Plant-Based Meal Plan for Beginners

This plant-based meal plan for beginners makes it easy to eat meatless, with plenty of simple recipes that satisfy.

plant based meal plan

PC : CAROLYN A. HODGES, R.D.

In this 7-day vegetarian meal plan, we incorporate a week of delicious plant-based recipes tailored for beginners—meaning we repeat several breakfasts and lunches and try to keep dinner fairly simple. The goal is to enjoy cooking more plant-based meals at home and reap the health benefits without feeling like you’re spending too much time in the kitchen. We set this plan at 1,500 calories a day and included modifications for 1,200 or 2,000 calories a day, depending on your needs.

What is a Plant-Based Diet?

The definition of a plant-based diet is a bit vague because there’s no agreed upon “final” definition. For the purpose of this plan, plant-based means vegetarian, so we didn’t include meat but included dairy and eggs. For others, plant-based might mean a completely vegan diet or it might simply mean that you focus primarily on plant-based proteins and try to eat meat sparingly. Whatever it means to you, it’s always a good idea to increase your vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes because they are high in fiber, an important nutrient that 95% of us don’t get enough of.

Plant-Based Diet Benefits

  • More fiber: Fiber plays an important role in disease prevention and regulating our digestive system. Research shows that there are a ton of health benefits to eating more fiber, like healthier body weights and a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
  • Lowered risk of chronic diseases: Largely related to a higher fiber intake, people who focus on a plant-based diet have a decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes and even certain cancers.
  • Weight loss: Research shows that people who follow a plant-based diet tend to have lower body fat percentage and a smaller waist circumference. Plus, this high-fiber diet will help keep you full so you can lose weight, while still feeling satisfied.
  • Quick-cooking protein sources: The plant-based diet incorporates tons of healthy no-cook and easy protein sources. Dried and canned beans and lentils are healthy shelf-stable protein options. Plus, canned beans just need a drain and rise then they’re ready to go. Edamame, which is a young soybean, is a healthy protein source found in the freezer section of most grocery stores. Nuts, seeds and nut butters as well as whole grains, like brown rice and quinoa are healthy and easy options as well!
plant based foods

PC : CAROLYN A. HODGES, R.D.

How to Shop for a Plant-Based Diet

You’ll often hear the advice to shop around the perimeter of the grocery store to avoid eating processed foods. While it’s true that the outside aisles are where you’ll find produce, yogurt and tofu, there’s a lot of nutritious foods to be found in the inner aisles of the grocery store. There you’ll find whole grains like quinoa, brown rice and oats as well as dried and canned beans, nuts and seeds, and frozen fruit and vegetables. It’s a good idea to stock up on canned and dried beans and lentils—they’re shelf-stable and a handy pantry item to have on hand.

For protein, focus on minimally-processed sources like beans, lentils, nuts and whole grains and try to limit heavily processed vegetarian proteins like soy “hot dogs” or imitation meats. They tend to be very high in sodium and don’t pack in the nutritional benefits compared to their less-processed plant-based options.

Plant-Based Diet Foods List

  • Legumes: Canned or dried, beans and lentils are an excellent source of protein and fiber.
  • Nuts and seeds: Think nut butters, almonds, walnuts, flax, chia seeds and any other variety you like. When looking at nut butters, choose a natural variety to skip any additives.
  • Whole grains: Higher in protein and fiber, whole grains like quinoa, oatmeal, brown rice and wheat pasta are great options.
  • Fruits and vegetables: Whether you buy fresh or frozen, filling up on fruits and vegetables is a great idea. Storing fruit and vegetables correctly can make them last longer.
  • Soy: Tofu and edamame are both great high-protein soy options.
plant based meal prep

PC : CAROLYN A. HODGES

How to Meal-Prep Your Week of Meals:

  1. Prepare Cinnamon Roll Overnight Oats to have for breakfast on Days 2 through 6.
  2. Make Thai-Style Chopped Salad with Sriracha Tofu to have for lunch on Days 2 through 5.
  3. Whip up Citrus Vinaigrette to have throughout the week.

Day 1

Beefless Vegan Tacos

Helpful Cooking Tip for Today: If you’re wondering how to make a homemade salad dressing, look no further. It couldn’t be easier and really ups the flavor of any salad. Bonus—homemade salad dressings are a lot less expensive than their store-bought counterparts.

Breakfast (304 calories)

  • 1 serving Berry-Kefir Smoothie

A.M. Snack (95 calories)

  • 1 medium apple

Lunch (374 calories)

  • 1 serving Green Salad with Pita Bread & Hummus

P.M. Snack (206 calories)

  • 1/4 cup dry-roasted unsalted almonds

Dinner (509 calories)

  • 1 serving Beefless Vegan Tacos
  • 2 cups mixed greens
  • 1 serving Citrus Vinaigrette

Daily Totals: 1,488 calories, 55 g protein, 178 g carbohydrates, 38 g fiber, 76 g fat, 1,587 mg sodium

To make it 1,200 calories: Switch the P.M. snack to 1 medium orange and omit the salad with vinaigrette at dinner.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 whole-wheat English muffin with 2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter to breakfast and 1/4 cup dried walnut halves at A.M. snack.

Day 2

Mexican Quinoa Salad

Helpful Cooking Tip for Today: Overnight oats are the perfect breakfast for busy mornings. A simple formula of 1/2 cup oats, 1/2 cup water, milk or non-dairy milk alternative and a pinch of salt is all it takes for the basis of the recipe and it lends itself to so many delicious flavor combinations.

Breakfast (258 calories)

  • 1 serving Cinnamon Roll Overnight Oats
  • 1 medium orange

A.M. Snack (341 calories)

  • 1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 medium peach
  • 3 Tbsp. slivered almonds

Lunch (332 calories)

  • 1 serving Thai-Style Chopped Salad with Sriracha Tofu

P.M. Snack (131 calories)

  • 1 large pear

Dinner (458 calories)

  • 1 serving Mexican Quinoa Salad

Daily Totals: 1,521 calories, 77 g protein, 186 g carbohydrates, 37 g fiber, 61 g fat, 1,073 mg sodium

To make it 1,200 calories: Omit the yogurt and almonds at A.M. snack and switch to a small pear at the P.M. snack.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 large pear to lunch, 12 dry-roasted unsalted almonds to P.M. snack and 1 serving Guacamole Chopped Salad to lunch.

Day 3

Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Chickpeas & Spinach

Helpful Cooking Tip for Today: Spinach is nutritious, easy and cooks up in a flash. Learn more about how to buy, cook and store fresh and frozen spinach here.

Breakfast (258 calories)

  • 1 serving Cinnamon Roll Overnight Oats
  • 1 medium orange

A.M. Snack (95 calories)

  • 1 medium apple

Lunch (463 calories)

  • 1 serving Thai-Style Chopped Salad with Sriracha Tofu
  • 1 large pear

P.M. Snack (274 calories)

  • 1/3 cup dried walnut halves
  • 1 medium peach

Dinner (419 calories)

  • 1 serving Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Chickpeas & Spinach
  • 1 1-oz. slice whole-wheat baguette

Daily Totals: 1,509 calories, 59 g protein, 202 g carbohydrates, 39 g fiber, 61 g fat, 1,403 mg sodium

To make it 1,200 calories: Omit the orange at breakfast and switch the P.M. snack to 1 clementine.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 3 Tbsp. natural peanut butter to A.M. snack and 1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt to P.M. snack.

Day 4

Greek Salad with Edamame

Helpful Cooking Tip for Today: Edamame, a young soybean, is an amazing plant-based protein that packs in 17 grams of protein per cup. You’ll often find it in the frozen section. Check out all of our edamame recipes for more delicious ideas.

Breakfast (258 calories)

  • 1 serving Cinnamon Roll Overnight Oats
  • 1 medium orange

A.M. Snack (206 calories)

  • 1/4 cup dry-roasted unsalted almonds

Lunch (390 calories)

  • 1 serving Thai-Style Chopped Salad with Sriracha Tofu
  • 1 medium peach

P.M. Snack (124 calories)

  • 3/4 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt

Dinner (515 calories)

  • 1 serving Greek Salad with Edamame
  • 1 serving Everything Bagel Avocado Toast

Daily Totals: 1,494 calories, 82 g protein, 142 g carbohydrates, 36 g fiber, 74 g fat, 1,350 mg sodium

To make it 1,200 calories: Switch the A.M. snack to 1 clementine, omit the peach at lunch and change the P.M. snack to 1 medium bell pepper, sliced.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 medium pear to A.M. snack and add 1 medium peach plus 1 whole-wheat English muffin with 2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter to P.M. snack.

Day 5

Quinoa Avocado Salad

Helpful Cooking Tip for Today: Quinoa is a high protein whole-grain that provides about 8 grams of protein per cup. Plus, it’s easy to cook and is ready in just 15 minutes.

Breakfast (258 calories)

  • 1 serving Cinnamon Roll Overnight Oats
  • 1 medium orange

A.M. Snack (166 calories)

  • 1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt

Lunch (390 calories)

  • 1 serving Thai-Style Chopped Salad with Sriracha Tofu
  • 1 medium peach

P.M. Snack (139 calories)

  • 18 dry-roasted unsalted almonds

Dinner (563 calories)

  • 1 serving Quinoa Avocado Salad
  • 2 cups mixed greens
  • 1 serving Citrus Vinaigrette

Daily Totals: 1,516 calories, 74 g protein, 153 g carbohydrates, 35 g fiber, 75 g fat, 1,134 mg sodium

To make it 1,200 calories: Omit the orange at breakfast, switch the A.M. snack to 1 clementine and switch the P.M. snack to 1 medium bell pepper, sliced.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 medium peach and 1/4 cup dried walnut halves to A.M. snack and increase to 1/3 cup almonds plus add 1 large pear to the P.M. snack.

Day 6

pan of Pesto Ravioli with Spinach and Tomatoes

Helpful Cooking Tip for Today: Frozen ravioli, like the one we use in tonight’s dinner, is a great staple because it’s versatile and cooks up in flash. See how to turn frozen ravioli into healthy dinners that are ready in 20 minutes or less.

Breakfast (258 calories)

  • 1 serving Cinnamon Roll Overnight Oats
  • 1 medium orange

A.M. Snack (178 calories)

  • 1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup strawberries, halved

Lunch (420 calories)

  • 1 serving Veggie & Hummus Sandwich
  • 1 medium apple

P.M. Snack (131 calories)

  • 1 large pear

Dinner (510 calories)

  • 1 serving Pesto Ravioli with Spinach & Tomatoes
  • 2 cups mixed greens
  • 1 serving Citrus Vinaigrette

Daily Totals: 1,497 calories, 59 g protein, 202 g carbohydrates, 39 g fiber, 57 g fat, 1,404 mg sodium

To make it 1,200 calories: Omit the orange at breakfast, omit the yogurt at A.M. snack and omit the apple at lunch.

To make it 2,000 calories: Increase to 1 cup yogurt and add 5 Tbsp. chopped walnuts to A.M. snack and add 1/3 cup dry-roasted unsalted almonds to P.M. snack.

Day 7

Veggie & Hummus Sandwich

Helpful Cooking Tip for Today: If you’re new to cooking, sheet-pan dinners are a great option because there are fewer pans and side dishes that you need to manage. Plus, clean-up is a breeze!

Breakfast (304 calories)

  • 1 serving Berry-Kefir Smoothie

A.M. Snack (166 calories)

  • 1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt

Lunch (420 calories)

  • 1 serving Veggie & Hummus Sandwich
  • 1 medium apple

P.M. Snack (62 calories)

  • 1 medium orange

Dinner (548 calories)

  • 1 serving Sheet-Pan Balsamic-Parmesan Roasted Chickpeas & Vegetables
  • 2 cups mixed greens
  • 1 serving Citrus Vinaigrette

Daily Totals: 1,499 calories, 66 g protein, 181 g carbohydrates, 40 g fiber, 65 g fat, 1,131 mg sodium

To make it 1,200 calories: Switch the A.M. snack to 1 clementine, omit the apple at lunch and switch the P.M. snack to 1/2 cup sliced cucumber.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 whole-wheat English muffin with 2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter to breakfast and add 1/4 cup dried walnut halves to A.M. snack.


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