good.

3 Plant-Based Eat Clean™ Recipes to Try Now

tosca renos veggie frittata

Veggie Frittata

A great plant-based breakfast or lunch option that also uses eggs for protein, this is an easy, filling, and supremely healthy meal.

  • Yield: 8 oz omelet
  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Total time: 15 minutes

Get the Recipe

plant based roasted veggies

Quick Linguine with Roasted Vegetables

A phenomenally filling dinner option with plenty of vitamins from plant products, this recipe can be prepped, cooked, and served in under an hour.

  • Yield: 4 servings
  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 40 minutes
  • Total time: 55 minutes

Get the Recipe

green smootie

Green Fat Burning Machine Smoothie

A truly awesome drink at any time of day, this recipe blends fruits and vegetables for a burst of natural flavor and lasting energy.

  • Yield: 2 cups
  • Prep time: 5 minutes

Get the Recipe

Recommended Products

Find Support for Your Eat Clean™ Journey

Remember, the focus of a plant-based diet is on whole, minimally processed foods that are nourishing and environmentally sustainable. Doing this on the Eat Clean™ Diet is more than just possible—it’s also deeply rewarding, and it can truly transform your life if you’re willing to make the commitment.

I’m here to help. Find more Eat Clean™ recipes and meal plans here, then start changing yourself for the better—from the inside out!

Tosca Reno

Author, columnist, motivational speaker, reality TV star, radio personality, consultant, mother and wife, Tosca Reno has been inspiring millions with the Eat Clean™️ Diet series and sharing the success she's had with weight loss and Clean Eating.


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