Plant-based diet beginner? Use this 3-day whole food plant-based diet meal plan to get started!
I know when you’re just starting out on a plant-based diet it can feel overwhelming. Where do you even begin?
This plant-based meal plan should point you in the right direction and give you idea of how to put together a few days of eating. When done right, a plant-based diet can be sustainable, delicious, healthy and much easier than you think.
Let’s get started!
Why Are you Doing This?
What’s your reason for wanting to eat a plant-based diet? It for your health? For animal welfare? To lose weight?
It can help to nail down your why then keep that reason front of mind. Write it down and refer back to it often.
Start Slow and Keep Going
If you want to reduce the amount of meat you eat, eating plant-based a couple times a week is a great place to start.
This 3-day meal plan could be broken up and used Monday, Wednesday, Friday or 3 days in a row, or mixed and matched in any way that works for you.
If you’re coming from a Standard American Diet or any heavily animal-based way of eating, switching to a plant-based diet overnight may not be realistic. It’s not necessary either. There is nothing wrong with taking things step by step!
If you start eating plant-based a couple days a week, or even just a few meals a week, that’s great! Build on that with the goal of moving towards a completely plant-based diet.
What is a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet?
As we go through this vegan meal plan, keep in mind that the focus here is a whole food plant-based diet. That means we’re not eating processed foods or refined grains and sugars and instead focusing on whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains.
That’s just what a whole food plant-based diet is all about, mainly eating whole, real foods and avoiding highly refined processed foods.
Here are the food groups that make up this meal plan:
- whole grains
- legumes (including soy)
- fermented foods
There is no dairy, no eggs and no meat and this particular meal plan is based on all whole foods. Processed meat and dairy alternatives have a time and a place and can certainly be helpful when you’re transitioning but just like all processed foods, they should be eaten in moderation, if you’re including them at all.
That being said, there are some amazing dairy-alternatives available today such as coconut yogurt and cashew cheese that can certainly be included in a whole food diet. Reading ingredient lists can help you determine if a packaged food is or isn’t a good choice.
Ingredients to Avoid
- hydrogenated oils
- high-fructose corn syrup
- MSG (monosodium glutamate)
- sucralose and aspartame
- artificial flavours
- artificial colours (may just be listed as “blue”, for example)
- preservatives such as BHA (Butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydrozyttoluen), TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone)
The easiest way to avoid these ingredients is to breeze past the processed food aisle and straight to the whole foods.
There are also many ways to make healthy alternatives to your favourite processed foods, so if you feel like you’re not ready to give certain things up, try investigating a homemade healthier version and giving that a try instead.
You can also review my vegan grocery list for more tips on shopping as a plant-based eater.
What about sugar, oil and salt?
Some plant-based doctors recommend a completely SOS-free, or sugar, oil and salt-free, whole food plant-based diet. You can decide if that’s something you want to do.
I include oil, sugar and salt in my diet. I don’t use a lot of oil but I sometimes use olive oil for cooking and I occasionally use coconut oil in dessert recipes.
I definitely try to minimize added sugar in my diet but I still enjoy lots of treats and desserts. Same with salt, I add it to my food but since I don’t eat much processed foods, it’s easy to keep my sodium in check. If you eat mostly whole foods this all happens naturally so it’s not something I think too much about.
Is this a vegan or plant-based meal plan?
This particular plan is both vegan and whole food plant-based. What’s the difference? Well, someone who is vegan may not necessarily eat a whole food plant-based diet but they could be and someone who eats whole food plant-based may not be vegan.
You could be vegan and subsist on Oreos, vegan meat alternatives and chips but you’re not going to feel very good or get enough micronutrients in your diet. If you are vegan, leaning towards a whole food diet is definitely a great way to go for your health.
What does Vegan Mean?
Veganism is the practice of minimizing harm to all animals by abstaining from animal products such as meat, fish, dairy, eggs, honey, gelatin, lanolin, wool, fur, silk, suede, and leather.
It is more than a diet, it is a way of living that seeks to exclude all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
What Does Plant-based mean?
A plant-based diet, on the other hand, is just about the food. You can pretty much guess what it’s all about from the name. If you eat a plant-based diet you may not necessarily be vegan and you might have other reasons for eating that way than just compassion.
Plant-based may not mean you never eat meat. A plant-based diet is simply a plant-rich diet, or a consistently eating mostly of plant-based foods.
You have to choose what it looks like for you.
Can you be vegan and whole food plant-based?
Of course! The terms are used fairly interchangeably these days though and that’s ok. I eat plant-based because I whole-heartedly believe in the health benefits but I also do my best to reduce harm in all areas of my life.
I eat plant-based for both health and compassion, as well as my desire to reduce my environmental impact.
Plant-Based Diet Meal Plan
I’m including everything I ate and drank, including supplements, tea, coffee and snacks during 3 days of real life. The only thing I didn’t include is water, which I aim for about 3 L a day.
Rather than an exact plan, this is more of a guideline to act as an inspiration to create your own plant-based diet plan.
Calories and Macronutrients
The meal plan below consists of approximately 2300 calories per day with a ratio of 50% carbs, 20% protein and 30% fat. If you need more food than this, increase the serving sizes or add an additional snack, if you need less food, reduce the serving sizes and/or omit the snacks.
This might be on the higher side for most people however I’m highly active and training in the gym 6 days a week so this works for me. If you’re interested in vegan flexible dieting you can find all my posts on the topic here.
Mix and Match
You can mix and match the snacks listed below with other ideas from my list of Easy Vegan Snack Ideas. For more breakfast ideas, check out my list of Healthy Vegan Breakfast Recipes.
For lunch inspiration, check out No Recipe Required: Easy Vegan Meal Ideas. At the end of the meal plan, I’ve included more ideas for plant-based meals and snacks.
Plant-Based Meal Plan Day 1
Upon Rising (Pre-Workout)
Veggie Hash: 100 grams each of cooked sweet potato, kale, cooked lentils, mushrooms and bell peppers. Cooked over medium heat for 5-10 minutes. Topped with Chipotle Sauce and kelp granules.
Tip: adding seaweed such as kelp to your diet is a great way to get enough iodine.
Blueberry and Mango Smoothie: 140 grams of frozen blueberries, 70 grams of frozen mango, a handful of spinach, 4-5 slices of cucumber, 1 serving vegan protein powder (can be replaced with 1/2 a frozen banana), 1 tbsp ground flax and 1 cup of almond milk, or more if needed to get it to blend.
You can substitute any frozen fruit, any plant-based milk or water and any plant-based protein you like. I like my adaptogens and superfoods, so I also added spriulina, ashwaganda and holy basil. Read more about that here.
Tip: check out my vegan protein smoothies e-book for 66 amazing smoothie recipes.
1 Apple and Mixed Raw Nuts
Vegetable Chickpea Chowder: I’d made this for dinner the night before so I had the leftovers for lunch today. This is an awesome recipe that’s very flavourful and easy to make. Get the recipe here.
Small Salad: I also had a small salad with greens, grated carrot, a few black beans, a few pumpkin seeds, sliced cucumber and a drizzle of tahini and lemon.
Tip: pumpkin seeds are a great source of antioxidants, iron, zinc and magnesium.
Whole Wheat English Muffin: I had half with smashed avocado, sea salt and broccoli sprouts and half with almond butter. You could do the same on toast or crackers.
Farro Salad: I followed the recipe for my Mediterranean Farro Salad which has farro, kale, olives, parsley, roasted red peppers, tomato, chickpeas, onions and tahini sauce. I also added tofu feta.
Drinks Throughout the Day
More Reading: How to improve your sleep for better health.
Plant-Based Meal Plan Day 2
Upon Rising (Pre-Workout)
- 1 L of warm water with apple cider vinegar
- Matcha tea
- Omega-3, Vitamin B12, Vegan Vitamin D3
Stovetop Oatmeal: I cooked 1/2 cup of rolled oats in water with 1 tbsp of chia seeds, 1 tbsp ground flax, 3/4 cup frozen blueberries, 1/2 cup grated zucchini and half a scoop of plant-based vanilla protein powder. Cook it over the stovetop until the oats are soft and it has thickened, then add your toppings. I topped it with peanut butter.
For more oatmeal recipes try my sauteed apple oatmeal, carrot zucchini pumpkin oatmeal, blueberry oatmeal, chocolate oatmeal or simple banana oatmeal.
Strawberry Smoothie: Blend 1 cup of frozen strawberries with a handful of spinach, a few pieces of steamed then frozen cauliflower, a chunk of fresh ginger, 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder and almond milk or water. I also added maca and chlorella. You can read more about these in my post on the best superfoods to add to smoothies.
Leftover Farro Salad: The beauty of making healthy dinners at home is you always have lunch ready for the next day.
Nutty “Cereal”: To make this, add up to 1/2 a cup of various nuts, seeds, coconut and dried fruit to a small dish and top with a splash of almond milk. You can add a bit of fresh fruit too if you like. If you don’t want to add the milk, just enjoy it as trail mix.
Quick and Easy Zoodles: Spiralize zucchini then add it to a pan and saute it for a few minutes in some water or stock. Pour your choice of pasta sauce over it, heat it through then add it to a bowl and top with vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast.
Plant-Based Meal Plan Day 3
Upon Rising (Pre-Workout)
- 1 L warm water with apple cider vinegar
- Yerba Mate tea
- Omega-3, Vitamin B12, Vegan Vitamin B12
- Spelt toast with 1/2 banana and almond butter
Chickpea Flour Pancakes: I followed my recipe for chickpea flour pancakes and topped them with thawed frozen raspberries, peanut butter, date caramel sauce and a sprinkling of hemp seeds.
Easy Macro Bowl: Because I did food prep ahead of time, it was easy to make a quick macro bowl for lunch. I used a base of quinoa and topped it with massaged kale, roasted sweet potato, roasted brussel sprouts, sauerkraut, baked tofu, kidney beans, tahini, hot sauce, salt, pepper, lemon. Mix and match your choice of grain, legume and veggies to create your own macro bowl.
For more easy bowls try my Vegan BBQ Tofu Bowls, Roasted Potato Avocado Buddha Bowls, Vegan Sweet Potato Tofu Bowls or Brown Rice Burrito Bowl.
Blueberry Pineapple Smoothie Bowl: I blended 1 cup of frozen blueberries, 1 cup of frozen pineapple chunks, 1/2 a steamed and frozen sliced zucchini, 1/2 a frozen banana and 1 rib of celery with 1 scoop of plant-based protein powder and then topped it with almond butter, walnuts and hemp seeds.
Coconut Red Lentil Dahl: I make this dish often and it’s one of the most popular recipes on the blog. I added some kale, diced carrots and diced zucchini and served it with a scoop of brown rice and lots of cilantro. Get the recipe here.
- Liquorice Spice Tea
- Green Tea
- Americano misto with almond milk
Plant-Based Can Be Simple
I hope that this meal plan points you in the right direction when it comes to creating a full day of plant-based meals. To be honest, it doesn’t even have to be that complicated. A plant-based diet can be as simple or as elaborate as you decide to make it.
Sometimes it might be amazing plant-based diet recipes and sometimes its throwing leftover veggies and lentils in a bowl. There’s no right or wrong answer. As long as you’re eating a wide range of whole plant foods, you’re all set.
I’ve listed more meal ideas below. You can also check out my One-Week Vegan Meal Plan for further inspiration.
Plant-Based Breakfast Ideas
For breakfast, think oats, smoothies, granola, tofu scrambles and toast. You can also check out my list of healthy breakfast smoothies and easy, healthy vegan breakfast recipes.
Dairy-Free Yogurt Parfaits. Layer non-dairy yogurt such as Silk, So Delicious or Yoso in a bowl with berries, banana, nuts and seeds.
Sweet potato or squash breakfast bowls. Add some mashed sweet potato or squash to a bowl and top with things like nuts, seeds, coconut, yogurt, peanut butter and granola.Try my Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowls or Stuffed Acorn Squash Breakfast Bowls.
Toast, Bagels and English Muffins. Top you choice of bread with nut butter or tahini and layer with things like sliced apple or banana, seeds. If you’re not doing nut butter, go for avocado. You can keep it simple with plain avocado or combine it with hummus and something like broccoli sprouts. Chickpea scrambles are great on toast too. You can also try my Hummus Avocado Toast or Smashed White Bean Avocado Toast.
Easy Breakfast Wraps. Roll a tortilla up with a quick chickpea or tofu scramble, roasted sweet potato, spinach and avocado. To make it more substantial, add a Field Roast sausage. Try my Vegan Sweet Potato Breakfast Burritos, Healthy Vegan Breakfast Burritos, Vegan Black Bean Burritos with Red Rice or Vegan Breakfast Burrito Bowl with Chipotle Sauce.
Chia Pudding & Overnight Oats. Chia pudding and overnight oats, or a combo of the two are great for food prep. They take just minute to make the night before and then they’re ready to go in the morning. Try one of these chia seed pudding recipes, peanut Butter chia pudding, brownie batter oats, zucchini chocolate chip or carrot cake overnight oats.
Granola and Fruit. Store-bought granola makes an easy option but granola is also a breeze ot make at home. Try my peanut butter granola or Cinnamon Raisin Healthy Homemade Granola with almond milk and banana.
Oatmeal. You can’t go wrong with oatmeal or porridge of any kind. I love using quinoa for porridge and brown rice is really good too. I usually combine my oats with chia seed or flax and some protein to create a more balanced meal. For toppings, use nuts, seeds, fruit, nut butters, coconut, dried fruit and cacao.
Try my peaches and cream oatmeal, peanut butter blueberry oatmeal, Golden Coconut Apple Oatmeal or Peanut Butter Chocolate Oatmeal. You can also do breakfast quinoa or breakfast farro.
Plant-Based Lunch Ideas
For lunch, think leftovers, sandwiches and wraps, soups and salad bowls.
Sandwiches and Wraps. Who doesn’t love a good sandwich? Try vegan cheese, avocado, lettuce, tomato and cucumber or vegan “tuna” salad. Slabs of marinated baked tofu or crispy tempeh slices work well in sandwiches too, try them with lettuce, tomato and coconut bacon. If you don’t want to do a bread, you can use romaine lettuce or collard greens to make veggie wraps. Vegan maya, avocado and hummus work great as spreads in sandwiches.
Quick Salads. You can buy packaged salad greens if that makes things easier. Add a few big handfuls to a bowl and top with a scoop of quinoa, chickpeas, grated carrot, sunflower seeds and tahini. Check out more plant-based salads here.
Soups. Soups are perfect for easy lunches if you make them ahead of time. I have so many good ones on the blog. Try my Mulligatawny Soup, Curried Lentil Soup, Vegan Zuppa Toscana or view all of my vegan soup recipes here.
Plant-Based Dinner Ideas
Dinners are where things get really yummy! Curries, pasta, pizza, burgers, tacos, noodles, rice…there are so many options.
Check out my list of easy and healthy vegan dinner recipes or try one of the ideas below.
- Tacos. Try easy tacos with lentil meat, lettuce, avocado and carrot. Lentil tostadas are good too!
- Pizza. Grab a store-bought pizza crust and layer it up with tomato sauce, veggies and grated vegan cheese.
- Curries. Try my cauliflower chickpea curry, quick chickpea curry, panang curry, easy green curry or Thai red curry.
- Burgers. Try my much-loved chickpea veggie burger or quinoa beet burgers.
- Stir-Fry. You can’t go wrong with a big veggie stir-fry! I like to add tofu and serve them over rice or quinoa. Good veggies for stir-fries include bok choy, celery, broccoli, carrot and snap peas.
- Pasta. Pasta is the easiest dinner, all you need is pasta and sauce. In fact one of my fave quick dinners is just pasta, store-bought sauce, red pepper flakes and nutritional yeast. For something a little different, try this pumpkin penne. You can also try these lentil meatballs with vegan bolognese sauce.
- Salads. If you’ve been by the blog before, you’ve probably noticed I love interesting and delicious salads. There’s no need for salads to be boring! You can browse all of my vegan salad recipes here.
Creating Plant-Based Meals
When you’re creating plant-based meals, think about combining the three macronutrients, fat, carbs and protein. This helps create more balanced meals that will prevent a spike in blood sugar and help keep you fuller for longer.
Fat comes from nuts, seeds, soy, coconut, avocado and cacao.
Carbs come from beans, starchy vegetables (sweet potato, potato etc.), whole grains such as rice, quinoa and whole grain products like pasta and bread.
Also consider fiber. Fiber is very important for digestion and gut health, blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and more. A good place to start is 25 grams a day but that’s the minimum so try to work your way up from there. High-fibre foods include fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains and whole grain products.
Protein comes from hemp seeds, beans and lentils, nuts, soy products such as tofu, tempeh and edamame, whole grains and if needed, plant-based protein powder. Read my post on the best vegan protein sources.
Easy Plant-Based Desserts
Some of my favourite vegan treats are these 3-ingredient oatmeal cookies, flourless peanut butter cookies, tahini date cookies and peanut butter blondies but dessert doesn’t always have to be a recipe.
Some of my favourite simple vegan desserts are:
- Chocolate Avocado Pudding. Blend together avocado, maple syrup or dates and cocoa powder.
- Quick Baked Apple and Cinnamon. Chop up an apple and place in an oven safe dish and bake with cinnamon until soft. You can enjoy as is or top it with things like coconut butter, cacao nibs or almond butter. This is delicious with pears too, try them in this recipe for cinnamon baked pears.
- Raw Vegan Chocolates. Use the recipe for the chocolate portion of my vegan peanut butter cups and freeze in silicone muffin cups or just spread on parchment paper to make a quick chocolate bar.
- Protein Cookie Dough. Blend chickpeas with vanilla protein powder, a little maple syrup, peanut butter and pinch of sea salt. You can use powdered peanut butter to and add a bit of water to thin it out.
- 2-Minute Cookie Dough. Use the recipe for the cookie dough topping portion of my tiramisu smoothie and just eat it as is or crumble it over some blended frozen banana or non-dairy yogurt.
- Stuffed Dates. My all-time favourite. Take a big, soft date, stuff it with peanut butter, almond butter, tahini or coconut butter and enjoy. You can also sneak a nut in there or better yet, coat them in vegan chocolate.
- Banana ice cream. All you need it bananas! From there add whatever else you like such as cocoa powder, strawberries or peanut butter. How to make banana ice cream.
Those are just a few ideas. I could go on forever so I’m going to leave it at that today. You can browse all of my vegan dessert recipes here.
Before you begin your meal plan I wanted to stare a few resources you might find helpful. I would highly recommend browsing through these posts so you feel more confident getting into the meal plan below.
In particular, read my vegan nutrition guide, resources for plant-based nutrition, tips for plant-based beginners and how to transition to a plant-based diet.
Plant-Based Eating Articles
Plant-Based Nutrition Books
Educating yourself on plant-based nutrition makes it that much easier to stick to it. In addition to the books below, I would recommend checking out my favourite podcasts and this list of plant-based resources.
Now that you’ve got an idea of what a day of plant-based eating looks like, come on over and join my FREE closed Facebook group for more inspiration. Click here to join.