If you are taking on a vegetarian lifestyle or just cutting back on meat consumption, it’s important to get a plan in place to make sure you get the most out of your new menu.
When considering vegetarianism it is not enough to just remove meat from your diet, instead a plan should be considered to make sure that you meet all of the daily nutrient recommendations as well as having variety in recipes and flavours. A vegetarian diet that relies heavily on bread and cheese, for example, is unlikely to be as satisfying or provide as many benefits as one based on grains, soy products or fruit and vegetables, and therefore will make it harder to stick to your new lifestyle change.
Planning vegetarian meals doesn’t have to be any more difficult than other diets, though. As well as providing you with some vegetarian meal inspiration, we’ve put together some key tips to keep in mind when creating your menus that will help you make the most of your ingredients and keep variety in your week.
Create shopping lists
Get into the habit of writing down ideas and recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner and use this to inform your shopping list. By highlighting any common ingredients between these recipes you can create a weekly plan that cuts down on expenses and food waste.
A vegetarian diet may rely heavily on fresh produce, so making note of any days you may have leftovers or be going out for dinner will help to reduce waste further and mean that you will be able to buy only what you’re sure you will need.
Have a central anchor
Having a central anchor to your meal will be something you are used to if you’ve previously eaten meat. Swapping this for specific grains or key vegetables will help to inspire your menus. A craving for rice might refine your selection to Mexican, risotto, a flavoursome curry, or paella. Other grains like couscous could lend themselves better to different cuisines, like Turkish or North African.
Know what you need
Being aware of the nutrients your body needs and at what time of the day it needs them will make meal planning a lot easier.
You should aim for a very protein-based breakfast to give you that early morning energy boost and help you through to lunchtime. Toast and eggs, porridge or cereals mixed with fruit or nuts and natural yoghurt will set you in good stead for the rest of the day, and will mean you are less likely to snack before your meals.
On weekends, or when you have a little more time in the mornings, a delicious rice-based dish will do just the trick. Check out our Spicy Tomato & Egg Brunch or this quick, nutritious Asparagus & Poached Egg for a little inspiration.
Lunchtimes are the perfect opportunity to top up on those proteins from breakfast with beans, nuts, grains and dairy. Carbohydrates are an important part of any lunchbox and will help you get through the dreaded mid-afternoon slump. Our delicious Lebanese Warm Rice Salad will do just the trick to get you through to dinner.
Snacks throughout the day don’t have to be avoided in meal planning, and they don’t have to be unhealthy either. Fruit, nuts, and smoothies can give you the energy boost you’re craving without compromising on health. Our simple Beetroot, Apple, Blueberry & Ginger Smoothie recipe is full of natural sugars to give you a healthy afternoon pick-me-up – give it a try yourself or mix it up with different flavours!
When it comes to preparing dinner, there’s no need to hold back on your carb consumption. Low in fat and rich in fibre, carbohydrates can help you relax on an evening and are filling enough to help you stay full through the night. Natural, heart-healthy fats shouldn’t be avoided either. Plant foods like avocado, olive oil and rapeseed oil contain fats that are important to a vegetarian diet and help with your body’s regeneration and repair through the night.
Make sure there’s variety
Meal planning can get quite repetitive if you don’t have a variety of recipes to enjoy, so ask friends and relatives for mealtime inspiration or join online forums that offer new, exciting options for your dinner table.
To help you get started, we’ve put together a tastelist of delicious vegetarian comfort foods that are easy to prepare and are on your table in minutes.