What does a healthy vegetarian meal plan look like?
What does eating a whole food, healthy vegetarian meal plan look like to you? For many of us, it means something different for us. We may have different reasons for choosing it. However, eating more plants is not an all or nothing lifestyle for many of us.
First, let’s first talk about all the different plant-based eating lifestyles and the many reasons that people go plant-based. We will also explore some of the health benefits of a diet that includes more plant-based foods.
Types of Plant-based or Vegetarian Eating Styles
There are lots of ways to move towards a whole food vegetarian style way of eating. People often wonder “plant-based vs vegan” and some of us wonder, “what does that really mean”? Here is a list of terms for you to get a better understanding of them.
Not every way of eating suits each person’s lifestyle and it’s important for me as a nutritionist and registered dietitian to encourage you to choose the way of eating that works for you to eat more plant centered. One size does not fit all.
Here are the different ways to achieve a whole food plant-based diet!
What is vegan? We have heard this term explode over recent years. Someone who follows a vegan diet does not eat or use animal products. They need to read food labels carefully and pay attention to food preparation methods when out to eat. Someone who is vegan needs to be very careful to get needed nutrients but with work, it can be done!
This diet is more flexible than the vegan diet because it may include either egg, dairy or both. A vegetarian who includes eggs is an Ovo vegetarian. A vegetarian who includes dairy is a Lacto vegetarian. A vegetarian who includes both is a Lacto Ovo vegetarian.
People who are pescatarians do not eat meat, but they eat fish. Many of them also eat eggs and dairy.
A flexitarian is a person who primarily eats vegetarian but once in a while eats meat or fish. This is one of the most common plant-based eating patterns.
Smaller portions of animal foods eaten less often or choosing animal products only on special occasions while primarily moving towards eating only mostly plants can be a healthy way to go!
The more foods that are taking out of an eating plan, the more care needs to be taken to get the nutrients that they need. For example, a gluten-free vegan or a vegan following low fodmap diet has a lot of dietary restrictions. A vegan eating keto or paleo who is not eating whole grains may be at even more nutritional risk.
Also, the more restrictions someone has, the more at risk that they are for disordered eating. Take a closer look at the reasons why you are choosing your plant-based eating plan and seek help working with a dietitian. This is very important if you feel that your relationship with food is disordered!
Whole Food Vegetarian Nutrition Benefits
Research shows that plant-based eating provides a lot of health benefits! Some of these include:
- Lower rates of heart disease
- Reduced risk of cancer and also improved survival rates
- Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes and it is also a great tool for many in the management of it.
- A decrease in body inflammation which is a key risk factor for autoimmune health conditions.
- For some people eating more plant-based can be a way to achieve and maintain healthy body weight.
Other Reasons People Healthy Vegetarian Meal Plans
In addition to health, there are additional reasons why people choose a plant-based diet. What are your reasons for plant-based eating? Becoming vegetarian or eating other types of plant-based diets may be important to many of us due to other concerns that they have.
1. Impact of the Environment
For many people, the concern with factory farms and the waste that they create is a reason many people do not eat animals or animal products (or reduce the amount that they eat).
2. Animal Welfare
How animals are treated while they are being raised and slaughtered especially on factory farms is a concern for many people, so they do not eat animal products, or they eat them much less.
Healthy Vegetarian Meal Plan Food List
You might be wondering if someone doesn’t eat meat or fish (and for some not dairy or eggs). What do they eat? The answer is plants! Here are the building blocks of a plant-based diet:
These include beans, lentils and peas which are the primary sources of protein for people on a plant-based diet. They are also rich in iron and B vitamins. Legumes are also a rich source of fiber.
Nuts, seeds and healthy oils such as olive oil provide needed nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin E. Many other nutrients are carried through our bodies with the help of healthy fats.
Vegetables are the cornerstone of a plant-based diet. They are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Choose from a variety of colors in your diet. Vegetables are also an important source of protein.
Fruits provide sweetness in our meal planning. They can be the main ingredients for desserts, beverages, and salads. Fruit provides many of the same nutrients as vegetables.
Grains can be an important source of fiber, protein, iron and other important vitamins and minerals in our diet.
Important Nutrients to Get on a Healthy Vegetarian Meal Plan
When going plant-based it is important to take care to make sure that you get certain nutrients in your day.
Protein is easy to get on a plant-based diet! Vegetarian sources of protein include legumes, nuts/seeds, vegetables, and whole grains.
If someone continues to eat dairy foods, they are an excellent source of calcium, however, there are quite a few plant-based foods that also are rich in calcium like many green leafy vegetables, nuts and beans have calcium also.
This nutrient is mostly found in animal sources, so caution must be taken to get this vitamin. Nutritional yeast is a great source of this vitamin in addition to many foods that are supplemented with it like tempeh, plant-milks, and cereals.
Omega 3 Fats
Salmon and trout are rich in omega 3 fatty acids but walnuts, ground flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds that also sources of these fats. In addition, there are plant-based supplements for omega 3 fats from sea plants.
Whole Food Plant-based Nutritionist
You may have wondered “is there a plant-based dietitian near me who can provide the best guidance to begin my journey”?
If you have been wanting to eat a more plant-based meal plan but want to know the healthiest way to do it so it meets your needs, I am here to help! I have eaten a plant-based diet for over 20 years. Our whole family has eaten from the full spectrum of the plant-based eating styles during that time.
I have created a new program to help clients find their personalized approach to a plant-based diet that includes information, tools, and recipe menu ideas.
Here is a little more about the healthy vegetarian meal plan:
A Fresh Approach to Plant-Based Eating
Here is a little glimpse of some of the things that you and I will work on together!
Session One: Explore Your Plant-based Eating Style
- Explore the available options of meatless protein for meals.
- Discover ways to include key nutrients in a plant-based diet.
- Receive your customized plant-based eating plan including recipes, menus & shopping list.
Session Two: Evolve in Your New Eating Habits
- Learn more about the variety available with plant-based foods to enhance meal satisfaction.
- Discuss ways to revise favorite recipes to make them more plant based.
- Determine the knowledge needed to order plant-based meals in restaurants & how to pack food for road trips.
Session Three: Enjoy Your New Food Choices
- Practice plant-based eating skills to prepare meals & snacks that can be quickly put together.
- Develop strategies to use when eating with friends and family while continuing to eat plant based.
- Savor your new way of eating with your new tools and confidence!
Tips For Working Towards a Healthy Vegetarian Meal Plan
Here are some ways that you can get started on your way to giving plants a more central place on your plate!
- If taking on a plant-based diet seems overwhelming, try observing Meatless Monday . This worldwide movement encourages everyone to go without meat one time a week.
- Plan a recipe using legumes once a week (not only does it have health benefits it also can save money). Some of our vegetarian favorites include bean burritos, lentil tacos, garbanzo bean salads or curries.
- Add more veggies to your recipes while at the same time make your meat portions smaller. For example, with spaghetti, you can add mushrooms, shredded carrots, bell pepper or broccoli. For chili, use more beans and less meat by including more tomatoes, red bell pepper, and sweet potatoes.
- Add an extra serving of veggies, fruit, whole grains and healthy fats while making your serving of animal proteins smaller so everything fits on your plate.
- If you are going to eat animal products, purchase the cleanest options possible raised without hormones, pesticides and that are grass-fed. Find a local farmer if one is nearby, so you know where your food comes from also. The products are often more expensive but high quality. This will be an inspiration for eating smaller meat portions and eating them less often. You will savor them more when you have them also if you have small portions.
- If eating entirely all organic fruits and vegetables is too much for your budget, consider using the dirty dozen as a guideline. You can also purchase more food from a local farmer who uses organic methods or grow more of your own food.
Whole Food Plant-Based Diet Recipes
To get you started on your plant-based lifestyle, I have included some easy vegetarian recipes below that I hope that you will love, they can easily be adapted to vegan also or add a little animal protein!
Having some tried and true vegetarian meals to make is one of the best ways to get you started!
Finding Healthy Vegetarian Recipe Ideas
I hope that this information is helpful for your healthy vegetarian meal planning. You may already eat a plant-based diet but are looking for some new ideas. Over the last 20 years, I have been helping clients eat a more plant-based diet. I look forward to helping you feel the healthiest!
In addition, you may want recipe and meal ideas, along with other resources/tools and support. So, you might be ready to take a Fresh Approach to Plant-Based Eating !
Here are lots more delicious vegetarian recipes to share with you on plant-based eating at the Vine Ripe Nutrition Blog!
Tempeh for Breakfast (vineripenutrition.com)
Wild Blueberry Huevos Rancheros Brunch (vineripenutrition.com)
10 Vegetarian Brunch Recipes for the Holidays – Vine Ripe Nutrition
Festive Spring Vegetarian Brunch Recipe Ideas (vineripenutrition.com)
Blueberry Breakfast Bars (vineripenutrition.com)
Blueberry Tropical Smoothie (vineripenutrition.com)
Vegetarian Bag Lunch Ideas – Vine Ripe Nutrition
Pizza with arugula (vineripenutrition.com)
Tuscan Kale Salad (vineripenutrition.com)
Hummus Tacos (vineripenutrition.com)
Easy Tempeh Recipe (vineripenutrition.com)
Make Ahead Vegetarian Lunches (vineripenutrition.com)
No Cook Vegetarian Meals/ Healthy Recipe Ideas to Make (vineripenutrition.com)
Berry Overnight Oats (vineripenutrition.com)
Red Cabbage Mexican Slaw (vineripenutrition.com)
Mediterranean Roasted Vegetable Sandwich Recipes (vineripenutrition.com)
Protein Bowl recipes (vineripenutrition.com)
Spinach Strawberry Salad with Walnuts (vineripenutrition.com)
10 Delicious Plant-Based Protein Recipes – Vine Ripe Nutrition
Vegetarian Cookout Recipes Vine Ripe Nutrition
tempeh taco meat (vineripenutrition.com)
vegetarian taco salad (vineripenutrition.com)
Cauliflower Quesadillas (vineripenutrition.com)
Vegetarian Chili Con Carne (vineripenutrition.com)
Healthy Menu Planning for Vegetarian Meals – Vine Ripe Nutrition
Holiday Survival Thanksgiving Recipes (vineripenutrition.com)
Vegetarian Make Ahead Meals (vineripenutrition.com)
Garbanzo Beans Curry (vineripenutrition.com)
Vegetarian Stuffed Winter Squash (vineripenutrition.com)
Avocado Tahini Dressing (vineripenutrition.com)