Concocting a nutritiously rich vegan meal plan is tricky but vital to keeping your battle for animal welfare, vigorous, and deficiency-free. Unfortunately, this means planning your meals meticulously.
That said, there’s an easier way to become vegan. Knowing the vegan regimen do’s and don’ts will save you tons of time, effort, and money during your vegan transition.
In this complete vegan guide, you’ll find all that you need to know as well as some “vegantastic” meal plans to feel satiated and look great.
What Is Vegan Food and Being Vegan?
Vegan cuisine is exclusively plant-based, but I guess you already knew this. However, becoming vegan is not a mere food lifestyle choice. In the larger sense, being vegan means adhering to Veganism.
Apart from being dairy- and meat-free, vegans also avoid using wholly or partially animal-derived products such as:
Plus, inventing and employing alternative, plant-based products, is also part of veganism.
Types of Vegans
Depending on the reasons for following a purely plant-based diet meal plan, vegans belong to one of these four types:
- Ethical vegans — whose primary motivation is stopping people from causing stress and suffering to animals.
- Dietary vegans — who want or need to stick to a vegan regimen for health benefits, but otherwise use animal products.
- Vegan environmentalists — who fight to reduce the enormous greenhouse emissions in animal agriculture along with pollution.
- Religious Vegans — who are required to adopt veganism as a part of their religion. This is the case with Indian Jainism, for example.
By the quality of ingredients that they prefer using in their vegan meals, vegans can belong to one of these subtypes:
- Whole-food vegans — who avoid modified nutrients.
- Junk-food vegans — who eat processed foods and snacks.
- Raw-food vegans — who consume raw or foods heated below 118°F (48°C).
- Fruitarians — who mostly include fruits in their vegan diets; this diet is also referred to as a vegan low-fat and raw-food diet.
Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet Plan
As veganism is an exclusively plant-based food diet, it is rich in many beneficial substances that come from plants, such as:
- Plant fiber
- Vitamins such as B9 (folate), vitamins A, E, and C
- Polyphenols and other antioxidants
- Minerals like potassium and magnesium
- Unsaturated fats (good fats)
All these nutrients act in different ways in the body, protecting it from chronic diseases. Plus harmful substances like unsaturated fats are poorly represented in a vegan meal plan — a win-win situation for our cardiovascular health.
From easing arthritic joint pain to preventing heart disease and metabolic syndrome, there are plenty of health-related reasons to go vegan that are also scientifically proven.
Veganism is the weight-loss champion when it comes to the most popular diets — a 2015 comparative study confirms it.
Even though vegans can eat sugary and highly processed foods (unless they use animals in the manufacturing process) they still manage to eliminate excess weight.
How is this possible? — Here are several reasons behind it:
- The vegan diet is rich in fiber, which promotes weight loss.
- Dairy products are, for the most part, high in calories. Hence, cutting them off from your diet means significantly lower caloric intake.
- Reduced junk food choice — most industrially produced snacks contain dairy and eggs.
- Not consuming animal products means less saturated fats and calories.
- The vegan eating style eliminates pro-obesity gut bacteria.
This is why you can see some noticeable results even when you are following a vegan weight loss meal plan for just a week.
That said, an unbalanced diet — where processed foods rich in sugars take center stage — will not lead to the weight change you were hoping for. Therefore, reducing carbs is a sure guarantee for more effective weight loss.
Promotes Healthy Gut Flora
Being vegan means eating large amounts of fiber in your diet. Besides helping digestion, fibers along with polyphenols and pigments (also found in plants) make the perfect food for beneficial gut bacteria.
Indeed, vegan dishes promote the growth of gut bacteria which release vitamins, anti-inflammatory, and other beneficial substances that will protect your body and improve your overall health.
Long-term vegans have a special type of gut flora (enterotype) that also protects them against the development of autoimmune diseases. For now, studies confirmed this for hypothyroid disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).
Besides, the inflammation-reducing effects of the vegan, especially low-fat vegan eating style, have been shown to ease joint pain in RA.
A vegan regimen reduces inflammation in the body. It is more effective in soothing inflammation than a vegetarian diet or any plant-based diet plan that includes dairy for that matter.
Both meat and dairy are pro-inflammatory foods. Hence, a diet that doesn’t contain either of them is good for both prevention and management of chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease.
Prevents the Development of Metabolic Syndrome (MetS)
Chronic inflammation caused by meat-containing diets negatively influences the effectiveness of insulin in the body causing the infamous metabolic syndrome (high fats and sugar in blood, hypertension, and obesity).
Prevents Type Two Diabetes
The development of diabetes is closely linked to MetS, so by preventing it, this diet also reduces the risk of diabetes. A vegan diabetes diet is very similar to a vegan low-carb diet.
That said, those that already have type 2 diabetes can control their blood sugar levels more easily by eating vegan. The whole composition of the diet prevents steep sugar drops and spikes.
Lowers the Risk of CVDs
A study shows that vegan dieting has the same effects as the American Heart Association diet (AHA diet) when it comes to lowering the risks of developing cardiovascular diseases (CVDs).
That said, when comparing the two diets, the anti-inflammatory effect of vegan alimentation was higher than that of the AHA diet. Plus more often than not, eating vegan is a weight loss meal plan at the same time.
This means that vegans run a lower risk of heart disease and other CVDs.
Improves Kidney Function in CKD Patients
Consuming a plant-derived protein protects you from developing kidney disease and slows down the progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD).
The by-products of meat digestion are toxic for the kidneys, this is why going vegan is recommended to CKD patients.
Following a whole-food or a raw vegan meal plan is the best thing you can do to prevent cancer.
Several scientific study results show that among different food styles, vegans are the least likely to develop cancers of any kind. The main reason behind it is the avoidance of meat.
Processing and cooking meat transform it to release cancer-causing substances. Plus, meats and dairy increase inflammation in the body — a major factor in cancer formation.
Vegan Foods: What to Avoid
The forbidden food list of vegans is composed of anything that is not 100% plant-based. Whether in the ingredients themselves or the production process, the vegan no-list excludes all food that can’t be produced without animals or their products. This includes:
- All meat:
- red meat
- meat-derived protein in all forms
- animal fats
- ice cream
- All dairy:
- milk chocolate
- Dijon mustard
- white sugar processed through bone char
- confectioner’s candy glaze
- Gelatin, and gelatin-containing foods
Yes, it can be complicated to keep up with a vegan diet for beginners. Ethical vegans also pay attention to how foods and food ingredients are produced. However, some take the easy way by relying on meal delivery services.
That said, even if it is completely plant-based, the production of some seemingly vegan ingredients involves animal labor or other forms of animal exploitation which comes in conflict with the vegan philosophy.
This way, bees are being exploited in the production of avocados and broccoli, which is why some strict vegans don’t see them as vegan diet foods and avoid them.
More precisely, the production uses so-called migratory beekeeping — stressful truck transportation of bees between farms.
Depending on the geographic location, this cultivation technique can be used for other products like:
Drinks to Avoid
- Cream-based liqueurs like cocktails
- Rums and whiskeys with honey
- Red juices containing cochineal
The Vegan Shopping List — Foods You Can Eat
Raw foods and products from things such as:
- any kind of nut butter
- protein powders
- vegetable oils and fats
- soy products
- dark chocolate
- apples and pears
- citrus fruits
- stone fruits
- exotic fruit
Algae and Seaweeds
- sea lettuce
- Irish moss
All Plant-Based Spices
- hot sauces
- barbecue sauce
Healthy vegan recipes often feature artificial sweeteners to promote weight loss. But given that some of those are tested on animals, not all are vegan. The list of vegan-friendly sweeteners include:
- artificial sweeteners
- date syrup
- maple syrup
- coconut sugar
- white sugar that is not processed through bone char
- brown sugar
- all types of water
- dark coffee
- dairy-free smoothies
- energy drinks with synthetic taurine
- hard liquors
- vegan protein shakes
So you can complement your vegan dinner ideas with any alcohol you like.
However, the production of some wines and beers go through animal products like egg whites and gelatin. As this is not usually featured on labels, you’ll have to research it before buying some alcohol brands.
The same goes for pulpless juices, they might be distilled through the same animal product-based methods.
What’s more, some red juices can contain cochineal — an insect-derived food color.
Meat, Dairy, and Eggs Alternatives
In different vegan recipes, milk, eggs, and meat substitutes serve different purposes. They can be used in cooking to add flavor, specific nutrients like proteins, or texture. So, your choice of a substitute should be in line with your specific needs.
If, for example, you are looking for a dairy substitute for your vegan breakfast, the calcium, magnesium, and vitamin-enriched versions of plant-based milks are a better option than the regulars.
Inversely, the diary substitutes used only for cooking in a vegan diet meal plan don’t need to be enriched in minerals.
Similarly, an egg or a meat substitute needs to be rich in protein if it’s the principal ingredient in a vegan dish. For this, concentrated soya steaks and other high-protein products can do the trick.
What’s more, for eggs, you might want to get specific about the part that you want to replace since there are different substitutes for egg yolks and egg wash.
But, if you want to add some flavor to your vegan dinner recipes, fresh mushrooms are a better choice. Plus, they make an easy, digestible meal that is also a non-processed whole food.
Vegan Dairy Alternatives
- oat milk
- rice milk
- soy milk
- coconut milk
- hazelnut milk
- almond milk
- macadamia milk
- spelt milk
- cashew milk
- flaxseed milk
- hemp seed milk
Vegan Cheese Substitutes
- cashew cream
- tofu-based cheese
- vegan varieties of cheddar, mozzarella, blue cheese
- zucchini-based cheese
Vegan Meat Alternatives
Vegan meat alternatives are an essential source of protein in any, especially a low-carb or vegan keto meal plan. Here are some of the most popular ones:
- soy protein
- wheat protein
- lupin protein
- pea protein
- green spelt
Vegan Eggs Alternatives
Egg Wash Substitutes
- plant milk
- coconut oil
- corn oil
- rice oil
Egg Yolk Substitutes
- peanut butter
- ripe bananas
- chia seed powder
- arrowroot powder
- grounded flaxseed
- grounded cashew
Whole Eggs Substitutes
- egg substitute powders
- silken tofu
- tapioca starch
- chickpea flour
What Does a Vegan Meal Plan Look Like?
It might seem complicated to have a balanced, rich diet while ditching dairy and meat, but it is perfectly possible. As you’ve seen above, there is plenty of whole food and processed meat, egg, and dairy alternatives.
Plus, as veganism becomes mainstream, there are plenty of convenient ways to stop worrying about your vegan grocery list. One way to do it is to head directly to the vegan-only supermarket shelves.
Also, you can find vegan options in vegetarian meal plans of delivery services like Sun Basket, but this may not be enough for a vegan weekly meal plan.
Traditional Vegan Cuisines
If you are out of ideas for your vegan meal, there are plenty of vegan-friendly traditional cuisines that you can use for inspiration.
Mediterranean diet is, in large part, plant-based. Hummus, tomatoes, olives, onions, garlic, peppers, and eggplant dominate this cuisine. Plus there is a vast variety of pasta and bread to balance out protein needs.
Mexican cuisine is full of veggies, beans, rice, spices, so, eating Mexican means eating an essentially plant-based meal plan.
Indian, or more precisely, South Indian traditional food recipes are very vegan-friendly because they are practically dairy-free. Indian cuisine is mostly vegetarian because of the religious status of cows — sacred animals in Hinduism, they are protected from slaughter.
Ethiopian dishes are rich in flavors, and most have a stew-like consistency. Meat and dairy-free, with one inevitable food ingredient — injera. Traditional meals include carrots, potatoes, cabbage, red lentil, green beans.
Due to the high prices, Indonesian food is, in good part, meat-deprived. In Indonesia, soy is the major food source of protein. So, if you like soy-based spicy food you can turn to traditional Indonesian food. Plus, most dishes are perfect for a vegan on a budget meal plan.
Many traditional Greek food recipes are also plant-based. Together with Mediterranean cuisine, it is considered one of the healthiest in the world.
Israel is the country with the biggest share of vegans in the world (5%–8%). Consequently, many Israeli dishes are vegan. Just think of the traditional Israeli-style Hummus.
Vegan Combos With Other Diets
Depending on the results that you want to achieve, you can adopt one of the many versions of the vegan eating style.
Vegan and Gluten-Free Meal Plan
Being vegan, and gluten-free at the same time means cutting off wheat, barley, rye, triticale, and their products, plus all meat and dairy.
Still, this diet leaves plenty of food groups to choose from like nuts, beans, legumes, seeds, and gluten-free cereals, fruits, and vegetables.
However, avoiding gluten-containing food may make you deficient in most B vitamins, vitamins A, K, and E, copper, zinc, and calcium.
So your gluten-free and vegan diet recipes should include food containing these micronutrients alongside the supplements that you’ll use as a vegan.
A perfect example of this type of daily meal plan would be:
Breakfast: fruits and gluten-free oatmeal variations
Lunch: pan-roasted mushrooms and potatoes with a side salad of kale, spinach, and cucumber
Dinner: gluten-free pasta with olives and tomatoes
Low-Carb Vegan Meal Plan
Generally, this type of vegan diet gives the best results when it comes to weight loss. To follow it you need to avoid these high-carb vegan aliments:
- Fruits: pineapples, blueberries, bananas, oranges, apples, grapes, and grapefruits
- Starchy vegetables: like sweet potatoes, corn, kidney beans, chickpeas, etc.
- Other high-carb foods: like oat, rice, quinoa, wheat, and oats
The improper implementation of this vegan meal diet can result in a low-carb flu and a general lack of energy.
A typical low-carb vegan daily meal plan would look like this:
Breakfast: avocado toast and peanut butter smoothie
Lunch: stir-fried tofu and peppers tossed in a mushroom sauce
Dinner: sauteed zucchini
Vegan Weight Loss Meal Plan
If you’re trying to lose weight, you should avoid both high-carbs and high-fat ingredients in your vegan dish, and yes, this is a bit tricky!
This means you’ll need to use a lot more high-protein plant-based foods.
That said, you can turn to a low-calorie meal plan like those of the exclusively vegan delivery services. For example, Purple Carrot has a per-meal caloric range of 300–650.
And if you are cooking it yourself, your vegan meal plan for weight loss should exclude
- nuts and nut butter
- coconut oil and cream
- soy milk
- olive oil
- dried fruits
- sweet potatoes
- pumpkin seeds
- sugary smoothies
So, typically, your vegan daily meal plan for weight loss would look similar to this:
Breakfast: oatmeal in almond milk with chopped peaches
Lunch: roasted aubergine and red lentil dhal
Dinner: vegan carrot ginger soup
Vegan Bodybuilding Meal Plan
Yes, it is possible to sculp your body and be a vegan. In this case, your best allies are vegan-friendly foods rich in protein like:
- chickpeas, lentils
- tofu, tempeh, edamame
- green peas
- nutritional yeast
- spirulina and seaweeds
- soy milk
- sweet corn
- wild rice
- chia seeds
Coming up with high-protein vegan foods that contain the right amount of fats and carbs to promote muscle growth can be complicated if you don’t know the precise nutritious profile of the raw foods you’re purchasing.
Luckily, most recipes outline the nutrition facts. Some food delivery services like Factor 75 go even further, by labeling each meal.
But don’t forget that bodybuilding requires an adequate intake of fats.
Here’s a simple bodybuilding plan for vegans:
Breakfast: mashed potatoes and corn with chopped avocados
Lunch: butternut squash, chickpeas, and lentil curry
Dinner: mushroom and rice variations
Vegan Diet Meal Plan: Side Effects
The most frequent negative effects of a poorly implemented vegan eating plan are nutritive deficiencies. When you go vegan, you run a higher risk of lacking some vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids.
- vitamin B12
- D vitamin
Essential Fatty Acids
- eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and
- docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Supplementing these can be done the natural way, by including vegan-friendly foods rich in these micronutrients, or by simply taking food supplements for vegans.
Micronutrient-Rich Foods for Your Vegan Meal Prep
- nutritional yeast
- seaweeds and algae
- plant-based meats
- seeds (chia, hemp, pumpkin)
- iodized salt
- green beans
- green leafy vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, swiss chard, etc.
- fruits: figs, oranges
- nuts: almonds, hazelnuts
- seeds: chia, poppy, pumpkin, sesame
- beans: white beans, goa beans
- hemp seeds
- shiitake mushrooms
- black beans
EPA and DHA
Try to keep these in mind for your vegan meal ideas, to avoid deficiencies and related health conditions.
Enriched foods and supplements are also worth looking into, but you should read the labels carefully.
Ultra-processed vegan alternatives can carry much of the unhealthy fats, carbs, and toxic material as regular animal-based food. Some may even be of poor quality in an attempt to offer better tasting replacements for vegans.
Hence, it is wiser to add non-processed and whole foods to your vegan meal plan and grocery list.
One healthy alternative to painstakingly preparing your shopping list is ordering fresh ingredients and recipes to make them.
This can be done through vegan food plans from Green Chef or other fresh-ingredient delivery services that feature vegan options.
No matter your motivation, going vegan can be challenging if not done right.
That said, if you take precautions against the weak points of this diet — the common nutritional deficiencies, you can reap a multitude of health benefits.
Going vegan will help you prevent and treat the most dangerous chronic diseases, and lose weight in the process.
All in all, the battle for animal rights, a clean environment, and a healthier lifestyle can be won by adhering to a vegan meal plan.