There may be no better way to kickstart your 2020 health goals than by eating healthier, by eating more healthy plants – fruits and vegetables.

All dietary patterns scientifically shown to improve health and reduce disease risk incorporate lots of healthy plants. Whether you never eat fruits and veggies, or you regularly include them in your meals, you could greatly benefit from eating more of them. Fruits and vegetables contain essential nutrients including vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber, which reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, several types of cancer, type II diabetes, depression, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Plant-based foods also promote beneficial gut bacteria. These good bacteria in your gut metabolize fiber (break it down) into short-chain fatty acids that keep your heart and brain healthy. 

Are you trying to eat keto in the new year? Vegetables and many fruits are staples of a healthy keto diet. Learn more here.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an adult consuming 2,000 calories per day should be eating 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day. These numbers may sound daunting, but meeting these daily requirements doesn’t have to be. You can make it fun for yourself by trying new recipes or by buying fruits and veggies you’ve never tried before. If cost is a concern, try canned of frozen fruits and veggies without salt or sugar added. They are still nutritious and consuming them still counts toward the recommended daily intake. 

If eating healthier is one of your resolutions for 2020, check out our 31-day challenge for healthier (plant-based) eating below. We outline some creative strategies that you can implement throughout this month and the rest of this year to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet!

Do you find that you rarely eat plant-based foods? Start with small changes such as eating fruit for dessert or substituting one processed food with a vegetable each day. For example, instead of potato chips, try homemade kale chips; instead of morning cereal (yes, cereal is processed and typically contains added sugars), try a veggie omelette.

If you only eat plant-based foods occasionally and want to increase your intake, try to plan your meals ahead of time. Cut up fruits and veggies at the beginning of the week, including bell peppers, celery, snap peas, cucumbers, apples and pears, to snack on during the day or to add to any meal.

If you already include many plant-based foods into your diet, you can still have fun with our challenges! Keep your intake high by finding new ways to cook the vegetables you love. Adding variety to your menu will make you more likely to eat fruits and veggies more often, and greater variety of plant-based will offer you greater variety of health-promoting vitamins, antioxidants, gut healthy fibers and more.

Stay tuned for more healthy eating resources, blog posts and much more this month at Learn more about the benefits of eating more fruits and veggies with our healthy plants FAQ here

Need more help? You can chat with one of our certified nutrition experts about your healthy eating and plant-based diet questions by clicking the Connect icon in the lower right-hand corner of this blog post!

Eat healthier in 2020 with more plants.

31 Daily Challenges to Eat More Plants in 2020

Download a visual calendar of the following challenges here.

1. (Jan 1) Keep track of your fruit and veggie intake with the LIFE Extend app!

Long-term dietary changes can be difficult to make. Tracking your progress can help. Keep count of your consumption of healthy plants with the LIFE Extend app. Use it to determine how many servings of fruits and veggies you’re getting daily and to see how your intake increases as you complete the challenges below.

2. (Jan 2) Substitute one of your usual carbs with a vegetable today.

For example, you can substitute rice with cauliflower rice, or pasta with zucchini or butternut squash noodles. Zucchini walnut bread is an excellent idea for adding a vegetable to your breakfast!

3. (Jan 3) Take a break… from meat.

A plant-based diet is a diet that includes foods primarily from plants. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and oils. Eating a plant-based diet doesn’t mean that you never eat meat, fish, eggs or dairy, but instead, you choose the majority of your foods from plant sources on a daily basis.

Start by reducing the frequency of meat meals you have per day or have smaller portions of meat per meal. Reducing your meat consumption will force you to fill your plate with other (hopefully healthier!) foods, including plants! You don’t need meat to get protein into your diet – protein-rich healthy plants include legumes (green beans, peas, beans).  

4. (Jan 4) Try roasting some cruciferous vegetables with olive oil today!

Have you decided that you don’t like cruciferous veggies like brussels sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.? Or do you just not eat these plants very often? Today, try roasting one or more of these cruciferous vegetables in a simple pan in the oven or on the stovetop with some olive oil, some balsamic vinegar (or even some honey or cheese!) and sea salt. Try not to overcook these veggies – remove them from the heat while they are still crunchy. This will decrease the famous bitterness of these vegetables – you may find that you actually love them!

Cruciferous vegetables are low-calorie foods rich in folate, vitamin A, vitamin C and fiber. They contain bioactive components that may have beneficial effects in some type of cancers and help reduce the risk of cardiovascular and neurological diseases.

Try roasting cauliflower and carrots with olive oil and seasoning.

5. (Jan 5)  Drink your fruits and veggies: Make a smoothie.

Blend whole vegetables with a base such as coconut water or macadamia nut milk with a protein powder if desired to get in some extra greens! If you like your smoothies sweet yet need to get more vegetables into your diet, you can blend fruit such as pineapple and strawberries with greens such as kale or spinach leaves into the same smoothie!

6. (Jan 6) Build a meal around a colorful salad!

Start by filling a bowl with salad greens and then add a mix of other colorful vegetables on top along with legumes, beans, peas or tofu. Sprinkle in some seeds and/or dried fruit and use olive oil and fresh herbs as salad dressing. Whether you keep these ingredients at home (try your local produce stand for affordable items!) or visit your favorite grocery salad bar, this is an easy and super healthy meal!

7. (Jan 7) Mix it up. Plant variety will improve your health.

Try to include vegetables from all vegetable subgroups in your diet on a weekly if not a daily basis – try it today for an extra challenge!) The vegetable subgroups are: a) cruciferous and dark-green vegetables, b) starchy vegetables and legumes, c) red and orange vegetables, d) water-rich and other vegetables. Learn more about and browse these vegetable groups in the LIFE Extend mobile app!

Eating different types of fruits and vegetables daily gives you extra benefits, because all fruits and vegetables contain their own unique mix of beneficial plant compounds. This is why it is so important to combine, mix and vary your fruits and veggies.

8. (Jan 8) Eat whole grains for breakfast.

Amaranth, quinoa, oats – all are examples of whole grains. Add nuts or seeds to oatmeal along with fresh fruit. This way your breakfast could count as two or three plant categories in one!

Check out more examples here.

Fruit is a great addition to breakfast – and can be a dessert all on its own! Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash.

9. (Jan 9 ) Choose fruit for dessert.

Choose whole fruit as it contains higher amounts of fiber. Sweet seasonal options include cherries, figs and peaches in the summer, apples in the fall, citrus fruit in the winter and spring!

10. (Jan 10) Eat a fruit or vegetable that you’ve never tried before.

Part of the reason you might not be eating a lot of vegetables is that you’re tired of always eating the same ones. Make a trip to the supermarket and grab a veggie that looks appealing but that you’ve never tried before. Buy a small amount of it at first – If you don’t like it, you won’t have spent too much for nothing. If you think it’s ok or if you like it, you can buy more of it in the future and prepare a larger meal with it!

11. (Jan 11) Include a fruit or vegetable at every meal.

Include a vegetable or fruit in each meal today, starting with breakfast. If you are sticking to basics and choosing protein, veggies and starch, eat your veggies first. Ideas include adding fruit to your oatmeal for breakfast, eating a salad with lunch and dinner, and eating fruit for dessert!

12. (Jan 12) Meal prep day! Cut up some veggies for snacks this week.

Cut up vegetables / fruits like bell peppers, celery, snap peas, jicama, cucumbers, apples, pears, etc. to snack on during the days or to add to any meal! 

13. (Jan 13) Substitute one processed food with a vegetable today.

People with better quality diets are less likely to be depressed, whereas people who eat more processed and unhealthy foods are more likely to report depression and anxiety. Reduce your consumption of processed food today and include fruits and veggies instead. For example, instead of potato chips, try homemade, baked kale chips; and instead of cereal, try one of these veggie omelettes. To cut down on processed food, avoid foods that come in packages or that you can’t recognize as something that came from the ground or a specific animal part. Learn more about processed foods here.

14. (Jan 14) Eat green veggies to keep depression at bay.

Leafy greens, fresh herbs, lettuce, peppers and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli promote brain health and protect against depression. These foods contain nutrients that improve mental health, including iron, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, B-vitamins, zinc, magnesium, vitamin D and other plant chemicals. Include them in your lunch or dinner for today!

15. (Jan 15) Include nuts, seeds and/or olive oil in your diet today.

Nuts, seeds and olive oil contain protein, dietary fiber and healthy fats that can help you lose weight and improve your heart and metabolic health. Nuts (almonds, pecans, etc.) may reduce your risk of heart disease – Add them to your vegetables or fruit salads and deserts. Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, etc.) contain plant-based essential omega 3 fatty acids that decrease inflammation and protect the brain – eat them as snacks or add them to a salad. Finally, olive oil decreases blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels – Add it to a salad or use it to roast your vegetables today.

16. (Jan 16) Eat spinach or arugula today – try them together in a spinach-arugula soup!

Spinach is a great way to add high nutrient value to any meal. It is high in vitamin A and a good source of vitamin C, folate, iron and niacin, a brain-protective vitamin that helps repair damaged DNA.

Arugula is a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli! It is a great source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Enjoy it to maintain a healthy gut. Try this recipe of spinach-arugula soup created by Stephanie Krizman.

Spinach and Arugula Soup


  • 1 cup of diced, yellow onion
  • 2 cups of peeled, diced russet potato
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 cups of vegetable broth
  • 4 cups of fresh spinach
  • 2 cups of arugula
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Squeeze of 1 lemon


  1. Sauté onion in 3 tbs of olive oil until translucent.
  2. Add potatoes, thyme, and bay leaf. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add broth and cook until potatoes are tender.
  3. Add greens, salt, pepper, and lemon. Cover pot and simmer just until greens are wilted. Place soup in a blender and purée. Season and garnish with olive oil drizzle, croutons, and herbs
  4. Enjoy!

17. (Jan 17) Try a new recipe using a fruit or vegetable that you love.

Finding new ways to cook your favorite veggies will add variety to your menu and will make you more likely to eat them more often. Think of a vegetable you love to eat and find a new way to cook it today. For example, you might already be used to eating roasted butternut squash, but how about butternut squash stuffed with a veggie mixture of garlic, thyme, potato, carrot and parsnip? Try this stuffed butternut squash recipe by Stephanie Krizman.

Butternut squash prep!


  • 3 small butternut squash
  • 3/4 cup small diced yellow onion
  • 1 deseeded, diced green chili
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
  • 1tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 2 cups diced, peeled russet potato
  • 1 cup diced, peeled carrot
  • 1 cup diced, peeled parsnips
  • 1 cup veggie stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup of cilantro
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 1 cup of bread crumbs


  1. Cut squashes in 1/2 and scoop out seeds. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper
  2. Preheat oven to 350 and place them cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake until tender, approximately 45 min- 1hour.
  3. In a large saute pan, roast spices in 3 Tbs olive oil until fragrant.
  4. Add onion + chili; sauté until tender.
  5. Add garlic, thyme, potato, carrot, parsnip, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add vegetable stock. Cover and simmer until most of the stock is absorbed.
  6. Season with salt and Pepper and allow to cool.
  7. Fold in chopped cilantro and shredded cheese.
  8. Fill squash with vegetable mixture and top with buttered breadcrumbs
  9. Return squash to 350 oven and bake until breadcrumbs are golden brown and fragrant— approximately 35 minutes
  10. Enjoy!

18. (Jan 18) Take a vegetable that you dislike and try cooking it a different way.

Today we have a real challenge for you!

Maybe you hate the bitter taste of Brussels sprouts, but how about mixing them with other foods you like? Try this Brussels sprout salad with parmesan cheese, pomegranate seeds and toasted almonds. Maybe you dislike the texture of roasted eggplant, but how about smashing it into a dip? Try this dip recipe to eat with your crunchy veggies or to spread on your sandwich.

Congratulate yourself for trying something anew – even if you still dislike it!

19. (Jan 19) Keep a bowl of fruit in sight.

You’ll be more likely to snack on fruits if you have them nearby!

Keep fruit on your kitchen counter – it’ll help you eat more healthy plants and grab for a healthier snack instead of processed foods like cereal bars or chips. Photo by Iwona Łach on Unsplash.

20. (Jan 20) Substitute your afternoon soda with 1/2 cup of 100% juice.

100% juice (no sugar added) counts toward your daily fruit and vegetable intake. Although whole fruit is generally preferred due to its high fiber content, juices can still be beneficial to your health. A study found that freshly squeezed orange juice contains the same β-carotene and vitamin C levels as whole fruit! Enjoy a glass of freshly-squeezed OJ today, to replace a soda or other afternoon pick-me-up beverage.

21. (Jan 21) Experiment! Add fruit to your veggie salad – or a veggie to your fruit salad!

Mix your fruits and veggies today! You might enjoy a salad more if you put some fruit on it – green apples, strawberries and oranges go well with lettuce and other leafy greens. You could also add a veggie to a fruit dish to add some spice! Try this watermelon, cucumber and mint dish

22. (Jan 22) Give frozen fruits and vegetables a chance.

Fruits and vegetables can be expensive and many don’t last very long. If money is an obstacle, try frozen or canned  fruits and veggies instead. Stock up today! They last longer which lowers the risk that you’ll waste a tight budget on a food item that spoils before you have the chance to eat it. Just look for frozen and canned fruits and veggies that don’t have any salt or sugar added. 

If you still prefer fresh fruits and veggies, go for produce that stays good for a longer time (on the range of 1-2 weeks or longer), including apples, pears, melons, raisins, bell peppers, cabbage, citrus fruits, oranges, potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, beets, pumpkin and squash.

23. (Jan 23) Replace butter with mashed avocado today.

Replace butter on your toast or other food item today with mashed avocado! Avocados are low in glycemic index and high in fiber and plant fats. They are also a great source of vitamins C, E, K, and B-6, as well as riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and potassium

24. (Jan 24) Pile on the fruits and veggies – add extra plants to lunch or dinner dish.

One easy way to increase your fruit and veggie intake is to simply add more to what you’re already eating. Does your recipe call for 1 cup of broccoli? Add 2. Do you usually eat 1/2 a cup of berries for dessert? Make it one full cup. By eating more fruits and vegetables you will get more essential nutrients into your diet – without adding many calories. These nutrients include vitamins, minerals and other beneficial plant compounds such as phytochemicals.

25. (Jan 25) Eat a raw vegetables or fruit as a snack today!

In general, cooking vegetables reduces the availability of important micronutrients. Carrots, celery, tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers taste great raw. A recent study showed that raw fruit and vegetables, including carrots, bananas, apples, spinach, grapefruit, lettuce, citrus fruits, fresh berries, cucumber and kiwifruit, were associated with reduced depressive symptoms and better mood. Enjoy them with some hummus or your favorite dip.

26. (Jan 26) Make a sauce with fresh fruit.

Puree apples, berries, peaches or pears in a blender to get a thick, sweet sauce that you can use on your fish, chicken or steak – or even in a breakfast or dessert bowl!

27-31. (Jan 27 – 31) Eat vegetables from all 5 major groups this week!

The U.S. Department of Agriculture categorizes vegetables into five major groups:

  1. Red and orange vegetables (e.g. tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, etc.)
  2. Starchy vegetables (e.g. potatoes, peas, corn, etc.)
  3. Other vegetables (e.g. cauliflower, celery, peppers, mushrooms, etc.)
  4. Dark-green vegetables (e.g. leafy greens, broccoli, etc.)
  5. Beans and peas (e.g. black beans, kidney beans, etc.)

A healthy balanced vegetable intake includes a variety of vegetables. The order that they are laid out above shows you how much of each to get, in decreasing order, according to the USDA. Over the course of a week, the groups of vegetables you should get the highest amounts of are red and orange vegetables and starchy vegetables – although more people meet the recommendations for starchy veggies than for dark-green, red and orange and other veggies, so you may want to focus special efforts there! Beans and legumes also count as veggies – they are high in fiber, protein and also carbohydrates. Mix it up so you can have all of these vegetable groups by the end of this week!

The above is not medical advice. Prior to participating in any wellness challenge, you are encouraged to consult a qualified health professional.