Our ultimate vegan meal plans guide covers everything from those looking for a beginners vegan meal plan to those looking for vegan plans for weight loss, budget vegan meal plans or even vegan meal plans for pregnancy.
Meal plans can be a savvy addition to anyone’s weekly routine. Whether you are pregnant, wanting to save the pennies, or drop a little weight, meal planning can help ensure you are meeting all your nutrient needs over the week, as well as say goodbye to that last-minute dinner panic at the end of a long and busy day.
Here we dive into what you need to consider to help you devise your own personalised meal plan and support you to feel happy, healthy and organised on your vegan adventures.
What do you need to consider when it comes to making your own vegan meal plan?
First of all it is important to ensure you are including foods from all the key food groups. Each group contains a different variety of nutrients that you need to stay well, so getting a good balance in a plant-based diet is important. You will want to be getting foods from the following 5 groups:
Fruits & vegetables
Aim to include fruits and vegetables with every meal and snack and select a variety of different colours. These high-fibre foods provide vitamins and minerals, water, phytochemicals and antioxidants that benefit our health and reduce our risk of disease1.
Examples include: apples, oranges, dark leafy greens, blueberries, strawberries, carrot, rhubarb, beetroot, cucumber, courgette, aubergine, banana, celery, peppers, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, swede.
Base each of your meals on a whole grain starchy carbohydrate to keep your energy up throughout the day as well as getting extra fibre and vitamins.
Examples include: brown rice, wholewheat pasta, wholemeal bread, potatoes, couscous, millet, buckwheat, oats, barley.
High protein foods
Consume these with every main meal to meet your vegan protein requirements.
Examples include: black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, butter beans, baked beans, peas, peanuts, tofu, tempeh.
Hearty stews filled with beans, potatoes served with rice are a healthy and affordable way to pack protein into your meals. Image: Viktorné Lupaneszku via Getty
You don’t need dairy for calcium, but you still need to ensure you are getting enough calcium from plant sources for strong bones. Aim to include three portions of calcium-rich foods every day.
Examples include: calcium-set tofu (check for ‘calcium’ anywhere in the ingredients list), fortified plant-based milk or juice, dark leafy greens such as kale or broccoli.
Other vegan calcium sources with smaller amounts include: almonds, tahini, figs, beans, sweet potato and oranges.
Healthy fats are important for our heart, brain and hormonal health2. Aim to include a small amount of healthy unsaturated fats with most meals.
Examples include: avocado, pecans, almonds, cashews, olives, olive oil, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds. In addition, it is important to ensure a source of omega 3 fatty acids and you can get these from specific plant foods including: flaxseed, walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds.
It’s important that we all stay well-hydrated to stay focused, energised, and support our bowel movements. Aim for around two litres per day, but this may increase if you are very active or the weather is very warm.
The best source of hydration (and the most environmentally friendly) is tap water, but a couple of teas or coffees can also contribute to your intake. Try to avoid sugary and fizzy drinks and limit fresh fruit juice to 150ml per day.
To optimise your vegan diet, choose a variety of different plant foods from each group as this will maximise your intake of different nutrients and beneficial plant chemicals. Some nutrients need a little extra help and are beneficial to get in fortified foods or supplements:
Tap water is the best source of hydration, and all the most environmentally friendly way to hydrate too. Image: Compassionate Eye Foundation/David Oxberry via Getty
Vitamin D – aim to supplement 10µg per day, this is particularly important during the winter months
Vitamin B12 – aim for at least 10µg per day, or choose fortified foods at least twice daily. Examples include: fortified nutritional yeast, yeast extract or plant milk.
Iodine – consume a supplement of 150µg of iodine per day. You can also get some vegan iodine from seaweed products, but these shouldn’t be relied upon due to the varying levels they contain3.
Here is an example vegan meal plan:
Veganuary Meal Plan for Beginners
Breakfast: Porridge with berries using calcium fortified plant milk
Snack: Brazil nuts and raisins
Lunch: Hummus, rocket, tomato and avocado sandwich on wholemeal bread
Evening meal: Sweet potato tagine with broccoli
Dessert: Healthy snickers slice
Breakfast: Pear & almond porridge using calcium fortified plant milk
Snack: Hummus with carrot and cucumber sticks
Lunch: Leftover tagine with rocket
Evening meal: Jacket potato with baked beans and mixed salad
Dessert: Berries, raisins and nuts with soya yogurt
This healthy 'Snickers' slice is the perfect afternoon pick me up. Image: Kate Doran
Breakfast: Green smoothie using bananas, dates and spinach
Snack: Apple and walnuts
Lunch: Mediterranean sandwich
Evening meal: Buddha bowl
Dessert: Cherries and dark chocolate
Breakfast: Fruit and nut bowl with fortified soya yogurt
Snack: Rice cakes with peanut butter and an orange
Lunch: Leftover Buddha bowl
Evening meal: Lentil Bolognese with spaghetti
Dessert: Chocolate dipped strawberries
Breakfast: Tofu scramble on wholemeal toast
Snack: Banana with almond butter
Lunch: Thai noodle salad
Evening meal: Peppers stuffed with brown rice and leftover Bolognese
Dessert: Tropical mango and pineapple fruit salad and a fortified oat milk hot chocolate
Tofu scramble is a delicious, high-protein alternative to scrambled eggs. Image: Vegetarian For Life
Breakfast: Vegan pancakes
Snack: Strawberries with soya yogurt
Lunch: Avocado toast topped with seeds
Evening meal: Black bean burger with sweet potato wedges
Dessert: Apple and berry crumble with fortified oat cream
Breakfast: Vegan Fry Up
Snack: Popcorn clusters with a fortified soya milk latté
Lunch: Quinoa and berry salad with leftover burger
Evening meal: Nut roast with roast potatoes and mixed veggies
Dessert: Coconut rice pudding
Vegan meal plan on a budget
If you’re watching the pennies, like most of us these days, a meal plan can help you to get more organised and save money across the week. The following tips will help you design your meal plan on a budget:
- Buy cheaper plant-based staples in bulk:
- Bananas – use in porridge, smoothies, on toast or as a snack
- Oats – use for porridge, in smoothies, in homemade granola or for breakfast bars
- Dried/canned beans or lentils – use to make dips and to bulk out meals like in this Red Lentil Coconut Curry
- Potatoes – make into jacket potatoes, mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, in stews and curries or potato salads – why not try out this Vegan Potato Salad to add to your lunches or dinners?
- Make meals in bulk by doubling or tripling the recipe, then put extra portions in the fridge or freezer to use another day – as done in the example meal plan above (leftovers highlighted in italics). This is great to do with stews like this Winter Stew or this Squash & Bean Stew
- Make use of your freezer – buy frozen berries, vegetables and greens to throw into meals. These options are no less nutritious than their fresh counterparts.
- Look up and buy local and seasonal fruits and vegetables
- Once you have designed your meal plan, write your shopping list and stick to it!
- Why not plan your last meal of the week to be a ‘clean up’ meal – getting creative with the ingredients you have leftover to create a whole new meal, like a soup or roasted veg salad. This will help you save money and reduce food waste before you head off to the shops once again.
Bulk buying staple ingredients such as oats, nuts, and dried pulses and legumes will save you money and mean you always have something ready to cook with in the cupboard. Image: Dougal Waters via Getty
Vegan meal plan for weight loss
If you are looking to drop some pounds, the following tips will support you to manage your weight with your vegan meal plan without having to break it down into uninspiring calorie counting
- Include snacks based on fresh fruits and non-starchy vegetables for example apples, berries and vegetable crudites with hummus instead of higher energy and often more processed vegan foods such as chocolate bars, crisps or biscuits.
- Increase the proportion of fruit or vegetables in your meals to approximately half the plate. For example, fill half your bowl of porridge with berries, make up a salad to add to your lunch, or roast some extra veg to fill up half your dinner plate. Why not make a big batch of this Roasted Cauliflower Salad and add it into your meal plan?
- Aim to make your meals and snacks from scratch as much as possible
- Check in with your hunger and plan your meals and snacks around the times you feel genuinely hungry. Become aware of times when you may reach for extra portions or snacks out of habit, boredom or stress and plan in a different activity. How about a walk, a bath or catching up with a friend?
Image: Anastasia Dobrusina via Getty
Vegan meal plan for pregnancy
If you are pregnant, there are some extra things to be aware of when designing your vegan meal plan.
In addition to the advice provided above on a general healthy diet, the following tips will help guide you to create your meal plan for pregnancy:
- Include an extra supplement of 400µg folic acid and ensure 200µg of iodine per day, unless recommended otherwise by your healthcare professional
- Aim to include extra sources of iron in your meals such as beans and lentils, tofu, tempeh, kale, pumpkin seeds and raisins – why not include this Tempeh Pad Thai?
- Limit your caffeine to 200mg daily – that’s about 2 mugs of tea or coffee
- If you experience morning sickness, consider planning your meals around this. If your sickness interrupts following your meal plan – don’t worry! Just try to eat what and when you can. A little and often approach may be preferred, choosing cold and bland foods like sandwiches, toast or crackers. Nourishing smoothies can also be helpful to top up on energy and nutrients, if you can manage them.
With a bit of organisation, meal planning can help you make the most of your time, money and provide the best nutrition for you. Remember to keep it diverse, tasty, nourishing and balanced.
Looking for some tasty vegan dinner inspiration?
These easy vegan meals take just 30 minute to make!