The Simple Health Plan

By Leo Babauta

There are a lot of complicated diet and exercise plans out there, a lot of workouts that are the latest craze, a lot of fad diets and detox juicing and more.

If it’s the newest craze, I recommend skipping it.

Instead, let’s get down to the simple fundamentals: it’s not that complicated to get healthy. In fact, I’ve boiled it down to two strategies.

Here’s my simple plan:

1. Eat a crapton of vegetables.
2. Do something active and fun every day.

No, you don’t have to eat only vegetables – but you should make them the foundation of your diet, and eat them first.

I believe that if you follow this plan, you’ll be healthy. It might not be a miracle weight-loss plan, but you’ll be healthy, and you can definitely lose weight. You can gain muscle. Get lean. Live healthier.

So just eat a lot of vegetables and be active every day.

Optional upgrade: Get an accountability partner if possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

You might have a few questions about the plan. Here’s everything you want to know

  1. Can I eat meat?
    A: Yes. Just eat a crapton of veggies first. (Note: I don’t eat meat for reasons of compassion.)
  2. What about sweets? Or grains?
    A: Yes. Just eat a crapton of veggies first.
  3. What kind of vegetables can I eat? Should they be superfoods?
    A: Vegetables are all superfoods. Eat any kind you want. Green ones are the gold standard, but all colors are welcome: white, yellow, orange, red. Eat a lot of the greens, and a bunch of the others.
  4. What about starchy vegetables like potatoes?
    A: Yep! Eat those too! Yum.
  5. Can I eat fruits?
    A: Yes. Just eat a crapton of veggies first.
  6. Do I count calories?
    A: If you want to. But no, you don’t have to, if you’re eating a crapton of veggies first.
  7. How much is a crapton?
    A: It’s a scientific measurement that means, “A helluva lot.” Basically, if you’re filling up a plate with food, it should be mostly vegetables. Two thirds is better than half, and three fourths is even better.
  8. What if I have an allergy?
    A: Don’t eat the things you’re allergic to. But do eat a crapton of vegetables.
  9. Are there other foods I should aim for?
    A: Sure, beans, fruits, proteins. If you’re not trying to lose weight, nuts and healthy oils. But mostly veggies.
  10. Can I eat fast food?
    A: Yes. Just eat a crapton of veggies first.
  11. Why do you recommend eating a crapton of veggies?
    A: They’re the food that has been proven by research to be the healthiest, and they have pretty much all the nutrients you need (yes, including protein). There is no optimal diet, but all the healthiest diets (including the Blue Zones) put vegetables at the forefront, and have smaller amounts of protein, fats, nuts, seeds, grains. If you fill your plate with veggies at every meal, you will get healthier. You’ll probably lose weight if you’re overweight. You’ll be filling yourself with the best things for your body first, and then adding the other things as a taste satisfier.
  12. Can I put dressing on my veggies? Or how should I prepare them?
    A: You can use dressing, as long as you eat a crapton of vegetables. Prepare them however you like, but this is my preferred order: raw, steamed, baked, cooked in stews or chilies, stir-fried, blended into a smoothie, sautéed. Deep-fried would be last.
  13. Can I just juice the veggies?
    A: No. Eat them.
  14. What if I hate veggies?
    A: Try different ones. Cook them in different ways – try to bake or sauté them. Season them. It’s delicious. Try dipping them in hummus. If you have to, hide them in soups and chilis so you can’t taste them much.
  15. What if I don’t like salads?
    A: No one said you have to eat a salad, dude. Think of baked cauliflower and broccoli (seasoned, maybe add some olive oil), or a bunch of kale, mushrooms, carrots and broccoli in a stir-fry (tempeh or tofu are my favorite proteins), or baked sweet potatoes.
  16. When you say to be active every day, can you give me an example?
    A: Anything that gets you moving: play a sport, go for a walk, do some pushups, go for a bike ride, do a few sprints, run for a few miles.
  17. How long should my daily activity session be?
    A: Not long if you’re just starting out – even 5 minutes a day is a good start. But if you’re already pretty active, then you can shoot for 30 minutes a day, and do some of those days with some intensity. If you’re already active but not doing strength training, add some of that in.
  18. What if I miss a day?
    A: Start again the next day.
  19. Can I do a fad workout, like tae bo or soul cycling or whatever the latest workout DVD is?
    A: Yes. Whatever seems fun to you.
  20. Why should I get an accountability partner?
    A: It keeps you on track when you find a dip in your motivation, it’s fun to go for walks or do workouts with people, and if it’s your spouse, you can take turns cooking each other a crapton of veggies!
  21. What if I want to lose weight?
    A: Eat a crapton of veggies, and not a lot of calorie-dense foods like oils, fats, nuts, refined sugar, refined flour. To your veggies, add beans, protein, some whole grains, fruit. Also: wait until you’re actually hungry to eat, and stop before you’re really full. Don’t snack or drink beverages with calories.
  22. What if I want to gain weight?
    A: Still eat a crapton of veggies, but increase your proteins and add some fats to your meals (olive oil, coconut oil canola oil, avocados, nuts, peanut butter). Eat more grains if you’re really active. Be sure to be lifting weights so the excess calories become muscle.