22 Nov Vegan Meal Planning
Why meal planning is important
Hands-up if you’ve ever followed a meal plan that’s designed to shave lbs off your belly, your thighs or your 5k time? Now hands-up who’s followed one that’s designed to fuel your day? **tumbleweed**
Weirdly, we’re much more likely to know how to plan meals around weight loss and restriction versus planning meals to fuel our tastes, our bodies and our lifestyles. Learning how to do this in a way that fits your life can actually be pretty liberating. You’re the expert of you – so you set the rules.
The meal planning that I use with clients is different
We work together to come up with a meal plan that has foods they like, that fuels their day and that fits around their schedule. Not the other way around.
It’s not just about hitting nutrition targets either; taking some time out to plan meals allows you to spot when you might need a bit more to eat at lunch – or that maybe you should chuck a snack in your bag for that long train journey to help you to concentrate through that meeting.
The Vegan Bit
This bit is important: vegan diets can be nutritionally balanced and satisfying …BUT this will take some planning. There isn’t a way around this bit – vegan diets are restrictive in choice and you have to plan ahead to avoid any potential nutritional deficiencies
It’s not just about dropping meat and loading up with more veggies. It’s important to include different food groups – ie, protein, fortified dairy-replacements, starchy carbohydrates AND veggies when planning meals.
Just taking the meat and dairy out is not only likely to leave you unsatisfied (think: hangry and cravings), but it’ll leave you at risk of missing out on essential nutrients. Vegan protein sources usually also contain other vital nutrients like iron and calcium. Check out my previous post for nutrients you don’t want to be missing out on to help you plan them in.
It might seem daunting at first – but when you get used to it’ll become second nature.
Fibre warning: switching to a vegan diet might mean a sudden increase in fibre for some people. This will naturally mean some extra gas and bloating. Try to increase your fibre slowly, adding in one new thing at a time to avoid any 💩 troubles - but speak to your GP or healthcare professional if you have any concerns.
A word on meal planning and mindful, intuitive eating
It might seem that meal planning isn’t the most intuitive thing – but looking after yourself by ensuring that you’re adequately nourished with foods that satisfy you can actually be a super-helpful form of self-care.
It is also a place where you can plan in those ‘naughty’ foods – the foods on your shit list that maybe you feel like you can’t be around without scoffing the lot. This can help to normalise them by fitting them into your everyday life because – hey, no food is actually naughty... (cringey hen-do foods aside). Check out my previous post on The Food Police to find out more.
It doesn’t have to be perfect
Personally; I’ve worked shifts (and double+ shifts!), I’ve worked travelling, I’ve worked where there’s no cooking / chilling facilities, I sometimes end up in the pub after work and find that dinner has gone to waste….. But that’s okay – be kind to yourself.
I know that you can’t plan for every eventuality – but actually, a decent meal plan will flex around all of these things. Remember that it’s just a framework; this isn’t another diet and it’s okay if it doesn’t go to plan.
5 Steps to Satisfying Meal Planning
1. As a rough guide, most people find that starting out with 3 meals and 3 snacks per day works well.
What to include with each meal? Most balanced, satisfying meals have a combination of 3 different food groups – ie, starchy carbohydrate, fruit / vegetables, protein source. Vegan diets are no different.
Tofu stir-fry with veg, noodles and peanut sauce.
Chickpea and veg curry with rice or chapati.
Bean burger, salsa and wedges.
Cereal with soya milk and a banana.
Snack ideas: why not try a mix of fat / carbohydrate and protein for a satisfying snack?
Hummus and oatcakes, with a piece of fruit / veg
Soya yoghurt with a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts
Avocado on toast (basic, yah) with a piece of fruit
2. Write down some meals that you enjoy and chuck in some you’ve not tried before. Do you want leftovers for lunch are you more of a sandwich person? Have a think and jot down some ideas. BBC Good Food can be a really useful resource (always check the reviews!) and have a gander through your fave recipe books.
Don’t forget to plan in those ‘play foods’ – this isn’t a diet, it’s totally okay to allow yourself that dessert.
3. Sit down with a blank page or a meal planning template (You can get a copy of my basic meal planning template and guide if you sign up to my newsletter here) and plan in what meals you want to cook. Check out what you have in and what ingredients you need for your meals and write down your shopping list for the week.
Have a think about things that might come up – gym, working late – and try to plan in contingencies for those too.
4. Shop – have a think about this one.. Do you go shopping hungry? Why not take a snack beforehand? Don’t forget about plant milks and dairy replacements – and make sure to choose vitamin-fortified versions (ie, not organic). Try out some different ones until you find something you like.
5. When you sit down to plan your next week, take some time to check in with last week’s (efforts) – what worked and what didn’t work? Were you hungry after dinner – did you like your new meals or have enough time to cook them? How long did you leave between meals? Did you have enough snacks?
See what needs tweaking – and be kind to yourself! It’s okay if you were hungry before you expected to be – just have a look at what could you plan in differently next time. It’s not going to be perfect the first time – or even most of the time, but as you practice you’ll be able to see what works for you, what’s realistic and sustainable …and not what some random diet plan from a mag says you ‘should’ be having.
Want some help making sure that you’ve got all bases covered? Let’s work together to build your own personal meal plan – get in touch here to book in your free initial 20 minute phone consultation.