Don’t let these challenges get the best of your good intentions.
Busy schedules, lack of recipes, unstocked pantries, no plan, and probably most of all, working with the unfamiliar all contribute to these feelings.
But, we don’t have a SECOND to waste fixing and eating meals that AREN’T directly linked to optimum health.
Let’s power up your meal planning on a plant-based diet today by looking at 6 myths you may have about this task and replace them with effective ways to make easy meal planning a part of your life. You’ll be armed with new enthusiasm and skills to plan and eat plant-based meals throughout the week and for many weeks to come.
Meal Planning Myths
Myth #1: I just need to eat a lot of vegetables.
This won’t work because chances are, you WILL get hungry. People often think that a plant-based diet is just about the fruits and veggies, but it’s really inclusive of whole grains, legumes like kidney beans, chickpeas and soy, starchy veggies like potatoes and yams and some nuts and seeds.
While a meal made with a pile of vegetables can make your stomach feel fuller, if you include a source of protein such as tofu or lentils it will take a little longer to digest and keep you full longer. Add beans to your salad or a ¼ cup of brown rice. Eat a salsa topped yam alongside your steamed veggies.
TAKEAWAY: Plant-based eating does not mean only veggies.
Myth #2: You have to think about protein
Protein has been big in the news over the past few years, and as a consequence, people are confused. We do indeed need protein along with carbohydrates and fats. Whole foods provided from nature offer the ideal amount of protein. But if we take a look at what nature provides, we see that the amount of protein we need to survive is less than most think.
According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Recommended Daily Allowance, our protein needs are about 10% of our daily diet.
It’s easy to forget that grains and veggies also contain protein. You don’t need to worry about getting enough protein on a plant-based diet.
However, if you’re someone who finds yourself hungry after a meal, you may consider adding more plant sources of protein as described in Myth #1.
And, if you’ve ever heard that you need to worry about getting a complete protein since only animal sources are “complete,” that has been debunked. If you eat a variety of whole plant foods, any mixture of amino acids (which is what protein is) will provide everything you need with our body’s infinite wisdom for combining and using what’s needed.
TAKEAWAY: Don’t worry about getting enough protein in your weekly meal plan.
Myth #3: Plan a lot of variety
Don’t make it harder on yourself than you need to. Eating the same meals on a regular basis is something that most of us do naturally. Think about what YOU usually eat in a week. One solution is to create a weekly dinner theme. Within those themes, you can mix it up easily. For example, try Taco Tuesday, Pizza Friday, or Pasta Thursday every week. Then try pesto pizza one week and mushroom artichoke the next.
Making a soup every week is a good way to stretch meals so you can have leftovers for lunch or a snack. Make a pot of beans weekly and turn them into your favorites like Black Bean Tacos, or throw them on salads. Oh, and salads are the bomb. Cut up lots of veggies and use them in large salads that you eat EVERY day, EVERY week.
What you want is success and making it too difficult on yourself is a bad idea.
TAKEAWAY: Put variety in the fruits and veggies you eat, not necessarily in the meals you plan.
Myth #4: Raw foods are better than cooked
You may think that raw foods have more nutrition than cooked, but actually, it depends on which ones you’re using. Some have more nutrition when they’re cooked and some when they’re raw. Carotenoid-containing foods such as tomatoes, carrots, and corn are better for you when they’re cooked because their thick cell walls are partially broken down, making the nutrients bound to the cell walls more accessible for assimilation.
Additionally, mushrooms are better when cooked because their toxic compounds are destroyed.
If you only eat raw, you’ll limit nutrient diversity. While you do want to stay away from foods that are fried, BBQed at high temps, or overcooked, eating a diet diverse in both cooked and raw provides the greatest benefit. As recommended by Dr. Fuhrman, eating soup is a great way to hold on to nutrients because they’re distributed in the soup’s liquid.
TAKEAWAY: Plan your meals with a combination of raw and cooked veggies.
Myth #5: Fresh is always better.
It seems logical, if it’s straight from nature, it must be better. However, in today’s world, fruits and vegetables don’t usually come from our, or our neighbor’s, backyard. Instead, they can come from miles away and sit on the shelf or worse, are treated with chemicals (unless it’s organic) that keep them “young” longer. They are not picked at their peak of nutrition.
While organic fruits and vegetables are good, ones that are frozen can be better because they retain their full nutrient value.
Pick fresh fruits and vegetables when they’re in season and don’t be afraid to use frozen.
TAKEAWAY: Pick fresh fruits and vegetables when they’re in season and don’t be afraid to use frozen.
Myth #6: Meal planning is difficult and time consuming
OK, I won’t lie to you, starting something new is usually more difficult than doing something you’re familiar with. It’s just the way our brains work. Until you’ve created a habit by setting down neurological pathways with repeated use, you’ll be thinking more. But, just like anything, you will get better at plant-based meal planning, shopping, and preparing the more you do it. It WILL take less time and effort. And, importantly, learning a new skill is very good for your brain!
But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to support this new skill and make it easier. One way is to start with a plan that’s already out there. Many websites offer meal plans, so try your luck with a Google search.
TAKEAWAY: You'll quickly learn how to plan meals on a plant-based diet and be healthier than ever!
How important is this new skill?
Isn’t it worth the learning curve to fit plant-based eating into your lifestyle? In the long run, you’ll have less worry and more time to concentrate on the things you love if you plan weekly meals.
My wish for you is to sidestep any traps that make most meal plans fail, and instead learn how to easily create your weekly plant-based masterpieces.