Meals for Health: One-month intervention program

Five graduates of the program express the effects of the program on their lives

Getting started

The story began with an idea proposed by Sabrina Nelson. The idea was to design a program that combined the resources of EarthSave International with the experience and knowledge of John McDougall’s Health and Medical Center. The original program was a 30-day outpatient program based on a low fat whole plant based diet. The program began with laboratory testing and physical examination for all participants. The intervention phase began with a full weekend of activities. The month long program included food coaches, educational sessions, potlucks, clinical rechecks and free weekly food baskets. Once the program was designed the next step was to find an organization (e.g. food bank, church) that was interested in supporting and hosting the program. The Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services in Sacramento California offered to support the project with participants, space and personnel. The final steps were to fill in the operational details before the intervention began in April 2011. I provided the clinical care. Whole Foods Market supplied the food at a substantial discount. Mercy Hospital of Catholic Health Care West supplied laboratory testing at a discount. Both Mercy Hospital and Sutter Hospital donated equipment for the clinic. The Food Bank identified twenty-one participants. The group consisted of 18 women and 3 men ages 33 to 78. The twenty participants who completed the program described the program as life changing.


Meals for Health is a low fat whole plant based diet with Vitamin B12 supplementation. In addition to the participants, the program allows for observers who attend all activities but don’t receive clinical care.


Operations were coordinated and handled on site by Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services personnel. This included donated space for meetings and clinical care. Additionally they provided audiovisual equipment, transportation of food and food preparation on site as needed.

Educational Support:

The participants were given a program booklet and access to a food coach during the program. They were given 23 ½ hours of presentations. The program began with a full weekend of presentations and meals. The meals breakfasts, lunches and dinners were all low fat plant based foods. The participants were encouraged to eat as much as they liked. Friday night consisted of a kick off presentation. Saturday during the day consisted of 8 ¼ hours of presentations followed by 5-3/4 hours of presentations on Sunday. The educational programs continued on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturdays.

Educational Materials:

All participants received a 27-page program booklet. They received The Engine 2 and McDougall Made Easy cookbooks as well as McDougall Made Easy and Jeff Novick’s Fast Food DVD’s.

Food Support:

The participants were provided a months worth of free food courtesy of funding from EarthSave and donations by Whole Foods Market. The participants received weekly food baskets. All products consisted of whole foods, baked goods 100% whole grain with no added fats/oils and low sodium whenever possible. The initial week also contained a variety of herbs and spices.

Coaching Support:

Five Food coaches were selected each of whom acted as support for 4-6 participants. In addition they supported the participants with shopping trips and exercise/yoga classes.

Clinical Care:

The participants underwent a history and screening physical exam and targeted laboratory testing (i.e. blood, urine) prior to the beginning of the program. Participants on prescription drugs were rechecked on day 4. All participants were rechecked on day 8 and 28. They were given an option to have a clinical recheck at day 65.


Jeff Nelson and his support staff recorded most presentations plus interviews with participants.

Due to the success of the Sacramento program, EarthSave did a second program for the Missionary Baptist Church of Berkeley. EarthSave is open to doing additional programs for community organizations. If your organization would like to consider hosting Meals for Health please contact Jeff Nelson, CEO EarthSave, at [email protected].