When I first went plant-based, I really didn’t know what I was going to eat. I didn’t know any vegans and certainly never thought I would go vegetarian, let alone vegan. I was accustomed to eating a lot of processed foods, convenience foods, restaurant meals, and take-out. I also hated vegetables and hated cooking. I felt strongly about making the switch for my health, but I had no idea how I was going to make it work. I found an old notebook recently, where I made some notes and plans for my first few weeks eating plant-based. My son was 4 months old when I made the switch and being a new mom, I didn’t have a lot of time to spend planning, prepping, and cooking. I was committed to making the change, and realized I needed to find a way to make it simple, do-able, and sustainable. So, I decided to keep meals as simple and quick as possible. I used a few recipes I already had and simply omitted the animal product from them.
Disclaimer – I am not a doctor or dietitian. The information provided is based on my personal experiences. See full disclaimer here.
Breakfasts were the easiest for me to veganize. I had already gotten into drinking smoothies after being nauseous throughout my whole pregnancy. I enjoyed simple smoothies made with frozen berries, bananas, baby spinach, and water. I ate oatmeal – easy apple oatmeal and chocolate zucchini oatmeal (minus the zucchini). I paid attention to ingredients labels for bread and cereal and switched to plant milk. Switching up breakfasts was pretty easy for me. I had already gotten into drinking smoothies after being nauseous throughout my whole pregnancy, and eating oatmeal, cereal, or toast with fruit were other great options to get started!
Lunch and Dinner
I was much more concerned about lunches and dinners. I was used to eating a meat-centric “meat and potatoes” style diet with a small portion of broccoli or other vegetables on the side. I didn’t know how to cook very well, and I wasn’t accustomed to spending much time in the kitchen at all. After doing a lot of reading, I decided to use recipes I already had on hand. In my first week of being vegan I ate chili, pasta with marinara sauce, stir fry, curry, and potatoes with broccoli or mixed vegetables.
Snacks and Dessert
I have always been a snacker since I can remember. When I first switched to a plant-based diet, I snacked on fruit – I always kept apples, bananas, and frozen mixed berries on hand. I would also sometimes have grapes, or peaches, or other types of fruit on hand as well. I also discovered nice cream very early on! I have a sweet tooth and I was looking for something to satisfy my desire for something sweet and chocolatey. Nice cream did the trick! I would also sometimes snack on oatmeal or cereal to tide me over until my next meal.
- baby spinach
- bell peppers
- mixed berries
- mixed vegetables
- stir fry veggies
- brown rice
- canned black beans
- canned chickpeas
- red lentils
- chili powder
- ginger powder
- hot sauce
- diced tomatoes
- curry sauce
- pasta sauce
- apple sauce
- reduced sodium soy sauce (or tamari)
- unsweetened plant milk (soy or almond)
- flax seeds
*Here are some notes about the meals above, and some suggestions to tweak the meals and snacks to bump up the nutrition:
- add more greens, oats, or white beans to smoothies
- choose oil free cereals and breads made from whole grains, minimal ingredients, and little or no added sugar or salt
- use natural peanut butter
- add hummus, lentils, or beans to potatoes with veggie meals
- add hummus, lentils, or beans to pasta
- switch out types of pasta for variety – brown rice, bean, or veggie pasta
- add different veggies, whole grains, beans, lentils, tempeh or tofu to curries and stir fries
- have hummus or bean dip with veggies for snack
Chop and Cook Once – Make Two Meals at a Time
I would prep my veggies, split them in half and cook two meals at once. Initially, I thought it might be a bit overwhelming to cook this way, but I quickly realized that it made for a more efficient cooking experience, and I spent less time prepping and cooking. I would simply add half of the veggies to one pan, half of the veggies to the other (or use frozen veggies) add different spices or sauces, and I would easily have two different meals to eat for lunches and dinners for a few days.
As mentioned above, I often cooked two meals at a time and would keep leftovers in the fridge or freezer. I would also cook batches of rice or potatoes for the week. Having leftovers on hand made it so easy to just mix and match different foods, warm up some yummy food, and enjoy my meals without having to think about it much.
Keep Frozen Veggies and Fruit on Hand
Having frozen fruit and veggies on hand was essential to my success with a plant-based diet. I always had back-up frozen items on hand in case I ran out of fresh produce. I still keep frozen items on hand and use them regularly for delicious and nutritious snacks and meals.
Keep Your Favourite Sauces and Spices on Hand
Adding spices and sauces to meals is so important to making meals flavourful and delicious! Simply adding a sauce, dressing, or spices you enjoy can enhance and improve a dish greatly. Switching up spices and sauces can make the same ingredients into multiple different dishes.
Rethink How to Serve Meals
In fairness, I wasn’t thinking about this in my first week of being plant-based. I was focused on keeping it vegan, as whole food as possible, and generally figuring out how to eat plants! However, I quickly realized that I could switch up my meals and make them more interesting just by making simple changes or serving them in a different way. Some examples include:
- Use chili as taco filling or serve over greens
- Thin out chili with a bit of water or broth and add more veggies, or cooked rice
- Make wraps or sandwiches with leftover curry or stirfry with raw veggies and greens
- Have marinara sauce over rice, another whole grain, and/or zucchini noodles
- Use marinara sauce for pita pizza
- Mix hummus into marinara or chili
- Blend marinara sauce or chili and use as a veggie dip
I hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful!