To me, one of the best changes to happen in the food world last year was the start of the end of diet culture. People are realizing that being healthy should make you feel good—satisfied, satiated, and filled with energy—rather than deprived, hungry, and weak.
How we get there, though, can feel overwhelming. We're bombarded with so many contradictory messages that raise more questions that answers: Should we try keto? Go vegan? What type of alternative flour is best? The solution, however, is shockingly simple. In my years interviewing doctors on my podcast and as research for articles, I realized that while experts may disagree on some specifics when it comes to healthy eating, they all agree on one thing: More plants is better.
While experts may disagree on some specifics when it comes to healthy eating, they all agree on one thing: More plants is better.
This doesn’t mean you have to give up meat or animal products completely. After all, foods like meat, eggs, and dairy do have nutritional benefits, and moreover, every person has a unique individual composition and thus unique individual needs. But eating more plants is linked to benefitting the body as well as the planet.
Into the idea but not sure where to start? That’s where this plan comes in. (And no, it doesn’t just consist of eating salad on repeat.) Each day has an actionable tip for how to work more plants into your meals—they’re bite-sized baby steps, designed to make a plant-filled diet not only attainable but absolutely crave-worthy. The goal? To make your plate 70 to 80 percent plants by the end of the month. Whether you’re a complete plant-based-eating newbie or have been doing it a while but need some new ideas, you’ll finish this four-week program with habits in place that you can put into practice long after January ends—or even the year.
Pro tip: Read the entire plan through at the start of the week; that'll make it easier to grocery shop and meal-plan for the days ahead.
Day 1: Give your pantry a refresh
You can’t get excited about cooking healthy food if you don’t even know what you have. Go through your cabinets and get rid of anything that’s way expired. Then, arrange what you do have in a way that’s visible and free from clutter so you have a clean slate to start your month.
Next, stock up on spices—they’re going to be key for adding flavor to all of your plant-based foods. My go-to spice cabinet includes cinnamon, turmeric, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, Herbes de Provence (a French spice blend that includes thyme, basil, rosemary, tarragon, and bay leaf), and cardamom. I find these spices and herbs provide a good base for punching up pretty much all of my dishes, but you can supplement with your favorite flavors, too.
Watch the video below to see how cooking with turmeric can benefit your body:
Day 2: Crowdsource to connect
That's why I want you to use this day to reach out to your friends and family to share your favorite plant-based dishes, and ask them for theirs so you can add new inspiration to your arsenal. (Well+Good’s Cook With Us Facebook group is a great place to find your people.) Schedule Zoom dates to make healthy dishes in the next few weeks and maybe even arrange a long-distance cookbook swap. Making your new plant-rich life a part of the fabric of your social world means that you’ll continue to eat that way—and enjoy doing so—long into the future.
Day 3: Fill up your freezer
Your freezer is a great and oft-underutilized tool for healthy eating journeys. Grab some frozen broccoli, frozen cauliflower, frozen spinach, frozen cubed squash, and frozen cauliflower rice so you’ll always have veggies on hand. Frozen veggies are often healthier than fresh, since their nutrients aren’t lost in storage and transportation, and they’re usually cheaper, too. (Plus, you have more time to use them before they go bad.)
Day 4: Commit to one veggie-focused breakfast a week
Starting your day with vegetables is a great way to set the tone for what you eat going forward. The trick is to make them taste good, and green smoothies are 100 percent my favorite way to do that. Before noon, you will have eaten more veggies than most people eat all day—and you can make it as delicious as a milkshake.
My basic smoothie formula is a huge handful of leafy greens + healthy fat (I love avocado and hulled hemp seeds, which also double as protein) + protein (I love Garden of Life Unflavored Grass-Fed Collagen, Four Sigmatic Unflavored Mushroom Protein Powder, and hulled hemp seeds) + frozen fruit (this way you can avoid ice and get a much better texture) + flavorings (like cacao, cardamom, and cinnamon).
Other veggie-based breakfast options could include dressing up your eggs with a ton of wilted kale or spinach, or a sheet-pan hash where you roast leftover cooked vegetables and top them with a cooked egg.
Day 5: Make your morning beverage with non-dairy milk
An easy plant-based swap? Making your morning coffee or matcha with a plant-based milk or creamer. There are a lot of good options out there these days; the Califia Barista Blend ($22 for six) is one of my favorites, as is the Laird Superfood Creamer ($25 for 16 ounces), which stores dry in the pantry as an added boon. You could easily make your own at home!
Day 6: Take a trip to the farmers' market
One of the most enjoyable parts of adding more plants to your diet is eating seasonally. It helps you feel connected to the earth and its rhythms, and allows you to add natural variety to your diet as different produce cycles in and out of availability.
Taking a trip to your local farmers' market is the best way to check out what’s in season (yes, even in the winter!). One of my favorite tips is to ask farmers for their favorite way to prepare the unique veggies you find. Just don’t forget your mask!
Day 7: Use your freezer to minimize food waste
You don’t want all your glorious farmers' market finds to go to waste before they go bad, right? Your freezer can help prolong the life of your produce. Got extra greens? Wash them, blanch them quickly in boiling water, and freeze them to use later in smoothies and soups. Extra avocado? Smoosh it into an ice cube tray to have some on hand for guac or toast later.
Looking to hit refresh on your healthy habits this January? Check out our 2021 ReNew Year program for expert-led plans for better sleep, nutrition, exercise, and self-care routines.
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