Shop once, eat five times with this delicious, plant-based dinner menu


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Photo: Stocksy / Cameron Whitman

Plant-based eating has never been a bigger deal—but given that animal products are totally off the table, food options can feel kind of limited to newbies. There’s only so many times a person can eat lentils and broccoli, amirite?

That’s where meal planning, combined with a little creativity, comes in handy. “Meal planning is a great tool when you’re trying to maintain your health and wellness goals. It allows you to have a plan when it comes to what’s for dinner and helps to save time, money and calories throughout the week,” says Maggie Michalczyk, MS, RD. “I think it’s also a great opportunity to flex your cooking muscles and try incorporating foods you didn’t think you liked in fun ways.”

That’s true even for plant-based food—pinky promise. If you’re feeling stuck with your vegan meal plan game, Michalczyk has a week’s worth of delicious dinners that should inspire you to think outside the box a bit. The best part? You only have to go to the grocery store once to nab everything you need.

What you should buy:

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 bag of shredded carrots or large carrots
  • 1 bag snow peas
  • 1 head of lettuce
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 ear of corn or frozen corn
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • Dried or fresh bay leaf
  • 4 red, orange, or yellow bell peppers
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 bunch green onion
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 2 jalapeños
  • 2 avocados
  • Fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic bulb
  • 1 lime
  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 2 cans black beans
  • 2 cans fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 can chipotle pepper in adobo
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Cashews
  • Vegetable broth
  • Coconut aminos
  • Rice wine vinegar
  • Peanut butter
  • Nut butter (almond or peanut)

Ingredients from the pantry:

  • Olive oil
  • White vinegar
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cumin
  • Cinnamon
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Chili powder

Dinner #1: Seasonal grain bowl

Who doesn’t love a grain bowl? “This one is great because you can really add whatever veggies you have on had to make a filling and plant-based meal,” Michalczyk says. You’ll get tons of protein and fiber from the quinoa, chickpeas, and sweet potato, as well as good fats from avocado and seeds to boost satiety.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup quinoa, cooked
  • 2 cups kale, washed, stemmed, and chopped
  • 1/2 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 sweet potato, cubed and roasted
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • Olive oil, to taste
  • White or red wine vinegar, to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

2. Dress with olive oil and vinegar, or your favorite dressing. Serves one.

Dinner #2: Cauliflower-carrot lettuce wraps

No chicken? No problem! “Remake your favorite restaurant style lettuce wraps with veggies. Cauliflower is a great substitute for chicken in this filling and flavorful recipe,” Michalczyk says.

For the wraps:

  • 1 head of lettuce
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos
  • 1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp chili paste, to taste
  • Splash of rice wine vinegar
  • Optional toppings: Chopped green onion, sesame seeds

For the peanut sauce:

  • 1 Tbsp creamy unsweetened peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp coconut aminos
  • 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar (you may need more if mixture is too thick) or a splash of lime to balance the flavors

1. Make the peanut sauce: Heat the peanut butter in a small dish in the microwave for 12 seconds. Remove from microwave and add coconut aminos and rice vinegar. Mix until you get a sauce consistency. Add more rice wine vinegar or water to thin the sauce if necessary.

2. Chop cauliflower into 2-inch pieces. Add to medium skillet with a splash of olive oil and cook until tender for a few minutes.

3. Add chili paste, coconut aminos, and hoisin sauce. Mix together and coat the cauliflower in the sauces. Add a splash of rice wine vinegar and mix.

4. Add in the shredded carrots and cook for two more minutes until tender. Remove from heat and add 1/4 cup of the cauliflower/carrot mixture to each piece of lettuce you have until you run out of mix.

5. Drizzle peanut sauce onto each lettuce cup. Top with green onion and sesame seeds as desired. Serves two.

Dinner #3: Butternut squash and quinoa chili

Warm up with a bowl of chili for lunch or dinner. “Plant based chili is a simple way to eat a lot of veggies in one meal. This one is especially great during the cooler months,” Michalczyk says. Plus, it packs in protein and fiber from beans and quinoa, and you can add more from the plant-based toppings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp chopped chipotle pepper in adobo
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • Salt, to taste
  • Sliced avocado, for serving

1. In a 4- to 6-quart Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat, warm the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and butternut squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent.

2. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the garlic, chili powder, chopped chipotle peppers, cumin and cinnamon. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3. Add the bay leaf, black beans, tomatoes, and broth. Stir to combine and cover for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. In the last 15 minutes of cooking, add the quinoa and stir to combine.

4. You’ll know your chili is done when the quinoa is cooked, the butternut squash is tender, and the liquid has reduced a bit. Remove the bay leaf and add salt to taste.

5. Serve the chili in individual bowls, top with avocado. Serves two to four.

Dinner #4: Spaghetti squash pad Thai

Save money and calories from takeout with this healthy DIY version. “This Asian inspired plant based meal is super flavorful and extra fun if you eat it straight out of the spaghetti squash! Spaghetti squash contains more vitamins and fiber than regular pasta and is lower in carbs,” she says.

Ingredients:

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 cup snow peas
  • 5-6 carrots, grated
  • 1-2 red, orange, or yellow peppers, cut into thin strips
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • 2 Tbsp coconut aminos
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 generous Tbsp almond butter
  • 1 Tbsp grated, fresh, ginger
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • Cashews, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut through spaghetti squash lengthwise and scoop out all of the seeds. Coat with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast face up for 35-40 minutes until soft.

2. Meanwhile, prepare veggies and sauce. Sauté snow peas and peppers in a large pan over medium-high heat until tender, about four to five minutes.

3. Combine coconut aminos, olive oil, almond butter, vinegar, ginger, and red pepper into a small bowl. Whisk until combined.

4. Once the spaghetti squash has finished baking, let cool for 30 minutes. Use a fork to loosen the spaghetti squash, and remove it from the skin.

5. In a large bowl, add spaghetti squash, almond butter sauce, and veggies. Mix until combined, and scoop back into squash skin. Grate fresh carrot on top. Garnish with the lime and cashews if desired. Serves two. 

Dinner #5: Mexican-style stuffed peppers

“Use peppers as a vehicle to get more nutrition in this recipe that is packed with protein and fiber from the beans and veggies,” she says. Make a few with different colors for some fun, and feel free to add in any additional spices to beef up the flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 2 bell peppers (any color)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • Cilantro, chopped finely
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Lightly grease two baking pans with oil.

2. Slice peppers in half, and remove the seeds.

3. Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions, and cook for one to two minutes. Add diced tomatoes, and cook for two minutes.

4. Mix in corn and zucchini, and cook for another two minutes. Stir in black beans, brown rice, chili powder, and cumin, until well combined and heated through.

5. Stuff each half of a pepper with the rice mixture. Place them in a baking pan, and cover. Bake for 20 minutes.

6. Uncover foil, and let peppers cool for a few minutes before serving. Top pepper halves with cilantro and avocado slices. Serves two.

Looking for more healthy dinner ideas? Check out this easy week of Mediterranean-inspired dinners. And here’s what a top nutritionist eats for dinner when she has zero time.

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