The Importance of Meal Planning on a Plant-Based Diet

Meal planning, whether it’s just for you or for your whole family, can be challenging and overwhelming. Even if you intend to eat only healthy foods, it’s easy for your lifestyle and other excuses to get in the way.

Maybe you work late, or you forget to pack a lunch. Maybe you just don’t have time to grocery shop. At the end of the day, you’re hungry and prone to ordering in or going out for dinner, where the choices aren’t always as nutritious as what you can cook for yourself.

The best way to get started with meal planning is to make a chart with the days of the week written across the top and the meals listed down the side. You can base the columns on either five days or seven days (sometimes people like to leave the weekends up for grabs without planning). Then create four to six rows to account for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and two to three snacks in between.

After you’ve created your chart, select the recipes or foods you want to serve each day and plug them into the plan.

You need to figure out how many items you need to make per meal or what foods you need to add to make sure to get your green veggies, grains, and beans. You may want to make a well-rounded recipe, or you can simply add a side to complement the main dish. When you mix and match different dishes, you’ll become more creative and discover which combinations of plant-based items make up a balanced meal.

You don’t have to make a new dish every day for every meal. Prepare extra food and use the leftovers to maximize your meals and your time.

For new ideas and recipes, subscribe to a recipe-focused blog, website (like Pinterest), newsletter, or magazine. Or get a slew of plant-based cookbooks that you can rotate through.

Try these tips to help you follow a meal plan:

  • Do your grocery shopping on the weekend for easy meal preparation throughout the week.

  • Make at least two main dishes on the weekend or at the beginning of the week, along with one or two batches of soup and small salads or dips for the week.

  • Make one or two new recipes midweek (if time permits) for variety.

  • Have on hand a variety of on-the-go snacks, such as trail mix, nut and seed bars, cut-up veggies, and bean dip.

  • Get yourself equipped with a cooler/cold pack and to-go containers.

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