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  • Writer's pictureMelanie

30 plant challenge

Many of you may have tried going vegan for Veganuary, now I have a slightly different challenge for you, my 30-Plant Challenge!

colourful vegetables

While going vegan can be great, it is possible to eat a lot of ultra-processed foods, which are far less great. A better approach is to eat as wide a range of plants as possible and minimise the number of processed foods. This applies whether you eat meat and fish, or if you are vegetarian or vegan. All diets can be improved with plants!

By increasing the range and number of plants you eat, you are helping to cultivate a healthy gut microbiome, which will return the favour by improving digestion, supporting your immune system, supporting brain health, reducing inflammation, helping you achieve a healthy weight, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, and supporting blood sugar control (lowering the risk of diabetes).

Your gut is home to thousands of species of microbe, each with its own preferred food source, which is why diversity is key. We need to make sure we are eating a wide variety of plants to provide the prebiotic compounds, such as fibre and polyphenols, to help to nurture our gut bugs and help diversify the microbiome – the more bacterial types, the better our health.

Research has shown that eating 30 different types of plant each week supports a balanced and diverse gut microbiome (MacDonald et al., 2014). My challenge to you is to aim to achieve 30 different plants each week throughout February and see how it makes you feel!

I have created a printout for you to use. Simply jot down each type of plant you eat at each meal and add up your total at each week. The good news is that plant type is not restricted to fruits and vegetables, it also includes herbs and spices, nuts, seeds, legumes, and wholegrains.

fruit rainbow

The goal is to be as diverse as possible, as each different colour brings with it its own set of benefits. Think about the range of colour on your plate, aim to eat the rainbow!

To give you a bit of an idea about what you can include, I’ve made a list below to get you started:

  • Fruit – e.g. kiwi, frozen cherries, dried figs, bananas, lemon.

  • Vegetables – e.g. garlic, onion, artichoke, Brussels sprouts, kale, parsnip, carrot, radish, lettuce

  • Nuts – e.g. Brazil nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, macadamia, pistachio.

  • Seeds – e.g. flaxseed (ground), chia, sunflower, pumpkin.

  • Herbs – e.g. sage, basil, tarragon, parsley, fresh coriander

  • Spices – e.g. cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, nutmeg, cumin, ground coriander.

  • Pulses – e.g. lentils, beans, chickpeas.

  • Legumes – e.g. soya beans (edamame), garden peas (fresh or frozen), peanuts.

  • Wholegrains – e.g. buckwheat, quinoa, oats, brown rice, millet.


The rules of the challenge are easy:

  • On the tracker, make a note of every different type of plant you eat each day. Do not count 2 portions of one thing as two plants, this is about variety, not quantity (although you should be aiming for 5-7 portions of vegetables and 2 of fruit each day!)

  • Add up the number of different plants, making sure you are not counting ones you might eat each day more than once, e.g. onion.

  • Check your total at the end of each week, the aim is to see if you reach the goal of 30 different plants, or maybe even surpass it! I’d love to know how you get on, so do feel free to send me your results.

To help you do this, I have a selection of recipes on my website, all of which contain a wide range of plants.

Try to make sure there is a variety of colour at each meal, and perhaps add a portion of fruit for pudding. Use herbs and spices freely, they have some great properties including being anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-fungal and helping to balance blood sugar. When you do your weekly shop, look for an item of fruit and of vegetables that you don’t normally choose, and add them in to your trolley, mix it up a bit!

glasses of water

As you will be eating a lot of fibre, make sure you stay well hydrated, drink water, herbal teas, and green tea. Insufficient fluids may lead to constipation.

If you don’t currently eat many plants, I suggest that you build up gradually so as not to overwhelm your digestive system and give your gut time to adapt. Try adding in an extra portion each week, until you are eating 5-7 vegetables each day and 2-3 fruit. This may take you a few weeks, that is OK. In which case, try this challenge once you are ready. You can start by adding in the herbs and spices from today, your body will thank you for it!

I look forward to hearing how you get on!

Click on the image to download your free tracker here:

plant challenge tracker


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