Guest Blog Post: Daily Dozen Meal Plan
Hello Everyone! If you are anything like me, you love to watch cooking shows, get inspired while perusing foodie magazines or browsing through the countless Pinterest recipes. The problem that I find with this is nothing ever actually gets accomplished. Those amazing plant-based dishes with bursts of color and textures never get constructed under your direction and they remain on the screen of your device, or collecting dust in the pages of a magazine or cookbook, unable to tantalize your taste buds. It is easy to feel overwhelmed at the plethora of options.
Today I want to take a moment and go back to the basics of health, to make it simple, and to keep it real. I recently had the pleasure of rotating with Dr. Yami. In addition to all of the non-nutritional information involved in pediatrics and the joys of medicine while caring for the complex and developing youth of Yakima, my perception of health and wellness was transformed. One of tasks I was dealt was to read these two books: How Not To Die by Michael Greger M.D. and The China Study, The most Compressive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted, by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II, MD. If you are unfamiliar with either of these I highly suggest checking out, renting, buying, or audible.com-ing one if not both of these great contributions to our scientific literature. I challenge you to keep your current belief system on the nutritional benefits of the foods you consume, particularly dairy products, eggs and meats after learning the information and research presented.
I really enjoyed reading the book, How Not To Die. This witty and sarcastic physician presented the simple, one sentence topic that, ‘eating a whole foods, plant-based diet will improve your health’, and expanded it into 412 pages. After downloading the audio version of the book, I was able to read along while listening to the author himself read this massive compilation of material and research in a fun and stimulating way. I found that he set the stage well, and held to his promise of linking all the top killers in America back to nutrition, or lack thereof. As I have plans of pursuing a career in primary care, I was pleased to have been asked to read this fantastic book with a surplus of knowledge I can one day use to strengthen my discussions with patients. I am excited to have a tool in the arsenal with literally thousands of references.
After already being a vegetarian for the vast majority of my life, I was surprised at how easily I was ‘bullied’ by the author’s words into feeling guilty about my diet, and somewhat scared to eat anything again, much to the chagrin of my husband. While I certainly do not feel as though I am a ‘junk food vegetarian’, but after reading how a number of the foods I consume on a regular basis are essentially nothing but ticking time bombs for disease, it was necessary to take inventory on the nutrition and ingredients I was putting into my body. It is easy to get swept away by new and shiny fads and diets, from the ones that promise if you eat or drink this, or don’t eat or drink that, you will lose weight and feel better. The ‘diet’ Dr. Greger suggests is one that is not new, or unique by any stretch of the imagination. It is simple, whole, and real. I appreciated the fact that after diving into why and how the majority of the SAD (Standard American Diet) ‘staples’ were unhealthy and contributing to poor health, Dr. Greger spent multiple chapters on then how to make the health-conscious substitution, and listing the benefits of a wide variety of whole foods and spices. While his suggestions seemed simple enough, after compounding hundreds of these recommendations, again, it can feel quite daunting. So to make things even simpler, Dr. Greger created the Daily Dozen, a list of his suggested healthy, whole-foods, seeds, nuts and spices that should be found in your diet each day.
As a challenge to myself, I downloaded the free Daily Dozen app and kept track of my food consumption for a few days, seeing how my average diet compared to Dr. Greger’s endorsements…. I was surprised by the results. Some days I wasn’t so far off, and others showed me I was severely lacking in the veggie department for that day. As I continue to use the the Daily Dozen as the center of my food prep planning and execution, I have found that it does in fact get easier. I don’t stand at the fridge and check every box every time, but am now able to mentally go through the meals for the day and adjust the amounts of certain ingredients to get the most healthful, bang for my caloric and checklist buck.
My Challenge to You: Incorporate the Daily Dozen into your Meals!
Below I have designed a Weekly Meal Planner that can be easily printed off and posted on the refrigerator door. You can find nearly all of the Daily Dozen items incorporated each day, while leaving wiggle room to make your own decisions such as what type of fruit in the fruit bowls or dried fruits, whether of not you prefer whole wheat pasta, or veggetti etc. I chose recipes that were relatively easy to adjust the amounts of veggies used, making the checklist easier to complete. For example, you can add as many servings of veggies you want/need into your veggies wraps, chunky marinara, Red curry tofu, etc. The underlined meals are hyperlinks to the recipes, and meals without links you have complete control over!
Amounts per serving, as expressed by Dr. Greger as listed below:
Black beans, butter beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, edamame/soyabeans, peas, kidney, haricot, lentils, pinto etc.
- 1/4c hummus or bean dip
- 1/3c cooked beans, lentils, tofu – (1/3 can beans, drained or 1/3 standard tofu block)
- 1c fresh peas or sprouted lentils
Acai berries, barberries (good for acne), blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, goji berries, raspberries, strawberries etc.
- 1/2c fresh or frozen
- 1/4c dried – (1 generous handful)
Greens are the healthiest vegetables, and berries are the healthiest fruits. Colourful foods are often healthier because they contain antioxidant pigments. The colours are the antioxidants: so red onions have more than white, red grapes have more than green, red apples have more than green, red cabbage has more than green etc.
Apples, dried apricots, avocado, bananas, clementines, dates, dried figs, kiwi, limes, nectarines, oranges, pears, black plums, pomegranates (with dried fruit it’s recommended to choose the unsulphured varieties).
- 1 medium-sized fruit
- 1c cut up fruit
- 1/4c dried fruit – (1 generous handful)
If you are drinking fruit, blending is better than juicing to preserve nutrition. Adding citrus/zest to your meals not only adds colour and flavour, but also nutritional value.
Rocket, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, mustard greens, watercress etc.
- 1/4c brussel or broccoli sprouts – (approx. 2 sprouts)
- 1 tbsp horseradish
Chop up your veg about 40 minutes before you cook it. This preserves the healthy enzymes within. When making soup – blend the veggies first!
Rocket, collard greens, kale, spinach, swiss chard etc.
- 1c raw – (1/5 of bag)
- 1/2c cooked
Smoothies are a great way to get children to eat their greens! The basic triad is a liquid, ripe fruit, and fresh greens. For example, 250ml of water or plant milk, a frozen banana, 120g of frozen berries, and 60 grams of baby spinach would be a classic green smoothie 101.(Baby spinach may have higher levels of phytonutrients (the good stuff!) than mature spinach leaves.)
Add some plant fats to your salad to maximise absorption. When researchers tried feeding people a salad of spinach, romaine, carrots, and tomatoes along with a source of fat, there was an impressive spike in carotenoid phytonutrients in their bloodstream over the next eight hours. That’s just a single walnut or a spoonful of avocado or shredded coconut.
Artichokes, asparagus, beetroot, peppers, carrots, sweetcorn, garlic, mushrooms, okra, onions, pumpkin, sea vegetables, snap peas, squash, sweet potato, tomatoes, courgette etc.
- 1c raw leafy veg – (3/4 of salad bag)
- 1/2c raw or cooked non leafy veg
- 1/2c veg juice
- 1/4c dried mushrooms
White cauliflower doesn’t appear to have much to offer at first glance, but because it belongs to the cruciferous family, it’s one of your healthiest options. Similarly, white mushrooms provide myconutrients not found anywhere else in the plant kingdom.
When picking out tomato products, choose whole, crushed or chopped tomatoes instead of tomato sauce, puree, or paste. Drinking tomato juice is great for your immune system.
Top cancer-fighting vegetables are cauliflower, brussel sprouts, green onion, leek, and garlic. The single most effective vegetable is garlic, which came first against breast cancer. Deep-fried foods have been associated with higher cancer risk so they are best avoided.
- 1 tbsp, ground
Nuts and Seeds
Almonds, brazil, cashew, chia seeds, hazelnuts, hemp seeds, pecans, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sesame, sunflower, walnuts etc.
- 1/4c nuts or seeds – (1 handful)
- 2 tbsp of nut or seed butter
Of all the nuts studied, researchers found the greatest benefit was associated with walnuts, particularly for preventing cancer deaths. People who ate more than three servings of walnuts per week appeared to cut their risk of dying from cancer in half.
Barley, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, oats, popcorn, quinoa, rye, teff, whole-wheat pasta, wild rice etc.
- 1/2c hot cereal / cooked grains, pasta, sweetcorn kernels
- 1c cold cereal
- 1 tortilla wrap / slice of whole-meal bread
- ½ bagel or English muffin
- 3c popped popcorn
Herbs & Spices
Allspice, basil, bay leaves, cardamom, chilli powder, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder, dill, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, horseradish, lemongrass, marjoram, mustard powder, nutmeg, oregano, smoked paprika, parsley, pepper, peppermint, rosemary, saffron, sage, thyme, turmeric, and vanilla.
- 1/4 tsp of turmeric, along with any other (salt-free) herbs and spices.
Black tea, chai tea, vanilla chamomile tea, coffee, earl grey tea, green tea, hibiscus tea, hot chocolate, jasmine tea, lemon balm tea, matcha tea, almond blossom oolong tea, peppermint tea, rooibos tea, water, and white tea.
- 1 glass
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and insights on the book, How Not To Die, by Michael Greger, MD.
Remember, for the majority of the time, it IS this simple to achieve health and wellness!
I hope you have learned something helpful, and that you have fun trying the different recipes listed in the Meal Planner!