By Leo Babauta
Today I have two things for you:
- A list of the healthiest plant foods (see spreadsheet below); and
- A screencast video that shows me using this list to create my new healthy meal plan (see video above)
Let’s start with the list of healthiest foods …
In the last week, I compiled a spreadsheet with what I think of as the “healthiest plant foods” … basically, the foods that are the most nutrient dense for multiple vitamins and minerals.
What is “nutrient dense” and why should we care? Basically, it’s how much of a vitamin or mineral a food has per calorie … so if two different foods give you 30% of the Vitamin K that you need, for example, but one has 100 calories and the other only has 20 calories, the second will be more nutrient dense. More nutrient bang for your calorie buck.
This is important when it comes to a Lean-Out meal plan, because we’re lowering our calories but we still want to get most of the nutrients we need. If we go with food that isn’t nutrient dense (white rice, pastries, soda, for example), then we’re filling up our limited calorie budget but getting very few nutrients in return. Instead, if we fill our plates with nutrient-dense foods, that are good for multiple nutrients, then we can easily get most of the nutrition we need.
So take a look at the spreadsheet below, and see that I’ve ranked vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, and other plant foods for how much nutrients they give you.
How was this compiled? I took the lists of best foods for each essential nutrient from the World’s Healthiest Foods website … their lists give each foods a rating of excellent, very good, or good, based on that foods’ nutrient density for a particular nutrient. Then I just gave each food 3 points if it was ranked “excellent” for a nutrient, 2 points if it was ranked “very good”, and 1 point for “good.”
So if a food is “excellent” in multiple nutrients, it will rank higher on the list than a food that is just ranked “good” for one nutrient. The more vitamins and minerals a food is good for, the higher it will rank.
This list is interesting to me for a few reasons:
- You can take foods from the top half of the list and fill out a meal plan with lots of nutrition.
- You see how important green veggies are.
- You also see other powerful plant foods that are good for many nutrients, like crimini mushrooms, tomatoes, tofu, sunflower seeds.
Now, we don’t need to put only these foods on a list. I like red wine and dark chocolate, for example, and they’re not on the lists. But we can start with this list and make it the foundation of a meal plan, then add other stuff for taste and fun.
Let’s take a look at how I did that with my meal plan for this week, in the screencast video above.
My Nutrient-Dense Meal Plan
Watch the video above, or you can download the video here … in it, I briefly go over the list of the World’s Healthiest Foods, but I also create a meal plan from this list that has:
- A breakfast smoothie with spinach, berries, a banana and soymilk: This is honestly a huge smoothie that takes me like an hour to drink (as I do other things). But I love it, and it gives me good nutrition.
- A hearty salad: This salad has four kinds of greens, plus crimini mushrooms, edamame, lentils, sunflower seeds, and a tasty dressing, and honestly is so packed with nutrients it’s ridiculous.
- A black-bean soft corn tacos: I end my day with three soft-corn tortillas, black beans, cilantro, avocados and salsa. Yum, I love this dinner.
- Snacks: To round out the day, I have 1/4 of a sweet potato, some strawberries, and dark chocolate for snacks. I also drink tea, which is not on the list, plus a cup of coffee with creamer in the morning. This part of the plan doesn’t give me a ton of nutrients (the sweet potato and strawberries are great though), but is done more for flavor.
As you can see in the video, this plan easily gave me more than 100% of all my required nutrients for the day. Now, you don’t have to hit 100% on your plan on everything, but it does demonstrate how it can be done with some great plant foods.