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Low-Carb Community Responds To Whole Foods Exclusively Marketing A Low-Fat, Vegetarian Diet


Is Whole Foods being foolish enough to promote vegetarian-only diet?

An obvious uproar has ensued within the high-fat, low-carb diet community this week as a result of the seemingly sudden decision by the most well-known health food retailer in the world to actively market and promote a low-fat, vegetarian diet in their 289 stores. Whole Foods Market has strongly branded itself as the go-to place for people desiring to make healthier food choices for themselves and their family and they have long offered customers with a variety of dietary choices that ability to select what best meets their specific needs. But all of that has changed now that they are pushing what they are calling their “Health Starts Here” campaign.


Promotional banners and shelf talkers dominate local Whole Foods stores

According to their press release about this educational effort, they are hoping to “help shoppers and Team Members who want to improve their health easily and naturally” by implementing “healthy eating education.” They define this as a low-fat, plant-based diet full of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Although they do discourage the consumption of highly-processed and sugary foods, the focus is very clearly on limiting dietary fat and increasing carbohydrate intake. They even have a page on their web site for “Maximizing the Vegetarian Diet.”

To help “educate” their customers on the vegetarian way of eating, prominent displays of popular low-fat vegetarian diet books like The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell (who you’ll recall I had a recent encounter with on Amazon.com), The Food Revolution by John Robbins, The Engine 2 Diet by Rip Eppelstyn, cookbooks by Dr. John McDougall, and a full line of products from Dr. Joel Fuhrman whose “Eat Right America” logo and message is plastered all over Whole Foods since he was one of the primary consultants for formulating the new nutritional mission for the stores. Dr. Fuhrman is the author of a book I reviewed several years back entitled Eat To Live and is certainly no fan of animal-based, high-fat, low-carb diets. I’ve given him an opportunity to explain the basis for his beliefs in an interview on my podcast show but he has refused.


Whole Foods CEO John Mackey views animal fat as an “addiction”

Now when you walk into a Whole Foods store, you are bombarded with pamphlets urging you to begin a low-fat, plant-based diet and cut back or remove animal foods from your menus altogether. Worse than that, there are no alternative books by respected low-carb authors like Dr. Robert Atkins, Drs. Mike and Mary Dan Eades, Dr. Barry Sears, or anyone else who is not on board with the vegetarian dogma. So people who are livin’ la vida low-carb will find no reinforcement for their particular way of eating when they shop at Whole Foods stores which is why I think this makes them more accurately described as Whole Fools!

A new Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) rating system now appears on the foods located throughout the stores which gives plant-based foods a way to appear more nutrient dense than animal-based foods which are just as chock full of vitamins such as 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, according to Sally Fallon Morell from the Weston A. Price Foundation in a press release responding to this move by Whole Foods.

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

Fallon is not alone in her concern over this radical change in store policy by Whole Foods which sources from within the company management informed me includes a phasing out of some meat products in favor of more vegetables and grain-based products. I decided to ask a cross-section of the leading low-carb voices in the blogosphere to give their reaction to this decision and here’s what they told me:

Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories Bad Calories

I obviously think this is misguided from a health perspective and obviously if John Mackey was fully informed (as we define fully informed) he wouldn’t be doing this. That is, unless he thinks it’s good business practice.

Tom Naughton, documentary filmmaker/blogger for FAT HEAD

I think John Mackey is preaching to the choir. I think the proper response for low-carbers is to buy from local farmers if you can. If you can’t, then shop at Whole Foods but be sure to stop by the meat counter, loudly order a porterhouse, then begin chewing it raw as you push your cart around the rest of the store. This won’t change the policy, but the other shoppers may be shocked into horrified expressions that will injure their brittle vegetarian jaws.

Lierre Keith, author of The Vegetarian Myth

I’m appalled at this new marketing scheme. A whole generation of us tried that low-fat, plant-based diet and it destroyed our health. I was a vegan for 20 years and I did permanent damage to my body. I am on disability with a decaying spine no thanks to a diet that is seriously deficient in the fat, protein, and minerals that the human template needs. I will be in pain for the rest of my life because of it. Whole Foods is seriously misguided in their efforts to promote health and I hope they reconsider what they are pushing on the public.

Dr. Michael Aziz, author of The Perfect 10 Diet

This is horrible and a very bad move for the public who is already confused. Vegetarians are more likely to get heart disease and strokes as their homocysteine levels are sky high. All centenarians eat animal products. It is a big myth that vegetarians live longer. Vegetarian diets are bad for thyroid health as they are too low in protein and iodine. They also favor soy which is horrible for us in excess. They are bad for growth hormone secretion, the hormone that keeps us young. We have to fight back against this kind of nonsense because our voices are lost in all the bad noise.

Dr. Kendra Pearsall, creator of Enlita

Speaking as a former fat vegetarian who could not lose weight on a low-fat vegetarian diet, Whole Paycheck (oops I mean Whole Foods) is out of its mind (not surprising since low-protein diets tend to lead to brain chemistry imbalances). I recommend skipping Whole Paycheck and getting your healthy food locally at farmer’s markets, local farmers, local health food stores.

Dana Carpender, popular blogger and bestselling author of a series of low-carb cookbooks

It seems to me that narrowing your market appeal is generally not a brilliant business model. Even among non-low-carbers, stuff like grass-fed meat, pastured eggs, and wild-caught salmon are making a strong showing, and are perceived as healthful. I cannot imagine that Mr. Mackey is fully informed about the health benefits of fat, and particularly of animal fat and other traditional saturated fats, or he wouldn’t be doing this. The low-carb response should be the same as it would be to any store that is not serving our needs: To spend less of our money there. Local farmer’s markets are also a great source of healthful food — not only fruits, vegetables, and herbs, but also grass fed meat, pastured small farm eggs, and local grass-fed dairy products.

Gracie, blogger at “Girl Meets Health”

I think that what Whole Foods is failing to realize is that not all of their customers follow a low-fat, high carb diet. As someone who follows a low-carb, high fat diet, I focus mainly on eating whole, clean, and mostly organic foods including meat, dairy, and ample amounts of produce. Naturally, Whole Foods was one of my favorite places to shop for this reason. So to see them promote one diet or lifestyle as being “better” or healthier than another makes me wonder why I should continue to shop there. Instead, I’ll probably start shopping more at my local health food stores and farmers’ market. When I buy food, I want it to be based on my own choices, not some grocery store executive.

Dr. Kurt Harris, blogger at “PaNu”

I rely on local farmers and hunting for grass-fed meat and local friends for pastured eggs. I get my pastured butter by mail order. Whole Foods belongs to John Mackey and his shareholders. If he wants to leverage it for a private propaganda campaign to promote an inferior diet based on bad science, then I will certainly advise my readers of that and encourage them avoid his store altogether.

Connie Bennet, blogger/author of SUGAR SHOCK!

Of course, all shoppers will decide for themselves, but what most people need to realize is that NO one diet fits all. Each person has to find and decide what foods and supplements work best for her or him. While, in an ideal world, everyone should quit sugar and refined carbs, not everyone should follow the same diets. For instance, for one person, a vegetarian diet may be ideal, but for someone else who isn’t opposed to it, a meat-filled diet (preferably grass fed, free-range) will allow him or her function optimally. And everyone needs ample amounts of healthy omega-3 fats.

Fred Hahn, blogger/author of The Slow Burn Fitness Revolution

The nutritional approach Whole Foods is now taking may have its heart in the right place, but its head deeply embedded in the sands of dogma. Low-fat/high carbohydrate diets are not healthful nor are high fat diets unhealthful. Science suggests that for humans, animal products are the most nutritionally dense food sources available with grains being dead last; comparatively devoid of nutrients. If our country adopts and follows the high carbohydrate, low-fat Whole Foods/Fuhrman nutritional model, we’ll see obesity and heart disease grow to even greater proportions. Be forewarned Whole Foods — the lawsuits will be comin’ ’round the mountain.

J.P. Fanton, blogger at “Healthy Fellow”

As a loyal customer of Whole Foods, I would prefer to see the company live up to its name and continue to provide the real, whole foods that have served countless generations very well, such as free-range eggs, grass fed dairy and meat, organic fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables. Refined foods typically found in a grain-based, low-fat, vegetarian diet are a relatively modern invention with little proven history. In essence, this type of eating plan is a nutritional experiment at best.”

Dr. Robert Su, author of Carbohydrates Can Kill

This may be a smart move for the time being by Whole Foods if the consumers continue to believe the misinformation on diet and health. However, this will be a big backfire on them if we can bring the truth about diet and health out to the public. John Mackey personally is a diligent thinker not a blind follower. He is currently misinformed about the health benefits of fat. He could become a real healthy food advocator if he discovers the truth. People who understand the health benefits of high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets should try to contact Mr. Mackey and educate him with the truth about diet and health. We must convince him to join in our crusade. In the meantime, we should find some well-recognized grocery chains, which are interested in partnership with our crusade. We do not have to and should not campaign against vegetarian diets but the heavy consumption of carbohydrates in the diets. As soon as we are able to start our crusade in partnership with one or more reputable nationwide grocery chains, Whole Foods will begin to lose their consumer base if they continue to endorse a low-fat, vegetarian diet.

Dr. William Davis, blogger at “The Heart Scan Blog”

It pains me to say this, since I’ve always favored a vegetarian lifestyle, mostly because of philosophical concerns as well as worries about the safety of our factory farm-raised livestock and rampant inhumane practices. But, stepping back and objectively examining what nutritional approach appears to stack the odds in favor of optimal health, I believe that only one conclusion is possible: Humans are meant to be omnivorous, meant to consume some quantity of animal products in addition to vegetables, fruits, nuts, and other non-animal products.

Nora Gedgaudas, author of Primal Body-Primal Mind

Whole Foods has clearly overlooked the overwhelming abundance of science to the contrary and the entire history of the human species in favor of these seriously flawed guidelines. As a clinical neurofeedback specialist of more than twelve years I can tell you that by far, the most dysregulated brains and nervous systems having the poorest overall health I have ever worked with have been that of vegetarians and especially vegans. One can only hope that Whole Foods shoppers will not be duped into adopting these unfortunate dietary superstitions.

Jon & Cathy Payne, hosts of the “Our Natural Life” podcast

I think that John Mackey is sadly misinformed and misguided on this one. They are sure to hear a backlash. Whole Foods is where I go to buy my local pastured pork, liver pate, heavy cream, and Amish butter. It seems like a poor move to encourage low fat and vegetarian eating since they will lose my customer base and others. While I applaud their support of nutrient dense food, they must not be aware that the most nutrient dense foods are animal based and high fat. The removal of books advocating the consumption of animal products is censorship of the worst kind. Of course, the monetary markup is highest in grains and low-fat processed products. This could be a ploy to make a bigger profit. I believe the best place to purchase the foods we need is directly from our local farmers whenever possible.

Kelly the Kitchen Kop, blogger at Kelly the Kitchen Kop

I was saddened to read this news about Whole Foods Market. I have to wonder why they wouldn’t take a stand in a more positive way. For example, imagine the splash they’d make if they announced that they would no longer sell any meat from factory farms. Instead, they basically slam all meats by implementing this new plan without acknowledging that there’s a major difference depending on where you buy.

Mark Sisson, blogger/author of Primal Blueprint

I heard about this from one of my readers who is an employee of Whole Foods and is appalled that they are going down this dead-end road. I think Whole Foods owes it to their consumers (and to their shareholders) to offer the best natural “whole” foods they can, including meat, fish, fowl, eggs, dairy and other forms of animal protein. So, are they now going to get rid of their meat and dairy sections? I mean if they are fully endorsing this ill-advised low-fat approach, wouldn’t it be hypocritical to be offering any saturated fat from any source. It would be like a convenience store embracing an anti-smoking campaign but still selling cigarettes. Okay, not quite, but you see the irony.

Can you sense the outrage, disgust, and disappointment from my fellow colleagues in the low-carb diet and health community over this move by Whole Foods? It’s disappointing to say the least and it begs the question: What should the call to action be for those of us who support a high-fat, low-carb, animal-based diet? Fallon believes we should make Whole Foods feel it in their bottom line by shopping elsewhere to obtain the real, whole foods that make up our low-carb diets.

Consumers can send a message about Whole Foods’ misinformed scheme by voting with their feet. 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.

While I’m all for people deciding not to purchase from Whole Foods in protest of this asinine decision to ostracize a segment of their customer base, I also think they need to hear from people like you and me whose lives have been radically changed for the better as a result of high-fat, low-carb living that includes delicious and nutritious cuts of meats with healthy saturated fats. You can e-mail your personal low-carb, high-fat success story to the Whole Foods corporate customer service department at customer.questions@wholefoods.com to let them know what you think about their change in corporate policy.

Incidentally, I called the media relations department for Whole Foods on Wednesday requesting a brief 10-minute interview with John Mackey about this decision to promote low-fat vegetarian diets in his stores since there would be concern among my readers and podcast show listeners. The very nice media relations representative informed me that he was not doing any interviews at this time, so I requested ANYONE from Whole Foods to come on to share more about why this decision was made. I sent my request to her via e-mail as she requested and here was the response back:

Thanks so much for your enthusiasm and kind words about Whole Foods Market and our new Health Starts Here initiative! I’ve checked with my colleague, and unfortunately, we don’t have anyone available for an interview. As I said on the phone, please feel free to use any and all of the information available on our web site.

In other words, thanks but we’re not interested in being put on the spot to try to explain an ill-advised decision made by our CEO. I’ve looked on their web site and it doesn’t give me any reason to spend one more red cent of my hard-earned dollars with a company that refuses to acknowledge the healthfulness of my particular way of eating. Now it’s so long Whole Foods and good luck with maintaining your market share and customers peddling an outdated and soon-to-be obsolete diet program!

Are there any other national health food chains willing to step up to the plate and promote the health benefits of fats in their stores to counter this move by Whole Foods? I can guarantee you there will be a HUGE following of people who are livin’ la vida low-carb flocking to your stores if that kind of an educational marketing campaign were to be implemented. Is there any company willing to make it happen?

  • http://pegasuspublishing.com Scott Merritt

    Well I’m not surprised by this. Fortunately in the DFW area we have a bunch of alternatives to Whole Foods. Sprouts, Central Market, Marketplace Foods and a whole lot of local farmers markets for starters. I’ve written to Whole Foods to express my disappointment in this decision and that I plan to shop elsewhere until this policy is reversed. Furthermore we’ve been selling pastured eggs to a company that has been reselling some to WF – I have told them that I’d like the eggs sold to another wholesale customer.

    You are lucky, Scott! Some people rely on Whole Foods for ALL of their healthy shopping needs since there is no competition or even local farmers to purchase from. Whole Foods will indeed feel this one very quickly if they insist on continuing this nonsense.

    –Jimmy

  • http://twelveblackcodemonkeys.com Levi Wallach

    Thanks for putting this together. Here’s the email I sent them:

    Hello,

    I wanted to pose a concern that has come up for me recently at your stores. Let me just say that I’ve been a loyal customer of yours in the Vienna and now Reston, VA (as well as Fairlakes, VA) stores going on 10 years now. Over that decade I’m sure I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars at your store. Also during that entire time I’ve been a committed low-carb eater and advocate, one who believes that animal products are an integral part of our diet, not harmful as has been taught by some. But I’ve also been concerned about CAFO’s, and the treatment of our animals, of unecessary additives in animal products as well as overly-processed foods, etc. Wholefoods has always impressed me as a place that I could take my vegetarian friends for a meal (or shopping), but continue to maintain what I consider to be an optimal diet for myself.

    A few months ago I noticed the prominance of some vegetarian books almost immediately as you walk into the Reston, VA store, as well as vegetarian magazines in every checkout aisle of the store. I didn’t think that much about it because I figured that each store has different management and makes different decisions about what to promote. Then I saw that the Vienna store was profiling some employees who decided to go on diets at the beginning of the year, choosing a vegetarian one. Still, I thought this was a coincidense. But I recently read of a new initiative that seems to be taking place on a national level at Wholefoods to promote a vegetarian diet as the optimal diet, and that the CEO of Wholefoods is a vegetarian himself.

    While this is your store and you have every right to promote whatever diet you see fit, I want you to know my impression of this as a long-standing and up till now very loyal patron of your store. Hopefully this feedback will be valuable to you. Basically, in my opinion, promoting a diet that, even if you truly believe is healthier you still must admit has a fairly small demographic of appeal in this country, threatens to alienate a large section of your customer base, including myself. I understand I can still by animal products (at least for now) in your store, but having my decision thrown in my face every time I come into one of your stores as being wrong and unhealthy does not exactly make me want to continue to patronize you more than I absolutely have to. I have always decided to tolerate the higher costs at Wholefoods because I believed that I was supporting a company that held similar values to my own when it came to food (no trans fats, humainly raised meats, no anti-biotics, etc.), as well as the great people who work there. But given this latest turn of events, the idea that I have to spend extra money and deal with a store that wants to judge my dietary choices (and judge them as incorrect), is really motivating me to shop elsewhere when possible. While local farmers markets may not be available this time of year, they will be back in a few short months. In the mean time we have Trader Joe’s’ nearby and even Costco is now providing organic fruits, veggies, and meats, and the fact that they don’t push their CEO’s personal dietary choices on me coupled with the fact that they are considerably less expensive just about make up for the other disadvangtages I see for such stores. I won’t tell you that I’m never going to shop at your stores again, but probably it will be mainly for things that we truly can’t get elsewhere – including delicious meals at your Fairlakes Smokehouse, or your fresh meats, poultry, and fish. I urge you to reconsider this new stance for all the reasons I state above not to mention the lack of any evidence that a vegetarian diet is healthier than an omnivorous one, not to mention the utter failure of the low-fat diet to show any success (clinically or in practice on the US populace at large) despite decades of it being forced down our throats as the only way to lose weight and be healthy. At the very least simply making available (at the same prominence as the vegetarian and low-fat ones) alternative theories of healthy eating as well as dietary theory, such as Nourishing Traditions (a book that you at least used to sell at your Vienna store), Good Calories, Bad Calories, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, Cerial Killer, Protein Power Lifeplan, etc., would go a long way.

    Thanks for listening!

    OUTSTANDING letter, Levi! This is the kind of reasonable responses that Whole Foods needs to be hearing from members of our community. GREAT JOB!!!

    –Jimmy

  • http://www.ramblingoutsidethebox.blogspot.com Cynthia

    “Whole Fools” indeed! Good one Jimmy!

    I bet Mackey doesn’t understand how much he has offended those of us who have educated ourselves about nutrition and improved our health greatly with low carb and don’t buy into the low fat/veggie dogma. Perhaps he’s been watching too much Dr. Oz! I certainly won’t waste my money supporting Whole Fools anymore!

    It’s just too bad he went this route…there are ways to promote “nutrient-dense” foods without mocking animal-based foods that are also nutrient-dense.

    –Jimmy

  • Peter Silverman

    When vegetarians and meat eaters attack each other, they both make themselves look bad, and hardly anyone cares besides a few people on both sides who are positive they know what everyone should eat.

    Low carb has made major gains lately, because new studies are surprising people and because there’s a rash of good new books. Attacking vegetarians or vegetarian propaganda will have the effect of harming the low carb movement by making it’s adherents look like rabid true believers, in the same way that vegetarians who attack meat eaters and meat eating make other vegetarians look bad.

    I thought I might hear from you on this one, Peter. But nobody is “attacking” vegetarians for this move by Whole Foods. You know from being a long-time reader that I tell people to find the plan that works for them and then do it whether that’s low-fat, vegetarian, low-carb or whatever. But this move by Whole Foods EXCLUDES those of us who choose a healthy low-carb lifestyle based on all the wonderful science that you note has been happening. If CEO John Mackey would take a look at the evidence, then he would have never agreed to let someone like Dr. Joel Fuhrman to put together this low-fat, vegetarian marketing campaign to the exclusion of other nutritional plans.

    –Jimmy

  • http://www.180degreehealth.blogspot.com Matt Stone

    Whole Foods is a joke. I’ve been making fun of it for years now – especially seeing that half the store is dedicated to selling a bunch of white-flour products, which is not, for those at Whole Foods that may have not noticed this, a Whole Food.

    The rest of the store is supplements and boxed products masquerading as health food.

    I’d rather support factory farming, and do so emphatically. Whatever they do to make beef so fatty, I want them to keep it up. Now if we could just start mass-producing foie gras I’d finally be happy. At least they don’t pretend to be peddlers of health. I’m much healthier eating corn-fed beef than I ever was eating nothing but organic “products” and organic produce as a vegetarian.

    Oh well. More future converts for me I guess. I had to learn the hard way, and I’m glad I did. Wouldn’t anyone else to miss out on such an educational experience.

    I hear ya on the fatty meats, Matt. I’d prefer to have grass-fed beef and meats personally, but certainly eating meat of any kind is better than excluding it from your diet. Always great to hear from you my friend.

    –Jimmy

  • JD

    I have to drive 30 miles to visit a Whole Paycheck store, er, I meant Whole Foods store so I only visit them very occasionally. Well that will stop and I will go to Bristol Farms where the CEO is not a lunatic.

    George McGovern was on the Pritikin Diet which is what got us the recommendations for ‘healthy’ eating from the committee he headed in the ’70s. Going to take a lot of effort to move this mountain of dietary misadvice.

    I used to buy my raw milk from Whole Foods 20 miles away and it cost me nearly $9 per gallon. I never noticed much else in there that interested me. But I found a more local supplier of raw milk and will not step foot inside of a Whole Foods again until this asinine marketing strategy is abandoned. What we need is the CEO of a major food market to go on the Atkins or other similar low-carb diet and get so excited about the results that he does a similar promotion of livin’ la vida low-carb in his stores. Wal-Mart is actually the #1 seller of groceries in the United States, so maybe Mike Duke could be a part of the change. It’s frustrating to watch all of this unfold, but I’m hopeful change is coming soon.

    –Jimmy

  • http://sparkofreason.blogspot.com Dave

    Funny. Maybe if Mackey would have some steak and eggs, he’d think a little more clearly. Is he going to put his money where his mouth is and stop selling animal products altogether? I wonder how long Whole Foods would stay in business under this scenario.

    I actually think that’s part of the plan, Dave, to phase out the selection of meats being offered at Whole Foods. At least he’d be consistent in his message if he did this. He’s so gonna feel this in his bottom line.

    –Jimmy

  • darMA

    Maybe somebody could market a nice t-shirt for shopping at Whole Foods emblazoned back and front with:
    Healthfully Powered and Maintained by Fat and Protein (and veggies)

    I love it!

    –Jimmy

  • http://twelveblackcodemonkeys.com Levi Wallach

    Jimmy et al,

    Just got a response from Wholefoods. It looks kind of form-letterish to me and doesn’t quite address the concerns I laid out in my initial letter, so I guess I will try responding to it later. I was actually about to post it when I saw a disclaimer at the bottom: “This email contains proprietary and confidential material for the sole use of the intended recipient. Any review, use, distribution or disclosure by others without the permission of the sender is strictly prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient (or authorized to receive for the recipient), please contact the sender by reply email and delete all copies of the message.”

    I don’t know if that means I can get into some kind of legal trouble for posting the letter, maybe Jimmy you can give some insight into this? I find it bizarre that they would post this kind of disclaimer at all given the contents being so bland, but whatever.

    Thanks Levi! I’d love to see their response which is no doubt a form letter. I used to work for a customer service department of a large corporation answering emails, so this doesn’t surprise me. Hopefully yours will be read. It may not be a bad idea to follow-up with a telephone call asking for Mackey himself.

    –Jimmy

  • Carole Mauloff

    I am appalled by the recent announcement by Whole Foods to promote low-fat vegetarian foods. Don’t you read the most recent medical literature regarding low-carb, high fat, eating? Are you going to close your dairy and meat counters?

    Why don’t you follow your name and offer all Whole and Healthy Foods to your consumers? I and my family will no longer frequent your store as I must believe this is some kind of profit-based decision rather than what is best for your customers.

    Sadly,

    Carole

  • Vicki

    I think Tom Naughton had the most clear perspective on Whole Foods. While I am an
    avid vegetable gardener who prides herself on growing my veggies organically, that’s usally the extent of how far I’ll go on anything or with anyone using the term “organic”. It’s been my experience that venturing anywhere near people who talk about “organic” brings me in the midst of vegetarians. It was mentioned here that we shouldn’t “war” with vegetarians, but the “war” as it were was started by them, as their Ornish-like philosophy is peddled into the mainstream, even reaching school lunch programs. So we “primal people” are a bit paranoid. When vegetarians spread lies about Dr. Atkins, blame us for global warming, and continue acting like we are some kind of evil poison, we strike back. Behavior begets behavior.

  • 2bluesky2

    I am a little puzzled about all the hullabaloo.

    If I stopped doing business with all the people with whom I have political, social, religious, nutritional, or other major disagreements, I’d pretty soon be a hermit.

    There is a lot of karmic irony in that Whole Foods still sells products which it actively discourages its customers from buying. I certainly can appreciate that someone would continue to buy such products there just to tweak the company.

    Punishing yourself in order to do injury to your neighbor is a philosophy which I have never thought much of. I’ll just continue to buy products which I think have value, regardless of what I think is in the head of the vendor.

    I’m not sure I’d call it “hullabaloo” over a disagreement with the new philosophy of Whole Foods, 2bluesky2. It’s more of standing on principle of spending my hard-earned money with companies that support my values personally. By excluding the low-carb, high-fat message in their narrow definition of what is “healthy,” Whole Foods has basically told me what they think about my lifestyle choice. I for one have no desire to “tweak” or allow them to profit from my rebelliousness to purchase high-fat low-carb foods just to show them. That’s equivalent to all these people who get back a big fat refund check from the government when they do their taxes thinking they’ve screwed the government when in fact they’ve only given an interest-free loan to Uncle Sam for the past year. I’m taking my business where it will be appreciated and needed like local farms and farmer’s markets.

    –Jimmy

  • http://twelveblackcodemonkeys.com Levi Wallach

    So I decided to brave the snow-covered streets here in Northern Virginia and went to the local Wholefoods both to pick up something for dinner (meat of course), as well as take another look at their books, etc. For one thing I did not see any of those Health Starts Here signs in their store, so at least the one in Reston, VA doesn’t have them. Secondly, I DID actually see some books by advocates of lowcarb. In particular I saw the Bowden’s The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, as well as the Grassfed Gourmet cookbook. Certainly there were more of the low-fat variety – including a book and two DVD’s by Furhman, as well as a book by Ornish and a book by McDougal. Some of the other books I wasn’t familiar with but my guess is that they were either neutral or leaning towards the veggie/low-fat side. But the bookshelves in general didn’t hold that many titles. I’d say there were maybe a dozen books and two DVD’s. That’s IT. So yes, we were in the minority, but at least represented to a small degree, which was a pleasant surprise.

    I do believe that trying to create a combative atmosphere is not productive, and generally gets people more defensive. Vicki, while certainly there are some activist vegetarians, I know quite a few who are not. There choice is a personal one and they never have urged me to eat less meat (let alone none). Let’s face it, there are extremists on all sides of the dietary spectrum, as their are in religion, politics, culture, etc. Wholefoods is not removing choices for us, they are simply promoting their management’s idea (and let’s face it a good chunk of the country if not the majority, due to what we feel is incorrect and long-pushed dogma) of what is healthy for you.

    In Wholefoods defense, they are different from most other grocery chains in that since their inception they have been specifically oriented towards providing a subset of products based on what they considered to be more healthy both for people and the environment. So in a sense it’s not that out of place for them to do this, I just don’t think they are choosing the right dietary regime to promote. The fact that their CEO is a vegetarian makes me suspect that he was the one who decided to push this. I think it’s dumb on a bunch of levels, but it’s not the outrageous thing that I think some people are suggesting. I do feel that we need to share our concerns and let WF know how this makes us feel as customers. When you say “I’m never going to shop with you again, good bye!” well, that closes the door on any conversation. A subset of irate customers is probably something to be expected, but engaging in a dialog to make sure our voices are heard will open the door to a potential moderation of this new promotion. At least that’s the hope. If not, then sure, I’ll shop elsewhere more than I do now, but I think it’s worth a shot…

    THANKS for the report, Levi! I just spoke with one of my readers on the telephone who said he visited his local WF in TX and the manager said he is not happy about this new mandate from the corporate office since the company is partially owned by the employees who have stock as part of their compensation package. They’ve been told to slash their employees working in the meat department immediately…not a good sign.

    –Jimmy

  • Dan (aka Renegadediabetic)

    Thanks for taking this on. Too bad they are afraid of being put on the spot in your podcast.

    When I saw Joel Fuhrman associated with it, I knew it had to be bad.

    The nearest Whole paycheck, errr, WF is too far for me to shop anyway, so I won’t be deprived. Still, if they want to promote Fuhrman, veggies, vegans, etc. that’s okay, but they should provide for other choices that people may want to make. I hope they lose signficant business and go bankrupt!!

    P. S. If I ever do darken the door of a WP/WF, I’ll take Tom Naughton’s advice. :)

  • Dusty

    I think they shoul rename the store HOLE Foods…Yep, start digging a hole to but your weakened lifeless body in from eating a vegan diet.

    I have yet to meet a vegan who does not look like a muscle void skeleton with pale pastey white faces. I live about 6 hours from Whole Foods in Dallas. I go there abut once a month while on business. I sometimes just have to giggle at the frail people who go in there. Do they not have mirrors? Some of them look like they need the shopping cart just to help them stand up and move!

    There are a lot of people like me that go for the low carb foods and their fresh veggies. I can’t imagine what the clientelle will look like if they get rid of meat. I’m sure it will look like the night of the living dead in the isles. At least we won’t have to worry about then eating our flesh! LOL

  • Sonagi

    Since Whole Foods operates only in large markets, it has many competitors, including farmers’ markets, where I get about 70% of my daily caloric intake.

  • http://www.josefbrandenburg.com Josef Brandenburg

    - Is this a smart move by Whole Foods or will it backfire on them?

    From a purely business perspective this is probably a great idea. The
    food that they are pushing – processed vegetarian “meat-like
    substances” and grain products have very long shelf lives and the
    highest profit margins and government subsidies. Whereas meat goes bad very fast and is very expensive.

    However, they might end up with some very unhappy customers after they start getting fat, getting acne, getting tired and generally feeling
    like crap. BUT, the customers are unlikely to blame the vegetarian
    diet since it’s being marketed as something healthy and they lack the
    scientific background to rigoroulsy investigate these claims.

    – Do you think Whole Foods CEO John Mackey is fully informed about
    the health benefits of fat?

    No. Nobody with any sort of understanding of nutrition would push a
    low-fat, plant based diet. This about as unhealthy as you can possibly
    get.

    I was a vegetarian/vegan for the better part of 8 years. When I
    started this health experiment I had no acne, no allergies whatsoever
    (not even to pollen), a perfectly healthy thyroid, no eczema, but was
    fat.

    At the end of my 8 years I had:
    *hypothyroidism from massive soy consumption
    *I was still fat (but now I was also very weak with less muscle)
    *I had eczema
    *I developed horrible seasonal allergies (I literally cannot function
    without my Claritin)
    *I got really nasty cystic acne
    *I had constant gas, bloating and GI problems
    *I also ended up on anti-depressant meds

    – What should the response of people supporting high-fat, low-carb diets be?

    Buy their meat. Complain about their BS new program.

    Or, simply take our business elsewhere – get our meat at local farmer’s
    markets and shop at Trader Joe’s. They have better prices anyway.

    – What alternative places for healthy foods should people consider
    instead of Whole Foods?

    Farmer’s markets – you can get much higher quality produce, meats, and eggs and better prices. Shop Trader Joe’s, or just shop wisely at your regular grocery store.

    – What do you think the ramifications on the health of the Whole Foods consumer base will be?

    This might actually be very smart for them. 10% of the American public
    are vegetarians. Most people think that a vegetarian diet is
    healthier. They may lose us low-carb folks, BUT they might be able to
    really corner the vegetarian market. This is a niche that they can
    really own and the customers that they end up attracting might really
    respond to this. Niche profit margins are higher than general profit
    margins.

    You can only attract to the degree that you can repel – and
    right now they are repelling me!

  • Organic Gabe

    A shame that they decided to follow that road…

    It seems that business is everything to Whole Foods…

  • Zach D.

    ***Just sent this as well. Thanks for reading.***

    Subject: Thoughts on the Health Starts Here Campaign

    I’d like to share a brief story, if I may:

    A man named Gary Taubes is a writer for the journal Science, where he is a three-time award winner of the Science in Journalism Award. His work has mainly focused on examples of poorly designed and executed science — false claims of cold fusion, etc. He is associated with no industry or marketing machine whatsoever, which is an important caveat to throw up front. He is also dispassionate to a fault, a temperament which has earned him the respect of scientists across many fields.

    The reason I am writing is because Gary Taubes recently wrote a book that has attracted widespread interest from nutritionists, endocrinologists, physicians and public policy makers alike. It is a tough sell for most people, however, and I understand why: his thesis is that no matter how many times scientists have tried to prove that a low fat diet is good for you, they have been unable to do so.

    This is a counterintuitive argument to say the least, and it is especially challenging because tempers run so hot on this issue. Plus the idea flies in the face of something we all think we know, namely that saturated fats raise blood cholesterol levels, which in turn leads to heart disease. In fact there are fairly problematic links along every part of that chain, a fact which Taubes demonstrates with an exhaustive review of the research. Again, this is a science journalist without an axe to grind. I have read the book myself, and I can tell you — it’s no screed. What it is, however, is an utterly fascinating take on a subject most people know little about: how our bodies actually regulate fat, what role insulin actually plays system-wide, and what we may be able to do to better preserve our health.

    The reason I am bringing this up is because of your new program that strongly proselytizes in favor of a vegetarian, low-fat diet: Health Starts Here. I’m sure the powers that be have undertaken this program with the very best intentions, and until recently I would have gladly cheered you on from the cheap seats. But a number of recent experiences, including the near death of my father, who had very low cholesterol, have tempered my position on this issue, and I came to understand there is another credible perspective on the origins of heart disease.

    So I am humbly submitting a request. If your dietary recommendations are based on good science instead of a public echo chamber of advice, I would be immensely grateful if someone there — obviously someone with the time — would at the very least read the book I am discussing. There is a surprising body of peer-reviewed evidence to suggest that vegetarian, low-fat diets may do more harm than good. Again, I understand how nuts this sounds to most people. And yet it is real science, not an unsourced self-help book, and I daresay his argument is far more compelling than most people might imagine.

    The book is called Good Calories, Bad Calories. Of course you don’t know me, but I can tell you I am not the type of person to dive headlong into new belief systems or any such silliness. My dad is a physician and I studied medicine at Yale, and I have great regard for scientists who approach their work with a skeptical eye. I just think Whole Foods should know there is another credible theory out there about what we eat and how it affects our health, and I wish your policies could reflect this evidence more inclusively.

    Best,

    Zach D.

  • Cheryl

    Why is the blogsphere all a twitter about this? I went to WFM’s weekend launch of this new program, looked at the materials,and quickly realized that Mr. Mackey is doing exactly what he promised in his WSJ op-ed piece — he’s going back to basics.

    I was in WFM today and walked up and down every aisle, reading the ANDI-score signs and asking myself if it mattered to my meal planning. Answer, yes and no. Yes, in the sense that I paid attention to produce I normally ignore (burdock and jicama), and no in that my body prefers low carb, so I bought what I went there for and went home happy.

    So what am I going to do next? Continue shopping at some farmer’s markets (you all do realize that not all the sellers at the farmer’s markets actually grew what they’re selling you, right???), know the source of my produce and animal products and vote with my feet and my wallet. And occasionally buy from my local WFM ‘cuz I like the people there and they do roast a mean chicken!

    Related info – the largest WFM in my area got rid of their prepared foods bistro and leased the space to a raw foods restaurant. they’re nice people. I don’t wish to live their way, but they do make some tasty smoothies and salads. I was a little ticked, but then realized i’d never purchased anything in their bistro before anyway. on the other side of the store, they converted one of their steam tables from ‘chefs choice’ to vegetarian only.

    I bring this up because these changes happened BY REQUEST OF THEIR CUSTOMERS WHO WROTE, EMAILED AND CALLED IN THEIR PREFERENCES.

    You want it to be balanced instead of skewed in one direction? Ya gotta speak up! If you’re mad at WFM and do not intend shopping there, there’s ALWAYS another merchant who would be happy to take your money and provide the products you like. Might even be somebody you know.

    And to hedge your bet, buy stock in WFM or something similar and see if the other half will live long and prosper!

  • http://imminst.org Scott Miller

    Great great great post, Jimmy. Really top notch editorializing, plus getting great quotes.

    I love how the low-carb paleo has come together, learned together, supported each other, and with combined efforts has reached very common ground on the key dietary issues.

    Thanks for being an important part of this movement.

    Happy to play a small role.

    –Jimmy

  • MCOZ-09

    I’m already horrified by how every shopping aisle in almost any supermarket is chock full of low fat (heavily processed) foods. Shopping is not pleasant. For example, I was in my local Walmart and needed to buy some yogurt. There was not one container of full milk yogurt. It was all fat modified ie. low fat. Walmart shelves are full of low-fat highly processed (removing the fat is unnecessary processing) foods high in hidden corn and/or soy. They may not be pushing a complete vegetarian life style but they’re not pushing health either.

    I rarely buy meat at Trader Joe’s because it all has added carbs. Read the labels. Marinated lamb from Australia or New Zealand (rest assured, it didn’t leave these countries in a marinade). Sure they have neat frozen Australian lamb chops with nothing added but what if I want a shoulder? Many of the other meats, and lots of the other foods are packaged with additional carbs. Look at their boxed broths and soups. The cheese cabinet, fresh veggies, and nuts (but read the labels) are OK but much of the stuff that could be sourced in the midwest comes from California or New England states, For me, as a low-carber, Trader Joe’s is not the answer.

    Try finding a farmer’s market in the upper midwest at this time of the year. Can’t grow anything for 8 months of the year. OK that’s a slight exaggeration but no veggies, no market! Well even that’s not correct. There is one inside market that sells meat and refrigerated items, but you get the picture. So farmer’s markets are not the answer for much of the year. When they are, many only accept farmer’s etc who produce their own goods.

    Internet orders for grass fed meat etc are OK but I really need a larger freezer. I have found a single outfit that sells game, various poultry species, lamb, beef, and more, including wonderful chickens but it’s not close enough to visit every time I need meat.

    My local Co-Op has local meat, local hydroponic veggies, cheese, and more but most of the organic veggies are far from home and the store’s shelves are full of surprises like highly-carbed, proudly-organic candies, soups, soft drinks and other junk.

    So, like everything else in life, I have to make choices but many of the suggestions here today are either not possible of expensive. I’m so happy that I haven’t been to WF for quite a while now (it’s some distance and I wasn’t often in the area) so obviously I can live with out it as well. I’m not happy all the same that they’re cutting people in the meat section. That’s a pretty bad sign.

    As for interesting another widely distributed store to go low carb? I don’t see that happening. At least not until an evidence-based healthy lifestyle (low-carb, high-fat) replaces the country’s misguided belief system (low-fat, high-carb). I suggest that the belief system needs to be challenged in court (a reverse of what happened in Sweden). Maybe someone/a group of people/class action law suit etc takes their nutritionist and physician or better still, the Mayo Clinic, to court for forcing them to follow a belief system that ruined their health, kept them hungry, gave them diabetes, made them fat, resulted in cancer and cardiac artery blockages. And they better hurry because the next thing is Alzheimer’s and then they’ll forget it’s the diet silly!

  • Jeffry Reading

    Good job on getting all those great quotes, Jimmy. I really appreciate your ability to tie together all these amazing diet and lifestyle experts in one place.

    THANKS Jeffry! It’s nice to know a lot of people. :D

    –Jimmy

  • http://www.beefandwhiskey.com mrfreddy (www.beefandwhisky.com)

    When I first heard of this, I thought, so what? They’ve always had a sorta pro-vegetarian agenda, but they also sell great meats and some other things I like that are hard to find elsewhere.

    But if they’re gonna be pushing Furhman and Campbell in my face while I’m shopping, I dunno, that may be more than I can bear. I mean, who really eats that way, and why? These guys are misleading folks into believing they have to deprive themselves of the very foods their bodies need in order to be healthy. What a load of nonsense!

    I may still go, but if I see any sign of cutbacks in their meat dept. then that will be that-no more whole foods for me.

    Whole Foods certainly has the right to market themselves however they see fit and I’d never pretend to tell them they can’t take this current course of action. But as a customer, I have a right to let them know how I feel about such an insane advertising strategy by not spending my money with them any longer. Why would you want to tick off a solid base of customers all for the sake of promoting an aggressive agenda that does not line up with what so many of them believe? It doesn’t make sense.

    –Jimmy

  • Debbie

    I do enjoy shopping at my local farmer’s market, but it only operates from June to November anyway, so there is a whole lot of year to get through still. And every year there is a doubt about whether it will continue to operate – and I admit it sure bugged me too to see one of the larger vendors there selling oranges and bananas (can someone please tell me where the orange groves and banana plantations are in New Jersey?).

    I have two Whole Foods stores within about 10-12 minutes from my house and I do frequent them from time to time – though less and less. I used to adore their Skytop grass-fed heavy cream, but they no longer carry the heavy cream saying it was not a good seller, and only carry the skim milk and low-fat milk. They were the first place to carry the awesome Kerrygold butter – though I (luckily) can now find it for about 40% of the price at Trader Joe’s.

    But my *favorite* WF purchase is the Wellshire Farms dry-rubbed, uncured, nitrate-free center cut thick bacon. That bacon is AWESOME. I have never found bacon at any other store that even comes close. I decided to look at the Wellshire Farms website to see if there are other vendors in my area, but it says there:

    “PLEASE NOTE: As of January 1, 2008, the Wellshire brand will be sold exclusively at the Whole Foods Markets listed under the Store Locator. The Wellshire brand will not be available at any other store listed.”

    Dang. Still no other options for that great bacon except WF. Though I suppose if they stop carrying bacon maybe some other stores might wind up getting some business.

  • Travis

    Awesome article, thank you! It’s too bad WF has its head up the posterior of 1980s and 90s low-fat dieting. I live near two of their stores, but now I’m going to have to rethink shopping at them. I don’t want to give my hard earned money to a corporation promoting bad science.

  • Jeff Johnson

    I live in Orem, Utah – raw dairy store 1/4 mile from my house – I’m happy

    We have several Mexican markets within a few miles or less – where they have 6 pounds of oranges for a dollar

    3 pounds of limes for a dollar

    6 heads of lettuce for a dollar

    They have an amazing price on something every week – so cool – I’m happy

    I met Bodie Miller the other day while up at Parkcity visiting the Center of Excellence where the Olympic Skiers train – I train in the Masters night program there –

    Bodie Miller is 6′ 3″ or so – he looks like one of those guys you see on Runners Worlds magazine covers – very lean and sleek like a race car

    I’m not much interested in the politics of low carb or strict vegatarianizm – as I’m a lacto-octo low carb omnivore

    What does interest me is a protocol of live and let live and a desire to learn from other people – from there mistakes or otherwise -

    What I do find un-rational is this fat obsession the low carb club promotes

    A wild deer or other game meat animal has very little fat on them – so – why do red meat low carb eaters go off the deep end about eating fat ?

    It is very – very hard to eat less than 2000 calories on a diet very high in fat calories and this is what stalls so many low carbers – Jimmy Moore has been doing this for four straight years and he can’t rap it around his head why he can’t lose weight -

    Oh dear – did I say that – poor pontificating me

    Jeff, tell us how you REALLY feel. :)

    –Jimmy

  • Ginger

    As to the assertion that the WF CEO is misinformed, I think it’s a bit of “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”. You could probably hand him all the scientific evidence in the world that fat isn’t the enemy it’s made out to be, but he’d have to read it and believe it. If he’s made the kinds of changes in his business that he has, his mind’s made up and I don’t see it happenin’. He probably “knows” that what he’s doing, how he’s eating, is right and the rest is all just fluff at best, harmful lies at worst. He views animal fat as an addiction…my experience with addiction is the carbs (notice views vs experience here) and I have learned to treat them as such, for my own health and sanity (the “voices” justifying a trip to the grocery store with a side trip to the donut shop can be overwhelming and kinda creepy). It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming months, business-wise.

    I agree it will be fun to watch what happens to the bottom line at Whole Foods from all this.

    –Jimmy

  • Vicki

    Jeff Johnson- I sincerely hope you are a hunter if you’re going to make statements abou venison. I AM a hunter- last night I dined on a roast from the buck I shot this year. Not only am I willing to look my dinner in the eye, but we butcher it ourselves. This buck was healthy & quite fat: I know because I gutted it myself. Since DH is pretty skilled in butchering, I assisted during the skinning & cutting. Again, observing the fat on this beautiful animal. I’m not a duck hunter, but I’ve cleaned and cooked them, & they Aldo have plenty of yummy fat. Your perception that all game meat is lean makes me believe that you either don’t hunt, or only have hunted rabbits, which are lean. I’ll leave it to Jimmy to explain the concept of “rabbit hunger”!

  • pjnoir

    There is nothing at whole foods that I can’t buy somewhere else and let those dollars act as a consumer voice. For years now, their food bars were a joke- a diabetic would starve to death or die eating if left to their choices. I can get fish from a fish maket, grass fed beef from the farm- and save money. Fage Total I can buy down the street. Buying fresh produce is easy in New Jersey. Im glad I don’t have to spend my money there ever again- and I’ll be healthier in the process. Whole fools- thank you and good bye

  • awesome

    this is GREAT news!! ethical, environment friendly eating. I’m so glad they are taking the first steps for the new evolution. The world can no longer sustain eating rotting corpses. Its unnecessary and cruel. Stop being beasts, start being peaceful intelligent beings. Most of the US is fat and unhealthy for a reason.

    PUH-LEEZ!

    –Jimmy

  • Vicki

    Awesome- good luck to you when the B12 is gone from the store in your liver and your body doesn’t care for the fake forms you try to give it. Sure you’ll enjoy robust health! Jimmy-You’re a better person than me for putting up with these brainwashed people who think the natural world is the grassy strip in the mall parking lot!

  • Sonya

    There’s a saying, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

    We can hit people over the head with incontrovertible evidence that low carb is the healthiest way to eat, but if they are already determined to hold on to their bad science it is a waste of our time. Hence the very slow baby steps being made by the low carb community despite the science backing it up.

    I have always thought Whole Foods was a pro-vegetarian company, so this doesn’t surprise me. I do hope that they see the more rabid the company becomes the more it will alienate our community and limit the prospects of growing their bottom line – and it does all come down to money for companies, no?

    awesome, there is plenty of evidence that your vegetarian lifestyle is worse for the environment than our beastly one. ;-) You can start here: http://tinyurl.com/yctnkjp if you really want to know the truth.

  • Mike McGinley

    I’m not surprised by this move at all. I have never been a Whole Foods supporter since John Mackey was busted for chatting up his stock on a Yahoo message board (anonymously, of course). http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/12/business/12foods.html.

    The guy is a real horse’s ass.

  • Walter Bushell

    And the prepared foods tend to have rapeseed oil (aka canola) which is not as I understand it a whole food, but denatured by processing.

    I am sitting now in a WF, because they have free internet drinking their coffee with some 1/2 & 1/2 and coconut milk mixed with sunflower oil and a little stevia. Conveniently they have a microwave for reheating the last of the coffee.

    But they do carry a few raw milk cheeses, closest thing I can get to fresh milk.

    Let me add my appreciation for the work of Lierre Keith, who gained the knowledge the *hard* way. Perhaps her speaking out will save many people from the worst consequences of the Vegetarian and Vegan lifestyles.

  • http://nourishdc.com Aggie

    Great post. I think the saddest part is people, often parents, in a huge rush who think everything sold at Whole Foods has to be healthy. But what’s really important is the bottom line.

    My local Whole Foods sells almost no organic meat for instance, but miles of chips, cookies and cereals.

    Funny, when I spoke to the manager he hotly denied all this and said there would always be meat and cheese at Whole Foods, and the change would be simply about offering lower-priced items to deal with hard economic times.

  • Catherine

    Wow! The most disturbing part of this is the partnership with Joel Fuhrman. A friend of mine asked me to read “Eat to Live,” and I asked him to read “Good Calories Bad Calories.” I pointed out where I felt Fuhrman’s claims were unsubstantiated and dubious, but it didn’t matter – after GCBC my friend got on the low carb train.

    I’m tired of unsolicited nutritional advice. I just don’t care if some people want to be vegan/veggie. I was in Whole Foods the other day and didn’t notice this campaign at all, so maybe our local store is not one of the test cases. We bought ground pork, lamb and beef which we will be making into a delicious meatloaf (topped with bacon.) I am fortunate in that there are many, many alternatives to WF in my neighborhood – Balducci’s, Wegman’s, Harris Teeter all sell high quality meats. WF is not our favorite among these stores. If it becomes more annoying to shop there, we won’t miss it too much. Who knows, maybe that’s why they are going this route – they aren’t winning the high-quality meat competition and want to focus on something else.

  • http://professingfitness.blogspot.com b. strong

    This is just the latest of a series of decisions that make me think Mackey has gone off the deep end. Seems like he’s convinced himself that he’s the Steve Jobs of retail groceries. Thing is, Mackey isn’t Jobs, and vegetables aren’t iPhones.

    I would boycott WF, except I don’t shop there anyway, given the nearest WF is 170 miles away as the crow flies. Fortunately, we have Wegmans, a couple of local organic markets, a year-round farmer’s market with a 30-mile rule (all products are grown ro raised or made within a 30-mile limit), and enough CSA farms within a stone’s throw to keep me in kale for the rest of my days.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Paleo-for-Life/302157793375 Gary W

    With this whole Whole Foods fiasco, it occurs to me that it’s pretty easy for major corporations to get behind the low fat mantra, but we cannot find a single major corporation who is willing to support the low-carb movement. So, the only way for the low-carb/paleo movement to gain public acceptance is to collect our voices.

    To that end, we’ve created a Facebook page called “Paleo for Life” (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Paleo-for-Life/302157793375). The concept is that if you have tried low-carb or paleo and it has improved your life, sign up as a fan. This will serve as a simple barometer of the positive impact that a low-carb/high-fat lifestyle has made in people’s lives. Once we gather enough people and testimonials, we will be able to get our voices heard.

  • http://www.mikecheliak.com Mike Cheliak

    Here is what I think of Whole Foods Market. My friend posted this on Facebook. I call it…How to screw up whole food.

    Sweet Potatoes and Apples (product at the Whole Food Market)
    Sweet Potatoes, Apples, Red Onions, Jalapeno Honey, BBQ Sauce (honey, ketchup [tomato, vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, salt,onion, spice]), water, dijon mustard (mustard seed, vinegar, water, sea salt), sugar, cider vinegar, jalapeno, curry, garlic, lemon, shoyu (water, soybean, salt, wheat, alcohol), worchestershire (cider vinegar, soy sauce, water, molasses, agave syrup, garlic, salt, tamarind, spices, mushroom, xanthan gum, botanical extracts, cloves, smoke), canola oil, paprika, tabasco salt and pepper.

    While I am not a chemist or nutritionist, I am pretty good judge at what is considered a whole food. Adding this much crap to anything removes that badge!

  • Dave Kraus

    Profit margins are probably higher on plant based foods. John Mackey could not maintain a profitable business if he were not biased toward higher profits.
    The motives of the messenger reveal more than the message.

  • Dave, RN

    I wrote them too. Here’s their response:

    Thank you for contacting Whole Foods Market with your concerns. Our Health Starts Here program is not intended to promote a completely plant based diet. Although the program does offer an option for those who wish to follow a vegan diet, there are also options for those who wish to consume animal products. The Health Starts Here program encourages a higher consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes for people of all dietary preferences.

    We understand that our customers follow a variety of dietary paths. The Health Starts Here program is voluntary and is simply being made available to customers who are interested. Our stores will continue to offer a variety of high quality products such as meat, dairy and seafood. We appreciate your feedback.

    Best regards,
    Carijane

    Hmmmm….

  • Paula

    I stopped going to Whole Foods when John Mackey started editorializing in opposition to universal health care. (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204251404574342170072865070.html)

    So let me see if I get this straight: We should spend a “whole paycheck” at Mackey’s stores, to follow the vegetarian/vegan diet he’s promoting. Then when we get sick from it, we’re just out of luck, because we can’t afford expensive health insurance premiums due to all the money we’re spending on food, and all efforts to create less expensive government-subsidized health care will have been squashed by him and his CEO buddies.

    Here’s what Mackey essentially believes: if you eat a low-fat vegetarian/vegan diet, you’ll have no need for health care. “Recent scientific and medical evidence shows that a diet consisting of foods that are plant-based, nutrient dense and low-fat will help prevent and often reverse most degenerative diseases that kill us and are expensive to treat. We should be able to live largely disease-free lives until we are well into our 90s and even past 100 years of age.”

    I don’t like to wish ill (literally) on anyone, but it’s going to take some of these people getting very sick after eating these so-called “healthy” diets to get them to change their tune (or maybe not, it will probably be too late for them to recant.)

  • Jesse

    Sent them an email, great post. Hopefully Whole Foods will drop this silly campaign and get back to helping everyone eat healthier!

  • Enid Fox

    I am glad we will soon be getting a Sprouts near by. I do like the convenience of one stop shopping at WF but this is ridiculous! Every time I go in there and see the huge banners extolling the virtues of low fat I want to spit.

    I spent 6 years working with an MD helping people reduce triglycerides, small dense LDL particles and insulin levels with a diet based on fibrous vegetables, nuts and animal protein. A low fat diet simply means you will reduce the amount of fat soluble nutrients absorbed. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 80, No. 2, 396-403, August 2004 http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/full/80/2/396

    It won’t be long before I no longer patronize them. I did send a letter to them with my concerns. I hope other customers who know better do too!

  • LJ

    How can you disagree with Dr. Fuhrman? He refences thousands (and I am not kidding, thousands) of peer reviewed journals. It has been proven over and over again that a low carb diet is dangerous and has many detrimental effects on the body! How can you ignore that? This has to be one of the most idiotic websites i have ever visited. I rely on real science for my nutrition information, and my health shows it. It’s common sense!

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

      How can I disagree with Dr. Fuhrman? Because his recommendations for a one-size-fits-all approach to health are just plain wrong. This is borne out in the literally millions of people who have tried to eat his high-carb, low-fat, plant-based diet that just doesn’t work for those of us with sensitivity to carbohydrate impacting our blood sugar and insulin levels. But none of that matters to Dr. Fuhrman and his minions who choose to openly ignore the evidence supporting healthy high-fat, low-carb living that is backed by scientific evidence from such notable institutions like Harvard, Duke, and the University of Connecticut, for example. There is NO evidence that low-carb is “dangerous” or has any “detrimental effects” as you portend. It’s a safe, effective and I would say optimal way to eat for the most robust health you’ll ever experience. Think what you may about my web site, but the results of livin’ la vida low-carb speak for themselves. Congratulations on your healthy life, but it’s a pity you can’t see that health can be attained in a variety of ways.

  • JB

    Let me make a few things clear first before commenting.

    I am a board certified holistic health coach with a background in integrative nutrition and physical therapy. I am very aware of the science out there and I regularly read new studies to stay up to date on current research.

    Having worked for them in the past, I can say that Whole Foods is a phenomenal company. People like to smear them as money grubbers, but they have no idea about all the things Whole Foods does. Whole Foods employees are paid very well (10/hr to start. Even a cashier or maintenance worker will start at this), and in general employees are treated very well. Whole Foods commits themselves to practices of sustainability (composting, recycling, using less plastic, etc.), and community involvement (5% days, various fund-raisers throughout the year, Whole Planet Foundation) as well. Whole Foods didn’t adopt the Engine 2 and Eat to Live programs to make more money by selling more produce. John Mackey – years ago – started on the Engine 2 diet and feels that he lost a lot of weight and got healthier from it; naturally, he’s going to want to promote what he (and the author’s colleagues in the PCRM) thinks is the end-all-be-all of health.

    Lastly, I am not – and have never been – a low carb/primal/paleo/whatever “dieter”, nor do I have anything against a vegetarian diet.

    With that said, I am incredibly disappointed with Whole Foods for not just promoting a single dietary theory (ok, really 2 different theories that are 98% similar), but also for partnering with the PCRM (People’s Comittee for Responsible Meidicine; essentially a vegan front-group. They like to support every study that says that meat is linked to some sort of disease even when it’s obvious that the problem is the preservatives and quality of the food itself). Whole Foods’ scientific advisory panel is made up solely of PCRM members, which means there is only one dietary path people will be told to follow. Sure, you should eat more greens, and there’s nothing wrong with following a vegetarian diet (read Paul Pitchford’s book Healing With Whole Foods for a good reference on vegetarianism that doesn’t simultaneously demonize animal products), but suggesting this diet for every person completely ignores biochemical individuality as well as the cultural diets of basically everyone. Their push for low-fat and cholesterol reduction follow the same diet fad that’s been chugging along for the past 50 years or so and we’re not any healthier from it.

    I could spend hours detailing the inaccuracies in the Engine 2 book (which I have read and own a copy of), and a similar amount of time on Fuhrman’s works (based upon the information I’ve gained from his website and various articles). Both of these methods closely follow the advice of our broken medical system that is afraid of fat, cholesterol, and salt. This should be a giant red flag for anyone who has spent a fair amount of time understanding what is wrong with this medical system to begin with. It really does not matter any amount as to how many studies supposedly support these diets or what journals they were published in. A bad study is a bad study, no matter how many people cite it (google: appeal to authority, appeal to majority).

    Whole Foods really should have adopted an integrative approach and worked with various experts to help customers find a diet that is right for them. Instead, they’ve partnered with a deceitful organization with a very clear and obvious agenda.

  • Tim

    Well, you’ve been proved wrong after all.

    http://www.diseaseproof.com/archives/cardiovascular-disease-lowcarb-highprotein-diet-increases-risk-of-death-from-all-causes.html

    I knew Dr. Fuhrman would be vindicated as all his claims are based no empirical scientific evidence.

    I think you’d best throw your meat away and head out to buy some starchy veg…

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

      HAHAHA! Fuhrman. Good one. Her hee ho ho ha ha–wooooo!