Although it sounds relatively simple, the practicalities of writing a meal plan that is healthy, convenient, and achievable to follow can be quite challenging. If you’re new to plant-based eating, the added layer of creating a balanced vegan meal plan can leave you feeling lost.
Luckily, our team of online nutritionists have put together a few simple steps to help get you started and feel confident in your meal planning abilities.
How To Create A Plant-Based Or Vegan Meal Plan
Step 1: Pick a meal planning template
The first step is picking or creating a meal planning template as your base. This will vary depending on how many days you want to plan for as well as how many meals/snacks you eat in a day.
We recommend starting with a 1-week meal plan. This could take the form of either a full 7-day meal plan or just a 5-day work week plan if you prefer weekends to be less structured. Add a row for each meal and snack you need to plan for.
Step 2: Map out your weekly schedule
Before you start adding in your meals and snacks, it is a good idea to map out your weekly schedule. This may include your work hours, travel, social events, exercise etc.
This is an important step as an achievable meal plan is one designed to seamlessly fit into your life. It needs to factor in everything that you do throughout the week. This will give you a better gauge of how many meals you need to prepare yourself as well as how much time you will actually have to prepare these meals.
There may be some days when cooking a meal may not be feasible and you need a meal-prepped option, leftovers, a ready-made supermarket meal or a quick-cooking option. On other days, however, you may have a bit more time to experiment and try a new recipe. The more you can account for these factors within your vegan meal plan, the easier it will be to stick to it.
Step 3: Gather your meal/recipe database
This is the most fun step. Start by creating your own digital or physical database of some recipes and snacks to select from each week. This can be time-consuming initially, but once you have it, it makes the meal planning process much faster.
If you’re new to plant-based eating or just lacking inspiration in general, we recommend picking up a new (or old and forgotten) cookbook to look through. Online cooking blogs as well as Instagram can also be a great place to start if you’re stuck on ideas.
You can visit our PNW Clinic Instagram here for recipe inspiration!
Some popular recipes that have been uploaded onto the blog:
- Chocolate & Cranberry Vegan Muesli Bars
- Vegan Peanut Butter Protein Balls
- Easy Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese
- Coconut Chickpea Curry
- Fresh Vegan Zucchini Pesto
Step 4: Selecting balanced meals and snacks.
If you’re new to plant-based eating, it can be hard to know how to choose balanced vegan/vegetarian meals and snacks that will leave you feeling full and satisfied.
In most basic terms, a balanced plant-based meal should include:
- A source of protein: tofu, tempeh, TVP, beans and legumes, mock meat, pulse pasta, egg, soy yoghurt, protein powder
- A source of grains/starches: rice, pasta, grain bread, oats, quinoa, barley, potato, sweet potato
- Colourful vegetables/fruit
- Nourishing fats: nuts and seeds, nut butter, coconut milk, olive oil, cheese, avocado
A balanced plant-based snack should combine two of the above food groups.
Step 5: Fill your week of meals
Now that you’ve planned your week and have your meal and snack ideas ready, it’s time to create your vegan meal plan.
Start filling in your template keeping in mind your weekly schedule. Try to keep it as simple and realistic as possible using the following tips.
5 Top Meal Planning Tips
Make Use Of Leftovers
You don’t need to make a new meal every day. Cooking extra at dinner for lunch the next day or dinner later on in the week can be a great time saver.
Pick Meals That Use Similar Ingredients
This helps reduce the amount of food you have to buy while eliminating food waste and allowing you to easily prep in bulk.
Don’t Be Scared To Use Ready-Made Options
Busy schedules may mean that you don’t have time to make a freshly made meal each night from scratch. Or maybe you simply don’t enjoy cooking or are still new to it. In these instances, meal delivery services or pre-prepared fresh/frozen/packaged supermarket meals are great options to add to your plan! Try your best to opt for meals that include grains/starches, vegetables and a protein source.
Keep It Simple
Don’t try to be too ambitious, especially initially. Choosing recipes that are too complex or time-consuming or even just choosing too many different meal options can often leave you feeling overwhelmed. A simple plan will stop you from losing motivation and giving up on your plan altogether.
Keep Some Pantry Stable and Frozen Meals on Hand
No matter how well you plan, life doesn’t always end up following accordingly. Maybe an unexpected change of plans occurs or you get to the end of the day and are just too tired to cook the meal you planned for. These things happen to everyone. Having some premade meals on hand as backup options can be a lifesaver. They could be pantry staples such as baked beans or tinned soup, store-bought frozen meals, or homemade frozen meals saved earlier from leftovers.
Now that you know all our tips to meal plan like a pro, you are ready to start creating your own vegan/vegetarian meal plans!
Get started by having a look through some of the vegan meal plans that we have available here!
Article written by: PNW Clinic Dietitian Georgia D’Andrea