Updated: Mar 22
Google “healthy eating” and you’ll get 4,420,000,000 results…really. I did and this is the actual number of results that came back in my search. What’s a person to do with that??
Healthy eating means different things to different people. And with so many diet and food philosophies to choose from, people will either try them on like outfits in a dressing room and stick with none or become completely overwhelmed and do nothing.
I don’t think the question is, “What is healthy eating?” but rather, “What are your goals?” My goal, for example, is to have the best quality of life for as long as I can. When I die, I don’t want it to be my fault so when it comes to food, I want to eat delicious food that fuels my body so I can have the energy to do what I want. Add to that my desire to reduce the risk of dying prematurely from preventable diseases. I certainly enjoy food but I enjoy it most when it supports my life goals.
Eating vegetables, fruit, beans, grains, nuts & seeds is a powerful way to achieve or maintain good health and longevity. Makes for a short grocery list, too! But which ones, what quantities, and how do I make them taste delicious?
If you’re just starting out or trying to get a handle on how to make more room for plants on your plate, a trusted source of information I like to introduce people to is Dr. Greger. Dr. Greger is a physician specializing in clinical nutrition and is an internationally recognized speaker on nutrition and public health issues. In his book, How Not To Die, he shares the science behind the only diet that can prevent and reverse many of the causes of disease-related deaths that are too common today. (It’s such an interesting and informative read, I highly recommend it...I have three copies!) Dr. Greger is also the founder of NutritionFacts.org and has created a way to make eating the most health-supportive foods super-simple: The Daily Dozen.
Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen provides recommendations for the foods that hold the potential for optimal nutrition and I’m living proof that you can make just about any dish you’d ever want to eat using this list. Use the list as a way to inspire you to include these foods in your diet. The list comes with the recommended servings per day, too, and there’s a handy app (of course there is!) that you can use to track your daily consumption if you’re so inclined. It doesn’t take long for the choices to become second nature.
Most of the foods on the list are broad categories, like “beans”, “greens”, or “other vegetables”, allowing lots of room to make choices based on taste preferences, seasonality, allergies, and budget. So for example, beans as a category carries with it a recommendation for three servings per day. Hummus would count as one. Lentil soup counts as the second. And a green salad with chickpeas counts as the third. As you begin to embrace plant-powered eating, you’ll soon find that it’s easy to get these wholesome and nutritious foods into your diet every day!
One way to think about Dr. Greger’s healthy eating recommendations is to think about your typical meals and see what categories you’ve already got covered–you might be pleasantly surprised! Do you have a salad for lunch? You just checked off one serving of greens and probably a serving or two from the “other vegetable” category. Maybe you had a banana for breakfast: fruit category…check!
Next, see where you might add foods from the list to dishes you already eat. Making pasta for dinner? Choose whole wheat which counts toward the grain category. Add some fresh or frozen cauliflower or broccoli to the pot with the pasta in the last few minutes of cooking and you just met the recommendation for cruciferous vegetables. While you might wonder how you could possibly get all of these foods into your diet every day, you may actually find that without a whole lot of effort, you can be well on your way to making the healthy eating changes you desire.
Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen list also includes recommendations for hydration and exercise since both are essential to living your best life.
The bottom line is that most people need to make more room on their plates for vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and beans. If you're a list person, check out Dr. Greger's science-based recommendations. If you know what you should be eating but don't know how to make things taste delicious, join our free cooking club and learn how to make good food taste great.
So, without further ado…here is Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen (see NutritionFacts.org to get more information on these categories):
Number of servings per day
Berries (so important they get their own category!)
Beverages (see Dr. Greger's website for details)
If there was a good advice category, you could have checked that box, too!