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Get Started: Vegetarian Meal Prep

Vegetarian meal prep is a delicious way to mix up the typical meal routine. Besides the health benefits, vegetable focused recipes tend to utilize different spices and sauces. Also vegetarian meals can be very quick and easy to make while still having an incredibly deep flavor profile.

The hard part is getting started, especially if you’re not used to a vegetarian diet. Start slow and do your research before cooking.

1. Understand your Nutritional Needs

Vegetarian meal prep diets are fantastic for balancing nutrients however eating the right mix of foods is important for meeting vitamin needs. 

  • Protein: Include a variety of plant-based proteins such as beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, and edamame.
  • Iron: Eat iron-rich foods like spinach, lentils, chickpeas, and fortified cereals, and pair them with vitamin C sources (like citrus fruits) to enhance absorption.
  • Vitamin B12: Since B12 is primarily found in animal products, consider fortified foods or supplements.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Add flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and hemp seeds to your diet.
  • Calcium: Include dairy or fortified plant-based milk, almonds, and leafy greens.

2. Transition Gradually

bean taco

You don’t have to go all vegetarian meal prep right away. Gradually transitioning can make the habits stick much better and introduce recipes at a speed that you can actually learn them.

  • Meatless Days: Begin by having meatless days once or twice a week (e.g., Meatless Mondays).
  • Substitute Gradually: Replace one meal at a time with a vegetarian option. For instance, start with vegetarian breakfasts, then move to lunches, and finally dinners.

3. Discover New Foods

Variety is important for any meal prepping habit. Explore new foods, and not just vegetables, to build on your vegetarian meal prep journey. 

  • Try new vegetables, grains, legumes, and plant-based proteins to keep meals interesting.
  • Explore global cuisines that naturally emphasize vegetarian dishes, such as Indian, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern.

4. Start with Substitutes

tofu stir fry

Instead of trying to learn all new vegetarian recipes, try with your favorite meals with meat and substitute the protein for non-animal protein. You already know you like the flavors now just make the right substitutions and most of the time it’s essentially the same dish.

  • Plant-Based Proteins: Use tofu, tempeh, seitan, and legumes as meat substitutes.
  • Vegetable-Based Dishes: Create hearty meals with vegetables like mushrooms, eggplant, and cauliflower, which have meaty textures.

5. Stock Your Pantry

Vegetarian meal prep will use different ingredients then you may be used to stocking. Make sure you stock up your pantry with the right products. Stick with stocking up on ingredients that will last until you use them. Veggies can go bad quickly so use legumes and other foods as your pantry stock.

  • Whole Grains: Brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, and barley.
  • Legumes: Canned or dried beans, lentils, and chickpeas.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and sunflower seeds.
  • Condiments and Spices: Soy sauce, tahini, nutritional yeast, curry powder, and herbs.

6. Learn to Cook

Totally changing up your recipes comes with learning new cooking skills. Go slow and work on your technique.

  • Start with learning basic cooking techniques for preparing vegetables, grains, and legumes.
  • Then try out new vegetarian recipes from cookbooks, websites, or cooking classes.

7. Monitor Your Health

Periodically check your nutrient levels, especially B12, iron, and vitamin D, to ensure you’re meeting your dietary needs.

Enjoy your vegetarian meal prep journey and have fun with it! A fun diet is more likely to be rewarding and stick as a habit. Try these vegetarian recipes as a place to start.


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