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A minimalist diet means eating a more simple, uncomplicated diet that truly nourishes your body.
In keeping with the theme of minimalism, a minimalist diet aims to ensure you get the maximum value from your food choices with less input required.
Minimalism has been around for decades, so it’s perhaps no surprise that this way of thinking has extended to our food choices.
In this article, we’ll be delving into what exactly a minimalist diet is and how to shape the food you buy around it.
Let’s be clear – a minimalist diet is simply a way of eating, it is not about restricting your diet to lose weight.
WHAT IS A MINIMALIST DIET?
Minimalism has no one size fits all approach. Living intentionally can mean two very different things for two different people. With that in mind, there can be no single minimalist diet.
A minimalist diet is simple, time-efficient, and places a focus on quality. It contains minimal waste (both in terms of food waste and packaging), and has an emphasis on the value each ingredient can bring to your lifestyle.
A minimalist diet means less processed, single-serve foods and a higher emphasis on whole food ingredients.
What does minimalist eating mean?
Your definition of minimalist eating really depends on you. It could mean:
- Only eating ‘whole’ foods
- Using minimal ingredients
- Following meal plans to minimise the choices you make when shopping
- Simplifying your cooking routine
- Streamlining the entire process – from planning and shopping to prepping, cooking, and cleaning up
- Consider meal delivery kits that come only with the selected quantities of each ingredient
- Following a zero-waste approach to cooking
- Growing your own fruit and vegetables
Minimalist eating options:
Let’s consider a few common minimalist diet options:
A minimalist meal plan
A minimalist meal plan could focus on using the least amount of ingredients each week, so you’re saving money on items purchased and avoiding decision fatigue when choosing which meal to eat.
For example, you could aim to use sweet potato three different ways throughout the week, repurpose cooked rice from one meal into fried rice for another, and so on.
This type of minimalist diet would be perfect for someone who doesn’t have a lot of time to plan and cook in the evenings, or finds coming up with interesting meals difficult and stressful.
Only eating simple, minimalist foods
This diet might involve only eating whole foods, and cutting out processed goods.
You could go a step further and follow a certain way of eating that aligns with your values and makes it easier for you to focus on simple, whole foods such as:
- Low fodmap
- Raw food diet
With all of these, it is best to seek the advice of your nutritionist to ensure you are making healthy choices for your individual circumstance.
The zero-waste lifestyle aims to contribute zero (or the minimal amount) waste to landfills by recycling and reusing as much as possible.
A minimalist diet could incorporate this ethos by shopping local to avoid supermarket packaging, growing your own fruit and veg, and saving your fruit and veg scraps in the freezer to make homemade stock.
MINIMALIST COOKING TIPS TO MAKE HEALTHY EATING EASIER:
Although the specific details of what a minimalist diet looks like for you may differ, most minimalist diets share similar traits.
10 minimalist cooking tips to make healthy, simple eating easier include:
- Focus on eating simple, minimally processed ingredients
- Only buy what you actually need (and like!)
- Cook the majority of your meals at home from scratch
- Keep stock of staple, basic ingredients in your pantry
- Aim for as little food waste and packaging as possible
- Keep your kitchen uncluttered and organized
- Declutter your countertops (give everything a home!)
- Learn a handful of easy go-to recipes with a few ingredients that you love to cook
- Use simple flavourings – around 5 spices/herbs max per recipe
- Think before you shop – consider creating a grocery list to avoid impulse purchases
WHAT ARE THE PROS OF A MINIMALIST DIET?
– A minimalist diet is inherently ‘healthy’
A balanced focus on the foods that add value to your life (i.e. nutritious ingredients that give your body what it needs) with less processed ingredients is clearly a healthier way to treat your body.
– You’ll save money.
Processed foods tend to cost a lot more than whole food ingredients (providing you’re buying fruit, vegetables, legumes etc and not the latest ‘superfood’ product), so you’re much more likely to save money buying simple ingredients that you can prepare yourself at home.
– Makes meal planning simple.
If you’re making a big transition into minimalism, suddenly switching your focus to simple whole food ingredients may feel more time-consuming, but this is just at the beginning.
With time, you’ll come to appreciate the simple, nutritious ingredients that can be thrown together to make a delicious meal without too much thought.
– It’s better for the environment.
Less processing and less packaging mean less impact on the environment. Many people adopt a minimalist lifestyle in part as an attempt to reduce their impact on the planet, so altering your diet to reflect that just makes sense.
Cons of a Minimalist Diet
Some potential downsides of eating a minimalist diet could include:
- You might end up trying fewer new foods and recipes
- This could be a triggering topic if you have a history of disordered eating
- You may get bored of limiting your food choices in this way
- Social eating could become a struggle if you follow a minimalist diet very closely
HOW TO ADOPT A MINIMALIST DIET
#1: CREATING A CAPSULE KITCHEN
A ‘capsule’ kitchen can be a really effective way of following a more minimalist diet.
This, much like a capsule wardrobe, involves creating a kitchen stocked with your staple ingredients that can be mixed and matched to create countless different meals.
This may vary depending on your preferences, but a capsule kitchen generally includes:
- Basic pantry essentials such as pasta, oats, rice, tinned chickpeas and black beans, and dried red lentils
- Seasonal fruits and vegetables that you enjoy in almost any meal – such as bananas and frozen blueberries for breakfasts, and peppers, red onions, spinach, and green beans.
- Oil for cooking, condiments, and herbs & spices
With a capsule kitchen in mind, it’s very easy to stay stocked up and have the correct ingredients to hand to throw together a nutritious meal in a flash. This goes perfectly with meal planning.
Rather than having to think up a new recipe, you can just think about the staples that you have in, and come up with one of the tried-and-tested recipes that you love to cook (such as crispy tofu and rice, red lentil dahl, tomato pasta, etc).
#2 HAVE A SIMPLE DIET PLAN
There’s no need to constantly buy new and exotic ingredients each week and end up throwing food out because you don’t like it or don’t know how to cook it.
Only buy the foods that you really love to eat – there’s no point buying something in one recipe if you won’t use it up throughout the rest of your meals.
Instead, buy the foods that you’ll happily add to any meal and therefore always use.
Of course, you can mix things up and try new recipes whenever you want – but placing a focus on (as always) the things that you actually enjoy is going to ensure there is less waste in your life.
A simple diet plan can involve the types of recipes you always fall back on. That you can cook without needing to refer to a recipe multiple times or put a lot of thought into. Simple diet staples could include meals such as:
- Burrito bowl
- One-pot meals
WHAT WOULD A MINIMALIST MEAL PLAN LOOK LIKE?
A minimalist meal plan would focus on:
- Recipes with minimal ingredients
- Whole foods with minimal processing and minimal packaging
- Simple cooking methods (i.e. sheet pan, one-pot etc)
A really good way of adopting a minimalist meal plan is to focus on breaking down your meals into food groups: fruits & vegetables, a protein source, carbohydrates, and fats.
As another example, a one-pot meal can be a fantastic way to make simple and balanced meals.
For example, chickpeas can make up the protein and carbohydrate component of the meal, with tomatoes and onions as the base, and then whatever seasoning you want (turmeric and curry powder for an easy chickpea curry, for example).
OTHER VERSION OF A ‘MINIMALIST DIET’ COULD LOOK LIKE:
- Intermittent Fasting
A very popular form of diet control at the moment, intermittent fasting involves fasting for a set number of hours per day and then having an eating window.
For example, many people have a 16:8 window, where they eat from say, 11 am – 7 pm, and fast for the remaining 16 hours.
Seeing as you’ll be asleep for a lot of that fasting time, this is a straightforward way of limiting how much you eat in a day.
- OMAD (One Meal A Day)
The OMAD diet is a more extreme version of intermittent fasting. It definitely simplifies your approach to eating every day but has some big potential downsides too.
Veganism is a lifestyle that rejects, as far as possible, any practice that contributes to the exploitation and suffering of animals.
There are many different ways to adopt a vegan lifestyle beyond simplifying your food choices, but eliminating meat, dairy, and eggs from your diet can align well with an ethos of living only with the things you really need from the world.
- Paleo diet
The paleo diet mimics the food it is presumed our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate.
It places an emphasis on whole foods, fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins and fats, and cutting out grains, dairy and legumes.
This is definitely a way of simplifying your diet and focusing on less processed ingredients.
- Intuitive & Mindful Eating
Intuitive eating simply means trusting your intuition to tell you when you are hungry – and also to tell you when you are full.
It can be very freeing for people who find following a certain diet too restrictive and controlling, instead of allowing you to find your basic instincts when it comes to food.
The core philosophy behind this way of eating is to simply listen to your body.
Evelyn Tribole’s book, Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works, is a great introduction to this.
DECIDING IF A MINIMALIST DIET IS FOR YOU
The most important thing to remember when it comes to the minimalist lifestyle is that there are no rules.
If you try something and it doesn’t work for you, let go of any disappointment or frustration you might feel.
Minimalism is about bringing awareness to the things that bring value to your life and if you try something that makes you miserable or feel restricted, then it isn’t the right fit.
Keep adjusting, keep experimenting, and keep assessing what works for you: by keeping that intentional analysis in your approach, you’re already being more of a minimalist.
Changing your mindset to value the things in life that actually add to your happiness makes cutting away the things that don’t really contribute an obvious choice.
If you’re not enjoying your food choices, then you’re probably eating someone else’s version of a minimalist diet.