The Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Healthy Vegan Meal Plan

by Suzanne Kearns on February 15, 2019

vegan menu served on the table

Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash

Veganism is skyrocketing in the United States.

One study even shows that the number of people who claim to be vegan went from 1 percent in 2014 to 6 percent in 2018. If you’ve recently joined the movement, it’s time to talk about creating a vegan meal plan.

You should know:

A vegan diet is more than just avoiding meat.

Many people who make the switch don’t understand all the benefits of becoming vegan, while others think a vegan meal plan is a complicated thing that’s too difficult to follow.

We’re going to finally put all of those unfounded rumors and misconceptions to rest.

What Is a Vegan?

Veganism is a way of eating and living that seeks to exclude all instances of animal cruelty and exploitation.

Vegans don’t eat meat, wear clothing that made from animals, or use products that are either made from animals or use them to test it.

The term vegan first came into being in 1944 when a group of vegetarians separated themselves from the Leicester Vegetarian Society.

But that's just part of the story:

You see, they weren't happy with their vegetarian lifestyle. They wanted to go further.

So, they formed The Vegan Society.

Since then, the way of eating has grown. Searches for the term “vegan” have increased over 250 percent in the past 5 years as more and more people seek to learn about changing their lifestyle and improving their health by creating a vegan meal plan.

quick facts about veganism

Image via Flaticon, altered

Not Eating Meat Is a Beautiful Thing

People begin eating a vegan meal plan for many reasons.

For example, some don’t want to contribute to the animal cruelty that takes place in factory farms.

Others want to experience the health benefits that come from eating with a vegan meal plan do all they can for the environment.

In fact:

Studies have shown that adopting a vegan meal plan dramatically reduces a person’s environmental footprint.

The Health Benefits of a Vegan Meal Plan

A vegan meal plan has numerous health benefits, all backed up by science.

If your reason to start eating a vegan meal plan is health-focused, you’re in luck.

You see:

Eating a diet rich in fiber, vegetables, fresh fruit, nuts, and seeds can make you feel wonderful.

Here’s what researchers have to say on the topic.

Veganism helps people lose weight

When following a vegan meal plan, you may lose weight.

Researchers set out to study the effects of weight loss in people who ate diets that excluded meat, and found that these diets have “significant benefits on weight reduction.”

different kinds of fruits and vegetables

image via Pixabay

Diabetes can be managed with a vegan meal plan

man saying yes gif

A vegan meal plan contributes to both the prevention of and treatment of type 2 diabetes according to one study.

The researchers who carried out the study were so convinced of the benefits of a plant-based diet, they ended the conclusion of the study by saying:

“While larger interventional studies on plant-based diets carried out for longer periods of time would add even more weight to the already mounting evidence, the case for using a plant-based diet to reduce the burden of diabetes and improve overall health has never been stronger.”

Veganism helps stomp out heart disease

Heart disease is an epidemic in our country. But did you know that adopting a vegan meal plan may help prevent you from developing the disease?

Multiple studies proved that following a vegan meal plan helps heart health.

Here's what you need to know:

One study shows that people who eat a plant-based diet have a 75 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure. That same study shows that vegans have a 42 lower risk of dying from heart disease.

Vegans naturally eat all the fruits and vegetables that.

All this goodness makes for a very happy heart.

Reduce your risk of cancer with a vegan meal plan

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 30 to 50 percent of all cancers are preventable by changing some aspect of our lives, including our diet.

That's not all:

In a recent meta-analysis of 96 studies, researchers found that people who follow a vegan meal plan are 15 percent less likely to die from cancer.

That may be because of other studies that show when a person eats up to seven servings of fresh fruits and vegetables a day, they lower their risk of dying from cancer by 15 percent.

broccoli fun fact

image via Flaticon, altered

Are Vegans the Only People Who Don’t Eat Meat?

In the U.S. 7.5 million people choose not to eat animal products, but not all of them are vegan. Vegan meals plans are the most extreme because they don’t include meat, eggs, dairy, or any other products that contain animal byproducts in them.

But not all non-meat eaters follow a vegan meal plan. Two other types of plant-based diets make the cut.

Vegetarians

Vegetarians don’t eat meat, but some of them eat eggs and dairy. There are three categories of vegetarians:

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians don’t eat meat, but they do eat eggs and dairy.
  • Lacto vegetarians don’t eat meat or eggs but do eat dairy products.
  • Ovo vegetarians don’t eat meat or dairy products but do eat eggs.

Pescatarians

Although pescatarians do eat animal flesh, they are typically grouped in with non-meat eaters.

They follow one of the vegetarian type diets, but they also eat seafood.

Foods that Vegans Happily Chow Down

avocado, tomoato, garlic, green tomato asparagus

image via Pixabay

When you follow a vegan meal plan, one of the most common questions people ask is what do you eat?

Many people believe vegans only eat salads or are forever craving the foods other people eat.

But that’s just not true:

Vegans eat a wide variety of foods.

What’s more, vegans know how to create a lot of great recipes from just a few basic ingredients.

Here’s a list of the staples that should be your vegan pantry:

  • Fresh fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains: pasta, rice, couscous, millet, quinoa, bulgur, oats, bread
  • Legumes: chickpeas, pinto beans, black beans, fava, lima, peas.
  • Nuts and seeds: walnuts, pecans, flaxseeds, chia seeds, black seeds, almonds
  • Nut butter: peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, tahini
  • Dairy substitutes: almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, oat milk, plant-based yogurts
  • Tofu, tempeh, seitan
  • Food replacement products: fake meats, cheeses, mayonnaise, ice cream

You Won't Catch a Vegan Eating These Foods

Vegans don't eat meat.

But that's just part of the story:

Select Columns Layout
  • Seafood
  • Dairy products: No cheese, butter, milk, or yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Honey: not all vegans adhere to this but, but strict ones do because bees make honey
  • White sugar: not all sugar, just the ones filtered with bone char
  • Salad dressings containing lecithin
  • Marshmallows
  • Gummy candies
  • Cereals containing gelatin
  • Beer

Things to Watch for When Switching to a Vegan Meal Plan

If you just stop eating meat and don’t make other changes to your diet, a vegan meal plan can be unhealthy.

That’s because you need to understand which nutrients you need to add to your diet to make up for the loss of meat, dairy, and eggs.

We’ve all heard of people who say they tried a vegan diet for a couple of weeks but stopped because they felt bad or craved other foods too much.

Chances are, they didn’t approach their vegan meal plan the right way.

If they had, they would have felt great!

Here are some things you need to be aware of when creating your vegan meal plan so you will have success.

You probably need to take supplements

Although it’s possible to get all the nutrients you need from food, it’s not easy. And that’s why most vegans take supplements.

This is what you need to know:

Here is a list of the supplements you should consider adding to your vegan meal plan.

  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Omega-3s
  • Zinc
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Calcium
different kinds of food supplement capsule on a cup

Image via ​Pixabay

Know which foods give what nutrients

Since your vegan meal plan is set up to provide you with all the nutrients you need every day, you need to understand what each of the foods provides.

Check this out:

Here is a list of the foods you will eat the most of on your vegan meal plan, and what nutrients you can expect to get from them.

essential vegan food nutrients infographic

image developfit.com

How to Create a Balanced Vegan Meal Plan

Now that you understand the nutritional requirements of your vegan meal plan and the foods you’ll use to get them let’s talk about how to balance your plate when planning the perfect vegan meal plan.

Before you get started:

To ensure your diet is full of nutrition, you should strive to have these four ingredients on your plate:

Non-starchy vegetables are a must

These types of vegetables should make up the bulk of your plate. With them, you will get plenty of fiber as well as important vitamins and minerals.

Here is a list of non-starchy vegetables to include on your plate:

Artichokes

Asparagus

Bean sprouts

Brussels sprouts

Broccoli

Cabbage

Artichokes

Celery

Cucumber

Eggplant

Mushrooms

Onions

Peppers

Salad greens

Spinach

Tomato

Turnips

Zucchini

Add some fat to the plate

For years, experts told us that fat was bad for our hearts, but recently all of that has changed.

Here's what we know:

Now, people understand that our bodies need some healthy fats to thrive.

In addition to your non-starchy vegetables, add some healthy fats such as avocados, olive oil, walnuts, coconut oil, and seeds.

healthy fats such as avocados, olive oil, walnuts, coconut oil, and seeds

image via Pixabay

Don’t forget the omega-3s

As a vegan, you will need to consume foods with omega-3 often because you won’t get the fatty acids from fish or seafood.

But not to worry:

You can add the following:

Spinach

spinach leaves bundled with twine on a vintage counter top

image via Unsplash

Walnuts

open walnut showing perfect nut in center

Image via Pixabay

Flaxseeds

flax seeds in small brown bowl spilled onto dark wooden grained counter top

image via healthtap

Put some protein on your plate

Finally, vegans need to eat a lot of plant-based protein to get their recommended daily intake.

Here is a list of vegan proteins, along with how many grams of protein each cooked food provides.

  • Lentils: 18g/cup
  • Chickpeas: 14g/cup
  • Pinto, kidney, or black beans: 13-15g/cup
  • Amaranth: 9g/cup
  • Quinoa: 8g/cup
  • Tahini paste: 8g/3 tablespoons
  • Sesame seeds: 6.5g/ounce
  • Flaxseed: 6g/ounce
  • Pistachios or almonds: 6g/ounce
  • Gluten-free oatmeal: 6g/cup
  • Chia seeds: 5g/ounce
  • Chlorella: 5g/tablespoon
  • Unsweetened almond milk: 5g/cup
  • Cashews or walnuts: 4g/ounce
  • Spirulina: 4g/tablespoon
Vegan veggies and protiens like garbanzo beans bean sprouts and kale with tomatoes and yams

Image via Anna Pelzer, Unsplash

How to Create a Vegan Meal Plan on a Budget

You’ve likely heard how expensive it is to be a vegan, but that’s just a myth.

Here’s the deal:

You can buy a lot of expensive processed vegan foods that aren’t very healthy and spend a lot of money on your vegan meal plan.

But why would you that?

Veganism is about forging new roads, being kind to yourself and others, and above all, being a food genius.

And you can’t do that buying prepacked food.

There are two things you need to know in order to create a vegan meal plan on a budget.

How to buy food

There are a lot of vegan shopping lists available on the internet, and while they are helpful, it can be expensive to shop that way.

Instead, I recommend that you first create your vegan meal plan and then shop for those ingredients.

Here's why:

If you don’t, you might end up with a lot of healthy ingredients that you don’t know how to use.

When eating a vegan diet, you will use a lot of the same ingredients over and over again — only in different ways. That’s what makes creating a vegan meal plan so affordable.

Once you find your favorite recipes, you will know what food items to always keep in your pantry.

For example:

If you love lentils and use them to make lentil patties, curry dahl, or lentil soup, you should always have a bag or two on hand.

So, your first step in creating a vegan meal plan is to find the recipes you want to use for your first week.

Did you know?

Studies show that a plant-based diet increases the body’s metabolism.
This causes your body to burn calories up to 16 percent faster than if you were eating meat. This higher metabolism lasts for three hours after eating.

Recipes for a Budget Vegan Meal Plan

Are you ready to see some great recipes you can use for your vegan meal plan? I’ve included a couple of recipes for each meal below.

Delicious vegan breakfast recipes

Let’s start off the day with a smoothie that is reminiscent of maple pancakes, shall we?

Enjoy:


Blueberry Maple Protein Shake

This delicious shake hits just the right sweet spot! 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup vegan yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons of vanilla protein powder
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon maple extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons flaxseed meal
  • Sweetener of your choice
  • 10 to 15 ice cubes
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions:

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and mix until they are combined. If the mixture isn’t thick enough, you can add more ice. Or if you think it’s too thick, you can add some more water. Finally, if the flavor isn’t strong enough for you, go ahead and add some more sweetener to taste.

Source: Minimalist Baker

Blueberries close up

Image by Pranav Madhu, via Unsplash​​Unsplash


Here’s another smoothie recipe that will give you energy for hours.

Look:


almonds on a dark brown table with a white bowl full of almond butter

Image via Pixabay

Almond Butter Banana Shake

Delicious, and packed with nutrients!

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 frozen bananas
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 to 2 heaping tablespoon almond butter
  • 1/2 cup ice
  • 1 scoop vegan protein powder

Instructions:

Add all of the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. 

Garnish with slices of banana or crushed almonds if desired.

Source: Lunchboxbunch.com


The following breakfast recipe that uses freekeh, which is a Middle Eastern product you can use for sweet or savory dishes.

This recipe uses it as a sweet breakfast you can make when you’re running short on time but still want lots of nutrition and fuel.


Freekeh Breakfast Bowl

You can't go wrong with freekeh in the morning! 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 cup of cracked freekeh, cooked
  • 1/3 cup of dried cranberries, cherries, apricots, dates, or other dried fruit
  • 1 tablespoon of vegan butter
  • 1/3 cup of chopped toasted pecans, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, or other nuts
  • 1 tablespoon of honey or sweetener
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg

Instructions:

Bring the milk to boil in a medium saucepan. Next, add the freekeh, dried fruit, and vegan butter (you can also use coconut oil as a substitute).

Turn the heat to low and cover the pan. Simmer on low for about 20 minutes.

You will know it’s done with the freekeh absorbs the water and is tender.

Pour the mixture into a serving bowl and then add the nuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, and honey or sweetener of your choice.

Source: Care2.com

Freekah box and cereal in a white bowl

image CC by 2.0, by jules, via Flickr


Lunch recipes that will make your mouth water

Sometimes you have time to cook lunch and other times you’ll have to eat it on the go.

Good news!

I’ve thought of both and included an easy-to-make lunch as well as one that takes a little more time.

The first recipe is so easy, but don’t let that fool you. It’s heaven on a plate.


Avocado toast pictured with squeezed lime

Image by Mariana Medvedeva, via Unsplash

Avocado Toast with Citrus Cumin Salt

A delicious kick with top-notch fats! 

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 2 slices of rustic bakery or sprouted bread
  • 1 to 2 medium avocados
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 1 lemon
  • Cumin
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper

Instructions:

To make the citrus cumin salt, zest the lemon, then place the zest in a small bowl. Next, add 1 teaspoon of the sale and 1/4 teaspoon of cumin. Then, add a few pinches of pepper, then use your finger to mix it.

Next, mash 3/4 of the avocado in a bowl and add 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.

After that, toast the bread. When it’s done, spread the avocado mixture over it and mash it down with a fork.

Next, slice the remaining avocado and place the slices on top of the toast. Then sprinkle some red pepper flakes, the citrus cumin salt and freshly squeezed lemon juice on top.

When it's finished, you can add a small drizzle of olive oil if you wish.

Source: Lunchboxbunch.com


Vegan potato fritters

image via Pixabay

Vegetable Potato Fritters with Vegan Sriracha Mayonnaise

Get your vegan fix for your spicy kick craving!

Ingredients:

For the vegetable potato fritters:

  • 3/4 cup red lentils
  • 1 small chopped red onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika powder
  • 1 teaspoon regular paprika powder
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

For the sriracha mayonnaise:

  • 3 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika powder
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Sriracha sauce

Instructions:

Start by cooking the red lentils as instructed on the package. Then, peel and grate the potatoes and carrot. Combine them with the cooked lentils, garlic, onion, flour, and spices in a large bowl. Stir until mixed.

Next, heat oil in a pan and add 1 1/2 tablespoons for each fritter. And then cook them on medium heat for three to four minutes on each side until they’re browned.

Meanwhile, make the sriracha mayonnaise by combining all of the ingredients and mixing well.

Eat the fritters while they’re hot dipped into the mayonnaise mixture.

Source: Veganheaven.org


Soups are a large part of a vegan’s diet and this recipe will warm you up on a cold day. Its bold flavors will make this a staple in your vegan plan.

Treat yourself:


Tomatoes on the vine

Photo by Marc Mueller on Unsplash

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Delicious, warm, and absolutely nutritious!

Ingredients:

For the roasted tomatoes:

  • 3 pounds of roma or plum tomatoes, cut in half and seeded (optional)
  • 8 cloves of peeled garlic
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

For the caramelized onions:

1/2 tablespoon of olive oil

2 thinly sliced yellow onions

Additions to the soup:

1/2 cup of basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano

1 to 2 cups water or vegetable broth (broth will make the soup thicker)

Salt and pepper to taste

Add coconut milk to make it creamy (optional)

Instructions:

Start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees Farhenheit. Next, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and put the halved tomatoes and garlic cloves on it.

Drizzle them with the olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 45 minutes. After you’ve taken them out of the oven, allow them to cool for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the caramelized onions by adding 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil to a large pot.

Set the temperature to medium-high. Add the onions and stir to coat them with the olive oil. Cook them until they are browned and caramelized. Be sure to check them every 5 to 10 minutes.

This should take about 20 minutes.

Once cool, add the tomatoes and garlic to a high-powered blender or food processor and blend until they’re smooth. Now add the basil and caramelized onions to the mixture and blend again. (You can also do this with an immersion blender.)

Transfer the blended mixture to the pot and turn to medium low heat. Add the broth or water, the oregano, salt, and pepper. Add the coconut milk if you want a creamy texture.

Simmer the soup for about 10 minutes so it will absorb all of the flavors.

Source: Ambitiouskitchen.com


Dinner recipes that your family will love

At the end of a long day, there’s nothing better than a vegan meal plan that maps out the perfect meal.

Below are some recipes for you to choose from.

You can make the first recipe in a flash, but the warm goodness will last all night long.

It's true:


Sweet Potato Soup with Avocado Garnish

Warm and packed with vitamins and good fats, this is a great option!

Ingredients:

For the soup:

  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of chipotle powder

For the topping:

  • 1 diced avocado
  • Handful of crushed tortilla chip
  • A pinch of smoky paprika
  • A squeeze of lime juice

Optional soup add-ons:

1-2 teaspoons of olive oil

1 tablespoon of maple syrup

Cayenne, cumin, ginger powder and/or smoky paprika

Salt

Instructions:

Start by heating oven to 400 degrees. Then, poke a few holes in the sweet potato and bake it for an hour. When it’s done and cooled, peel the skin.

In a blender, add the sweet potato, broth, non-dairy milk, lime, garlic, and chipotle powder. Then, blend the mixture until smooth. Taste it and add more spice if needed.

Next, pour the soup into a pan and heat over the stove.

Once it's heated, add it to bowls and add avocado, crushed corn chips, and a squeeze of lime juice. Finally, top it off with a pinch of smoky paprika.

Source: Lunchboxbunch.com

sweet potatoes with cilantro

Image via Pixabay


Some nights, you just want a salad as a nice end to the day.

Here’s one that is easy to make and full of nutritious ingredients.

onions in a line and one cut open on a black background

Photo by 青 晨 on Unsplash

Fig Green Pea Salad with Tofu Feta

The incredible crispy delicious bit of figs, with delicious feta-ize tofu! 

Ingredients:

For the salad:

  • 4 cups of salad greens
  • 2 figs
  • 1 scallion
  • 1/3 cup fresh or frozen peas

For the dressing

  • 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
  • Salt
  • Pepper

For the tofu feta:

  • 1 package extra firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons of white miso
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon of oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • Black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes

Instructions:

First, make the tofu feta by putting paper towels on the top and bottom of the feta and then setting something heavy on top of it for at least an hour. Meanwhile, whisk together all ingredients in a bowl until mixed thoroughly.

Cut the tofu into small cubes and add them to a jar. Next, add the marinade and mix evenly. Then place the jar in the fridge and let it marinade for about two hours.

To make the salad, slice the scallion and figs and add to a bowl already filled with greens, fresh peas, and tofu feta. Mix well.

Next, combine the vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to make the dressing.

Finally, drizzle the dressing on top of the salad.

Source: Greenevi.com


You can use your slow cooker to create a delicious meal to come home to.

The following recipe is easy, nourishing, and it’s a great addition to your vegan meal plan.


Vegan Slow Cooker Tofu Tikka Masala

You don't want to miss this delicious favorite!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of extra firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 diced white onion
  • 1 red bell pepper cut into chunks
  • 2 sliced medium carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups of diced gold potatoes
  • 2 cups of cauliflower florets
  • 1 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 1 15 ounce can of full fat or lite coconut milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon of pure maple syrup
  • ½ tablespoon of freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon of garam masala
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • 1//4 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 3/4 cup of frozen peas
  • Fresh chopped cilantro as a garnish

Instructions:

Add the garlic, onion, carrots, cauliflower florets, potatoes, coconut milk, tomato sauce, maple syrup, ginger, cumin, coriander, garam masala, turmeric, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, and pepper to your slow cooker and then stir to combine it.

Next, add in the tofu and stir it gently.

Turn the slow cooker on high and cook the mixture for 3 to 4 hours. Or, you can cook the mixture on low for 6 to 7 hours.

Immediately before serving it, add the frozen peas to the pot and cook it for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, uncovered.

Serve with quinoa or brown rice and add a dash of freshly chopped cilantro as a garnish.

Source: Ambitiouskitchen.com

vegan "chicken" tika Masala with tofu

image CC by 2.0, by Miikka H, via Flickr

Are You Ready to Make Your Vegan Meal Plan?

What do you think?

Taking everything you learned here, are you ready to design your own vegan meal plan?

If you’ve already created your vegan meal plan and want to share your favorite recipe with our readers, please do so in the comments below!

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