21-Day Plant Powered Opportunity: Intro and Week One Menu


Vegan stuffed tomato bites at the Thrive Kitchen, Kaiser Permanente San Francisco. Photo credit: Ted Eytan

(Post updated 6/2021.)

Starting today, Kaiser Permanente Medical Center San Francisco, where I am Director of Culinary Medicine and teach the Thrive Kitchen cooking classes,  will be embarking on a 21-Day Plant Powered Opportunity (fka as the 21-Day Plant Based  Challenge) for our staff and physicians! I’ll be tuning up my own “mostly plants” diet and my family’s and will be sharing our weekly meal plan and recipes if you want to join in the fun! Some reasons for why you should consider eating “mostly plants” and cooking tips making this a delicious challenge are in this article by my Oakland colleague Ben Maring, MD, including my vinaigrette primer. Flavor=Fabulous!

If you want to virtually join in our 21-Day Plant Powered Opportunity, I thought it would be helpful to give you this guide on how to set yourself up for success.  As with all in life, preparation is everything! Take a little time to meal plan and shop for the week ahead. And if you are looking for more ideas, please check out my new cookbook, Spicebox Kitchen!

Quick Start Guide- Get Ready!

  • Make your grocery list for the week for at least 5 days of dinners, see my plan below
  • Also stock up on basics for breakfast and lunches
    • Oats
    • Berries
    • Grains e.g. quinoa, bulgur, farro, rice (brown, black, red preferred)
    • Dried or canned beans
    • Nuts (pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds)
    • Prewashed baby greens, arugula
    • Root vegetables (try different colors of sweet potatoes, parsnips)
    • Avocado
    • Lemons, vinegar, olive oil for dressings
    • Whole grain bread (I like Dave’s Killer 21 Grain/Seed Bread)
    • Peanut/nut butters
    • Whole grain pasta
  • Cook 3 batches of grains (if you don’t have a rice cooker, get one!)
  • Roast a sheet pan full of root vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips)
  • Make hummus and cook beans if you’re making your own
  • Make (or purchase) some vinaigrettes, pesto, other sauces
  • Pickle some red onions!

Other Helpful Tips

  • Breakfast: oats with fresh berries and some nuts for protein; green smoothies with nuts/nut butter; tofu scramble (can be made once and served later in week)
  • Lunch: make it easy! Grain bowls, leftovers, hummus+veggie sandwiches; repurpose leftovers: use cooked tofu or beans on a bed of mixed baby greens for a salad, with grains for added satiety and texture. Make grain bowls and use different dressings and sauces to add variety.  Examples:
    • Veggie Sandwich: avocado, hummus, red bell pepper and arugula sandwich on Dave’s Killer Bread (whole grain with lots of seeds)
    • Grain bowl: quinoa with roasted root vegetables, arugula, chickpeas tossed with a little smoked paprika and garlic powder, dressing of your choice
  • Will I be hungry? If you’re used to eating meat, you might feel hungry in the beginning. Fill up with fiber (greens, whole grains), plant-based protein (beans, tofu, nuts) and healthy fats (avocado, nuts).
  • Will I be satisfied? When in doubt, add some spice! Smoked paprika/pimenton and ground cumin are two good choices to add “meaty” depth to your food.  Eggplant and mushrooms are vegetables with satisfying texture.
  • Will I get enough protein? Don’t think that beans and tofu are your only plantbased protein sources—many vegetables and whole grains are also good sources of protein (see this helpful infographic from Whole Foods).


  • Will my kids eat this? I try to make my menu as “family-friendly” as possible but as all parents know, it may not be a bad idea to have some pasta, pesto, and tomato sauce on hand for emergencies.
  • Do I need to take vitamins/supplements? As always, please see your own doctor for individual medical advice, but if you are going on a strictly plant-based (vegan) diet you will need to take a B12 supplement and might possibly also need supplemental vitamin D, calcium, iron and zinc.
  • Most importantly, don’t feel you have to go completely vegan/plantbased if you’re not interested or ready.  Every little step you take in the direction of eating more plant based will improve your health and the environment.

The Meal Plan

Because I won’t have a chance to blog all of these recipes in advance, I’m including links to previous recipes I’ve posted, links to similar recipes and also to some recipes I’ve been wanting to try for a while.  If there are any non-plantbased ingredients in these recipes, just leave them out! (This is something to consider for converting  or “veganizing” any of your own recipes, too.)  For more recipes, Bon Appétit has a great roundup of 33 vegan dinner recipes, some of which I’ll be trying.  For more recipes on this blog, please search “vegan,” “plant based” or “vegetarian.” Good luck!  You can do it, and I’m here to support you! Please comment if you join in!

Week One Dinner Meal Plan

MondayLentil Soup, Amy’s Breadsticks (Trader Joe’s has a similar bread with sunflower seeds), Green salad

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday! Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos, Cashew Cream (add lime juice to taste), Pickled Red Onions, Toasted Pepitas, Sliced Avocado.  Serve with cucumbers, jicama, mango sprinkled with Tajin and lime juice.

Wednesday: Winter Minestrone Soup with Garlic Bruschetta

Thursday: Falafel Salad, Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Middle Eastern Flatbread, Hummus

Friday: Vegan Chili and Cornbread, Salad of chopped romaine with corn, cherry tomatoes, pepitas and cumin-lime vinaigrette.  (If you’re not cooking your own beans, use three different kinds of canned beans.)

Please comment if you plan to join me in the 21-Day Plant Power Challenge and let me know your questions, concerns, requests, ideas, strategies and recipes!

And thanks for coming by! You’ll find many more plant powered recipe ideas in my cookbook, Spicebox Kitchen. And if you don’t already, please subscribe to SpiceboxTravels.com, follow me on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/TheDoctorsSpicebox, and on Twitter and Instagram @spiceboxtravels! 

You can also come and cook with me in the Thrive Kitchen at Kaiser Permanente, San Francisco! For 2021, Thrive Kitchen is now virtual, which means that can join from anywhere! Join me for a class of Thrive Kitchen at Home! The next class is 6/16 and is registering now. To your health!

5 responses

  1. How’s day 1 going? I can’t overemphasize the importance of planning ahead— if you’re following along with my menu, tonight would be a good time to roast your sweet potatoes, pickle your red onions and soak your cashews for the cashew cream in the fridge. Then tomorrow’s tacos will come together in a snap! All of this can be done while your lentils are bubbling away.

  2. Pingback: 21-Day Plant Power Menu: Week 2 Menu and What I’ve Been Missing | spicebox travels

  3. Pingback: 21-Day Plant Power Challenge: Week 3 Menu | spicebox travels

  4. Pingback: Cardamom Banana “Ice Cream” | spicebox travels

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