The easiest way to ensure that you eat a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner is to plan ahead, and have the ingredients on hand. Need a little extra guidance to help get you started? Be sure to check out these helpful planning pointers!
Planning plays a vital role in healthy eating. Not only will adequate planning help you to stay on track, it can also shave dollars off your grocery bill each week. While plenty of people have experience planning and cooking for families, I know a lot of folks are really used to convenience. If you're accustomed to waking up with an empty fridge, or picking up dinner on your commute home each evening, training yourself to plan your meals can help prevent unintended slip-ups and splurges while transitioning to plant-based eating.
There are plenty of great breakfasts options to choose from on a whole foods plant-based diet, including fresh fruit, smoothies, oatmeal, grain bowls, and pancakes.
You'll probably find it best to stick with one or two breakfasts during the week. Breakfast shouldn't be over-complicated, but you do need to set aside time for it, even if it's only for blending and drinking a whole fruit smoothie. If you're prone to hitting the snooze button a few too many times, prep your breakfast the night before so that it's ready to go in the morning. Pre-make and refrigerate some overnight oats, or make some granola on the weekend, and just add a little plant-based milk and fresh fruit to your bowl in the morning.
When you are doing groceries, make sure to stock up on enough breakfast staples to last you the whole week. This may include:
- Oats (regular or quick-cooking)
- Whole Grains (brown rice, millet, quinoa, etc.)
- Whole Grain Cereals (with no added sugar or oils)
- Whole-Grain or Sprouted Grain Breads
- Soy Milk, Almond Milk or Rice Milk
- Fruit Preserves
- Fresh Fruits
- Frozen Fruits
- Flax Seeds
Frozen fruit is great to have on hand for healthy breakfasts. It's fantastic for smoothies, you can buy large quantities without having to worry about about spoilage. Depending on how much fresh fruit you eat each week, you may find it's best to replenish your stocks every few days. Make sure to stop at the store or market the day before your current supply runs out!
When it comes to planning lunch, I've found the following three options to be the simplest and most convenient:
Leftovers: Take leftovers from last night's dinner. If it's a soup, stew, pasta, or similar dish that will keep overnight and can be reheated, double the recipe so that you have enough for lunch the following day.
Big Cook Up:
Once or twice a week, cook up a big pot of dhal
or veggie chilli
, then portion out single-servings in containers. Keep them in your refrigerator, and take one out for lunch each day. You can also pre-cook portions of grains, such as brown rice, to accompany your dish.
Prep a salad, and take it with you. Slice cucumbers, carrots, radishes, etc. and place them in a container. Wash and bag your greens. Drain and rinse a can of no-salt-added beans, and place in an airtight container. Keeping the components separate will help them to stay fresh, and you can quickly assemble your salad when it's time to eat. Dress it simply with lemon juice or vinegar, or make one of these oil-free dressings
Depending on your personal needs, dinner planning can be done in one of two ways:
The first option would be to plan a week of dinners in advance. This way you can shop for all your ingredients at once, then figure out which meals will work best on each day (factoring in time constraints, activities, work schedules etc.) This is a great option for couples and families, as the planning can be done together, and cooking duties can be divided up over the course of the week. Try to have a couple of similarly "themed" meals each week - like 2 Mexican-style dishes and 2 Indian-style dishes - so that you don't have to buy too many different ingredients and seasonings each week.
A different approach would be to see what ingredients you have on hand each day, and build your evening meal around those. This way you can work through everything in your fridge, without having to stick to a week-long schedule that may be interrupted. This flexible arrangement means you can shop for your staple ingredients each week, and also take advantage of what's on special when buying produce. This works well for those who like to cook according to their mood, or those who tend to do smaller, frequent grocery trips (ie. students, people cooking for one, or those with limited kitchen space.)
It's also important to plan your snacks, especially if you're prone to hunger between meals. There's absolutely no problem with snacking, as long as you're choosing healthy options. Always assume that you could get hungry between meals, and arm yourself with fruit, vegetables, or a some dip and crackers. If you carry some sort of snack in your backpack or purse, you're less likely to be tempted by unhealthy options when you're out and about.
The type of snacks you choose should vary depending on your energy needs and the length of time between your meals. If you find that you're snacking out of boredom rather than hunger, opt for raw vegetables and fresh fruits, rather than energy-dense options like dried fruit or seeds.
Want to figure out what to munch on next? Here are some of my favourite healthy plant-based snacks:
- Fresh fruit
- Raw vegetables (carrot sticks, celery stalks, cherry tomatoes, sliced bell peppers)
- Cold potato or sweet potato chunks
- Grilled corn on the cob
- Pumpkin or sunflower seeds
- Raw almonds or walnuts
- Brown rice cakes
- Whole-grain or sprouted grain toast
- Dried figs or dates
- Healthy hummus, salsa or bean dip with vegetable crudités
Want tips for planning weekly menus? Take a look at this guide.
Article photo courtesy of shimelle via Flickr