Being a vegan sounds so healthy, and done right, it sure is! But it can also be downright unhealthy if you don’t take a balanced approach. After all, French fries and soda are technically vegan but don’t make for a terrific diet.
I advise vegans in much the same way I do anyone else: Pack in the fresh fruits and vegetables, make most of your grains whole and your fats healthy fats, keep a lid on sodium (no more than 2,300 mg daily), and use lean sources of protein.
For protein, I recommend soy-based sources—things like tofu, tempeh, and soy milk—because soy contains “complete” protein. This means that it has the perfect proportion of amino acids our bodies need to build protein. I also recommend other legumes such as black beans, pinto beans, white beans, lentils, etc. Although their amino acid profile is not as complete, just have wheat, rice or other grains on the same day and you’ll get a balanced amino acid load.
I’m not a vegan, but when I think about it, I realize that I accidentally wind up eating vegan meals—often once a day!
To help you incorporate more vegan meals, I put together a few of my go-to vegan eats (and “veganized” a few of my almost-vegan recipes) to create two entirely vegan meal plans, each tallying approximately 1,700 calories. I think you’ll find it both approachable and delicious. Dig in and tell me what you think!
Vegan Day 1
Breakfast: cereal with almond milk, fruit, and nuts
1/2 cup shredded wheat
3/4 cup Flax Plus (or other low sugar, whole grain flakey cereal)
1 cup blueberries
2 tablespoons walnuts
1 cup calcium-enriched almond milk (such as Silk)
Lunch: Mashed white bean and basil wrap with salad
Measure out 3/4 cup canned, drained, no-salt-added cannellini beans (white beans). (If you can’t find no-salt-added then use regular and rinse for 30 seconds). Heat if desired. Coarsely mash with 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon lemon juice (or to taste). Spread on a 120-calorie whole wheat wrap such as Flatout Flatbread Harvest Wheat. Top with one tablespoon chopped basil and wrap.
Serve with: 1 cup arugula tossed with 3/4 cup chopped tomatoes, 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon olive oil. Lightly salt to taste.
Snack: Banana soy shake
Blend together one ripe banana with one cup calcium and vitamin-D enriched vanilla soymilk. Blend with an ice cube, if you want, or chop banana in advance, and freeze before blending.
Dinner: Tofu Sloppy Joe over grains
Have 1 serving of Tofu Sloppy Joe (see recipe below) with 1 cup cooked (about 200 calories) quinoa, bulgur wheat, whole wheat couscous or 3/4 cup cooked brown rice.
Plus: 1 1/2 cups fruit of your choice
Treat: 1 ounce dark chocolate (such as 3 Hershey’s Extra Dark squares)
Nutrition stats for Day 1:
Protein: 63 g
Carbohydrate: 258 g
Dietary Fiber: 48 g
Total Sugars: 88 g
Total Fat: 53 g
Saturated Fat: 10.7 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 17.5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 11.2 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Total Omega-3 FA: 2.5 g
Calcium: 1150 mg
Sodium: 1,203 mg
Vegan Day 2
Breakfast: Open-faced peanut butter and apple butter with soy latte and blueberries
Spread one slice of whole wheat bread with 1 1/2 tablespoons peanut butter (such as Smart Balance Chunky) and 2 to 3 teaspoons apple butter.
Serve with: 1/2 cup blueberries (or other fruit of your choice) and a soy latte (1 cup calcium and vitamin D-enriched soymilk with 2 ounces espresso or 1/2 cup brewed coffee).
Lunch: Arugula, romaine, and tomato salad with chickpeas and sunflower seeds
Mix together: 1 cup each of arugula and romaine lettuce, with 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, 3/4 cup canned, drained garbanzo beans (preferably no-salt-added; otherwise, rinse for 30 seconds) 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds. Toss with 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, and 1 tablespoon chopped basil. If desired, add a tablespoon chopped scallions and salt very lightly, and use pepper to taste.
Snack: Orange Spritzer with almonds
Combine 1/2 cup calcium-enriched orange juice with 1/2 cup sparkling water. Serve with 12 unsalted almonds. [NOTE: some vegans eschew calcium-enriched orange juice because it’s also enriched with vitamin D which is derived from animal sources. They can just have regular orange juice and take a 400 to 500 mg calcium supplement along with this snack.]
Dinner: Soy-based vegetable cheeseburger with coleslaw
Grill a soy-based vegetable burger (such as Gardein Beefless Burger) according to package directions. In the final minute, top with a slice of soy cheese (about 40 calories; such as Galaxy brand). Serve on a whole wheat bun (about 170 calories) spread with a tablespoon of vegan mayonnaise (such as Nayonaise), with slices of tomato, lettuce and onion as desired.
Serve with coleslaw: 2 teaspoons lemon juice, pinch of salt, black pepper to taste,
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, 1⁄8 teaspoon sugar, 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 cup shredded
cabbage, 1⁄2 cup shredded carrot, 1 tablespoon chopped red onion
Treat: Blackberry Peach Crumble, one serving (see recipe below)
Nutrition stats for Day 2:
Protein: 72 g
Carbohydrate: 190 g
Dietary Fiber: 40 g
Total Sugars: 63 g
Total Fat: 78 g
Saturated Fat: 9.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 33.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 17.8 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Total Omega-3 FA: 1.35 g
Calcium: 1,053 mg
Sodium: 1,579 mg
RECIPES for Days 1 and 2
Tofu Sloppy Joe
Prep time 15 minutes
Total time 20 minutes
vegetable oil cooking spray
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large sweet pepper, seeded and finely chopped
14 ounce firm tofu drained and crumbled
1 1⁄4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes, or canned no-salt-added tomatoes
1 cup canned no-salt-added kidney beans, drained and rinsed, or cooked, mashed with the back of a fork
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1⁄8 teaspoon ground cloves
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon brown sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
1/4 cup water
1. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and coat with cooking spray. Add the onion and sweet pepper. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring.
2. Add tofu and cook until browned, about 8 minutes
3. Stir in the tomatoes, beans, tomato paste, cider vinegar, cloves, cinnamon, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Cook for an additional 4 minutes. Add water and serve.
Protein: 15 g
Carbohydrate: 24 g
Dietary Fiber: 7 g
Total Sugars: 7 g
Total Fat: 4 g
Saturated Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Calcium: 166 mg
Sodium: 282 mg
Blackberry Peach Crumble
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
2 cups fresh blackberries
1 cups sliced peaches
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Earth Balance Original Spread
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground walnuts
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 to 2 second spritz vegetable oil cooking spray, to coat pie plate
1. Heat oven to 350° F.
2. Spray a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray. Place fruit in pie plate.
3. Combine Earth Balance Spread and brown sugar in a bowl until smooth. Add walnuts and flour and combine.
4. Crumble the mixture over fruit.
5. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
Protein: 3 g
Carbohydrate: 25 g
Dietary Fiber: 6 g
Total Sugars: 16 g
Total Fat: 6 g
Saturated Fat: 1.4 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Calcium: 36 mg
Sodium: 44 mg