Plant-Based in Real Life

Twelve Foods You Need to Eat Every Day

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Before your busy day calls you away, I would like to take a few minutes to introduce you to a really neat tool that will help you decide what to eat each day. It is the Daily Dozen, a great checklist of twelve foods you should strive to eat each day to live an extraordinarily long and healthy life.

It’s not much of a stretch…

To begin with, I think a lot of people know the whole foods, plant-based (WFPB) diet is the healthiest diet on Earth, and that it prevents and reverses a wide range of chronic diseases.  That is why it’s not too hard to grasp that including all these amazing, minimally processed plant foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds will make you a healthier person.  Similarly, most people don’t doubt that avoiding meat, dairy, eggs, refined grains and oils will make you healthier. 

“…but what do you eat???”

Still, the question I hear the most from people with genuine interest in the diet is, “What do you eat???”  That is because they want to know what I eat on a normal day, plus they want to know how to get filled up.  For this reason, they want some kind of a road map to orient them on their journey to plant-based health.  In other words, they want to know how to make good food choices. 

Luckily, I am not the first person who has had to answer this question. 

For example, one of the plant-based greats, Dr. Michael Greger, goes head to head with nutrient research every day and has used it to come up with his “Daily Dozen”, a list of twelve elements that you should take into account every day in order to reach optimal health through the WFPB diet. 

The origin of the Daily Dozen

To illustrate, Dr. Greger writes about how the twelve foods of the Daily Dozen came to be in his book, How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease:

“It seems like every time I come home from the medical library buzzing with some exciting new data, my family rolls their eyes, sighs, and asks, “What can’t we eat know?” Or they’ll say, “Wait a second.  Why does everything seem to have parsley in it all of a sudden?” My poor family.  They’ve been very tolerant.” 

“As the list of foods I tried to fit into my diet grew, I made a checklist and had it on a little dry erase board on the fridge. We would make a game out of ticking off the boxes.  This evolved into the Daily Dozen…”

Is there an app for that?

Dr. Greger realized the value of having the Daily Dozen with you on your mobile device at all times, so the next logical step was to develop the Daily Dozen mobile phone app.  As a result, this free app available in your app store lays out the twelve elements in a simple checklist format.  Once you eat a serving of one of these foods, drink a serving of water or other “green light” beverage, or complete your exercise for that day, you check it off on the list. 

Consequently by the end of the day you should have ideally checked off all of the servings. 

Track your progress

When you using the Daily Dozen, you can easily see which foods belong in each category, how much of the food constitutes a serving, and how many servings you should be eating a day.  Although it’s like the U.S. government’s outdated food pyramid, it was actually created to lengthen your life rather than shorten it. 

The Daily Dozen

1. Beans: 3 servings

2.  Berries: 1 serving

3.  Other fruits: 3 servings

4.  Cruciferous vegetables: 1 serving

5.  Greens: 2 servings

6.  Other vegetables:  2 servings

7.  Flax seeds:  1 serving

8.  Nuts: 1 serving

9.  Spices:  1 serving

10.  Whole Grains: 3 servings

11.  Beverages: 5 servings

12.  Exercise: 1 “serving”

Valuable extras

Vitamin B12: 1 serving

Vitamin D: 1 serving

Once you have skimmed through this list, if you’d like to know which specific foods are included in each category, how large a serving is, and how many servings you should eat a day, please click over to my page on Dr. Michael Greger’s Daily Dozen for more in-depth information.

Doing it in real life

However, Dr. Greger realizes that we don’t live in a perfect world, and that it’s not always possible to eat all of these foods every day.  That is why he has this to say:

“But there is no need to be obsessive about the Daily Dozen.  On hectic travel days when I’ve burned through my snacks and I’m trying to piece together some semblance of a healthy meal at the airport food court, sometimes I’m lucky if I even hit a quarter of my goals.  If you eat poorly one day, just try to eat better the next.  My hope is that the checklist will serve you as a helpful reminder to try to eat a variety of the healthiest foods every day.”

Find it in your phone’s app store

So make sure to load the free Daily Dozen app onto your mobile phone to start tracking your progress eating these super healthy foods each day.  Luckily for us, it’s available for both Apple and Android, so hunt it down in your app store. 

It gets easier!

In addition, as you start to focus on what you should be eating, it becomes a lot easier to leave behind what you shouldn’t be eating.  When this happens, you’ll be so absorbed by trying to learn more about the “green light” foods on the Daily Dozen list and figuring out how to incorporate them into your daily routine. As a result, it will be simpler to start avoiding those “red light” foods like meat, dairy, eggs and oils. 

Plant-based resources

Once you’ve digested the information on this page, take a look at Dr. Michael Greger’s Daily Dozen Checklist, a more in-depth list with the specific foods contained in each category, serving sizes and number of recommended daily servings.

Take your knowledge further

For more background on the Daily Dozen and the foods scientifically proven to prevent and reverse disease, don’t miss Dr. Greger’s book, How Not to Die.  Additionally, he has written the The How Not to Die Cookbook, which shows you how to include those “green light” Daily Dozen checklist foods into recipes for every meal of the day.

And finally, for more plant-based books, including a bunch of great cookbooks, please visit my Resources page.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.
Visit my Resources page.
Hi! I’m Katherine from Plant-Based in Real Life. I blog about the whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet for the prevention and reversal of chronic disease. I love writing about how eating plant-based foods can help you live a long and healthy life. I first learned of the “plant slant”, eating mostly plants for optimal health, from The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner, and my family decided to go entirely plant-based after watching the Forks Over Knives documentary. Originally from the American West, I lived in Mexico for sixteen years, first as a student, then as a wife and mom. I hold an undergraduate degree in International Trade from the Universidad de Guanajuato in central Mexico and a Master in Management from Southern Oregon University. In 2017 I completed the Center for Nutrition Studies’ Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition.


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