I still remember how I felt when I first went vegan. I just followed random recipes, and a lot of the time, my diet was relatively one-sided. So while it was a lot of fun trying out new foods, my diet wasn’t super healthy, and I probably didn’t get all the nutrients I needed.
For a while, I cut myself some slack because I was experimenting with this new way of eating. But eventually realized I had to make some changes to get the most out of the benefits a vegan diet offers. As I was looking into how I could meet all my nutritional needs with a vegan diet, I often felt overwhelmed. I had all the information I needed but struggled with implementing it #informationoverload.
Eventually, I discovered Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen List, a tool that helped me establish a healthy and nutrient-rich vegan diet. This list suggests which food groups (+ how many servings of each) vegans should eat every day to make their diet both balanced and nutritious.
Although I still use this tool, it can be a bit tedious, especially for new vegans, to figure out which foods to include in each meal so that by the end of the day, you can check off everything on the list.
So when I recently discovered the building block system, I decided to combine it with the Daily Dozen list to create a super easy and practical guide for helping you create nutrient-rich and tasty dishes for each meal.
This system is a guide I wish I had had when I was a new vegan, so I think it will be of massive help to you :).
What is the building block system?
Unlike the Daily Dozen list, this system states the food groups and how many servings of each you should consume at a meal. (Rather than suggesting which food groups and how many servings of each you should eat throughout the day.) It does not tell you what recipes to prepare but provides guidance for what ingredients to include in your dishes.
So, for example, the daily dozen list recommends three servings of whole grains per day but leaves it up to you to decide when and how you are going to incorporate these into your meals.
You can eat one serving for breakfast, none at lunch, one as a snack, and the third serving at dinner. The building block system, on the other hand, recommends you eat one serving of whole grains for breakfast, one for lunch and one for dinner.
At the end of the day, you will have eaten three portions. The building block system gives you a little more guidance, while the daily dozen list allows for more freedom.
Let's take a look at how the building block system works in action
For each meal, you will see the food groups (building blocks) and the number of portions you should incorporate of each. Also, you will find exemplary representatives of what is included in each food group as well as information on approximately how big one serving is.
Note: The dishes you prepare are not limited to the stated servings and building blocks. Feel free to add more ingredients and spices to make your meals tastier and more exciting.
Exemplary meal: Breakfast smoothie with spinach, banana, strawberries, and kiwi, as well as oats and flax seeds.
Exemplary meal: Kale salad with quinoa, tomatoes, and chickpeas with Tahini and lemon dressing.
Exemplary meal: Broccoli-spaghetti with lemon
Exemplary meal: Apple pieces with hummus or seasonal fruit with a handful of nuts.
Additions to the building block system
The following are a few additional things that you should consume daily, but that don't necessarily fit into specific building blocks. Thus, you can incorporate them whenever you see fit.
1 tsp turmeric daily. This versatile spice can be used in almost all meals and is generally widely used in vegan recipes. What I like to do is to drink a cup of hot lemon water with turmeric, pepper, and cayenne pepper in the morning.
A Vitamin B12 supplement. All vegans must supplement B12 because a deficiency can cause severe and possibly irreversible health consequences. You should take at least 2500 micrograms per week.
A Vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D is recommended for vegans, especially during the winter months (October – April) or year-round if you generally spend little time out in the sun.
2 to 3 L (64 – 96 oz) of water. Drinking adequate amounts of water has a variety of health benefits, such as increased overall well-being, improved digestion and kidney function as well as promotes the elimination of potentially harmful substances.
Moreover, you should try to get in at least 90 minutes of exercise every day if it is moderate intensity, such as walking, or 45 minutes if you prefer high-intensity workouts.
The daily dozen list vs. the building block system — which one is better for you?
Both tools are excellent guides that help you implement a healthy and nutritious vegan diet.
The Daily Dozen list allows for more "freedom." The goal is to check off everything on the list throughout the day. But what food groups and how many servings you eat at a meal is entirely up to you.
The building block system offers suggestions on how to build each of your meals. You need to worry less about how to combine food groups and servings to check off everything on the list because the system already did the work for you.
So which tool is the better one?Well, it always depends on the person using it. Some will find the daily dozen list more helpful, others the building block system. If you are unsure, give both a try to see which works best for you.
If you are looking for guidance to implement a healthy vegan diet, the building block system can be a handy tool. It helps you create nutrient-rich meals by giving you recommendations about which food groups to incorporate into each of your meals.
It supports you in meeting your nutritional needs without taking away the freedom of choosing which recipes you should cook. Thus, you can customize your meals to suit your preferences, what you have in storage, or what's in season or on sale.
I am looking forward to hearing from you!
How are you trying for implement a healthy vegan diet? Have you tried one of the tools? And if so, which one did you find more helpful?