I used the checklist initially as a tool to get me into a routine. Whenever I was sitting down to a meal, I would ask myself, Could I add greens to this? Could I add beans to that? (I always have an open can of beans in the fridge.) Can I sprinkle on some flax or pumpkin seeds, or maybe some dried fruit? The checklist just got me into the habit of thinking, How can I make this meal even healthier?
I also found the checklist helped with grocery shopping. Although I always keep bags of frozen berries and greens in the freezer, if I'm at the store and want to buy fresh produce for the week, it helps me figure out how much kale or blueberries I need.
The checklist also helps me picture what a meal might look like. Glancing at my plate, I can imagine one quarter of it filled with grains, one quarter with legumes, and a half plate filled with vegetables, along with maybe a side salad and fruit for dessert. I prefer one-bowl meals, in which everything's mixed together, but the checklist still helps me to visualize. Instead of a big bowl of spaghetti with some veggies and lentils on top, I think of a big bowl of vegetables with some pasta and lentils mixed in. Instead of a big plate of brown rice with some stir-fried vegetables on top, I picture a meal that's mostly veggies—and, oh, look! There's some rice and beans in there too.
But there's no need to be obsessive about the list. On hectic travel days when I've burned through my snacks and I'm trying to piece together some semblance of a healthy meal at the airport food court, sometimes I'm lucky if I even hit a quarter of my goals. If you eat poorly on one day, just try to eat better the next. My hope is that the checklist will serve you as a helpful reminder to try to eat a variety of the healthiest foods every day.