LeafSide FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
We’re here to help you be more successful with a whole-foods plant-based lifestyle, and your questions are what drive us to improve and create amazing products.
Have a question not listed here? Feel free to ask us at [email protected] and we’ll be sure to reply ASAP.
After 37+ combined years of living a plant-based lifestyle and helping others do it too, we’ve learned that the #1 reason many people aren’t successful with a whole foods plant-based diet, is that they don’t have the expertise, time, and energy to do everything themselves.
LeafSide meals solve this with 3 compelling advantages versus doing it yourself:
- No Work — We’ve removed all the hours of reading about nutrition, shopping, ingredient micro-management, cutting, washing, and cleaning — so you get the amazing health benefits of eating whole plant-based superfoods, without any real effort.
- Complete Nutrition — We stay abreast of the latest and most credible nutrition science per the Daily Dozen food guidelines from Dr. Michael Greger’s global bestseller, How Not To Die. Any one LeafSide meal eaten on its own gives you at least 9 Daily Dozen servings, of the best foods known to science.
- No Compromise — We’ve gotten so used to trade-offs in food, we expect convenient foods to be unhealthy, and healthy food to take a lot of time or cost a lot. No more! With LeafSide meals, you get complete, 100% whole foods plant-based meals with organic ingredients, ready in minutes with almost no effort, and easily stored and moved to wherever and whenever you’re hungry.
We’re long-time DIY/cooks ourselves, and there are still many times when we’re short on time or energy to make something healthy to eat, e.g. after an intense workout, or during or after a long workday. Traveling is another context where a shelf-stable LeafSide savory-bowl or stir-bowl comes in very handy.
The short answer is No and never, because every LeafSide meal is 100% whole foods plant-based (WFPB). As a company we’ve always been 100% WFPB since the beginning, and that will never change.
You can look at the ingredients of any of our meals, and you’ll find no processed franken-foods at all:
- no unpronounceable chemicals,
- no unidentified vague “flavors” or extracts,
- no weird food dyes or colors with numbers,
- no hydrolyzed or isolate foodstuffs,
- no added/processed sugar,
- no added/processed oils or fats.
LeafSide meals are made entirely of 20-30 real foods, almost all organic, from the best sources we can find.
The longer answer: There are at least two excellent definitions of whole/unprocessed foods vs processed foods that we use at LeafSide, and recommend to folks new to WFPB eating: 1) the common-sense definition of Dr. Michael Greger’s “traffic light” classifications, and 2) the more formalized NOVA classification system, by public health and food scientists.
First, Dr. Greger’s guidance is simple and easy to remember: a food gets the “green-light” when “nothing bad is added, and nothing good is removed.” So practically everything in the produce section of a supermarket is “green-light” — a whole, unprocessed food grown and harvested directly from fields or trees. In fact, most governments around the world can agree on this working definition of “whole” food — because unlike processed foods, unprocessed whole fruits, vegetables, nuts & seeds, whole grains, etc have no legal requirement for extensive nutrition labeling. For an overview, please watch this short video from NutritionFacts.org
At LeafSide, we’re particularly careful to use the best green-light forms of foods available, that are still easily portable, which is why we use mostly freeze-dried fruits and vegetables, which best preserves nutrition.
The same green-light rule applies to everything else in a LeafSide meal. For example, a common plant food/ingredient, that can end up as either green-light or red-light, is wheat:
- For a few LeafSide recipes we use the green-light forms of organic wheat, i.e. whole grain wheat like freekeh — a satisfyingly chewy and delicious form of cracked whole wheat, that has all the original parts of the wheat kernel/seed, like the bran (rich with fiber and minerals), the germ (that would grow into a new wheat plant, loaded with vitamins and protein), and the endosperm (packed with low-glycemic-index complex carbohydrates, and protein).
- Whereas a red-light, highly processed form of wheat would be refined white flour, which is used ubiquitously in white breads, muffins, donuts, cakes, bagels, boxed cereals, pizza, cookies, pastries, and so on. In the making of white flour, wheat kernels’ bran and germ are discarded, while the remaining endosperm is processed, bleached, and made into a simple carbohydrate — losing all the whole wheat’s fiber, minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients (“enriched white flour” is effectively a joke, as it adds back in just a few synthetic vitamins). Unfortunately white flour processed food products are much more frequently consumed in wealthier countries: besides easier storage, white flour’s processed simple carbohydrates are cheap to make and sell in large quantities, thus better for most food companies’ profits. Furthermore, when cheap baked goods are combined with added sugar and fat, they can easily trigger addictive short-term pleasure centers in the brain, assuring repeat buying regardless of health costs — but all that is another story.
A second more formalized and scholarly foods classification system is NOVA (not an acronym, just a name) developed by public health and nutrition researchers in 2009, and increasingly adopted by public health researchers and the United Nations, in particular to support the UN’s goals for its “Decade of Nutrition” from 2016 to 2025, focusing on reversing the rapid rise worldwide, of noncommunicable/lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, etc.
In a nutshell, here is NOVA’s food classification system;
- Group 1, Unprocessed or Minimally Processed Foods, which includes whole foods plant-based (WFPB) foods. Drying, grinding, freezing, and home/restaurant cooking and preparation are included in this group. Thus all LeafSide meals, being made from 100% WFPB and requiring only steeping or blending, are in Group 1, the healthiest option.
- Group 2, Processed Culinary Ingredients: includes oils, butter, sugar, and salt. These foods are not meant to be consumed by themselves, and are derived from Group 1 foods, used in turn for preparation, seasoning, and cooking Group 1 foods.
- Group 3, Processed Foods are typically made by adding Group 2 foods to Group 1 foods in a package, e.g. fruits in syrup, canned vegetables, or breads and cheeses. Typically the ingredients list for a Group 3 food is still reasonably short, with recognizable Group 1 and 2 foods.
- Group 4, Ultra-processed Foods, are “formulations made mostly or entirely from substances derived from foods or additives,” with little or no intact whole foods. Their ingredients lists are long with many chemicals from industrial-scale processes (and definitely not found in home kitchens), combined in ways without domestic equivalents, “covering up” low-cost ingredients and poor taste with sugar, oil/fats, and salt in large amounts, to make the food “hyper-palatable” i.e. addictive.
NOVA’s unique and useful contribution was identifying “ultra-processed” foods as such, and as one of the top causes of the global chronic illness crisis (which includes obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc). A 2019 study using NOVA in the USA, by researchers at John Hopkins School of Public Health, found that those in the top 25% eating the most Group 4 ultra-processed foods, had a 31% higher risk of dying from all causes. So please do stick to green-light, Group 1 foods as far as possible.
For those of us who enjoy being nutrition nerds, NOVA researchers remarked:
The term “ultra-processed” was coined to refer to industrial formulations manufactured from substances derived from foods or synthesized from other organic sources. They typically contain little or no whole foods, are ready-to-consume or heat up, and are fatty, salty or sugary and depleted in dietary fibre, protein, various micronutrients and other bioactive compounds. Examples include: sweet, fatty or salty packaged snack products, ice cream, sugar-sweetened beverages, chocolates, confectionery, French fries, burgers and hot dogs, and poultry and fish nuggets.
NOVA’s classification system is useful and important because ultra and highly processed foods pose growing, systemic, and global health risks:
- Older food classifications aren’t helpful anymore, e.g. an advisory to eat “cereals and cereal products” could easily be misunderstood by many to falsely equate whole grains (e.g. oat groats, quinoa — whole grains full of healthy micro- and phytonutrients), with sugary processed cereals (also laden with artificial colors and flavors).
- Scientific evidence is rapidly accumulating that the degree of food processing is directly related to a food’s health risks, e.g. industrial hydrogenation processes and trans-fats.
- As supermarkets displace traditional fresh food markets worldwide, ultra-processed foods take up most of a supermarket’s shelf space, with billions of dollars spent marketing them, especially to children.
- Highly/ultra-processed foods are produced and promoted by multinational food companies, aka “Big Food” with resources (billions of dollars of advertising, pseudo-studies) and other means (lobbying) to undermine national/public health policies of many countries.
How can LeafSide meals be both shelf-stable (no fridge needed), and healthy? Doesn’t that require preservatives and a lot of processing?
Because LeafSide meal packs only use dried ingredients, and because we often use the drying technique that best preserves the full nutrition of fruits and vegetables (especially vitamins, minerals, & phytonutrients): freeze-drying. We never use any kind of preservatives.
A LeafSide meal pack’s best-by date is thus set by the more sensitive ingredients, and typically those are nuts or coconut, with 4-6 weeks as the lower limit to ensure the best taste (some nuts last longer and many recipes don’t use coconut). As mentioned elsewhere, if you expect to take longer to consume the meals, putting them in a fridge can extend their best-taste period at least 2-3 months or longer.
Freeze-drying food has a long history, possibly more than a thousand years old, as peoples living near mountains would leave produce out in favorable locations, where the combination of cold temperatures and high altitudes (lower pressure) would enable the water in foods to freeze, then sublimate, i.e. the water in the food changes from ice to evaporated gas, without passing through the liquid form. The low-water-content food left behind would be much lighter, still resemble the original food (especially with the original colors and thus nutrients), and last much longer.
Modern freeze-drying starts with the frozen produce (just like in supermarket freezers), then puts it in a large vacuum chamber, where the frozen water inside the food sublimates under controlled conditions. The resulting freeze-dried foods are lightweight, retain the original colors and tastes, don’t spoil for years, and most importantly, retain the macronutrients, micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), and phytonutrients remarkably well. Studies have shown that freeze-dried foods often retain over 90% of the original fresh food’s nutrition, much more than other drying techniques (air-drying, heat-drying) which usually damage micronutrients and phytonutrients — as easily seen by the large changes in the food’s colors.
Like frozen food, freeze-dried foods are first harvested at peak ripeness to have better taste and nutrients. But typical store-bought “fresh” fruits and vegetables are harvested early, artificially ripened, and lose up to half of their nutrient value sitting in the fridge.
Freeze-dried food has long been consumed by people in demanding contexts like mountaineering and space flights, where lightweight and high nutrition food is absolutely essential. But you don’t need to be an astronaut to benefit from its convenience and super nutrition!
A broad review of freeze-dried foods vs other drying methods, in preserving antioxidants and phytonutrients: A Review on the Effect of Drying on Antioxidant Potential of Fruits and Vegetables (2016)
Typical studies on fresh vs frozen nutrition include: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889157517300418 and https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2621.1999.tb15943.x
Due to the low moisture content of our meals, and the use of 100% plant-based ingredients, they remain stable for 6-8 weeks if stored in a dry, cool (non-refrigerated) place. We currently list a “best by” date with about a 6 week time frame, and sometimes adjust that to be longer based on our ongoing tests of each recipe, and evolving packaging.
Typically the limiting factors are any nuts or coconut used in the meal. So if you want to store your LeafSide meals longer than the best-by date, you can put your pack(s) in the fridge, just as storing nuts in the fridge will help add at least several months of shelf life to them.
Our meals contain no extra preservatives or additives! Many of our ingredients are shelf-stable due to a special freeze-drying process that removes the moisture content from the whole plant-based foods. This helps maximize the nutrient content and keep the ingredients safe to consume, without adding any unnatural preservatives or extra ingredients to our products.
We’re currently based in Tempe, Arizona, and that’s where our meal packs are made. All ingredients — organic and conventional — are from USA vendors, and in particular, all organic ingredients are USDA certified organic.
Yes! Each pack contains a full meal portion, averaging around 500 kCal up to 690 kCal (“calories”).
Because our meals are made from real whole plant-based foods, they have lots of nutrition and fiber, and will keep you feeling full and ready for demanding work or play, typically for 4 to 5 hours.
Our meals pack a lot of food, so many LeafSiders just set their smoothie or stir-bowl down at their desk and “graze” slowly on the food, for over an hour or more, enjoying the steady and sustained energy they feel. Or they share a meal with family members.
It’s also easy to “extend” a single meal into something that feeds multiple people, e.g. some LeafSiders have used the Tex-Mex as a chili to pour on top of sweet potatoes; or they use a soup with sprouted bread or tortilla chips; or they add frozen fruit to a smoothie to serve two; or they gather a few leftover veggies from the fridge and toss those into a smoothie or soup, etc. etc.
It’s entirely up to you. We’ve designed our meals so that just eating one will deliver plenty of plant-based nutrition, at least nine Daily Dozen serving units, from the global bestselling book How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease by Dr. Michael Greger.
Typically our customers lead busy lives and they use LeafSide meals whenever they don’t have time or desire to prepare something, like in the morning before commuting; for lunch during crunch time; or for an easy, satisfying dinner ready in minutes.
Smoothies are the only type of LeafSide meal needing a blender. Fortunately you don’t need an expensive blender, though it should be high-powered (800+ Watts motor) so that ingredients like whole flaxseeds are cracked open for good digestion; and the blender container should be at least 32 oz (4 cups, about 1 quart or 1 liter) in size, so that there’s enough space to blend well.
The blender we use and highly recommend is the Nutribullet Pro, aka 900 (900 Watt), available from Walmart.com or Amazon for usually $75 to $99 — a price that’s usually cheaper than directly from the Nutribullet website. It’s easy to use, has sufficient power, and is very quick and easy to clean, saving you time and effort.
One more important reason we recommend the Nutribullet Pro blender is that the personal sized 32 oz “colossal mugs” are the perfect size for making our smoothies and taking them to go. Also, you can affordably buy extra mugs for everyone (at home or office) to have their own, and you can get them for only $10 each at Walmart.com.
Yes, all LeafSide meals have been designed with expert chefs to be made by just adding (hot) water. The amounts and temperature of water needed are specified on the back-label instructions of each pack, ranging from 1 to 2.5 cups of water.
Yes! Although we designed all the meals to taste good with just water, some LeafSiders like to add plant-based milks like almond, rice, oat, hemp, or coconut milk (particularly to the smoothies). Those will give the meals a richer and creamier flavor, along with adding extra calories one may want and need, e.g. after a workout.
Our soups and stir-bowls (savory and sweet-bowls) have been designed to be placed into a small pot or bowl (minimum volume 1 quart, or 1 liter, or 4.5 cups), and then have boiling water added. For best results, stir the contents thoroughly, then cover them for the time shown on the package instructions, for complete re-hydration. That’s all there is to it; after 7-10 minutes you can eat a delicious and nourishing meal!
Don’t have such a pot/bowl handy? We’ve tried and like using this small, lightweight bowl+lid available on Amazon:
It’s a good item, but not perfect: the lid isn’t quite tight enough that you can fill it with hot water, close it, and safely put it in a bag as you head out the door. But for stationary soup or stir-bowl making at your counter, desk, hotel room, etc. it works well.
If you also want total portability, eating tasty WFPB meals anytime and anywhere during the day, another solution is to put a soup or stir-bowl pack in a real thermos (with a tight screw-on or locking lid) with the required amount of hot water, then seal and shake — it’s safe and ready for travels.
Boiling water is usually available on planes and trains, in hotels, etc. For home or office, the easiest way we’ve found to get hot water quickly is with an inexpensive electric kettle, although using a microwave to heat water beforehand also works.