21 Day Whole Food Plant Based Meal Challenge

This Fall I spent five wonderful weeks immersed in Minnesota life, kids, grandkids, violin and piano lessons, soccer practices in the rain, 500 Rummy and Ticket to Ride games, reading stories, and over-indulging at local restaurants! While my heart was full, so was my belly and I gained a few pounds.

Photo Credit: grandson, Levi

My doctor once told me for every decade of life we need to increase our exercise and decrease our calorie intake. Certainly not rocket science, but in my relatively new decade of the 60’s, I guess it’s time to take that seriously.

Interestingly, when I arrived home from MN a food challenge popped up in my FB newsfeed. It was developed by an integrative specialist at the University of California Davis Integrative Medicine center (UCDIM). The post caught my attention because my family doctor, who I respect greatly, also practices integrative medicine.

UCDIM was sponsoring a 21 Whole Food Plant Based Eating Challenge replete with an online support group, meal planning calendar, and recipes.

A whole-food, plant-based diet is centered on whole, unrefined, or minimally refined plants. It’s a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes; and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil. (Forks Over Knives)

Maybe? I’m a little weird, but this challenge sounded intriguing. Perhaps I’d lose a little weight in the process! So I gave it a try and actually stuck with it for the full three weeks.

I am surprised by several of the outcomes~

  1. I always felt full. Amazingly, eating fruits, grains, vegetables, tubers, and legumes did not leave me hungry.
  2. I did not crave sugar.
  3. I did not miss meat, even chicken, which I love.
  4. I like Mediterranean meals.
  5. I did not miss salt when cooking with a good blend of spices and herbs.
  6. Sauteing with vegetable stock works and is quite palatable. I did not miss olive oil, which I love as much as chicken.
  7. I missed grabbing my favorite snacks such as cheese and crackers or a handful of chocolate chips, or a piece of dark chocolate, or about anything chocolate. I was surprised how dependent I am on those snacks.
  8. My go to cheap coffee treat wasn’t such a treat anymore. McDonald’s 79 cents senior coffee with three creams began making my stomach hurt. The little processed cream it offered just didn’t sit well with me.

And a few things I already knew~

  1. My kitchen would be extra messy due to the prep it takes for WFPB meals.
  2. Food prep would be time consuming.
  3. I wouldn’t like most Asian spices and vinegars that the recipes required.
  4. Tofu would continue to gross me out and I would ignore meals with tofu.
  5. My husband wouldn’t be eating like this due to his food sensitivities.
  6. All natural Ohio maple syrup is my friend.
  7. I don’t plan on shunning meat, dairy, or sugar forever.
  8. Making vegetable stock is rewarding. I suppose that’s a little silly, but it makes me feel so resourceful. I regularly save veggie scraps in the freezer for a big crockpot of stock when I’m running low.

What I will do more often because of this challenge~

  1. Make more vegetable stock. Here’s a quick lesson if you wonder how to do it.
Put a bunch of veggie scraps such as celery, peppers, and green bean ends, carrot, onion and potato peels, etc. in a crockpot and fill with water. I keep a running batch of them in the freezer that I add to when I prepare food. Fill crockpot with water, set on low for about 8 hours give or take.
Strain stock into a large bowl. Pour into jars, filling to an inch from the top. Freeze. I keep the larger one in the fridge to have on hand for sautéing.

2. I’ll eat more oatmeal for breakfast. This Banana Bread Crockpot Oatmeal is so satisfying and tasteful. It truly tastes like yummy banana bread. I especially like the consistency which is fluffier and more pleasant than gloppier oatmeal.


A small crockpot that my daughter gave me is the perfect size for this recipe when cut in half. I end up with leftovers for two more breakfasts (less if I can get Jim to eat it). Or for those of you with kids at home just make the recipe as written and cook in a regular size crockpot.

For recipe, go here.

Peaches from my freezer and a few fresh banana slices on top~ or go with a drizzle of maple syrup

3. I hope to experiment more with oil-free dressings. In a WFPB diet, oils are out because they are a processed food. One of my former students, a nutritionist and specialist in eating disorders, suggested I sauté my vegetables in water. I think I looked at her like she was crazy. The fine folks at Today’s Kitchen Store  proposed I omit oil from my salad dressings and use fruit or herb flavored vinegars. Then I read Forks Over Knives which preaches the same thing about going oil free.

Hearing this three times was a charm so I tried out  Jane Esseltyn’s 3-2-1 Salad Dressing found in F.O.K. For recipe, go here. Basically, it’s balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, and maple syrup. I think it’s delicious. Most others I’ve tried fall flat for me. This dressing is especially tasty on Asian chopped salads. It’s a cinch to make and a little goes a long way.

4. It’s been good to incorporate new recipes into my meal planning. To sign up for the UCDIM MenuBook that I followed for three weeks, go here.

Some of my favorites from UCDIM~

Breakfast Potatoes from UCDIM MenuBook and Chocolate-Banana Smoothie


The smoothie is an old standby for me. Blend four ice cubes, 1 tbsp. ground flax meal, 1 small, frozen, diced banana, one handful of frozen kale, 1 tbsp. of unsweetened cocoa powder, and 8 ounces of almond milk. (Fresh basil courtesy of my neighbor, Joanne)

Roasted Rice and Kale Stuffed Peppers from UCDIM
Go here for recipe.


Sweet and Tart Baked Apples from UCDIM
Go here for recipe.

Holiday Wild Rice With Cranberries and Pecans from UCDIM
Go here for recipe. I omitted the cranberries and subbed sweet potatoes for the butternut squash.



Oatmeal Pear Crisp from UCDIM MenuBook



Spicy Black Bean and Corn Salad from UCDIM MenuBook



Sometimes checking out new recipes can be addicting and I need to take a break from all my internet searches. But it would be fun to hear what recipes you’re trying, or what flavors you’re “chasing” as the pro chefs like to say. 

The best part of this challenge was finding more vegetable dishes I like. It’s so easy to go through the day and not eat a single veggie! This rings especially true on days like today, when I snacked my way through our downtown Holiday Shop Hop. ‘Tis the season, right?

Holiday Blessings,

Stone, Gene. 2011. Forks Over Knives






One thought on “21 Day Whole Food Plant Based Meal Challenge

  1. This is a great summary of your experience. I am glad to be able to swap recipes and learn with you about clean eating!


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