There may be no better way to kickstart your 2021 health goals than by focusing on behavioral changes toward eating healthier. It is vital to follow a nutrient-packed diet to be the best version of yourself in 2021! One easy way to do this is to make more of your meals and snacks from scratch. Making your own food at home not only helps you control the flavors and ingredients but also allows you to eat more whole foods!

Another way to make sure your diet is nutrient-rich is to eat plenty of plants. A plant-based diet includes 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. Instead, you choose the majority of your foods from plant sources on a daily basis. Plant-based diets contain nutrients that help preserve brain health. A plant-based diet may help prevent the leading causes of death in the US, including heart disease and diabetes. In fact, plants are packed with phytonutrients— naturally occurring chemical compounds found in plant foods that contribute to the color of fruits, vegetables, herbs, teas, legumes, and grains. These are disease-fighting nutrients with antioxidant effects!

Learn more about phytonutrients here.

If eating healthier and sustainably is one of your resolutions for 2021, check out our 31 challenges below. We outline some creative strategies that you can implement throughout this month and the rest of this year to incorporate more healthy foods into your diet!

The daily challenges emphasize 3 areas: behavioral changes to help you eat more plant-based foods, nutrition education to help you make smart choices, and sustainable eating to help you be mindful of the environment. If you already include many plant-based foods into your diet, you can still have fun with our challenges! 

Download a visual calendar of the challenges here.

Let’s begin!

Meal prep can save you time and money. It ensures you always have healthy meals to eat.

Day 1-  Keep a food journal 

Long-term dietary changes can be difficult to make. Tracking your progress can help. By keeping track of your behavior, you motivate yourself to change by becoming more accountable. For instance, you can keep track of your fruit and veggie intake 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 rest of the challenges.

Day 2- Remove the unhealthy snacks in your kitchen

If you don’t see it, you won’t eat it. Set yourself up for success by  creating an environment that helps you have good habits. Food cravings can be triggered by external food cues in the surrounding environment (like the stash of cookies you keep on your desk) which activate the brain reward system. Dedicate today to getting rid of unhealthy snacks in your kitchen.

Day 3- Meal prep day for the week

Prepare as many healthy meals or multi-purpose whole grain as you can two days a week (for example, Sunday and Wednesday), divide them into sustainable food containers and you have nutritious food all set to go for the whole week. This will save you time and money! In addition, you can multitask by using your oven and stovetop to prepare more than one meal at once. To keep food as fresh as possible, check the FDA’s guidelines for fridge and freezer storage of prepared foods to keep them safe and flavorful.

Day 4- Include legumes in one of your meals today

Legumes are a class of vegetables that includes beans, peas and lentils. They are low in fat and calories, but rich in folate and protein— the most satiating of all the macronutrients containing 10-20 grams per serving. Because legumes contain less fat than a serving of meat, you can eat more plant protein foods while consuming fewer calories, making them an excellent choice for a well-balanced diet.

Day 5- Meatless Taco Tuesday

Tacos are a great way to incorporate more vegetables in your diet! Tonight, make tacos using mushrooms, beans or lentils instead of ground meat. Legumes are high-protein plant foods low in fat and calories: it contains less fat than a serving of meat thus you can eat more plant protein foods for fewer calories making it an excellent choice for a well-balanced diet. Add extra flavour with onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and avocado!

Top view of a rustic wood table filled with a large assortment of nuts like pistachios, hazelnut, pine nut, almonds, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, cashew and walnuts. Some nuts are in brown bowls and others are placed directly on the table. Predominant color is brown. DSRL studio photo taken with Canon EOS 5D Mk II and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM
Nuts and seeds promote heart health.

Day 6- Snack on mixed nuts and seeds 

Bring a bag of mixed nuts and seeds with you today in case hunger strikes before your next meal. Nuts and seeds provide protein, dietary fiber and healthy fats that can help you lose weight and improve your heart and metabolic health. Nut consumption is associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease and sudden cardiac death in humans. Seeds contain plant-based essential omega-3 fatty acids known to decrease inflammation and to protect the brain from neurological disorders such as stroke and dementia in adults.

Day 7-Eat a salad or soup at the beginning of both lunch and dinner

Try to include vegetables from all vegetable subgroups in your diet on a weekly if not a daily basis: a) cruciferous and dark-green vegetables (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, etc) , b) starchy vegetables and legumes (beans, peas, butternut squash, etc), c) red and orange vegetables, d) water-rich and other vegetables. (Learn more about these vegetable groups in the LIFE Extend mobile app!)

Day 8- Try a mediterranean-style meal

Try one of the world’s healthiest ways of eating: the Mediterranean Diet. A Mediterranean-style diet typically includes fruits, vegetables and legumes, along with whole grains, nuts, potatoes, olive oil, and a small amount of poultry and fish. A plant-based Mediterranean-style diet is associated with many health benefits including control of blood sugar levels and body weight. You can add vegetables to your breakfast to boost your fiber intake For instance, add avocado or tomato slices to your toast, or add spinach to your scrambled eggs!

Day 9- Buy a fruit or veggie from your local farmer

Today, look for a farmers market or an independent, locally-owned business to buy fruits or veggies. Local foods not only travel less, but you’ll be supporting farmers and producers from your community. You not only get locally-grown produce, but you get to meet the farmers that are growing your food, see smiling faces, try awesome food samples, and hear live music!

Day 10- Declutter Sunday!

Clean your kitchen – including cupboards, fridge, freezer, and pantry – and then stock up on healthy, whole foods and minimally processed ingredients. This will give you a sense of clean eating and no excuses to eat poorly!

coupe en verre remplie de fruits
Keep a fruit bowl in a visible place.

Day 11- Keep a bowl of fruit in sight

Keep a good amount of fresh fruit (e.g. oranges, bananas, apples) around so they’re quick and easy to grab when you’re hungry. Bananas are a great source of a vitamin B6, a water-soluble vitamin essential for the synthesis of several neurotransmitters, and potassium, a mineral important for transmitting nerve impulses. Apples are associated with a reduced risk of different types of cancer . So, keep in mind: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”!

Day 12- Bring your lunch to work

Home cooking increases your awareness for healthy eating and saves you time and money in the long run. You’ll also notice that you use less disposable food packaging and tableware, which is also more eco-friendly!

Day 13- Try a breakfast cereal without the added sugar

This is a real challenge because the majority of breakfast cereals include sugar. Always make sure to check the food label for added sugar! The more often an individual is exposed to sweet foods, the higher the preference for sweet taste. Try oatmeal, corn flakes or muesli as these are durable and have high nutritional value. 

Day 14- Eat a fruit or veggie you’ve never tried before

Vary your fruit and veggie choices to keep meals interesting! Treat yourself to a trip to the farmers market: it can be a great place to discover and try a new food! 

Day 15- Add an extra glass of water to your daily intake

Try to maintain your hydration levels by having a water bottle on hand, filled with tap water or home-filtered water. Be creative and prepare lemonades with fresh herbs like mint (no added sugar here!)

Day 16- Try a home-made pizza!

Tonight, skip the take-out pizza and bake your own. Homemade pizza can be tastier and more nutritious because you can control what ingredients go in it. You can buy whole-wheat pizza dough or bake it yourself. Add tomatoes, mushrooms and a mix of veggies (red peppers and eggplant work particularly well). Eating vegetables will help you increase antioxidant intake which is known to prevent cognitive decline related to aging and disease.

Family sitting at a dinner table together serving a meal, overhead view
Eating at the table and without distractions can help you eat more mindfully.

Day 17- Share a meal with people you love

The Mediterranean diet, one of the world’s healthiest ways of eating, emphasizes gathering and eating together: mealtimes are an event to be enjoyed and shared! In fact, in several European countries, dinner (aka the family meal) is usually taken very seriously. It will benefit your mental health by nurturing affection and connection with those around you!

Day 18- Give frozen fruits and veggies a chance

Local farmers often sell very fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmers market and some of the freshest fruits and vegetables would come from your own garden. But if you cannot get them fresh you may be surprised with how convenient it is to buy frozen fruits and vegetables. Evidence shows that supermarket produce has similar antioxidant activity and nutrient content compared to frozen varieties.

Day 19- Use every part of a vegetable

Plant-based cooking can be one of the most wasteful things we do because parts of the vegetable we don’t usually cook with are thrown away. But fear not! There are several vegetables that can be eaten from root to stem. Today while you’re cooking, try to use the remaining parts of vegetables— such as asparagus ends, beet greens, broccoli stalks and leaves, carrot tops, cauliflower stems and leaves, celery leaves, fennel stalks and fronds, leek greens, and radish leaves— to add flavor to homemade soups, stews, and stocks. Potato peels are extremely delicious roasted. You can also store these veggie parts in the freezer until you’re ready to make a stock (which can be added to noodles to increase the nutrient content of these meals). 

Day 20- Pair a healthy fish with a side of veggies and whole grain for a well-rounded plate

Mediterranean diets are neuroprotective and typically include the consumption of vegetables, whole grains, fish and olive oil. 

Day 21- Take a veggie you dislike and try cooking it a different way

Keep your intake high by finding new ways to cook the vegetables you love and the ones that are not really your cup of tea. If you don’t like a certain veggie that you’ve only tried boiled, give roasting a try (e.g. bitter veggies such as brussels sprouts). You can also cook a veggie omelet with a veggie you dislike or cook it together with a friend or relative that can show you how they enjoy it! 

Day 22- Eat locally seasonal produce

Locally seasonal means that food is produced in the natural production season and consumed within the same climatic zone. Produce that are in-season are more likely to be fresh, be at its peak for flavor, be consumed closer to harvesting (they have less travel to get to you and are usually produced by local growers) and be higher in nutritional value. In addition, seasonal produce is a great way to try new foods: it will vary by growing conditions and weather so it is good to explore different fruits and vegetables throughout the year!

Day 23- Skip the booze tonight

Instead of beer or wine tonight have a cup of tea to unwind after dinner. Several teas or herbal infusions have antioxidant benefits, can make you feel cozy as the temperatures drop, and can improve your sleep quality. Or you can swap in a delicious fruit mocktail tonight instead!

Day 24- Prepare soup in advance and freeze in small containers

It will help you get rich nutrients from vegetables and legumes and will provide hydration in the long run. If you lack freezer space, try to prepare a concentrated soup version, adding more water after defrosting. 

Day  25- Try a light salad

Olive oil is low in saturated fat and it’s associated with an improved blood lipid profile. Olive oil decreases blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels to a greater extent than other plant oils. Try it in your salad together with some garlic and oregano.

Day 26- Try home-made yoghurt! 

Plain natural yoghurt can improve the function of your gut microbiome, the collection of microbes in your gut that plays an important role in your health and in your immune system! The microbes in yoghurt can prevent disease-causing bacteria from taking over your gut. You can use a yoghurt maker and add fruits, nuts or seeds as you wish. You can even make Greek yoghurt at home! Give it a try!

Chopped artichokes fried in oil served on white plate.
Fight bitterness by adding other flavors like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and spices.

Day 27- Spice up bitter greens

Green leafy vegetables (kale, turnip greens and mustard greens) and broccoli are nutrient-packed foods. They are high in vitamin A, C and folate (vital during pregnancy and childhood). In addition, kale or mustard greens contain lutein, a carotenoid that enhances antioxidant defense and prevents damage in the brain,  and broccoli contains many healthy phytochemicals with protective effects against neurodegenerative diseases. Although these are among the most bitter produce, you can try to fight bitterness by adding other flavors like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and spices (salt, pepper, basil) so you don’t miss all the great nutritional value!

Day 28- Eat all meals sitting down around the table

Eating while sitting down without distractions or other technology will help you not only actively listen to others (fostering social connection) but also focus on the simple pleasure of eating a meal. By being present and mindful about your meal, you’ll recognize when you’re full and when you should stop eating. Overall, it will help you focus on taking care of your body, your mind and your relationships.

Day 29- Treat yourself!

Sip on a soothing drink such as ginger-lemon or mint-rose infusion, or even hot cocoa/dark chocolate). These are rich in antioxidants that protect your body from environmental stressors, reduce inflammation and improve heart and brain health. You can also enjoy comfort food such as a pancake breakfast made with overripe banana batter and served with crunchy, toasted pecan nuts!

Day 30- Make your own tomato purée to make flavorful sauces and dips

Homemade tomato purée is super healthy: you just use tomatoes and water to make it, so there is no sugar or preservatives added to it. In addition, red tomatoes contain substantial amounts of lycopene, a carotenoid that improves insulin resistance, inflammation and lipid metabolism dysfunction in preclinical studies. High concentrations of lycopene in the body decrease the risk of stroke in humans. You can add olive oil, garlic, salt, basil and bay leaf for extra flavor and freeze it!

Day 31- Bake home-made bread! 

Some bread loaves are high in fat and sugar and you can spot these because a bread loaf prepared with fat has a softer, smoother texture and stays fresher longer than those without added fat (e.g. focaccia, buns and rolls). Today’s challenge is baking bread at home which will help you control the flavors and ingredients. Choose whole-wheat bread or multigrain sourdough which contains higher amount of fiber, beneficial for your gut bacteria and also improves stool frequency and regularity.

You made it! If you followed along with all or most of these challenges, send us an email at learn@lifeomic.com and tell us how it went and how it helped you— We’d love to know!

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