Recently there has been a lot of talk from doctors and dieticians of the need to broaden our intake of plant foods. It is thought that a diet rich in a variety of plants is good for our gut, and instead of the old saying of eat '5 a day' we are now being encouraged to eat 30 plant foods a week.
The idea intrigued me a lot, so I set out to increase the plants I eat, which includes wholegrains, nuts, seed, vegetables, fruits, herbs and legumes, and makes lots of delicious recipes. I hope that this will improve my gut health and help my heal from SIBO and long-term antibiotic use.
- Why do I want to eat 30 plant foods in a week?
- Day 1 - off to a plant-based roaring start!
- Day 2 - lots of plant foods cooking at home
- Day 3 - soups and smoothies
- Day 4 - less plants but a fun day out
- Day 5 - struggling to eat new plant foods
- Day 6 - new herbs to enjoy!
- Day 7 - squeezing in new plants at the end of the week
- My end of week thoughts on eating 30 plant foods . . .
- Some great plant-focused cookbooks I love to cook from:
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Why do I want to eat 30 plant foods in a week?
Eating a predominantly plant-based diet has been something I have done since childhood. My mum was always on at my sister and I to eat our veggies and there was definitely no dessert after dinner unless we had! When I was 10 I became vegetarian, but then started to eat fish again a couple of years ago. My veggie count is high, and I love fruits, herbs, nuts and seeds, but I wonder if I tend to eat the same ones rather than a broad variety.
Over the past five or so years I have been diagnosed with a number of chronic illness conditions. One of those is mast cell activation syndrome, for which I eat a low histamine diet. So the foods that I eat are now limited, and I can't eat some of the more usual veggies such as tomatoes, avocados and spinach. While I can eat nuts, I can only eat certain ones and the same is true of all other food groups.
To make matters a little more problematic for my gut health I have been on antibiotics a lot this year for SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and recurrent UTIs. So much so, that I tested positive for MRSA, and the frequency with which I have been on antibiotics is thought to be a factor in this. Of course, I then got put on antibiotics to get rid of the MRSA . . . It's fair to say then, that my gut microbiome is likely not in the best shape, and I want to help it any way I can.
While 30 different plants a week has been the number given by dieticians such as Megan Rossi in her amazing book The Gut Health Doctor (definitely give it a read - it's so helpful), after a few days I thought I would set myself a bigger challenge. Instead of 30 plants, I aimed for 50. So I stocked the fridge and kitchen cupboards the day before and set about making it to 50 different plants in a week. Here's how I got on!
Day 1 - off to a plant-based roaring start!
This was an easy day to start as I was working at home, and so prepared all my meals myself. After going for a run in the morning I was feeling motivated to be healthy and make good food choices.
Breakfast: porridge (oats) with almonds, blueberries and pumpkin seeds. A total of 4 plants.
Lunch was a plant-based feast! It was an eat-up-leftovers meal from the night before. Quinoa cooked with thyme and oregano, mozzarella, tropical coleslaw (made of red and white cabbage, carrot, mango and mint), some apple slices, rocket/ arugula and a sprinkle of basil leaves and pumpkin seeds. I clocked up 11 new plants in one meal!
Snack: mozzarella and cucumber - 1 new plant!
Dinner: white fish with roasted peppers (red and yellow, so 2 plants!), carrots, courgettes/ zucchini and potatoes. This meant 4 new plants.
Total different plants for the day: 20 plants. Off to a roaring start!
Day 2 - lots of plant foods cooking at home
Another day mostly spent at home, but with a medical appointment in the afternoon which meant eating a slightly more rushed dinner than usual as I got home late.
Breakfast: scrambled egg on toast. My bread was wheat with linseeds so 2 new plants.
Lunch: rice salad with radishes, cabbage, rocket, carrot and celery, with mozzarella on the side. Rice, celery and radish make 3 new plants.
Snack: rye bread with my homemade pumpkin seed butter - 3 new plants (rye, coconut and cinnamon)
Dinner: fish with roasted potatoes, and turmeric roasted vegetables - 1 new plant with the turmeric.
Total different plants for the day: 9 plants
Day 3 - soups and smoothies
A lazy(ish) Saturday spent mostly at home. A little run in the morning meant a post-workout smoothie, which was delicious. Struggled a little to eat new plants today though, after doing so well the past two days.
Breakfast: nothing new, porridge with blueberries and my pumpkin seed butter.
Post-run snack: my cherry, coconut and oat smoothie - 1 new plant with the cherries!
Lunch: home-made vegetable pasta soup, with ginger (new plant), oregano and sage (new plant). So 2 new plants.
Dinner: veggie sausages (yes, a little suspect histamine-wise!), with squash (new plant), carrots and new potatoes with lots of herbs including tarragon as a new plant. So 2 new plants.
Total different plants for the day: 5 plants
Day 4 - less plants but a fun day out
Really lovely Sunday with blue skies and bright sunshine so I went to Kew Gardens with my mum and then for a wander around Richmond. I wasn't feeling great, with vestibular migraine symptoms kicking up a bit more than usual. So I was opting for a lot of stodgy food!
Breakfast: porridge again, I'm such a creature of habit in the morning!
Snack: Went to Pret and got a spelt cookie, which was delicious! So 2 new plants with spelt and cranberries.
Lunch: An egg mayo and cress sandwich from Pret, with a packet of crisps (don't judge!) and some blueberries. One new plant with the cress.
Dinner: this was a got-in-late rushed dinner of some leftover pasta veggie soup, and a roll with mozzarella. No new plants.
Total different plants for the day: 3 plants
Day 5 - struggling to eat new plant foods
Really tired this morning after walking a massive 21,000 steps yesterday. Spent the morning working in a coffee shop and then did more work and housework at home. Plus a little recipe testing of new low histamine recipes for here on the blog!
Breakfast: toast with my pumpkin seed butter and a handful of blueberries.
Snack: A coffee and a Pulsin bar with dates. 1 new plant.
Lunch: sweet potato quinoa risotto with mixed vegetables and herbs, but no new plants.
Dinner: some leftovers of the sweet potato risotto I had for lunch, plus half a mozzarella sandwich - yes, a weirdo combo but it's what I fancied. No new plants again.
Total different plants for the day: 1 plant
Day 6 - new herbs to enjoy!
A busy day going to a hospital appointment and then doing some Christmas shopping with my mum in central London, so I ate both my lunch and a few snacks at a cafe. This makes diversity of plants a little easier sometimes as they use ingredients I don't tend to, but can be really tricky on a low histamine diet.
Breakfast: scrambled egg on toast.
Mid-morning snack: Pret spelt cookie and decaf coffee.
Lunch: Pret vegetarian Christmas sandwich. This was the best choice I could find in terms of histamine. It was squash, rocket, and pesto made of pine nuts, sunflower seeds, parsley and rosemary (4 new plants), as well as crispy onions and pecans (2 new plants). So 6 new plants in one sandwich!
Mid-afternoon snack: 2 brazil nuts and blueberries. 1 new plant with the brazils.
Dinner: veggie sausages as I was super tired, with mixed vegetables and sweet potatoes. One new plant with green pepper.
Total different plants for the day: 7 plants
Day 7 - squeezing in new plants at the end of the week
It was cold and rainy so I did some recipe testing at home for my low histamine holiday menu. So much fun being able to eat a fancier lunch than usual! I tried to eat more protein and veggie-focused today as yesterday was rather carby.
Breakfast: scrambled egg on toast.
Lunch: honey baked ricotta and butternut squash traybake - so fancy for lunch on a Wednesday but I was recipe testing! Love this recipe which is now up on the blog. 2 new plants.
Dinner: sweet potato quinoa risotto again as it's one of my favourites!
Total different plants for the day: 2
And the grand total for the week: 47 different plants
My end of week thoughts on eating 30 plant foods . . .
I loved doing this challenge! Eating good food and cooking are some of my favourite things to do, and I love sharing recipes here and on my Instagram. This challenge was perfect for me as I had been in a tiny bit of a rut eating the same meals over and over. I'm a little disappointed I didn't get to 50 plants, but I think that was a bit ambitious!
There were a few things I wasn't sure about during the challenge though. One was the quantity of food needed to count as a new plant. Was my little sprinkle of a herb enough? Or the dates in a Pulsin bar?
I also wasn't sure about whether to count certain foods or not (so I didn't). For example, I used the Pulsin brown rice concentrate in my smoothie, which is brown rice but didn't know if that counted. I had a sandwich from Pret and so there may have been other grains in the bread besides wheat (should have checked the packaging but I forgot - whoops!). And does coffee count as a a plant food? Or honey? Lots of questions, but not sure of the answers!
The best bit about the challenge of eating 30 plant foods in a week was trying new foods and making my meals more interesting. It was fun to have such a variety of tastes and textures and know that as well as being delicious they were really healthy and hopefully helping my gut too. Why not give it a go yourself and let me know how you get on!
I have my follow-up test for SIBO in a few weeks, so wish me luck that all this good food helped me out!
Some great plant-focused cookbooks I love to cook from:
Please follow the advice of your doctor as to all medical treatments, supplements, and dietary choices, as set out in my disclaimer. I am not a medical professional, and this post, as well as all other posts on this blog, are for informational purposes only.