Vegan meal plans for beginners to weight loss, budget cooking, pregnancy and more

Author: Rosie Martin

Read Time:   |  2nd August 2022

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.

Starchy carbohydrates

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

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

Calcium-rich foods

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

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.

Fluid

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

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

Monday

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

Tuesday

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

This healthy 'Snickers' slice is the perfect afternoon pick me up. Image: Kate Doran

Wednesday:

Breakfast: Green smoothie using bananas, dates and spinach

Snack: Apple and walnuts

Lunch: Mediterranean sandwich

Evening meal: Buddha bowl

Dessert: Cherries and dark chocolate

Thursday:

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

Friday:

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

Tofu scramble is a delicious, high-protein alternative to scrambled eggs. Image: Vegetarian For Life

Saturday:

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

Sunday:

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

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

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!

Written by

Rosie Martin

Rosie is a plant-based registered dietitian working in the NHS as Employee Health & Wellness Dietitian for NHS staff. As a former zoologist working in animal welfare, Rosie turned to a vegan diet in 2014. Having studied and experienced the physical and psychological benefits of a diet based on whole plant food, Rosie now works to support others embrace a plant-based diet for human, planetary and animal health through her business, Rosemary Nutrition & Dietetics. Rosie is also a board member of Plant Based Health Professionals UK.

We use cookies to give you a better experience on veganfoodandliving.com. By continuing to use our site, you are agreeing to the use of cookies as set in our Cookie Policy.

OK, got it