How to Create a Healthy Vegan Meal Plan
So, you want to create a meal plan for the week that’s going to be full of delicious, nutritious plant-based meals and snacks that also fits in with your fitness goals? Well, I got you, girl. Today I’m sharing the knowledge, habits and techniques I’ve picked up over the past 8 years. I’ll break down the major nutrient’s and vitamin’s you need to include in your healthy vegan meal plan to fuel your week and we’ll also talk about which foods might be hampering your weight loss attempts. Let me make it super clear that I am not a qualified nutritionist and it’s always recommended you check with your own GP before embarking on a diet or lifestyle change. Right, disclaimer out the way, let’s crack on!
Why meal plan?
Firstly, let’s talk about why you would create a healthy vegan meal plan in the first place. To achieve and maintain a good quality of heath, your body needs a good variety of macro (carbs, protein & fat) and micro (Iron, B12 etc.) nutrients and meal planning is a simple way of getting these in. You can decide your daily calorific intake and portion sizes in advance and in line with your goals. Planning out what you’re going to eat for the week helps to keep your grocery shopping on budget and avoids major decision fatigue too. Finally, you’re less likely to get stuck with nothing healthy in the house and resorting to take-away. Winner all round!
Maybe she’s crazy, maybe she just needs carbs.
Oh carbs, so controversial and yet so essential for fueling our bodies and keeping our mood stable. There’s no two ways about it, as humans we need carbs to function. Carbs come in two forms, simple and complex and it’s the latter you really want plenty of in your healthy vegan meal plan. The biggest difference between these two sisters is that complex carbs are digested by our insides more slowly than simple carbs. This means that after eating complex carbs, our blood sugars rise at a nice steady rate, instead of sky-rocketing up then sending us back down to earth in a miserable sugar crash. The worse suspect’s for causing those 4 pm crashes are, unsurprisingly, also the most heavily processed and refined simple carbs. These include white flour (oh tiger bread, I knew you were too good to be true), most baked goods and sugary breakfast cereals. Complex carbs like fruit, vegetables and minimally processed grains give us a nice steady boost of energy to keep our booties and brains ticking over nicely. Sweet potatoes and wholegrain rice are delicious alternative’s to starchy white potatoes and pasta. The best of all the carbs are leafy green vegetables and for optimum health you want to be eating these twice a day. Think spinach, broccoli, lettuce, rocket, Swiss chard, kale, spring greens. Have a look here and here for healthy and delicious vegan recipe ideas featuring complex carbs.
Where do you get your protein?
Thankfully, veganism has got a lot more popular since I joined the club! When creating your healthy vegan meal plan, you’ll want to include a variety of protein sources. Nearly all plant based whole foods contain some protein. These are your big hitter’s; beans and legumes (chickpeas, butter beans, lentils, red kidney beans etc.), tofu, tempeh, spirulina, nuts, chia and hemp seeds. These beauties are also fab sources of many micro-nutrients, although they can make you gassy if you’re not used to them. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! You can get a vegan version of any meat and diary product your belly desires nowadays. Whilst that’s great for the animals, it’s not always that great for our health. Lots of vegan substitutes are heavily processed, loaded with salt and full of saturated fat. Subsequently, you’ll want most of your protein to be coming from plant based whole food. If, like me, you enjoy the taste and the convenience of fake meats, it’s worth checking what’s inside. Generally, the fewer the ingredients, the better. However, an advantage of fake meats is that they tend to have higher protein content per portion size compared to their whole food counter-parts. Because of this, supplementing occasionally with fake meat and vegan protein powders (pea and hemp based) can be helpful in meeting your goals. For amazing high protein vegan recipes, have a look here. For awesome high protein faux meat ideas, check out veggie soul food.
Fatty boom boom
Fat is as misunderstood as the other macros and just as essential. Check out registered nutritionist Kaleigh at The Lively Table, who breaks down the science behind fat better than I can. She advises that for optimum physical and mental health, you need monounsaturated fats and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in your diet regularly. High quality vegan sources of these healthy fats can be found in olive oil, avocados, walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseed. It’s worth noting that our beloved coconut oil doesn’t actually contain those omega-3’s we really need. In fact, coconut oil has a much higher saturated fat content than its pal olive oil. To avoid unhealthy cholesterol and weight gain, you’ll want to avoid trans and saturated fats. When creating your healthy vegan meal plan, include a portion of healthy fats at every meal. This could be an olive oil based salad dressing or a tbsp of flaxseed on your breakfast smoothie. Finally, not only is fat essential for our brains and bodies, but it’s fat that carries the flavour from your herb’s and seasoning’s (see below!)
I wanna snack you up
You can buy vegan snacks easily nowadays. However, many of them are over-priced and loaded with unnecessary sugar, salt and preservatives. When it comes to snacks, think about your craving’s. Don’t deprive yourself! If you’ve got a sweet tooth like me, experiment with raw cacao. When roasted, these are the same beans used to make chocolate. However, this process destroys most of their amazing health-boosting properties. High quality dark chocolate is also great for satisfying a sweet tooth whilst avoid blood-sugar-based mood swings. Include at least 2-3 snacks a day in your meal plan, cos’ nothing good happens when you’re hangry, my friend. Fresh seasonal fruit, especially berries, and unsalted nuts make for easy handbag snacks too. Create your own delicious vegan snacks at home by trying out my granola bar recipe here or these healthy cookie dough bites.
Going vegan and improving your health doesn’t need to be boring. Fresh and dried herbs are both fantastic for adding flavour and colour to your meals and snacks. Beans and legumes take on loads of flavour and are sturdy enough to be curried, stewed and roasted – all great techniques for creating yummy meals. Many herbs and spices have health-boosting properties too, like turmeric and cinnamon. You can keep your healthy vegan meal plan exciting by trying themed meals or days – Taco Tuesday has just become Mexican Night in my house. Check out Dora’s Table for amazing vegan Mexican recipes and have a look here for more flavour ideas.
So, what next?
- Now you know how, create your own healthy vegan meal plan!
- Leave a comment below, I love to hear your feedback!
- Want me to hook you up with your own personalized healthy vegan meal plan? Fill in the form and let’s get working on your goals together!