Plant-Based Meal Ideas

As I teach my patients the benefits of a more whole-food, plant-based diet, many are at a loss for how to create plant-based meals. Below are some meal suggestions that may make this easier.

For health, we need to increase vegetables, fruits, nuts, fiber and water, and to decrease processed foods, refined grains, gluten, sugars, animal products, dairy, hydrogenated oils (ie. trans fats), excess salt, artificial sweeteners and chemical additives/preservatives. So, be sure to read labels to avoid these unnecessary ingredients.

See how many different colors of vegetables/fruits you can get into one meal. Eat a rainbow variety of whole foods daily, with at least one green veggie during at least 2 meals per day. And have fun creating new, tasty dishes!

BREAKFAST OPTIONS:

High-fiber, low-sugar cereal with milk alternative (like rice milk, almond milk or coconut milk) and fresh or dried fruit (like grapes, peaches, berries, raisins, prunes, figs) and/or nuts.

Whole-grain cooked cereal (like slow-cooked [not instant] oatmeal, brown rice, oat bran, buckwheat or rice bran cereal) with fresh or dried fruit and/or nuts. With or without milk alternative.

Congee. (see Easy to Digest Foods post). This is a thin porridge used in China as a breakfast. You can make it from 1 part any whole grain, cooked overnight in a crock pot with 5 parts water. You can add fruits, vegetables, herbs or spices to give it interest.

100% whole-grain (gluten-free is best) bread/toast with natural nut butter and/or low-sugar jam, unsweetened applesauce, fruit puree, or raw, local honey. (No artificial sweeteners).

100% whole-grain pancakes (again, gluten-free is best) with unsweetened applesauce topping, or raw local honey, and fresh fruit.

Fruit smoothie from the blender. Example: 1 cup fresh or frozen berries, 2 large handfuls spinach, 1 cup water or coconut water, and 1 banana or 1/2 avocado (for creaminess!) You will only taste the fruit, but will also get the benefits of the greens! (There are hundreds of smoothie recipes online. The best choices are “green smoothies” which contain green veggies, but taste like fruit.  See Green Smoothie Post and Green Smoothie Recipes for more info.). If you’d like less carbs, replace the banana with 1/2 avocado or 2 Tbsp of hemp hearts for creaminess. You can also add a scoop of soy-free, plant-based protein powder such as Plant Fusion, Sunwarrior, Life Basics, or hemp protein powder.

Green Puddings – similar to green smoothies, but make use less liquid, and pour it over fresh fruits and nuts.

Leftovers from dinner.

LUNCH  & DINNER OPTIONS:

Salad with lots of fresh vegetables, and perhaps fresh or dried fruits, seeds or nuts. Choose a non-dairy based salad dressing like a vinaigrette, a ginger dressing, a lemon-tahini dressing, hummus, salsa, guacamole or just squeeze of lemon.

100% whole-grain bread, pita, flatbread or tortilla, gluten-free wrap, or organic soft corn tortilla (to avoid GMO corn) with any combo of vegetables, beans, guacamole, hummus, salsa, or veggie burger patty.

Make pizza from 100% whole-grain bread, pita, or flatbread, (preferably gluten-free) with marinara sauce and chopped vegetables, dried Italian herb seasoning and optional cheese alternative (soy, rice or almond). Google “cauliflower pizza crust” for a truly unique and healthy version!

Soup with a vegetable broth, tomato base, or bean base, such as minestrone, vegetable, black bean soup, vegetable barley, lentil soup, squash soup, vegetarian chili, etc.

Baked potato, sweet potato, yam or baked winter squash with non-dairy toppings (like guacamole and/or salsa, or cinnamon on the sweet potato or squash.)  Believe it or not, just putting a bit of coconut oil and pink sea salt is amazing on potatoes and sweet potatoes.

Steamed or sauteed vegetables with garlic and spices, by themselves, or served over fresh greens, brown rice, millet, or quinoa, or wrapped inside of a whole grain tortilla, pita or soft corn tortilla.

Brown rice, millet, or quinoa with any combo of beans or vegetables, and any variety of non-dairy sauce such as salsa, tomato marinara sauce, curry sauce or Oriental style tamari, teriaki sauce, or Bragg’s Aminos.

Pasta made from whole grain, corn, quinoa or brown rice with marinara sauce, steamed or roasted vegetables, or chopped fresh vegetables. Wilted spinach is an nice addition to warm pasta dishes as well.

SNACK OPTIONS:

Fresh whole fruit  – apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, berries, plums, prunes, figs, etc.  Dip fresh cut fruit in peanut or almond butter.

Nuts: like walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, peanuts, etc.  (Avoid those with excess salt or flavorings.)

Fresh cut cucumbers, celery, bell peppers or carrots dipped in hummus, guacamole, natural peanut butter or almond butter.  Apples with peanut/almond butter and cinnamon.

Natural tortilla chips (baked are healthiest), with salsa, hummus, beans or guacamole.

100% whole grain bread/toast (gluten-free is best) with natural nut butter and low-sugar jam or unsweetened applesauce, fruit puree, or raw, local honey (no artificial sweeteners).

Baked potato or sweet potato, or baked winter squash with non-dairy toppings (like guacamole and/or salsa, or cinnamon & honey on the sweet potato or squash.)

Smoothie or pudding from the blender (See Breakfast options).

Chia Seed pudding. (See great recipe here).

BEVERAGE OPTIONS:

Purified water (drink 2 to 3 quarts daily, depending on your size and activity level).

Non-Caffeinated Herbal Tea or Red Tea (this counts as part of your purified water intake).

Green or White Tea (home brewed, not pre-made).

Black Tea (home brewed, unsweetened, or sweeten it yourself with stevia, xylitol or honey. Limit to 2 cups daily).

Organic coffee (limit to 8 oz daily). Organic decaf coffee (limit to 12 oz daily).  (Use almond milk or coconut milk creamers).

Fresh squeezed fruit and/or veggie juices (no sugar added). Dilute juices with water to 50%-25% strength, to reduce the blood sugar spike reaction. (It is better to eat the whole fruit or veggie!)

If you drink alcohol, limit to 2 or 3 drinks per week. (The best choice for most people is red wine.)

FOR WEIGHT LOSS:  (in addition to the suggestions above…)

Eat more fibrous vegetables, greens, whole beans and fruits than grains, starchy vegetables, or potatoes.

Avoid all processed foods, such as breads, crackers, tortillas, nut butters, jams, cold cereals, veggie burgers, cheese alternatives and milk alternatives, etc. Aim to eat foods only in their whole, natural state.

Avoid all sugars, sweeteners, alcohol and white flour products.

Avoid fats and oils in cooking, sauces and dressings. Limit nuts to 1 oz. daily. Limit avocados to 1/4 daily.

FOR MORE RESOURCES:

One Green Planet has amazing plant-based, gluten-free recipes that will truly inspire you. The Engine 2 website offers some great ways to convert your favorite stand-by’s into healthy, tasty, plant-based versions. And Talia Fuhrman (daughter of Dr. Joel Fuhrman), has a great blog & book full of scrumptious looking vegan temptations, as does the Minimalist Baker.

Happy Eating!

Dawn Balusik, AP, DOM
727-475-4710

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