The health benefits of eating more vegetables and whole foods are well known. Trying to actually implement it into your daily life is the hard part. Plant-based meal prep can help with that.
Maybe you’ve heard of the health benefits of eating more “plant-based” but aren’t interested in becoming vegan. A plant-based eating pattern focuses on eating unprocessed, whole foods that come from plants. If you’re trying to incorporate more plant-based foods into your meals this guide will teach you how to start meal prepping plant-based meals you can enjoy during your busy week.
What is Plant-Based Eating?
A plant-based (or plant-forward) eating pattern consists of mostly eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, other plant-based sources of protein, and nuts/seeds. Plant-based eating also emphasizes consuming unprocessed, whole foods and avoiding white flour and sugar.
You can transition to eating more plant-based meals without becoming vegan or vegetarian. Simply focus on predominantly eating plant-based foods and have animal foods such as seafood, poultry, eggs, or dairy less frequently. Animal-protein can still be incorporated into some meals, but think of it more as a garnish than the center of the meal.
This style of more plant-based eating may be for you if you:
- Want to incorporate more vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based protein into your meals
- Want to eat less animal food (though you don’t have to totally eliminate them if you don’t want to)
- Make meals that center around whole food ingredients
Components of Plant-Based Eating
- Non-starchy vegetables. One of the main health benefits of eating more plant-based is getting lots of vegetables in your meals.
- Plant-based protein. Meals focus more on incorporating plant-based protein sources such as beans, lentils, peas, tempeh, tofu. Tempeh is one of my favorite plant-based proteins, read about how to cook with it here.
- Healthy fats. Fats in plant-based meals can come from whole foods such as olives, nuts, nut butters, seeds, and avocados, as well as healthier oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil.
- Whole grains and starchy vegetables. Gets tons of fiber from eating whole grains (quinoa, millet, brown rice, farro, oats, barley, amaranth, etc.) and starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots, corn, beets, winter squash, etc.)
Plant-Based Meal Prep
Meal prepping is one of the most effective tools to consistently eat nutritious meals, especially during the busy work week.
Meal prepping is simply preparing complete meals or batch cooking individual ingredients (buffet-style meal prep) ahead of time.
If your goal is to eat more plant-based meals then meal prepping a few breakfast, lunch, or dinner meals ahead of time will greatly increase the likelihood that you reach your goal.
Even just prepping one or two meals for the week will make a difference. It’s not necessary to prep all your meals and I don’t recommend trying to do that. You’re more likely to continue meal prepping if you allow yourself some spontaneity in your meals and account for eating out and socializing.
Just start with prepping one breakfast and one lunch or dinner meal and you will start to reap the benefits.
Benefits of Meal Prepping
Meal prepping helps you eat healthy meals. Since the cooking is already done you won’t be tempted to grab take-out, fast food, or some other not so healthy option when you’re too tired to cook or short on time.
Meal prepping saves you time. You’ll have extra time at night since you won’t need to cook dinner and then clean up the kitchen. Imagine coming home from work and having dinner basically ready to eat! All you have to do is heat up a portion of a prepped meal or assemble a few ingredients that you batch cooked.
Meal prepping reduces stress. No more rushing in the morning to throw together breakfast or make lunch to take to work. Simply pull a container out of the fridge with a pre-portioned meal, throw it in your work bag, and food for the day is done.
Meal prepping reduces food waste. When you plan and prep some of your meals ahead of time you go to the grocery store with a list of exactly what you need. This minimizes buying food that you don’t end up eating and saves money on groceries.
Plant-Based Meal Prepping
There are lots of plant-based meals that you can prep ahead of time. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it will give you some ideas to get started!
Curries. Coconut curry dishes made with Thai curry paste or Indian curry powder are an easy way to incorporate lots of vegetables, like this potato and vegetable yellow curry.
Grain Bowls. These are especially good for buffet-style meal prepping. Choose a whole grain, a plant-based protein, some vegetables, and some healthy fat (e.g., avocado, homemade peanut sauce, tahini sauce, etc.). The flavor combinations are endless. Try this quinoa and tempeh burrito bowl or black beans and yellow rice.
Soups and Stews. Easy and versatile, you can use whatever vegetables, grains, beans, or plant-based proteins you have on hand. They also freeze well if you want to save some servings for a later week. Try lentil soup or quinoa, vegetable, and bean stew.
Salads. Not all salads work for meal prepping, but you can prep make-ahead salads that use heartier greens such as kale or spinach, or make a grain salad like a farro salad with roasted vegetables or a Greek quinoa salad.
Healthy Baked Goods. Baked goods made with whole grains or natural sweeteners can make a good grab and go breakfast or afternoon snack. Muffins are an easy option. Try using almond flour or whole wheat flour to make blueberry muffins, banana muffins, lemon raspberry muffins, or chocolate muffins.
Healthy Pantry Staples
Keeping your pantry and fridge stocked with basic healthy food staples makes it so much easier to eat meals that center around unprocessed, whole foods. To start, fill your pantry with these healthy pantry staples.
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