Daily Dozen: Can You Check All The Boxes?

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Who are the people you look up to and admire? The upstanding people out there, seeking what’s right? For me, one of those people is Dr. Michael Greger.

Now, please don’t mishear me. I’m not a worshipper or a stalker or something. And I’m definitely not someone who’s willing to disregard facts if he ends up getting caught in a scandal or something.

But as far as I can tell, the evidence points to Dr. Greger being someone who’s honest, sincere, and focused on finding the truth in nutritional studies.

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According to his bio, “Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues.” (https://drgreger.org/pages/about-us)

His book How Not to Die (https://nutritionfacts.org/book/) goes into a HUGE amount of detail on the foods that we should be eating regularly and why. It’s a giant compilation of many, many studies, and it’s written in an easy-to-understand way for the layperson.

Based on his findings from these studies, he developed some tools to help us focus our attention on the healthy foods that we should be eating on a daily basis. The main tool that he’s created is the daily dozen checklist.

 

Bring on the Daily Dozen checklist!

The Daily Dozen checklist, copyright belongs to  NutritionFacts.org , attribution license. Click to view the original image so that you can print it or save it. You can also download the app to keep track of your foods every day.

The Daily Dozen checklist, copyright belongs to NutritionFacts.org, attribution license. Click to view the original image so that you can print it or save it. You can also download the app to keep track of your foods every day.

I love this checklist. It works the exact opposite of probably any calorie counter or food tracker that you’ve used before. Instead of avoiding any particular foods, this checklist is all about *adding* powerhouse foods to your plate. It’s a focus on what to eat, not on what not to eat. (If this is a new concept for you, I wrote a post on eating MORE as the key to healthy eating that might help you - https://www.rootedeating.com/blog/eatmore.)

The checklist identifies the foods we should eat every day and the number of servings for each. Again, this is all based on the many studies that he’s scoured. This video from his site explains the checklist very clearly: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/dr-gregers-daily-dozen-checklist/

 

So… What should I eat?

Fruits

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It shouldn’t be a surprise that Dr. Greger recommends that we eat fruit every day. He divides this category into berries (one serving per day) and other fruits (three additional servings per day). In other words, Dr. Greger recommends that you eat four total servings of fruit per day, and at least one should be berries.

https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/fruit/

 

Vegetables

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Just like with the fruits, the vegetable category gets split up into different classifications, for a total of five servings per day.

First, Dr. Greger recommends one serving per day of cruciferous vegetables. I had never heard this word “cruciferous” in my life until a couple of years ago. It’s a family of vegetables that includes broccoli, cabbage, kale, and brussels sprouts.

In addition to the serving of cruciferous vegetables, he says to get two more servings per day of leafy green vegetables. This could be an additional serving of cruciferous vegetables, or it could be non-cruciferous leafy greens like spinach or swiss chard.

Finally, he recommends two additional servings per day of any vegetable. Again, this could include more greens, or it could be any other vegetable - carrots, potatoes, beets, squash, … the list is virtually endless.

https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/vegetables/

 

Nuts and seeds

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Dr. Greger recommends one serving per day of nuts or seeds, so there’s no need to go overboard. Just a small handful of nuts or seeds can pack a punch and add powerful nutrients to your day.

https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/nuts/

https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/seeds/

 

For the remaining foods in the checklist, I’ve written about them before, so I won’t go into too much detail here. These foods include…

 

Beans

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Beans are some of the healthiest foods you can find. They’re rich in fiber, protein, and minerals, and they help you feel full between meals. In the long-term, they can help your body fight cancer, diabetes, and even help you live longer. Dr. Greger recommends three servings per day.

https://www.rootedeating.com/blog/benefitsofbeans

https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/beans/

 

Whole grains

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Whole grains are inexpensive, easy, and healthy - but of course be sure to consume *whole* grains for the health benefits, rather than refined white flours.

https://www.rootedeating.com/blog/wholegrains

https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/grains/

 

Herbs and spices

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When we think about the wide variety of foods, spices and herbs don’t readily come to mind. But don’t overlook these powderful seasonings - they’re here to bring your dishes to the next level, and they’re especially helpful when you’re transitioning to a plant-based diet.

https://www.rootedeating.com/blog/spicesherbs

https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/herbs/

https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/spices/

 

Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds have a really mild taste, so it’s easy to sprinkle them on top of foods like toast, smoothies, and salads.

https://www.rootedeating.com/blog/plantbasedingredients#flaxseeds

https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/flax-seeds/

 

Finally, the checklist reminds us to drink plenty of water and get some exercise every day.

We also need to be cognizant of our intake of Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D. I’ll do another post on micronutrients at some point, but if you’re fully plant-based, be sure you’re taking a Vitamin B12 supplement or monitoring your intake of foods fortified with B12.

By the way, if you’re looking for more information on each of these food items, his website NutritionFacts.org is full of a bunch of informative videos.

Photo copyright Decor8 Holly, attribution license. Click photo to view original image.

Photo copyright Decor8 Holly, attribution license. Click photo to view original image.

 

How can I possibly check all of those boxes in one day??

Again, it’s really a matter of looking for ways to add MORE to your plate. If you’re eating spaghetti, can you add some greens or other cooked vegetables? If you’re eating oatmeal, can you incorporate some additional fruits or seeds?

Here are two days of meals that check all the boxes, just to give you an idea of how it can be done. Of course, you can eat more than what’s shown here; this is just to get you started.

 

Day 1

Photo copyright Marco Verch, attribution license. Click photo to view original image.

Photo copyright Marco Verch, attribution license. Click photo to view original image.

  • Breakfast: ½ c oatmeal with 1 T flaxseed, ½ c chopped strawberry, 1 chopped kiwi, and 3 T chia seeds

  • Snack: ¼ c hummus with 1 c chopped carrot sticks

  • Lunch: Salad with ½ c chopped kale, 1 c chopped spinach, 1 chopped apple, ½ c cooked quinoa, ½ c edamame, and ¼ c dried cranberries

  • Dinner: Burrito bowl with ½ c brown rice cooked in spice mixture, ½ c black beans, 1 c chopped arugula, and ½ c sweet potato

 

Day 2

Photo copyright Wafterboard, attribution license. Click photo to view original image.

Photo copyright Wafterboard, attribution license. Click photo to view original image.

  • Breakfast: Scramble with ½ c tofu cooked with ¼ tsp turmeric, ½ c broccoli, ½ c sweet potato, and ¼ c cashews

  • Snack: 1 slice whole grain toast topped with ½ c smashed blueberries and 1 T flaxseed

  • Lunch: Buddha bowl with ½ c cooked quinoa, ½ c cooked spinach, ½ c garbanzos, and 1 pomegranate

  • Dinner: ½ c whole grain pasta, ½ c kidney beans, ½ c cooked spinach, ½ c chopped tomatoes, and 2 nectarines

 

See how easy it is?

If you’re being cognizant of checking off several boxes at each meal, you’ll get to most of the boxes in no time.

 

What if I don’t check all of the boxes every day?

No worries at all. To be honest with you, I often don’t check off all of the boxes every day, either. I generally miss a few each day, but where the checklist is *super* helpful for me is reminding me of foods to consume regularly. For example, sometimes I’ll realize that I’ve gone three days without eating any berries or two days without beans. The checklist helps my reminding me of what foods to consume regularly and I use it to work on everyday improvements.

 

Another option

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If the daily dozen checklist is a little much for you, or if you need some extra support, try this other tool from Dr. Greger - the traffic light. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/dining-by-traffic-light-green-is-for-go-red-is-for-stop/

This is another useful tool to think about as you eat. The basic premise is to eat a whole bunch of health-promoting (green) foods, limit the unhealthier processed (yellow) foods, and generally avoid the unhealthy ultra-processed (red) foods.

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I like this concept of green, yellow, and red foods because there’s nothing that’s completely off-limits but certainly foods that we should prioritize and those that we should generally avoid for our health. Dr. Greger talks about using the yellow and red foods to promote the consumption of green foods - for example, he mentions that adding a sprinkle of Bac-Os (red) to a salad (green) isn’t a terrible thing at all if it’s getting you to eat the salad.

 

Conclusion

No matter what tool you use - or if you don’t use any tool at all - the important thing is to consume lots of foods that are health-promoting. You don’t need to be perfect by any means. Just try to eat more good-for-you foods, and let those foods start to crowd out the bad-for-you stuff.

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So what about you? Which of these two tools do you think would be more helpful to you and why?

Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to eat plants, feel great, and repeat.

From my table to yours,
Kara

 
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P.S. Have We Met?

My name is Kara, and I’m here to help you prepare plants in a way you’ll LOVE.

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