It can be difficult to know where to start when planning vegan meals. There are so many options and recipes available, and it’s hard to know what will be the best for your health or taste preferences.
As someone who has been vegan for years, and who has helped countless family members, friends, and clients adopt plant-based eating, I’ve learned that there is no one-size-fits-all meal plan that works best for everyone.
It’s important to find foods that work well with your lifestyle and tastes in order to get the most out of plant-based eating.
In today’s post, I’ll go over some easy tips on how you can make planning vegan meals simple and fun!
Planning Vegan Meal Introduction
There are a lot of misconceptions about planning vegan meals. One of the most common is that planning a vegan meal will be difficult and time-consuming.
This couldn’t be further from the truth!
Actually, creating amazing vegan meals is probably faster than the meat-centric meals I ate for 37 years.
All of my protein sources cook up far faster than any meat I used to eat. And I don’t have to worry about food-borne illnesses like salmonella or E. coli, because plant-based proteins are clean and healthy!
Here are some tips that will help make even the most veteran vegan’s planning simple and stress-free.
When Planning Vegan Meals, the Goal is to Make Them Tasty and:
- Rich in phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals
- High in fiber
- Moderate in fat
- Low in salt and added sugar
- Filling, providing sustained energy
- in line with your calorie and macronutrient goals
Aim to Include the Following in Every Main Meal:
- Green vegetables – broccoli, bok choy, green beans, peas, spinach, zucchini, celery
- Red/orange/yellow vegetables – carrots, tomatoes, pumpkin, corn, tomato, sweet peppers
- Plant protein – legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas), soy products (tofu, tempeh, Textured Vegetable Protein, edamame), or nuts and seeds should make up the protein foundation for most of your meals. Occasionally substitute in a processed vegetable protein or meat alternatives. I love Beyond Burgers and Tofurkey Beer Brats!
- A complex carbohydrate – You’ve got so many choices here! Break them into groups and spread them throughout the week. Here are the groupings I like:
- Tubers – potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, squash
- Grains – rice, pasta, couscous, quinoa, polenta, oats
- Bread – whole-grain bread are best. Sourdough is amazing, and because it’s fermented it actually brings down the overall glycemic index of your entire meal!
Add Variety by Including other Ingredients:
- Additional veggies – mushrooms, beetroot, onions, seaweed, sprouts, are great!
- Herbs and spices (fresh or dried) – basil, oregano, coriander, garlic, ginger, chili, pepper, garam masala, and smoked paprika are my favorites
- Tomato paste or tomato puree.
- Fruit – fruit is amazing as a dessert, as a topping to grains, as a base for protein shakes and smoothies, or as snacks. Go for fresh and in-season when possible and frozen during the colder months.
- Dried fruit – a small handful is great for snacking or in cereals and oatmeal. Just watch out for calories!
- Non-dairy milk for making sauces – almond milk adds very few calories. Soy milk is my favorite! It gives meals a little protein boost and healthy isoflavones.
- Salt – use sparingly. I go a bit against the grain here with this one. I recommend iodized salt if you are going to use any. May as well get some much-needed iodine if you are going to salt your food. All fancy salts are a waste of money. Any additional nutrients they may have are in such small quantities that it really doesn’t matter.
- Vegetable broth, stock cubes, and soy sauce – these are great for adding flavor to dishes, but use sparingly because of their high sodium content.
- Oils – again, only in moderation. Extra virgin olive oil and non-GMO canola oil are the best choices for vegans. I know, I know…canola oil?!! It’s incredibly high in ALA, which converts to omega-3 fatty acids. Vegans need about a gram and a half of ALA daily to meet their fatty acid needs. Flaxseed oil is also incredibly high in ALA (in fact, it’s the highest!), but don’t cook with it! Add it to salads or smoothies.
Planning Vegan Meals Conclusion
The planning process for vegan meals can be simplified through the use of these guidelines. If you are new to planning your own vegan meals, or even if you’ve been doing it for years, these tips will help make planning simple and stress-free.
By following this advice, you should see an improvement in how well balanced your diet is as a result. Without sacrificing taste!
In fact, your meals should be even more flavorful than ever!
All of this means higher energy levels throughout the day due to higher fiber intake, clean complex carbs, and protein sources that don’t weigh you down.
Don’t overcomplicate things. Pick your favorite, most common meals, and add in some of the steps in this article.
Just getting started? Check out my free one-week meal plan. It’s loaded with incredible meals to get you started on your plant-based journey.