Guidelines for Planning Vegan Meals

By Dr. Amanda Benham (Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist)

Nutritionist & Dietitian Dr. Amanda Benham,

When planning vegan meals or menus, the goal is to make them not only tasty but:

  • Rich in essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals
  • Not too high in fat, salt and sugar
  • Rich in fibre and other beneficial plant components
  • Filling and providing sustained energy
  • Energy (calorie/ kilojoule) content should be appropriate for your activity level

The following guidelines will help achieve these goals:

1. Aim to include the following in every main meal:

  • Green vegetables – broccoli, bok choy, green beans, peas (frozen are fine), spinach, zucchini, celery etc.
    Amount: at least one cup per person
  • Red/orange/yellow vegetables – carrots, pumpkin, corn, tomato, yellow squash, sweet potato, legumes, etc.
    Amount: at least 1/2 cup per person
    Note: Boosting vegetable intake by serving a side salad with your main meals is a good idea.
  • Plant protein – soy products (soy beans, tofu, tempeh, TVP [textured vegetable protein]), legumes/pulses (beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas), nuts/seeds, plant-based meats (occasionally).
    Amount: 100g/3.5oz tofu or tempeh, 1/2-1 cup of cooked legumes, one plant-based burger or 1-2 vegan sausages. (We recommend consuming plant protein sources like tofu, tempeh, legumes regularly and plant-based meats on occasion.)
  • Complex carbohydrates – potatoes, brown rice, pasta/noodles, couscous, wholemeal bread etc.
    Amount: Will vary depending on how hungry and how physically active you are.
    E.g. For inactive people, 1/2 cup rice can be enough, whereas a more active person could eat two cups or more.

2. Add variety and flavour to meals by including other optional ingredients such as:

  • Additional vegetables – like, mushrooms, eggplant, beetroot, onions, seaweed, sprouts, bamboo shoots etc.
  • Herbs and spices – fresh or dried such as basil, oregano, coriander, garlic, ginger, chilli, pepper, mustard seeds etc. Use liberally.
  • Tomato paste or tomato puree.
  • Fruit / juices – such as sultanas, raisins, pineapple, lemon juice.
  • Non-dairy milk for making white sauces (e.g. soy milk, oat milk).
  • Salt – it is recommended that if salt is used, it is iodised salt and is used sparingly. Stock cubes, soy sauce and other sauces are also sources of salt, and if used, should be used in moderation.
  • Oils – use sparingly or not at all. Flaxseed oil, olive oil and non-GM canola oil are the better choices for vegans, due to their fatty acid profile. Flaxseed oil can be added to salads but is not suitable for cooking.


  • Take a vitamin B12 supplement, 1000mcg 2-3 times a week (even if you eat nutritional yeast and fortified products). B12 is produced by bacteria and found in soil but is not normally found in common plant foods.
  • For vitamin D, spend 10-30 minutes per day in the mild sun, or in less sunny areas or during winter take a vegan vitamin D supplement.

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