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Whole Foods "Health Starts Here" Campaign Is A Vegetarian Agenda

On January 20th, 2010 the chain Whole Foods Market announced the launch of their “Health Starts Here” campaign. The food store which has millions of shoppers stepping through its doors weekly, is regarded as the world leader in natural foods.

According to their web site, “Health Starts Here is the first major program to be launched since Whole Foods Market added a new core value to its mission in October 2009: ‘Promoting the health of our stakeholders through healthy eating education.’ The new program is based on the following simple principles for everyday healthy eating”:

  • Plant-based – choose plant-based foods as your primary sources of nutrients, and minimizing consumption of meat/dairy/poultry/seafood
  • Whole foods – choose foods that are real, fresh, natural, organic, local, seasonal, and unprocessed – with no mention or acknowledgment of how unnatural and processed foods like many grain/soy/corn products are
  • Low-fat – obtain your fats from foods like avocados and nuts – with no mention of healthy fats from meat and meat products
  • Nutrient-dense – choose foods that are rich in nutrients as compared to their caloric content, and build all meals around plants to ensure highest nutrient-dense content possible, and use the newly formulated ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) as a system for “scoring” foods – again, no mention of nutrient-dense foods like meat and meat products

The biggest problem is that these four recommendations are actually competing notions that become a contradiction to themselves. “Whole foods” and “nutrient-dense”  are on the list – which most no one would bothering arguing about…but Whole Foods carries products in their stores that clearly fall into the category of “processed foods” such as grains, soy, legumes, and even vegetable – and what’s more, are promoting consumption of these products as healthful choices, so it’s plain to see those statements simply aren’t compatible with each other for obvious reasons.

The Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) is Eat Right America’s designation as to which foods are the most nutrient-dense and healthier to eat.  Whole Foods has chosen to use this measurement tool as their way to determine the nutrient density of foods. As a comparison, you will find foods like olive oil chicken breast lower on the score and foods like leafy greens such as bok choy and kale highest – the olive oil gets 9, chicken breast 27 while the bok choy received 824 points and the kale received a whopping 1000. As expected, nearly every fruit, vegetable, legume, and grain scored higher on this scale than any meat or meat product.

The information provided by ANDI is a gross misrepresentation of foods that are nutrient-dense.  If we do a side-by-side comparison of nutrient-dense foods, you can plainly discern which have more nutrients. In December of 2009, Jenny from The Nourished Kitchen did such a comparison, and found that by and large – meats, poultry, organ meats, animal fats, seafood, and dairy products contained the highest level of nutrients found in all foods. The source for this information was Nutrition Data, an online source for nutrient content of all foods.

Still not convinced that fat and cholesterol are good for us? Read The Importance of Dietary Fats.

So I’m really puzzled as to where Eat Right America’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joel Furhman (the creator of this system), obtained this data? Apparently this data is further elaborated upon in Eat for Health, also authored by Dr. Furhman.

The American Dietetic Association has also put their name behind vegetarian and vegan diets. They have given it their full endorsement as a healthful choice, including recommendations that tell consumers to eat grains and soy (many of them processed, with no attention to the fact that much soy is processed, industrial waste and derived from genetically-modified organisms), in addition to vegetables.

According to MedScape, who supports the American Dietetic Association’s stance, the amount of individuals embarking on vegetarian diets are expected to increase in the next decade. This dietary philosophy should be accepted as healthful for children, pregnant mothers, and those experiencing health compromises who wish to improve their health. “Vegetarian diets are typically characterized by certain healthful features that may lower the risk for chronic disease — notably, reduced consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol and increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, soy products, fiber, and phytochemicals with potent antioxidant, antiproliferative, and cancer-protective activity.”

I realize everyone should be free to choose their preferred diet, lifestyle, and anything else. And that should remain something each person should be able to choose for themselves. However, it becomes a blurred line when a large organization or corporation, such as Whole Foods or the American Dietetic Association begins promoting an agenda that is clearly in line with vegetarian notions of diet and eating. The situation gets worse when a medical doctor gives not only his or her blessing to such an endeavor, but is hired on to do consulting to create a measuring gauge with which to determine the efficacy of said program.

The Weston A. Price Foundation has made a statement about this campaign, and here it is:

Has the Upscale Market Outlived Its Usefulness?

WASHINGTON, DC. February 3, 2010:  Whole Foods Markets has launched a nationwide “Health Starts Here” marketing scheme that endorses a lowfat, vegetarian diet, with promises that the diet will “improve health easily and naturally.” The plan promotes the books and private business ventures of Joel Fuhrman, MD, and Rip Esselstyn, both of whom worked with Whole Foods to formulate the new guidelines. Customers now receive a pamphlet urging them to adopt a lowfat, plant-based diet and to cut back or completely eliminate animal foods.  Many Whole Foods stores no longer sell books advocating consumption of meat, eggs and dairy products.

The plan will feature new Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) labels for foods in the store; the index is designed to make plant foods to appear “nutrient dense” by favoring various phytonutrients in plants and ignoring many vitamins and minerals essential to health. “Whole Foods has stacked the deck against animal foods by choosing ANDI parameters that do not include a host of key nutrients, such as vitamins A, D and K, DHA, EPA arachidonic acid, taurine, iodine, biotin, pantothenic acid, and vital minerals like sodium, chloride, potassium, sulfur, phosphorus, copper, manganese, boron, molybdenum and chromium,” says Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation. “Many of the phytochemicals that Fuhrman includes in the index he developed for Whole Foods play no essential role in the body and may even be harmful.”

“Animal foods like meat, liver, butter, whole milk and eggs contain ten to one hundred times more vitamins and minerals than plant foods,” says Fallon Morell. “Plant foods add variety and interest to the human diet but in most circumstances do not qualify as ‘nutrient-dense’ foods.”

“For years before becoming deathly ill, I followed the dietary suggestions in the Whole Foods plan,” said Kathryne Pirtle, author of Performance without Pain. “I ate large amounts of organic salads, vegetables and fruits, lots of whole grains, only a little meat and no animal fat. I had chronic pain for twenty-five years on this diet, then acid reflux, then a serious inflammation in my spine followed by chronic diarrhea. Without switching to nutrient-dense animal foods, including eggs, butter and whole dairy products, not only would I have lost my national career as a performing artist, I would have died at forty-five years old! I am not alone in this story of ill health from a lowfat, plant-based diet, which does not supply a person with enough nutrients to be healthy and can be very damaging to the intestinal tract.”

“Consumers can send a message about Whole Foods’ misinformed scheme by voting with their feet,” says Fallon Morell.  “Most major grocery store chains now carry basic organic staples and a larger array of organic fruits and vegetables than Whole Foods markets. And citizens should purchase seasonal produce  and their meat, eggs and dairy products directly from farmers engaged in non-toxic and grass-based farming. It’s not appropriate for Whole Foods to promote a scheme that has no scientific basis and that bulldozes their customers towards the higher profit items in their stores.” The local chapters of the Weston A. Price Foundation help consumers connect with farmers raising animal foods in humane, healthy and ecologically friendly fashion.

“The growing emphasis on plant-based diets deficient in animal protein also serves to promote soy foods as both meat and dairy substitutes,” says Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN, author of The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America’s Favorite Health Food.   “Soy is not only one of the top eight allergens but has been linked in more than sixty years of studies to malnutrition, digestive distress, thyroid dysfunction, reproductive disorders including infertility, and even cancer, especially breast cancer.”
“Low fat patients are my most unhealthy patients,” says John P. Salerno, MD, a board certified family physician from New York City. “The reason we are spiraling into diabetes and obesity is because of the lowfat concept developed by the U.S government decades ago. Lowfat diets have a low nutrient base, and phytonutrients in vegetables cannot be properly absorbed without fat.”

Fallon Morell cites recent studies from Europe showing that lowfat diets promote weight gain in both children and adults, and also contribute to infertility. A meta-analysis published January, 2010 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no significant evidence that saturated fat consumption is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

“Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has stated that eating animal fats amounts to an addiction. But in fact, animal fats are essential for good health,” says Fallon Morell. “The nutrients in animal fats, such as vitamins A, D and K, arachidonic acid, DHA, choline, cholesterol and saturated fat, are critical for brain function. In the misguided war against cholesterol and saturated fat, we have created an epidemic of learning disorders in the young and mental decline in the elderly.”

“Perhaps the vegetarian diet has affected the thinking powers of Whole Foods management,” says Fallon Morell. “It’s time for the stockholders to insist on leadership devoted to increasing customer base, not promoting a personal vegetarian agenda.”

The Weston A. Price Foundation is a 501C3 nutrition education foundation with the mission of disseminating accurate, science-based information on diet and health. Named after nutrition pioneer Weston A. Price, DDS, author of the book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, the Washington, DC-based Foundation publishes a quarterly journal for over 12,000 members, supports 400 local chapters worldwide and hosts a yearly conference. The Foundation headquarters phone number is (202) 363-4394,,

Comments about the Whole Foods Health Starts Here scheme can be emailed to:

Kimberly Hartke, Publicist, the Weston A. Price Foundation
703-860-2711, 703-675-5557

So why do I care about this, and why don’t I just avoid Whole Foods Markets and shop elsewhere? The answer is, I don’t shop at Whole Foods Markets except on rare occasions when I’m out-of-town and need some things I can’t get elsewhere. It’s true, their products are over-priced and I normally try to buy local and support farmers in my own area.

The reason I care about this is that it frustrates me to no end the far-reaching influence corporations like Whole Foods and organizations like The American Dietetic Association has on consumer spending and health habits. They have the ability to  make recommendations that many people tend to hear and follow – especially those who are affluent, and to those who simply aren’t aware of just what their dollars are supporting and where their money goes – which is really describing the average person. And there must be plenty of people who fall into both of these categories because Whole Foods Markets are successful as evident by their presence in so many locations.

I don’t like the fact that Whole Foods is using their power over the natural market segments to send a message to consumers that meat and dairy products should be avoided unless lean and low-fat. I don’t like the fact that nowhere have I ever seen the message to support all sustainable farming, including meat and meat product farming. All we’re hearing is the message that the majority of our diets should be plant-based and low-fat – which clearly doesn’t include any meat.

It is my intent with this information to raise awareness about the fact that although the mainstream medical communities say otherwise, there is a lack of real, scientific evidence proving that low-fat and plant-based diets reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other fatal diseases such as cancer. And, just because a big corporation or organization with a lot of pull chimes in with the same conclusion, does not make it intelligent nor rational. In my book, Whole Foods and The American Dietetic Association fall short on nutritional awareness and education.

The important thing here is to get the message out about truly sustainable living, health, and farming for our health and the environment.  Conversations about sustainable living and health that leave out  humanely-raised meat and meat products from a healthy environment are simply incomplete. Any person, organization, or corporation or other entity claiming to be pro-environment and health through sustainable measures but who attempts to encourage a vegetarian or vegan agenda isn’t telling you the whole story, or truth.

Here are some related posts:

The American Dietetic Association Refuses to Acknowledge Benefits of Organic Food

A Letter to PETA and Their Response

People for the Unethical Treatment of Animals – And Humans

And, this very poignant article featured in the New York Times

Sorry Vegans, Brussels Sprouts Like To Live, Too

Update! 2/9/2010

I sent correspondence to Whole Foods Market on 2/8/2010 expressing my concern over the lack of emphasis on meat being a healthy choice and nutrient-dense source of calories and elements we need to be healthy:

I am very disappointed at WF’s announcement of the “Health Starts Here” campaign which supports a low-fat and plant-based agenda on the web site and in other forums to the public. As a customer, I am offended at the exclusion of information about truly sustainable solutions to our health problems including meat and meat products from healthy, pasture-raised animals and poultry as part of a complete diet. It is certainly someone’s choice to be a vegetarian, but it is also someone’s choice to be a meat eater, and the fact that WFs is not showing the difference between eating sustainable meats and factory farm meats, which are two worlds apart, is appalling and disappointing.

By stating that low-fat and plant-based diets are the way to go, WFs is effectively telling consumers that all meat is unhealthy and should be avoided. Real meats from healthy sources are the most nutrient-dense substances on the planet, far and above plants, and your store has completely ignored this fact by promoting an agenda that doesn’t promote health.

I am sorry to say I will no longer be shopping at WFs markets when I travel – there is no WFs in Boise where I live, so that part won’t change for me in the slightest. As a food activist, my belief in supporting truly sustainable living goes the distance – humanely raised meats and poultry on pasture, local, organic, and no GMOs. I feel WFs discussion of what is healthy sends a negative message to sustainable communities and efforts everywhere and is extremely damaging to health. I am sending this message to the Las Vegas store because that is where I have shopped in the past, but I want this message conveyed to all stores in general.


Raine Saunders

Here is the response I received today from Jessie Walker, Information Specialist from the corporate offices of Whole Foods Market:

Hello Raine,

Thank you for contacting Whole Foods Market with your concerns. The intention of our “Health Starts Here” program is not to promote a 100 percent plant based, or vegan, diet. We are emphasizing the increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans – no matter what type of diet one eats. The program is a completely voluntary program that encourages people to simply eat more fruits and vegetables, foods that the majority of Americans fail to consume in adequate amounts. In fact we just became the only retailer in the US to sell grass fed beef in all of our stores. We are very proud of our meat and poultry standards as well as our products.

We appreciate your feedback and acknowledge there are many paths to health. At the end of the day, Whole Foods Market will still be a grocery store that offers a wide variety of products for our customers to purchase. Thanks again for reaching out to us with your concerns.

We hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions please use our on-line response form.

Best regards,


Jessie Walker | Customer Information Specialist
Whole Foods Market | Global Headquarters
Phone 512-542-0670 | Fax 512-482-7670

Please note the fact that Ms. Walker did not acknowledge, whatsoever, the fact that the four criteria listed expressly convey to consumers to minimize meat and meat product consumption and place emphasis on low-fat, and obtaining our nutrients mostly from plants, plant products, and whole grains – which is what I pointed out in the first place. But she did not address these points at all.

The bottom line is, Whole Foods has positioned themselves as a leader in health, and millions of people rely on their actions and guidance about health and diet. They have a responsibility to present truthful information about real foods to encourage health. By promoting low-fat, processed, and packaged foods as health foods and misrepresenting to the public that these products are going to bring good results, they are not only acting irresponsibly, but unethically as well.

UPDATE! 3/3/2010
As brought to my attention from a commenter below, Whole Foods has changed the wording on their mission statement page about this campaign – instead of saying “minimize meat and meat products” it now reads: “If eating a diet that includes animal products, choose leaner meats and seafood as well as low-fat dairy products.” But the statement about low-fat is still strong in the campaign. When I originally wrote this post, Whole Foods made a definitive statement against consumption of meat and meat products.

I want to encourage everyone to post about this, Twitter, and Facebook. Also, please contact Whole Foods and express your concerns about this matter.

This post is part of Kelly The Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays and Works for Me Wednesdays carnivals. Please visit these sites and see all the other great posts linked there.

Want to learn to cook traditional food? Sign up for this great eCourse by clicking this Banner by Feb 22, 2010

116 replies on “Whole Foods "Health Starts Here" Campaign Is A Vegetarian Agenda”

New reader here 🙂
Great post, it’s so disappointing how promoted low-fat diets are. When I asked a dietican what she thought she said healthy fats such as avocado and nuts where important. Umm… so no saturated fat?? It’s ridiculous how we have distorted our perceptions of what’s healthy by abandoning the obvious source of fat found in nature from animals. I have never come across a healthy vegetarian!

Hi Natalia –

Thanks for your comment! I have also yet to come across too many healthy vegetarians myself. I know of about three – and really, I don’t know what they eat except what I see them eating and what they tell me they eat. But in general, most people don’t make great choices, from my own experience. Many people’s diets are replete with processed foods. I know some vegetarians who actually try to eat saturated fats like cheese, milk, cream, butter, eggs, and who at least eat olive oil – coconut oil is much more scarce with people I know because a lot of people just aren’t familiar with it or believe that it’s not healthy to consume. The majority of vegetarians I know eat a lot of really processed foods – in fact a point I usually make about vegetarian/vegan diets to people is just how full of un-real food their diets really are – soy,fake meats,processed grain products, low-fat dairy, and a few vegetables. How anyone could possibly construe that as being healthy is beyond me!

This is a whole lot of fuss over nothing.

I like Whole Foods because it’s the only place locally where I can easily find things like wild salmon and a wide variety of yogurt.

As long as they carry the foods I want, and they have well-trained employees, I don’t really care what dang fool stuff comes from their PR folks.

The 50 Best Health Blogs

The reason I have an issue with this at all is due to Whole Foods heavy influence over consumer habits and viewpoints. I don’t want this to start overshadowing opinions about nutrition. We have already been contending with the whole low-fat, polyunsaturated-fats-from-industrial-sources-are-good-for-you, eat-lots-of-grains mentality as it is. I don’t care if someone is a vegetarian, I just don’t want a corporation or organization to dictate a large percentage of what is bought/sold and believed about our food supply to the extent that they control what people are buying and consuming from the whim of a CEO and staff who wants to push an agenda. It’s just not democratic, and in America, we’re supposed to have some of that left.

And all that’s not to mention that fat is an important part of the diet of young children. It makes me so mad to see people promoting low and non fat dairy products with no acknowledgement that small children should eat full fat dairy products–preferably minimally processed, nonhomogenized ones.

Rachel – that is a really important part about all of this – children are completely dependent upon what their parents and other adults in their lives teach them, and if all they are hearing is that low-fat diets with less meat and meat products are the answer, they will grow up believing that and their health will eventually decline. It’s so frustrating how a health angle will take the most extreme viewpoint about eating and pull it to an extreme – by attacking meat and meat products, for example, and not emphasizing the importance of the role of healthy fats in our diets for maintaining growth, development and health. They’re just children, they can only eat what we provide for them. Doesn’t it seem like parents would want the best nutrition for their kids?

When I lived in Chicago, I shopped at Whole Foods occasionally… for the cheese! Full fat, sometimes raw, wonderful, delicious, artisan cheeses from all over the world. WF has an excellent cheese department! My friends (and probably the cashiers) thought I was nuts because I could easily drop $80 on cheese. Yes, I’m a cheese snob. 🙂

I no longer live in Chicago, and I now purchase more local cheeses. I have often told my husband that I would love to make a cheese run to WF again though. It was such fun!

I’m HOPING that most people who shop there regularly are educated enough to research nutrition for themselves, and toss those fliers in the trash where they belong. I would!

I do think it’s important to let our opinions be known, so I will email WF expressing my disappointment in this new program.

Thanks Raine, for keeping us updated on these important issues.

Hi Jen –

I agree, WF does have a wonderful cheese counter, and they have much better of a selection of raw cheeses than our local cooperative store does. I’m not sure why our local health food store doesn’t carry more raw cheeses, they do have some here and there, and I have been requesting that they stock more raw, but I guess there is just not that much demand for it. People don’t realize the enormous health benefits to raw dairy, so not many people ask for it. But I know what you mean…back in the day when we had a larger income, I would spend sometimes $30 to $50 on cheese at the store. I am also a cheese lover. Like wine, I love it a lot, but still don’t consider myself and expert – who knows if I’ll ever be an expert. I just know, I love them both.

But I do think it’s really important, as you said, to let corporations know when we don’t agree with a policy they decide on, even if we don’t shop there often, or at all.

One of the only ways we can assure the future of real food in our country is by speaking up and out every chance we get. It’s one of the most useful methods we have of raising awareness.

I’ve noticed that not everyone I know agrees with me on food, but the more time goes on, I find people start asking questions, and getting interested in real food because in a common sense way, it just makes sense. And then they start to “get it”.

I always get excited for that moment for other people, because as much as it does make you more careful and wary about food in general, it also opens many choices to health that people don’t realize they have – and it empowers people to put their own health in their own hands – rather than feeling helpless and leaving it all to doctors. It really starts at a grass-roots level and takes hold from there – hopefully, like wildfire! 🙂

All right you guys…these two posts make it VERY clear that you know few vegetarians and are willing to spread your OPINIONS rather that check facts or ask for input. I know many vegetarians and have been a hard-core ovo-lacto vegetarian for decades.

You’re right: many folks claim the veg title when they are still flesh-eaters; or have no idea what sustainable farming/ranching is; or rely on highly processed foods rather than choose whole foods for the sake of their health (about which- btw – most people are woefully ignorant). For instance, I accompanied a diabetic once for instruction from a dietitian regarding healthy eating and was astounded that this registered health professional refused to acknowledge the advantages and differences of consuming complex carbs verses other carbs.

If you are willing to state you, ‘… have yet to come across too many healthy vegetarians…’, you are doing the very thing you have accused Whole Foods of doing: influencing others on flimsy justification. The truth is that there are lots of good reasons to choose one of the vegetarian lifestyles – two types are well-recognized – and your opinions and attitudes shut them down without a hearing.

I chose to abandon flesh in the ’80s to support traditional family farming in the USA. In the process of educating myself about my choice, I found so many other reasons to avoid the flesh-producing industry that my original motives where overwhelmed. It is a scourge on our world.

Today, I eat homemade mayo and quiche filled with veggies made with free-range eggs; artisan or homemade breads spread with organic butter and dairy products from Trader’s Point (a local business that distributes regionally/nationally); on my shelves are a variety of fats from olive oil, grape seed oil, coconut oil and other sources…in short, saturated fats are a regular part of my HEALTHY vegetarian diet.

Instead of knocking vegetarianism, you should be supporting it as one of the healthier options for an uninformed public. Attack “low fat” if you please, but don’t lump vegetarians who aren’t vegan into your extremist pigeonhole where they don’t belong.

Anyone who ventures into the life change it requires to become vegetarian is investigating: that is a good thing. If you want to draw swords on it, I maintain that a lifetime’s exposure to chlorine in your public plumbing (and it can’t be filtered out at your sink/tub/shower) that reaches you via cooking, bathing and drinking is more harmful than being vegan.

Support your cause, but not at the expense of the accurate education of others.

NJ – actually, I never said “I know few vegetarians”. On the contrary, I know a LOT of vegetarians, I think you misread what I stated. I also never stated that people who are flesh eaters claim to be vegetarians. It gets frustrating when the lines are so clear – but people tend to muddle them to support their agendas. Sustainable means eating foods from the land that are produced without chemicals, pesticides, hormones, toxins, etc. and that includes vegetables, legumes, grains, fruits, meats and meat products. It’s not just the plants and grains that we should be eating because meats and meat products are the MOST nutrient-dense foods on our planet. They provide nutrients we cannot obtain from plants, period.

When I am around vegetarians and the topic of food comes up or we are eating, I rarely see them eating healthy saturated fats; what I’m seeing is a lot of processed, low fat foods, just like what Whole Foods is promoting. Let us make this distinction – you must be clear when you say “I’m eating dairy and healthy foods”. What does that really mean? Are you eating processed grains, soy, and low-fat dairy? That is not healthy! People rarely make these distinctions, and then what you have is a conversation of two people going past each other and not specifically saying that it is low-fat foods, processed foods that are being discussed.

So don’t misunderstand; I’m not knocking vegetarianism from people who practice it healthfully and sustainably. I am making a criticism of the concept of being a vegetarian and maintaining a philosophy about diet as espoused by many agencies, corporations, and health experts – just as Whole Foods is doing. Unfortunately, this is the flagship way of thinking about vegetarian and vegan diets – one that pushes aside real, full fat foods and also embraces a lot of processed foods that are bad for our health.

Just walk down the aisles of Whole Foods – will you find whole, sprouted, soaked, fermented grain products in their store? No, you’ll find mostly processed, rancid grain products made with chemicals and industrial oils. Do you find much raw dairy in their store? Very little. Most of it is pasteurized and who knows where it comes from or what they cows eat who produce the milk to make the cheese.

What is one of the main staples of a vegetarian and vegan diet? Soy. Will you find soy and soy products in Whole Foods? You bet, aisles and aisles of them. Soy milk, soy cheese, soy meats, soy additives in many processed and packaged foods, personal care products, laundry detergents, – soy, soy, soy. I challenge you to go to one of their stores and make a list of soy food products – it will be very long. Soy is not healthy! It is industrial waste.

Will you find lard, tallow, chicken fat, and other healthy fats from pastured animals and birds in Whole Foods? Doubtful. If you do, it is very difficult to find. The last time I was in Whole Foods (last fall) I wanted to make a pie crust with lard. I asked for lard, and you know what the employee said to me? We have vegetable shortening – again, another industrial waste product.

Will you find grass-fed beef in Whole Foods? Yes, but it’s not something they highlight in their health campaign. In fact, in her response to me the Whole Foods employee mentioned this fact as though somehow this makes the campaign they are running perfectly acceptable. So if this is such an important thing for people to know, why isn’t it emphasized? She even went as far as to say they were the only retailer selling grass fed beef, and yet, I ask again…why is it not mentioned in their campaign? She states that the program is “voluntary” and that they are trying to emphasize vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. And yet, if you look in their store or any other grocery store – you will see multitudes and multitudes of grain products – in my book, you don’t need to emphasize eating something that is already everywhere, is completely processed, and is one of THE root causes of degenerative disease in developed countries – heart disease, obesity, cancer, and the list goes on.

Again, here is my point that keeps being missed – if a vegetarian lifestyle is so healthy and includes saturated fats, why are they not promoting those things? And why can’t they also emphasize as part of a healthy diet sustainable meats and meat products? What they are promoting is very inclusive and one-sided, and many of the foods they tell people to eat are actually unhealthy!

I know for a fact that if you are eating home-made mayonnaise, fermented foods, and other types of healthy saturated fats you are in the minority. Nearly every single vegetarian I know adheres to the low-fat philosophy and tends to buy a lot of processed grains and soy. So this is not anecdotal evidence – it’s just reality. You would be hard pressed to find a large group of vegetarians who eat like you do. In fact, if there are so many of them around, please send them my way. I’d love to have a chance to talk with them and have them give their testimony. I’d welcome the opportunity to show other vegetarians a better way to eat and to include saturated fats in their diets. Maybe instead of criticizing me and Natalia above, you could talk about what you are doing that is positive and how it is not in line with what Whole Foods and many other agencies, organizations, and health experts are recommending. Now, that would be inspiring! 🙂

Whole Foods is a leader in health and as such, has an inherent responsibility to teach their customers about real health. Teaching low-fat is not healthy. Teaching avoiding meat is not healthy. They never once make a statement that if you are going to avoid meat you should eat other healthy saturated fats and fermented dairy, it’s all centered around plant-based and low-fat diets.

I work for WFM and I have pictures of our Meat and Seafood departments which indicate that both are clearly a part of our “Health Starts Here” campaign. For you to say that WFM has not included animals in this initiative shows that you are assuming. The facts remain that those who follow a standard American diet should increase the amount of “real food” as opposed to fake, hand-held food that kills, most of which revolves around meat. I’m not a vegetarian, but I follow a plant-based diet and meat does not dominate like it does for most living in the west. I think the facts remain that the excessive consumption of animals and processed foods without other assisting foods, i.e plants, is killing us. I don’t see anyone else on the level of WFM taking the steps to ensure their community is educated in the way’s of “real food”, to become independent thinkers and decide for themselves as individuals which direction they want to go in regards to our food supply.

Who cares if someone is promoting low fat, who cares? The fact that a larger entity is promoting plants and whole, real food is good enough, isn’t it? People need to eat more plants and whole food, bottom line. I think most dietary theories agree with that.

You’re being a hater. Be happy the public might learn about food and stop dwelling on this “vegetarian” and “low-fat” thing. There’s a bigger picture, Whole Foods knows this and the people who interact with the educator at whatever store will know this as well. There is, in fact, literature required for team members to understand and a portion states this; “the healthy eating initiative is not code-word for a vegetarian or vegan diet.”

Visit a Whole Foods, inquire with their educator or specialist before you rant.

Chad – I’m not just making assumptions, I’m going by the wording on the campaign page for Whole Foods Health Starts Here initiative, which clearly states avoid animal products and focus on plant-based foods.

I’m tired of explaining why low-fat foods don’t make the cut for whole foods, which WFs emphasizes. Low-fat foods are not whole foods, they are altered and denatured from their original state. Whole fat foods are important for health and necessary to absorb nutrients. In fact, whole fat foods contain more nutrients than plants. There is simply no way to refute this.

You need whole fats from whole fat foods to absorb the locked nutrients from plant foods – which Whole Foods is adamantly against (again, read their mission statement). Whole Foods emphasizes grains as well, and as I stated in an earlier reply above the majority of grain products offered are neither soaked, sprouted, nor fermented, but PROCESSED.

Your statement that “the fact that a larger entity is promoting plants and whole, real food is good enough” is a non-statement. The reason it’s not good enough is because no one seems to be getting the fact that the foods WF promotes are not all whole foods. Yes, plants and grains are whole foods. But the types of grains offered by the store are not prepared properly by soaking, sprouting, or fermenting. Low-fat foods are not whole foods, so again, we’re still missing whole foods from this list of “whole foods” proposed by Whole Foods. A person cannot say, “we’re selling whole grains” and then put out rancid flour products on the shelves. Those are not “whole grains” nor healthy. See how silly this is?

Again, I ask, if the grass-fed meats and whole dairy products are part of this campaign, why are they not listed on the mission page:

I believe I’ve done a thorough job of pointing out the inconsistencies of this health initiative. I’ve been in Whole Foods stores enough times to know what they sell, and the majority of their foods are processed, and there is really no way to argue with this. It’s not something I came up with on my own, it’s just the way it is.

From your link provided, I see nothing advocating processed foods, quite the opposite in fact. I also see nothing about avoiding animals.

“Plant based
No matter what type of diet you follow — including those that incorporate dairy, meat and/or seafood — eat more plants, like raw and cooked vegetables, fruits, legumes and beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains
Eat a colorful variety of plants to ensure you’re getting the best nutrients for your body, which leads to feeling satiated
Whole foods
Choose foods that are real, fresh, natural, organic, local, seasonal and unprocessed
Eliminate the consumption of refined, highly processed foods and foods void of nutrients, such as artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, sweeteners and hydrogenated fats
Low fat
Get your healthy fats from plant sources, such as nuts and avocados
Minimize extracted oils and processed fats
If eating a diet that includes animal products, choose leaner meats and seafood as well as low-fat dairy products
Nutrient dense
Choose foods that are rich in nutrients when compared to their total caloric content; also known as foods with a high nutrient density
Build your menus around plant-based foods to ensure highly nutrient-dense meals
Choose foods with a wide spectrum of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants
Look for the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) scoring system to guide you on healthier choices”

Chad – I just went to look at that link, and Whole Foods has definitely changed the wording on this page. It used to state specifically to “avoid” and “minimize” animal products. If you had seen it when it was first posted and around the time I wrote this article, it would have been there.

I wrote a letter to Whole Foods Corporate Office – see above, and there may have been other complaints. The Weston A. Price Foundation, a non-profit group advocating for education about sustainable farming and food also posted a response to this on their web site. See link above in article. This was definitely something that needed addressing as it was a serious matter. Perhaps Whole Foods decided they needed to change the wording to something more moderate and did so. For that, I am glad.

However, we’re not out of the woods yet. the low-fat sentiment is still there. This is not a normal part of a real foods and whole foods diet. As I discuss in my final point at the bottom, the most nutrient-dense foods are animal products and there is still more of an emphasis on grains and plants.

If you read the work of Dr. Weston A. Price (author of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration who traveled around the world to determine the cause of disease and dental caries in his patients (those two phenomenon are inextricably linked), you can see in his research that he learned people who consumed traditional diets in various parts of the world (including real, whole fats from healthy animals). Most of what you will find in grocery stores, including Whole Foods, is meat and meat products from animals in less than desirable conditions. Not all meat Whole Foods sells is from animals on pasture and without any trace of chemicals/hormones/pesticides/etc. I know because I know my brands and I have seen what is on the shelves there.

There is also a tremendous amount of “low-fat”, “non-fat”, and “skim” dairy products on the shelves. Again, not whole foods. Any low-fat or non-fat product has been altered to remove some of the fat content, and it takes away from the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. You must have all the fat present to absorb calcium, magnesium, and other nutrients dairy products are so well known for providing. This is not healthful.

Whole Foods shelves are replete with soy (a plant-based product) and grain products. Soy is a highly processed, industrial waste product. It is not healthful to consume and has been associated with increased estrogen levels in the body, damage to reproductive and endocrine health (in males and females), and hypothalmus damage, just to name a few. Soy also contains very high levels of phytic acid and as such inhibits the absorption of nutrients.

Most (99 percent) of the grain products sold on the shelves are not whole grains – rather, they are ground into flour and are rancid on the shelves. Many of these grain products also contain industrial oils (canola, soy, cottonseed, sunflower, etc), and other dangerous ingredients. I know this because I have scoured the shelves there to find some healthy breads and grain products. They do carry Ezekiel, but again, it contains soy. There are very few sprouted, fermented, or soaked grain products. If grains are not prepared properly they also inhibit nutrient absorption due to their phytic acid content. Most of those products don’t fall into that category.

The ANDI index provided on the Health Starts Here Campaign puts plant and some grain foods higher on nutrient-density scales than they actually are. This is false information and gives the consumer the idea that plants are higher in nutrients than animal and animal products. I gave the link to a post that was done by a friend of mine, Jenny, from Nourished Kitchen about comparing nutrients in foods. Animal products win, hands down. If Whole Foods is going to advocate nutrient dense foods, animal products from sustainable, clean sources need to be on that misson statement. They aren’t. Here is the link (also shown above in my post):

Here is her source for that information:

When you talk about most dietary theories advocating that people eat more plants and less meats, yes, this is a widely accepted mantra and philosophy of many health communities. As I outlined above, the healthiest societies are those eating a higher fat content in their diets, no processed foods, and foods from their local communities. This emphasis is never talked about in health circles of the mainstream (of which Whole Foods is a part). Most of what we hear tells us to lower our fat, cholesterol, and meat consumption. The reason we have the health issues we do is because not only are most of us eating factory-grade meats and meat products, but we are eating inordinately large portions of these foods. We are also eating massive amounts of other processed foods including grain products and soy products which you will find on the shelves of Whole Foods (as I discussed above). Those are the predominant foods in the Western diet.

Weston A. Price and students of truly sustainable living and eating advocate the farming, production, sales, and consumption of healthy meats from pasture-raised environments without chemicals, pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. Other fats should be real and healthy such as butter or ghee from pasture-raised animals, coconut oil and olive oil. They also advocate consumption of grains, legumes, and vegetables, properly prepared, as in soaked, sprouted, and fermented. Until our society gets a grasp on these concepts and continues to consume food the way we have for the last 50 – 100 years, we will continue to see a rise in health problems. There must be adherence to these principles in order to see a change.

Will Whole Foods come to the table on these issues and make a stand? If they did, we might see some startling and noticeable changes. It is because Whole Foods is so influential that the well-being of so many are affected through their campaigns, and as such they have a tremendous responsibility to uphold. Until then, I’ll keep writing articles about these topics, as it’s one of the things that affects human beings most profoundly – in realms of political, social, economic, and health.

Weston A. Price? Their founder was a dentist who found less dental cares in populations outside the U.S. He erroneously concluded that this was due to the extremely high consumption of meat and dairy products in these communities. What he failed to realize is that these communities were consuming a whole foods diet that consisted of a wide variety of foods that included not only meat and animal products, but also plant-based foods, compared to the American diet that was increasingly becoming more and more focused on processed and fast foods.

Also as a dentist, his view was narrow, failing to consider the many chronic health conditions (heart diseae, diabetes, hypertension) caused by diets extremely high in fats and animal products. Medical and nutrition research has proven the link between health and diet time and time again.

Chad – Here is a link to some information about saturated fat and its role in health, including all the scientific research and data for those who are still skeptical:

Dr. Price doesn’t discount the role of other foods in the diet. The major point here is that the right type of saturated fats are not consumed by people in developed countries like America where the majority of saturated fats are from obese meat raised on feedlot, fed corn/soy/ grain, and industrial oils like canola, soy, cottonseed, etc. All of these are products sold on the shelves of Whole Foods, by the way. Most people don’t eat grass-fed meats and healthy oils like lard, tallow, ghee, butter, coconut oil, and olive oils. I have never seen Whole Foods promote these foods over the other more processed varieties.

This distinction, which I have been making a point about repeatedly, must be made. Otherwise you are not talking about eating healthy food and you will eventually experience a failure in health.

By the way, mainstream medical and nutrition research is inextricably linked to industries who seek to gain a profit, so always remember to follow the money. This is why mainstream health and nutritionists/RD, LDs will tell people to eat low-fat, processed foods. They have a vested interest in doing so because they receive “perks”. What kind of perks? Just visit the American Dietetic Association site and you’ll find a list of their sponsors. They are supposedly a non-profit organization, but they receive a great deal of funding from industrial agriculture.

Here’s the post I wrote about this – with a link to their funding information:


Funding information:

See the .pdf link “ADA Foundation 2008-2009 Donor Report”

Here is a post I wrote about the interests of the American Academy of Family Physician’s and their effort to support Coca Cola in educating the public about the safety and moderation of sweeteners:

Raine–the problem with the fat in the American diet is not with animal fats per se, but with conventional animal fats and the faux fats, by this I mean vegetable oils.

Check out this blog post today on the health and culinary benefits of grassfed animal fat:

I am glad to see that our emails and letters have gotten Whole Foods to add meat and dairy back into their healthy eating program.
See, food activists can make a difference! Thanks for blogging about this important topic.

Thanks Kimberly – and yes, I did mention the difference between conventional animal fats and healthy grass-fed ones and also industrial oils. There’s just a lot of dialog to wade through here!

I am hoping with continued efforts we will now be able to influence Whole Foods to rise above their practices of recommending low-fat diets and to include healthy fats in their store. In one of my above comments I mentioned how I went into one of their stores last fall when we were in Las Vegas and asked for lard. The employee was perplexed, said he was sure they didn’t have any lard, and replied that he had vegetable shortening. You see, everyone is so used to thinking that vegetable oils are healthy, they don’t even know what to say when someone asks for lard (they think you are crazy, even!).

Great post! I went to Whole Foods yesterday. Probably the first time I have been to any of their stores in 9 months. I try to buy my food as locally as possible. While Whole Foods does a better job of sourcing locally, than say Target and Walmart, they can’t touch the local food co-ops or the farmers markets.

During my trip through their store yesterday I was pleased to see that it looks as though they are keeping their meat and sea foods departments. I like to know the farmers of my meat so I don’t buy their overpriced meat, but I am glad that it is available to the folks who haven’t taken the time to get to know their farmers.

Low fat = low health

What I find interesting is that when people push the idea of a ‘plant based diet’ it seems to lean heavily towards vegetarian ideals. It seems commonplace to group ‘meat and processed foods’ into the same sentence- always! Just like ‘artery-clogging saturated fat”. Interesting side note: most artery ‘clogs’ are unsaturated fats and calcium deposits. This seems to be most likely a result of your body not having the signalling to deposit calcium in appropriate places (i.e. lack of Vitamin K2, D, A and so on). Plants do not provide true vitamin A, only precursor compounds that have to be in the presece of Vitamin A and fat to be absorbed and converted. While carotenes are valuable in their own right in the body, they are infinitely more useful when they are able to be converted into true vitamin A.

Anywho, almost all processed foods are based off of plant foods and commodity agriculture. Even ‘processed meats’ are a mixture of water, soy, and cheap commodity fed meats.

A whole foods diet should not be limited to the ‘whole plant’. Why not take into consideration the ‘whole animal’ as well?

I’ve been shopping at Whole Foods since I was a poor college student back in the early ’90s. I have believed in this company with my heart and soul for almost 20 years.

But I’m not going to shop there anymore. I’ll go out of my way and head over to Rainbow Acres if I need something I normally buy at Whole Foods. It’s further away and yeah, they don’t have all the great gourmet cheese and such. But I can get those things at Surfas (our gourmet/restaurant supply store). I’d rather support these other stores that aren’t promoting an agenda that is anti-health.

Michael Pollan (another promoter of a plant-based diet — “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”) says that we have 3 chances to vote every day — with our fork.

Well I’m voting against Whole Foods, a company I have supported for nearly 2 decades.


Because the last time I went in there, I saw a GIANT display with big signs about how to be healthy — with a whole bunch of books by vegans and vegetarians. Joel Fuhrman, John Robbins, et al.

If Whole Foods really supported nutrient-dense sustainable food, how come there wasn’t a copy of Sally Fallon’s “Nourishing Traditions” on that display?

I still blame John Robbins for the two root canals I have had. It was his book, “Diet for a New America” that convinced me to become a vegetarian in college. After a few years of that, my teeth were riddled with cavities — plus the 2 root canals.

Interestingly, since I started eating a diet based on the principles of “Nourishing Traditions” 3 years ago, I haven’t had a single cavity. I even had one tooth fill in — a chip actually remineralized.

I don’t think Raine is being a “hater”. Nor am I. What I see when I go to Whole Foods is lots of processed foods. And a lot of industrial waste foods like canola and soy. I may as well shop at Albertson’s — it’s the same stuff, just cheaper.

Whole Foods has some good stuff, too — and I believed in their mission for a long time. It’s a shame that they have gone off track. I completely disagree with pushing a vegetarian agenda on their customers. They’ve lost this one.

Have you actually read Nutrition & Physical Degeneration? Price studied much, much more than the prevalence of dental caries – noting bone structure, reproductive function, heartiness of offspring, mental and cognitive health, resistance to chronic diseases. Moreover, Nutrition & Physical Degeneration – his actual work analyzes the native diets of many peoples subsisting on native, traditional foods. Some peoples thrived on heavy amounts of animal foods, others thrived on a diet that was largely plant- and grain-based; however, what his research did uncover was that traditional diets were considerably more nutrient-dense than conventional diets of his time when people relied on more whole foods than they do now, 80 years later.

Medical and nutrition research is now confirming Prices findings; namely that whole, unrefined foods (plant- and animal-based) lead to good health. Moreover, much of the research that led to the low-fat mania of the latter half of the twentieth century (i.e. Keyes) has been reanalyzed and the myth that low-fat, low-animal food diets are healthier is being debunked at every turn.

My shopping experience at Wholefoods last Friday: The butcher cut frozen (local) grass fed beef liver for me into quarters..took him about 6 minutes to do it and he did with a smile. I bought (local) grass fed beef marrow bones as well. While waiting for the liver, a lady came and wanted a specific size of New York Strips which he had none in the case to fit her needs. He got a fresh quarter of beef and cut up exactly to the size she wanted. People were all over and around the meat counter. I’m just sayin’.

Libby – what you are describing is a testament to people’s love of meat. We want to eat meat because it’s healthy for us and our bodies crave the nutrients contained within it. If you eat factory meat, you will eventually pay the consequence through poor health. If you eat real, sustainable-raised meat, you should enjoy good health. 🙂

I believe the fact that various people have commented here and given their statement about the validity of diets high in fat (from clean sources) and eating truly sustainable foods (not processed foods from plant and grain-based sources, as Whole Foods promotes heavily), is indeed proof that it works. Aside from the credible science and valid data available that diets high in fat from sustainable sources give life, the repeated testament and commitment shown from these people gives weight to the seriousness of the matter and the fact that it works. People wouldn’t come forward and admit that their health is miles above what it was when they were vegetarians or vegans if it weren’t true – as a few people have stated on this very thread.

I’m also in complete agreement that Whole Foods carries so much processed stuff that you might as well shop at Albertson’s (Albertson’s Stores are in my city, and Boise is actually the hometown of Albertson’s), Walmart, WinCo, Kroger’s, Sam’s Club, or any of the other dime-a-dozen chains. Ann Marie’s right. Those stores are much cheaper.

If we don’t stop supporting these big chains selling industrial food and industrial waste, really all we’re going to get is more of the same. It really is important to vote with your fork. That’s why I am supporting my local farmers and merchants here in my own area by buying raw milk and grass-fed meat from Saint John’s Organic Farm in Emmett, Idaho, local chickens and eggs from Turkey Ridge Farms in Payette, Idaho, vegetables from Peaceful Belly Organic Farm in Boise, and others. I also shop at my local health food co-op and farmer’s market when I can because they carry a lot of local products and products from small-family based companies and farms in other neighboring cities in the Northwest.

Hi Raine. I think you’re doing a great job here! You are correct in all you say about Whole Foods; Wild by Nature is another such store run by King Kullen that supports the same agenda. There is no WF by me, so I frequent WBN. Their shelves are lined with the same junk, and finding the WAPF foods is only done through a co op I have joined. I would suggest a new approach, however: Instead of making any other diet the enemy, simply support WAPF as a positive. I know it sounds almost too simple, but anything we fight against only becomes stronger because that is where our focus lies. Keep the focus on bringing enlightenment of proper farming, healthy animals and animal fats, and properly prepared foods. That information is so buried in our society, but people like yourself….and each of us, can make a huge difference. Remain positive….I think that is where everyone wishes to be anyway–eating the way we used to before all this junkification of our foods began. We all know it, we all feel it; we just need to be reminded! That’s where you and Sally Fallon are doing a wonderful job. Just stay away from scrapping with silly people, like the vegetarian poster. They only steal your energy and try and steal the show. The show is about getting back to good old home cooked foods and all that that brings. Paint that picture and paint it big! I’ll be anxiously watching and supporting!

oh, just one more thing; I was a vegetarian for three years before the birth of my first child of three. Her teeth rotted out of her head as they were coming in, she had terrible allergies, dark circles under her eyes, and had colic, BAD! I chose a veg diet for all the reasons one can think of, but realized I was missing the point. I was looking for better food, and I thought that was the way to it. It was much more underground of a thing to do in the late 80’s. My second child, after I went back to meats had none of those problems. My third child…did! That is because I had gone vegetarian again for awhile to “cleanse” myself. Plus, I knew nothing of WAPF diet yet. Only after my last child was a year old. He has had his teeth fixed, and we are happily on our wonderful diet of nutrient dense foods, but so sad I didn’t know about this diet before. Keep the light on, girl–people are watching!

Nancy – thanks much for your commentary and insight! Of course you are absolutely correct that we musn’t be negative about any of this – and that certainly wasn’t my intent. My concern really sits with the enormous influence had by WFM in marketing products to people who simply don’t know better or aren’t at all acquainted with WAPF and traditional diets. When an entity like Whole Foods that has that much power and sway over consumers, I believe making a statement about it (as was done on the WAPF)is of critical importance, because some people will see the statements and maybe it’s the first time they’ve heard anything about this subject. The downside of course, is that not everyone will see it and some people may immediately take offense. But I’ve made concerted efforts not to cause offense, just provoke thought and reason where food is concerned. If I failed to achieve that here, it means I’ve got a few things to learn about persuasion, and I certainly welcome suggestions and support from readers like you. Thanks much for your testimony and encouragement. It makes doing this job all the more worthwhile, and I just want everyone who reads this – whether you are a devoted student of WAPF, a vegan, vegetarian, or someone who simply eats a lot of processed foods – my intent is always only to help people turn that light on and see that there is a better way to live and eat.

It doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult, just a different way of organizing our preparation of food and ways of procuring it. It takes some getting used to – as many of us, myself included, have spent most of our lives on a SAD roller coaster, believing as many big corporations have successfully convinced us into thinking, that convenience foods and processed foods are just fine to eat and have no consequences toward our health.

Also, thanks to all the other people who came forward and commented on this important issue – it really does make a difference and I appreciate you all immensely! 🙂

Great post, Raine. I share your feelings about this initiative by Whole Foods. I, too, avoid shopping there (easy since there isn’t one in my whole county) unless I’m traveling and need to pick up something. They still carry full-fat animal foods, fortunately, and that’s about all I buy there.

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Thank you so much for your informative article and posts. You’re really right on. This is a bogus rating scale Fuhrman invented to promote vegetarianism. The scale is 1,000 to 0. Under his manipulations collard greens, mustard greens, kale and watercress receive a score of 1,000, 1,000 being the most nutritious. Probably no one would argue that they are very nutritious. However, it must be kept in mind that these are all goitrogens, so I’m wondering what kind of rating scale would put them at the top of the list? Dairy products, meat and sea food all receive scores below 50. There is no good science to support this. It’s a bunch of made up hooey to promote vegetarianism.

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