Guidelines for Planning Vegan Meals

By Amanda Benham (Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist)

Nutritionist & Dietitian Amanda Benham, humanherbivore.com

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 – preferably fresh e.g. broccoli, bok choy, green beans, peas (frozen are fine), spinach, zucchini, celery etc. Amount: at least one cup per person
  • Red/orange/yellow vegetables – preferably fresh e.g. carrots, pumpkin, corn, tomato, yellow squash, sweet potato 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.
  • A source of vegetable protein, such as legumes (beans, lentils, chick peas) or soy products or nuts/seeds or occasionally a processed vegetable protein food such as a meat alternative. Amount: 1/2 – 1 cup of cooked legumes or 100g organic tofu or tempeh or one vege-burger or 1-2 vegan sausages
  • A source of complex carbohydrate, such as potato, rice, pasta/noodles, cous cous, bread etc. Amount: Vary depending on how hungry and how physically active you are. Eg. 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 – eg. 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, pineapple, lemon juice.
  • Non-dairy milk for making white sauces (Eg. organic soy 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. Olive oil and non-GM canola oil are the best choices for vegans, due to their fatty acid profile. Flaxseed oil can be added to salads but is not suitable for cooking.