The amount of people choosing to follow a vegan diet has increased significantly in recent years. The choice is made for different reasons… usually out of concern for animals or for health reasons. From celebrity endorsements to an online culture of blogs and videos, this is a golden age of resources for the vegan community. But for newcomers or lapsed vegans, adjusting can be difficult.
One of the great tickets to success with any dietary shift is to focus on meal planning.
Of course, this practice differs from person to person. But the general idea is simple… Map out the meals you want to make and purchase the necessary foods further in advance than usual.
Using the techniques of meal planning when it comes to a plant-based (or a plant-heavy) diet doesn’t just make it easier to stick to, it can also lead to tangible benefits for your health.
Benefits of Meal Planning
Have you ever found yourself engrossed in a project at home or at work? Suddenly, you get hungry, but you’ve been so busy, there’s no food to eat. As a result, you need to turn to fast food or a ready-made snack because the healthiest choice isn’t available.
Well, meal planning can do a lot to help you avoid this situation. If you already know what foods you’re going to eat, and have your meals prepped, you can easily introduce healthier foods into your day with little hassle.
In fact, studies show that meal planning may have a positive impact on heart health, weight, and overall diet quality.1 That’s because taking the time to plan what you eat means you can always pick what you think is best, as opposed to what is most convenient in a flash.
This is especially important for vegan diets.
And meal planning can also help you:
- Save money
- Save time
- Control your weight (since you decide on ingredients and portions)
- Stick to a more nutritionally balanced diet
- Reduce the stress of rushed preparation2
Whether you plan on embracing a fully vegan lifestyle yourself, or if you’d just like to eat a bit less meat, there’s an ongoing process of trying to find the foods that mimic the textures and tastes of animal products and proteins — as well as ensuring you’re eating enough protein. By planning your meals you can spend more time exploring your options. In time, you may be able to find some new favorites for your pantry!
Putting Your Plan Into Practice
Meal planning can seem like a daunting task at first. But if you start by listing with some of your favorite meals it can help you get a foothold. Consider leaning on family and friends for ideas. Don’t forget, there are tons of vegan cookbooks and recipes out there as well.
Once you have a list of meals you like, map your potential meal making process out, week by week. Pick a day out of the week to prep by cutting vegetables or setting up other ingredients. Then, choose what meals are being made each day. After this, it’s time to shop.
Set aside a day of the week for shopping where you can afford to take it slow. Shopping deliberately can take the pressure off your wallet (and keep you on-task in terms of choosing plant-based products wisely).
Dietary Concerns From A Plant-Based Diet
Of course, it’s possible to get everything you need, nutritionally speaking, from a vegan diet. However, doing this properly goes hand in hand with meal planning.
And research shows that people get full by the amount of food they eat, not the number of calories they take in. So, you can cut calories in your favorite foods by lowering the amount of fat and/or increasing the amount of fiber-rich ingredients, like fruit and veggies.3
Furthermore, if you can find great, vegan sources of protein including lentils, chickpeas, tempeh, and some nuts.
By shopping at a slower pace, you can see all the various options available to you. You can also put together your meals in advance to ensure a balanced diet. For example, you may choose to make a bean salad one day, then a tempeh-based meal the next day. Both meals provide the protein you need. But by planning, you’re able to keep things fresh and exciting.
And if you’re vegan, you should take extra care to include certain nutrients in your meals.
- Iron — commonly found in broccoli and foods cooked in cast iron skillets
- Omega-3 fatty acids — flaxseed oil and leafy greens may be a great help here
And if you find you can’t get enough of a certain nutrient, even with planning, consider taking a dietary supplement. Always discuss this with your doctor.
Vegan Meal Plans In Review
Vegans can get greater benefit from meal planning. Most people use meal planning to minimize harmful foods being introduced into their diets. Vegans can make use of it to not only do this but also to bring in foods to fill in nutritional gaps.
If you want to start planning your meals, don’t be afraid to start slow. Pre-planning one or two meals a week will take a weight off your shoulders. Before long, you’ll be able to extend this further, taking the headache out of mealtime, all the time.