Follow this effortless meal-prepping guide to meet your plant-based needs when navigating the supermarket.
The Benefits of Healthy Eating
Plant-based diets consist of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, seeds, nuts, and healthy oils while reducing the consumption of animal-derived products. Research suggests that plant-forward eating is a cost-effective and low-risk intervention that improves physiological symptoms and reduces medication need. (1) The risk of developing non-communicable diseases is linked to dietary choices, and strong evidence suggests that plant-based diets are essential to improving the quality of health. (1) A plant-based meal involves 1/2 fruits and vegetables, 1/4 whole grains, and 1/4 lean protein. (1) Creating dishes that are plant-based and meet the recommended national dietary guidelines can be simple by planning ahead.
Let’s Start By Meal Planning
Think about the coming week. What dishes would you like to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Choose recipes that have common ingredients (for easier meal prepping) and that you will look forward to eating. It’s important to cook meals that you will enjoy. Check out my recipes on Instagram, YouTube, or my website! Use the following example as a guide to help you in your meal-planning journey.
Explore the list of ingredients I created below for further recipe inspiration that is thoroughly curated to help you develop a grocery list. Make it your go-to guide for meal-prepping balanced dishes. Before going to the supermarket, remember to check your food inventory to see if you have the necessary seasonings, condiments, and other essentials.
Develop Your Grocery List & Go Food Shopping
Fruits & Vegetables: Nutrient-rich substances (e.g., beta carotene, flavonoids, vitamins C and E, folic acid, vitamins B-6, and B-12) in fruit and vegetables provide health benefits that serve a protective role against the development of cancer, heart disease, stroke, cataracts, diverticulosis, chronic obstructive coronary disease, and hypertension. (2) Add a variety of fruits and vegetables to your grocery list to fuel your mind and body with plenty of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Choose bagged leafy greens and salad mixes, pre-cut or dried fruit, and canned or frozen vegetables and fruit that are low in sodium and added sugar to reduce meal prepping time. Be creative, and remember to have fun while planning and cooking dishes!
Whole Grains: A well-balanced dietary intake of whole grains is beneficial for the digestive system and maintaining health due to their nutritional value and bioactive components such as fiber, zinc, iron, magnesium, and phenolic acid. (3,4) Research findings suggest that consuming whole grain products reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and specific cancers. (5) Whole grains can be found in cereals, snack bars, crackers, bread, pasta, and more! Search for items that do not contain refined elements (e.g., white bread, cream of wheat, white flour, white rice) which remove essential nutrients. Look for products that say “whole” before wheat, and double-check the ingredient list for details. Purchase pre-cooked quinoa or instant oatmeal for easier meal prepping.
Protein: The consumption of high-quality protein is essential for growth, strength, and development. Limiting meat and meat products and substituting with an adequate intake of vegetable protein have been shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and blood lipid concentration. (6) Research findings also suggest that plant protein may help reduce body inflammation and promote anti-cancer effects. (6) Legumes and beans are high in protein, iron, folate, potassium, fiber, and zinc improving gut health and offering a nutritious alternative to meat and meat products. (7,8) Additional sources of protein include nuts and seeds when combined with legumes and other vegetables. (8) Plant protein is diverse and cost-effective, leading to the creation of delicious meals when meal prepping.
Finally, Meal Prepping!
After choosing meals and going to the grocery store, it is time to start prepping! Decide on a day (commonly Sunday) that works best where a few hours can be set aside for washing, chopping, and cooking. Prepare food items in advance to assemble later in the week. Allow meals to cool down before placing them into containers for storing in the fridge or freezer. Repeat the process of meal planning and prepping weekly or as needed. Mistakes are going to happen, and it’s important to remind yourself that it is a learning process. You will continue to get better throughout your journey, so enjoy and savor every bit of it! For more tips to help you transition to plant-based eating, check out my Jumpstart Guide or Brand Guide.
- Tuso PJ, Ismail MH, Ha BP, Bartolotto C. Nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets. Perm J. 2013;17(2):61-66. doi:10.7812/TPP/12-085
- Van Duyn Maryann, Pivonka Elizabeth. Overview of the health benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption for the dietetics professional. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2000;100(12):1511-1521. doi:10.1016/s0002-8223(00)00420-x
- Whole grains. The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/whole-grains/. Published November 4, 2019. Accessed August 11, 2021.
- Călinoiu LF, Vodnar DC. Whole Grains and Phenolic Acids: A Review on Bioactivity, Functionality, Health Benefits and Bioavailability. Nutrients. 2018;10(11):1615. Published 2018 Nov 1. doi:10.3390/nu10111615
- McRae MP. Health Benefits of Dietary Whole Grains: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses. J Chiropr Med. 2017;16(1):10-18. doi:10.1016/j.jcm.2016.08.008
- Kahleova H, Levin S, Barnard N. Cardio-Metabolic Benefits of Plant-Based Diets. Nutrients. 2017;9(8):848. Published 2017 Aug 9. doi:10.3390/nu9080848
- Mullins AP, Arjmandi BH. Health Benefits of Plant-Based Nutrition: Focus on Beans in Cardiometabolic Diseases. Nutrients. 2021;13(2):519. Published 2021 Feb 5. doi:10.3390/nu13020519
- Ahnen RT, Jonnalagadda SS, Slavin JL. Role of plant protein in nutrition, wellness, and health. Nutr Rev. 2019;77(11):735-747. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuz028