Plan your meal prep

How To Meal Prep As a Vegetarian\Vegan

The meal plan that we shared previously was made in mind for someone with an omnivorous diet, one who eats both animal and plant based foods with no restrictions. For those who do have food restrictions, some variations are needed. In this post, we are sharing two different variations on the omnivorous sample plan: one for lacto-ovo-pescetarians (do not consume meat) and one for vegans.

Healthy food meal prep

Both are made with the following information obtained from a nutrition assessment by a dietitian:

  • 160 lb male
  • 31 years old
  • Sedentary job, 9-5 pm, exercises after work (5:30pm)
  • Physically active (60+ minutes per day)
  • Drinking adequate water without instruction based on needs and activity level
  • Experienced in resistance training with significant skeletal muscle mass
  • Beginning to move towards goal of weight and fat loss, with a starting target of about 2500kcal
  • No medical conditions, or history of medical conditions

Making vegetarian and vegan-friendly swaps

For a lacto-ovo-pescetarian diet, only a couple adjustments need to be made. For breakfast, rather than deli meats we’re going to have some low-fat cheese instead. Cheese is a great source of protein and choosing a lower-fat version will increase the protein density of the food further. 

The second change is swapping out the meat at lunch for lean fish. An easy way to figure out if a fish is lean is to see the color of the meat, most white fishes such as cod and tilapia are lean fish. 

Dinner will be the same as the omnivore plan, as fatty fish is a great source of protein and fish oils. This plan will also meet most micronutrient RDAs.


The vegan plan has much more variation within each meal. Breakfast has changed from a breakfast sandwich to a tasty oatmeal. The morning snack still exists but is a protein shake to increase the overall protein intake for the day.

Lunch remains a bowl, but with some of the vegetables and the carbohydrate substituted to increase variety and protein content. And of course, the main protein is switched from a meat-based food to tempeh, a soy-based protein.

The after-work / pre-workout snack is some edamame and a granola/cereal bar, for carbs and protein. The edamame portions need to be controlled and monitored, due to fiber content and fats that can affect the workout. 

Dinner is a delicious pan-fried tofu with mushrooms and rice.


Completebody Juice Bar

Is vegan protein just as good as animal protein?

The overall protein content on this particular day is lower than the sample days for the omnivore and lacto-ovo-pescetarian meals. Though it is entirely possible to get enough protein from a vegan diet, it does take more planning. In addition to getting enough overall protein, it is also important to incorporate varied protein sources on a vegan diet due to the plant-based sources often lacking in certain essential amino acids. 

For example, oats are low in lysine and threonine while peas are low in cysteine, methionine, and tryptophan. If you relied purely on peas as a protein source, there is a strong possibility that you would not be meeting overall protein needs.

Even beyond variability, there is a need for extra protein when on a vegan diet due to the lower digestibility of plant-based proteins. That means protein intake recommendations should generally be higher for a vegan diet (to a certain point) to get the same effects, especially for muscle hypertrophy.

The same doesn’t apply to those who abstain from meat but eat animal products such as milk, yogurt, and eggs because those are still complete proteins with high digestibility.

 

As far as plant-based proteins go, soy is the most digestible followed by canola, potato, pea, and quinoa. These also have amino acid profiles that are nearly complete but not quite at the level of animal-based proteins yet, making variability still important in the diet.

Micro-nutrient Needs and Vitamin Supplements

It can be difficult to maintain good intakes of some nutrients on a vegan diet. Similar to protein, it can be very possible but requires more planning than an omnivore diet. One example of this is iron: a form of iron (known as non-heme iron) is present in vegan foods as the primary form of iron. Animal-based foods, especially meat,, however, primarily contain heme iron (though both kinds of foods contain both kinds of iron to an extent). Heme iron is absorbed by the body very well, but unfortunately non-heme iron is not. A vegan diet would necessitate higher than normal amounts of iron intake. However, the absorption of non-heme iron can be enhanced through combining it with heme iron (in the case of those who still enjoy animal products) or vitamin C.

 

If needs can’t be met through food, supplements can help fill in the gaps in the diet. One nutrient that is very important for vegans is vitamin B12. Some foods, such as nutritional yeast and cereals, are fortified with B12 but it is only naturally found in animal-based products. Because the body can store significant amounts, symptoms of a B12 deficiency can take years to show up. A deficiency can cause anemia and other blood disorders, fatigue, weight loss, dementia and other neurological changes, and more. For a vegan, supplementing B12 should be a priority as it is very difficult to consume enough in a vegan diet.

Should you go vegan if you want to build muscle and get stronger?

 

If you’re vegan, or planning to go vegan, you can still perform well and make great gains! It will just take more planning and mindfulness, especially at the beginning, but as you become more experienced it may become more natural. And remember, you don’t have to go all or nothing right away! You can slowly make some swaps to your diet. Switching to a vegan diet is a big decision, and working with a dietitian can help you do it sustainably while maintaining your strength, physique, and performance.

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