Want to immediately boost your health and vitality? Why not take the 7 Day Fruit Challenge? You’ll give your diet a needed hit of nutrition from an increase in fiber, water, antioxidants and a host of essential vitamins and minerals. Better, researchers have found lowered chances for cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders, cancer, and more among the benefits gained from daily fruit consumption. Take the challenge and learn new eating skills, recipes and habits that you’ll be able to keep forever – and hopefully keep your body ticking optimally along the way.
What is the 7 Day Fruit Challenge?
Unlike the other food challenges posted on this site, the 7 Day Fruit Challenge won’t require a major shift in your overall eating habits, though the suggested seven day meal plan does follow a whole foods diet. Instead, each day for seven days you will include fruit in your diet, though not for every meal. Suggestions for how to incorporate more fruit will follow in later sections of this article.
Why Eat More Fruit?
Currently, the standard American diet is roughly 62% processed foods, 26% meat, and only 12% whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, tubers and legumes (however, french fries make up half of the whole foods category). As reported in Newsweek, over 50% of the American diet consists of ultra-processed foods that can be bought at 7-Eleven. This way of eating is horribly unhealthy and we see its consequences in high rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer, stroke, autoimmune disorders, and chronic kidney disease, among others. Flipping these numbers around can only help reverse this terrible trend. If this is your diet, definitely do the 7 Day Fruit Challenge! It’s probably one of the easiest of all food changes to undertake and keep up.
In reclaiming our health and waistlines, the place to start is with diet. That means a two-pronged attack of cutting down on our over-consumption of processed foods which actively destroy our health while at the same time consuming mostly whole foods which will build, maintain and repair our bodies in maximum health.
Researched Benefit of Fruit
So what makes fruit so powerful for our health?
Diets high in fruit are associated with all sorts of health benefits, including a decreased risk of many diseases. The nutrient composition of fruit varies greatly among the different types, but all varieties contain important nutrients. For starters, fruit tends to be high in vitamins and minerals. These include vitamin C, potassium and folate, of which many people don’t get enough. Fruit is also high in fiber, which has many health benefits. Eating fiber may help lower cholesterol, increase feelings of fullness and contribute to weight loss over time.
What’s more, fruits are loaded with antioxidants, which help fight free radicals that can damage cells. Eating a diet high in antioxidants may help slow aging and reduce the risk of disease. Research consistently shows that diets high in fruits and vegetables are associated with a lower risk of many serious diseases including cancer, diabetes and heart disease (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).
While many studies look at fruit and vegetable consumption as a whole, there are a few studies that explore the benefits of fruits specifically. One review of nine studies found that each additional serving of fruit eaten each day reduced the risk of heart disease by 7% (7). Another study showed that eating fruits like grapes, apples and blueberries is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes (8).
Citrus fruits, in particular, can raise the levels of citrate in your urine, which lowers the risk of kidney stones (9). Increased fruit intake can also help lower blood pressure and reduce oxidative stress, which may decrease the risk of heart disease (10). Eating more fruits and vegetables is also associated with improved blood sugar control in people with diabetes (11).
How Much Fruit a Day?
Though it’s possible to eat healthy while eating very little or a lot of fruit, the ideal amount lies somewhere in the middle. The general recommendation for fruit and vegetable intake is at least 400 grams per day, or five servings of 80 grams (12). One 80-gram serving is equivalent to a small piece about the size of a tennis ball. For fruits and vegetables that can be measured by the cup, a serving is roughly 1 cup.
This recommendation stems from the fact that eating five servings of fruits and vegetables daily is associated with a lower risk of death from diseases like heart disease, stroke and cancer (13). However, another systematic review of 95 scientific studies found the lowest disease risk at 800 grams, or 10 daily servings (14). Keep in mind that these studies looked at both fruits and vegetables. Assuming half of these servings come from fruit, you should consume somewhere between two to five servings of fruit daily. Recommendations from different health authorities vary slightly but generally fall within the range of 2-5 daily servings.
Bottom line: Eat fruit daily to reap a host of protective health benefits.
Types of Fruit
Fruits are an easy place to start in transitioning to a whole foods diet. They’re super convenient to incorporate into your snacks or dishes. The type of fruits available at any time of year are so plentiful that you’ll be able to find at least a few that you love. Plus, many varieties are cheap so you won’t be hurting your wallet.
Here is a list of the fruit you’ll commonly find at most grocery stores:
- Kiwi fruit
- Honeydew melon
But don’t forget fruits like:
With all this variety to choose from, you should be able to find numerous ways of incorporating fruit into your meals and start building your diet into a whole foods based way of eating.
What are Whole foods?
Whole foods are plant foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible, and are free from additives or other artificial substances like preservatives, emulsifiers, conditioners and artificial or natural flavors before being consumed.
Examples of whole foods include fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, tubers, and whole grains. Everything else is not a whole food. See my article What are Whole Foods? to get a good understanding of whole foods. For the carnivores out there, I would add that fresh meat in the butcher and seafood sections of grocery stores can supplement a whole foods diet even though they are obviously not plant-based. Same with eggs and milk. The healthiest and most long-lived cultures in the world eat this sort of diet.
Why Whole Foods?
The benefits of whole foods are amazing:
- Cancer prevention
- Beating heart disease
- Lowering blood pressure
- Preventing and reversing diabetes
- Prevention of gallstones, kidney stones and osteoporosis
- Asthma prevention
- Better digestion
- Autoimmune disorder prevention
- Most sustainable diet for the planet
In the Kitchen for the 7 Day Challenge
During the 7 Day Fruit Challenge, you’ll want to have at least one serving of fruit each day. Try to eat the raw fruits rather than grabbing the dried or juice versions as our diets are already high enough in sugar and these versions are often packed with added sugar.
While the 7 Day Fruit Challenge does not require dropping the standard American diet or greatly changing your current way of eating, adopting a mostly whole foods diet during the challenge will reap greater health rewards. If you choose to try more whole foods during the challenge, avoid added sugars and processed foods. Focusing on whole foods should be the center of every meal, making up at least 70% of everything that goes into your mouth.
This will mean passing on processed foods – full of refined carbs, added sugar, salt, processed oils, and additives – which include most boxed meals and kits, frozen meals, heat and serve meals, and fast food. Try to limit your pasta and bread consumption as these are both processed foods. I realize that might be biting off more than you can chew for most people. However, making whole foods the stars of any meal and giving things like pasta or bread a limited supporting role will really help your health.
Why 7 Days?
One week isn’t a large commitment and is easy to plan. Plus you won’t feel overwhelmed by learning a ton of new recipes or feel like you’re completely giving up your eating lifestyle for good – though, hey, if you like the changes and the benefits, please continue!
Seven days are good for dipping your toes into a life of eating more nuts and seeds or starting down a whole foods diet. You will learn new recipes and eating patterns which can help you transition to eating healthier overall. And besides, who doesn’t enjoy a new challenge to get excited about?
Whenever we try something new or try to change habits, we should remind ourselves of a few things:
Firstly, we’ve been doing things a certain way for a while. When it comes to food, we’ve trained our bodies and minds to like what we’re already doing. When we try new foods, we may go into withdrawal from the removal of our usual foods. That and our gut biomes have adapted to our old eating habits and will undergo a shift when our foods change. Most people don’t realize this and think their body is reacting negatively to the new foods when really, it’s mostly withdrawal symptoms. If you’ve ever tried to give up coffee or colas for a week, you know what I’m taking about! The same is definitely true for sugar or refined carbs. Use this week to learn how addicted your body is to your current way of eating. You might find it eye-opening.
Secondly, we are creatures of habit. Don’t expect to like or love all the food recipes. If you’ve never tried something before, try it with an open mind. Think of this week as a way to experience new foods or find new recipes to incorporate into your meal rotation. See it as a fun exercise, not a drag, and you’ll have better results.
Thirdly, when we take on a food challenge, the experience is usually new. The recipes will take longer to organize and prep simply because you haven’t spent years making them. In time the ingredients and recipes become second nature and you can modify them as easily as your current meal rotations. Expect the learning curve rather than be upset by it. Most of the recipes included for the challenge are quick and easy for beginners.
Fourthly, food is culture. If your family and friends have never seen a whole food they didn’t hate, you may feel peer pressure over your new food selections or feel tempted to cheat and eat like normal. Remember that this is only a week-long challenge. If others tell you to cheat or give you grief, you can point out gently:
- Your health issues if you have any
- Any health issues in your family
- That you are trying to alleviate or prevent any health issues
- And that you could really use support since this isn’t easy
Many people if approached this way will be more considerate and helpful, especially if you tell them you don’t expect them to eat like you (some immediate family members will fear any food changes). Accept this and remember that you are the only person who can truly make the changes you want. Respect and love yourself enough to try what you’re wanting to do, no matter what others think.
All this said, we’re human and we get cravings. Don’t beat yourself up if you lapse during the challenge, just continue on with the next meal and be proud for what you do follow. Also, try not to make the challenge impossible by scheduling it around holidays. Only the most willful and possibly masochistic can survive holidays and their associated foods. On the flip side, if you’re trying to give up the excesses of the holidays, by all means, use this challenge as an excuse!
Now onto the nuts and bolts.
How It Works
The 7 Day Fruit Challenge is pretty straight-forward. You’ll be consuming the at least a serving of fruit daily for a week. To do that:
- Pick a week to do the 7 Day Fruit Challenge.
- Make room in your pantry and in your mental space for the change.
- Plan out and organize your meals for the week for best results. Design them with your family or friends for added support and team-building if they’re willing.
- Make your grocery list.
- Buy the food.
- Prepare the meals yourself or for best results, with your family. Healthy food habits are teachable moments, as is food preparation. Children can’t learn healthy food habits if not exposed to them or taught the recipes. Cooking together means time together. Make cooking social.
- Eat and enjoy – the more the merrier!
7 Day Fruit Challenge Recipe Suggestions
It’s easiest to enjoy the challenge and keep with it if you include meals you already like that contain fruit. Love your homemade berry smoothie? Bust it out this week!
Organize around meals such as breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts. We tend to make the same handful of meals so don’t feel like every single meal for the week must be new and original. That gets expensive and stressful fast because you have to buy a larger variety of food and learn too many new recipes you may not be at all familiar with. Also, why waste any leftovers?
Check out the recommended week-long plan and more general pantry list so you can take the challenge and run with it. Feel free to mix and match however you like to make this challenge your own!
Now onto the week’s meal plan!
7 Day Fruit Challenge Meal Planning
In order to incorporate more fruit into your diet, it’s helpful to focus on each meal of the day and how to easily add in fruit.
Breakfast is one of the easiest meals to get in your fruit requirements for the day. Add a handful of berries or a sliced banana to oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, pancakes and waffles. Make fruit smoothies for breakfast.
Eat a fruit of your choice or nibble on trail mix or granola bars made of mixed nuts and dried fruit. Snack on fruit, cheese and whole grain crackers. Have guacamole with tortilla chips.
Lunch & Dinner
Various fruits, like apples, shine as ingredients in salads or consider pineapple in your stir fries. Lemon and lime make wonderful seasonings for seafood dishes or as dressings for salads.
Add fruit onto your ice cream or bake with them in your cookies, cakes, muffins, etc. And don’t forget that many fruits pair well with dark chocolate.
Use 100% fruit juice to replace your usual sugary or less healthy beverage (though you’ll get less nutrition than with the whole fruit). This way you’ll swap out your soda for something that actually contains some nutrition. You can also mix 100% fruit juice with sparkling water to make your own “sodas”.
7 Day Fruit Challenge Daily Schedule
Want specific meal suggestions? We’ve got you covered for all meals, including snacks and desserts, for the week.
Breakfast: Yogurt topped with walnuts and grapes
Lunch: Avocado and tomato salad
Dinner: Tilapia tacos; Substitute any white fish
Snacks: Dark chocolate made with almonds, peanuts or pistachios
Breakfast: Oatmeal topped with blueberries, sesame seeds and pumpkin kernels
Lunch: Mediterranean chickpea salad
Dinner: Tomato soup with avocado and cucumber salad
Snacks: Yellow squash dippers and hummus
Breakfast: Banana, peanut butter, coconut milk smoothie; optional add-in: chia seeds
Lunch: Tuna fish and spinach with avocado, tomato and cucumber salad
Snack: Sliced apple with cheese
Dinner: Drunken mussels
Breakfast: Eggs scrambled with spinach, sliced half an avocado on the side
Dinner: Ginger veggie stir fry; Optional add-in: beef, pork, chicken or seafood
Snack: Olives and stuffed peppers from the grocery store olive bar – or anything from the olive bar
Dessert: Pecan-stuffed dates
Breakfast: Fruit bowl of strawberries and banana
Lunch: White bean salad with anchovies; substitute chicken, pork sausage, smoked clams, mussels or oysters
Dinner: Shrimp zucchini linguine
Snack: Peanut butter on whole grain crackers or veggies like celery; substitute tahini or almond butter
Breakfast: Peanut butter and banana toast; substitute tahini or almond butter
Lunch: Lentil soup with avocado and tomato salad
Dinner: Sweet potato gnocchi and grilled salmon
Snack: Olives, cheese and whole-grain crackers
Breakfast: Cheese and egg breakfast tacos; Optional add-in: Ground sausage
Lunch: Red lentil salad with feta
Dinner: Sexy fish stew
Dessert: Chocolate, banana and peanut butter smoothie
If none of these ideas tickle your fancy, feel free to find ones that do! Check out my article 7 Easy and Delicious Ways to Put More Fruit in Your Diet. Additionally, so many recipe resources exist on the internet that you’re bound to find more than you could ever hope to make. One of my favorite sources is allrecipes.com.
In order to cook a whole foods diet, it’s helpful to know how to stock your pantry. This is a general list, so don’t think this is your shopping list for the fruit challenge. While a few items on this list are not whole foods, the vast majority are and these ingredients can make up a fantastic pantry for eating healthy and deliciously:
Nuts and seeds – walnuts, pecans, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, etc.
Nut and seed butters like peanut butter, almond butter and tahini
Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
Olive, sesame or coconut oil
White or apple vinegar
White cooking wine
Tilapia or cod fillets
Canned or fresh tuna, anchovies, mussels, oysters, clams
Canned or dried white beans, chick peas, lentils, black beans
Fresh cuts of meats (be careful as even ground pork or ground turkey often now includes natural flavors – check the ingredients)
Fresh or canned diced tomatoes
Yellow squash, zucchini, butternut squash, acorn squash, etc.
Spinach, kale, greens
Nut milks – almond, walnut, cashew milk
Oat or soy milk
Rice, barley, buckwheat, oats, kasha
While fresh and from scratch is best, let’s face it, not everyone has the time or willingness. Here are time savers and substitutions:
- Instant oatmeal and cream of wheat
- Canned beans and vegetables: drain and rinse them though
- Frozen vegetables and fruit
- Frozen fish fillets
- Canned diced tomatoes
- Store-made guacamole, salsa and hummus
A Week of Healthy Eating
And there you have it – everything you need to know to take the 7 Day Fruit Challenge! Hopefully you will enjoy the foods and the benefits they quickly bring in terms of better health, energy levels, mental clarity, sleep and digestion, and a range of others. If you enjoy these foods and their benefits, why not permanently include these and other deliciously healthy meals in your routine?
Good luck with the challenge and happy eating!
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