Whole Foods

Whole foods are foods that have not been processed. When food is processed, fat, sugar and salt are usually added and important nutrients, such as fiber, are usually removed. Too much saturated fat, added sugar or sodium can increase your risk of developing a chronic disease.

Whole foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains (such as oats, brown rice and barley), nuts, beans, fish, shellfish and eggs. Minimally processed foods are foods that are a little processed, such as frozen produce or whole wheat flour.

Eating mostly whole or minimally processed foods, when possible, can help you stay healthy.


Whole grains, such as brown rice or oatmeal, have more healthy fats and fiber than refined grains, such as white bread or pasta. Fiber is good for your health and may lower your risk of heart disease. Look for “100 percent whole” on the front of the package, or “whole” or “whole grain” as the first or second ingredient in the ingredient list. Choose whole grains more often than refined grains.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fresh fruits and vegetables are whole foods. Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are minimally processed and are also a great option. While canned foods lose some nutrients during processing, our tips below can help you choose the healthier versions.


Dried beans and lentils, nuts and seeds are whole foods that are good sources of protein. Canned beans can also be a good choice. They are full of fiber and other nutrients and have little-to-no saturated fat.

Tips for Choosing Canned or Frozen Fruits, Vegetables or Beans

  • Read the ingredients list and Nutrition Facts label:
    • Choose frozen fruits and vegetables that don’t have added ingredients.
    • Look for canned fruit packed in 100% juice, not in syrup or light syrup.
    • Look for canned vegetables and beans with less than 5% Daily Value of sodium. Or look for canned vegetables and beans with “low sodium” or “no sodium” written on the label.

  • Rinse canned vegetables and beans before eating to remove excess salt, which is often added as a preservative.

How to Find Whole and Minimally Processed Foods

  • Look for ingredient lists with only a few ingredients. For example, frozen corn should just list “corn”.

  • Stay away, when possible, from products that have a lot of ingredients you do not easily recognize.

  • Check the Nutrition Facts label for the amount of saturated fat, added sugar and sodium. Compare products and choose foods lower in these ingredients.

  • When grocery shopping, start on the outside aisles of the store. This is where most of the whole foods are located.

  • For more information on where to find fresh and affordable whole foods, visit Nutrition Services.

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