I grew up in the Midwest, where in my experience, a meal isn’t a meal unless there’s meat. And that was my M.O. until 2016, when I watched a speech about the food industry from animal rights activist Gary Yourofsky that left me totally gut-wrenched. I decided I had to completely shift the way I ate, and went vegan at the start of 2017.
Surprisingly, the meat- and cheese-less lifestyle wasn’t as hard—or as boring!—as I thought it would be. I started getting creative with vegan food ideas, falling in love with ingredients I had never even heard of before (hello, nutritional yeast) and experimenting with vegan ways to recreate my favorite foods. Because while yes, my fridge is filled with kale, I still love eating pasta, pizza, burgers, and BBQ wings. They just look a little different than they used to.
Now, two years later, my go-tos are dishes that fill me up, make me feel good, and are full of ingredients that fuel and energize me throughout my day. And while I do eat a salad here and there, I’m definitely not the type of person who’s going to eat one every single day…or even once a week, for that matter. (It’s not my favorite! Don’t sue me!) Here’s exactly what you can find me munching on instead.
Need some vegan food ideas? Here’s everything I eat as a vegan, from “cheeseburgers” to pancakes.
Breakfast: Food for Life’s Ezekiel sprouted whole grain English muffin ($6) with peanut butter
I love eating something warm right after waking up, and one of my go-tos is an English muffin slathered with peanut butter—especially on days I’m rushing around and don’t have time to make anything more time-consuming.
Lunch: Stir-fry with broccoli, shredded carrots, edamame, mushrooms, red pepper flakes, and teriyaki sauce with lo mein noodles
I’m a huge fan of stir-fry and love whipping it together for lunch—which is easy for me since I work from home here in Iowa. I usually use what I have in the fridge, but nothing tastes better to me than this combo. This also works with fluffy brown rice instead of lo mein (although honestly, who could say no to noodles?).
Snack: Raspberries and pickles
Ok, ok, I know this combo might sound super weird, but sometimes I crave both sweet and salty snacks at the same time, so it’s not uncommon for me to eat a plate of raspberries and pickles. Unusual? Definitely. But it’s oh-so-satisfying.
Dinner: Impossible Burger
There’s a restaurant nearby that serves the Impossible Burger (you know, the plant-based burger that “bleeds”), so my sister and I have a tradition to catch up and devour it every couple weeks. Unfortunately, they don’t have a vegan cheese option, so I always bring my own in a reusable baggie and plop it on right after it’s served so it melts. If I’m going to have a burger, it’s gotta be a cheeseburger.
Watch the video below to see what a registered dietitian thinks of the Impossible Burger:
Breakfast: Smoothie with kale, spinach, green apple, pineapple, and E3Live Blue Majik powder ($50)
When it comes to smoothies or juices, I’m a creature of habit. I love the taste of these ingredients together (thanks to living next door to a Juice Generation!), and I recently started adding in this blue spirulina powder. It’s pricey, but it’s great for vegans due to its high amount of omega-3s (which otherwise are only found in fish and seafood).
Lunch: Sweet Earth Cauliflower Mac frozen meal
On busy days where I don’t have a ton of time to make lunch, I always reach for a healthy frozen meal. I love Sweet Earth’s options because a lot of them are vegan-friendly and they’re pretty low in sodium and sugar and high in protein (unlike the TV dinners I grew up with in the ’90s). I also love their General Tso’s Tofu, even though it has a little more sugar.
Snack: Carrots from the farmers’ market
I don’t know what it is about eating carrots right out of the ground, but IMO, they taste a hundred times better than the ones you can get from the store. Don’t get me wrong—I love the organic bunches my grocer has, too. They just don’t compare.
Dinner: Grilled asparagus and mushrooms with baked tofu
My husband and I love to grill—we just don’t grill meat! Asparagus and mushrooms are two of our staples. They’re delicious seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic. I’m also a fan of baked tofu. It’s incredibly easy to make and goes with so many different meals, so I always make a big batch and keep it in the fridge to eat throughout the week.
Dessert: Popcorn with almond dark chocolate
When I saw someone was selling vegan dark chocolate at the farmers’ market, I had to stock up. I love eating it as a treat along with some popcorn after dinner as we’re binge-watching Netflix.
Breakfast: A matcha latte and an avo-topped English muffin
Anytime I wake up craving avocado toast, I just plop some avo on an English muffin and add some of Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel seasoning on top. It’s so quick and easy. As for the matcha latte, it’s always the same combo: soy milk, matcha from Mizuba Tea Co., The New New Age‘s Mushroom Milk ($19)—which contains a blend of medicinal mushroom powders (including chaga, reishi, and lion’s mane)—and some coconut sugar or agave to sweeten it up.
Lunch: Bun-less veggie burger with homemade sweet potato fries
Some days nothing sounds better to me than a plain veggie burger dipped in a little ketchup. I always make it nice and crispy and pair it with a hearty side, like sweet potato fries made in my air fryer or some broccoli. While I love Beyond Burgers, I try to go with options primarily packed with grains and greens for lunch, like Hilary’s World’s Best Veggie Burger ($3) or Dr. Praeger’s Kale Veggie Burgers ($4). So easy…and so good.
Snack: Kiwi, blueberries, and peanut butter
Dinner: Baked potato with all the (vegan) fixings
One of my favorite quick and easy dinners is popping a potato in the oven and topping it with all sorts of goodies once it’s out. I usually put on some vegan shredded cheddar cheese (I love So Delicious, but even Daiya‘s are super melty) and a dab of Tofutti’s sour cream ($3). Simple, yet effective.
Dessert: Popcorn and candy for a movie
We’re big movie buffs, so we’re always going to the theater to see whatever’s new…or watching a flick at home. If we do go out, I can’t not get candy and usually go for some of Wholesome’s Organic DelishFish ($3) or UnReal’s Dark Chocolate Crispy Quinoa Gems ($6), which taste like M&Ms but get their color and flavor from things like beets and turmeric.
Breakfast: Rice cakes topped with peanut butter, strawberries, and blueberries with a matcha latte
My sister introduced me to this mix, and it makes for an easy breakfast or snack during the day.
Lunch: Baked tofu in BBQ sauce with broccoli
I still had some leftover baked tofu, so I tossed it in BBQ sauce for a boneless wings-like meal. If you don’t have tofu on hand, cauliflower makes great vegan wings, too.
Snack: Apple and caramel sauce
Ever since I wrote about an easy-to-make, two-ingredient vegan caramel sauce, I’ve been snacking on it regularly. It’s something I used to eat all the time before going vegan. And now that cold weather has arrived, I’m taking full advantage of the seasonal treat.
Dinner: Tacos with tortillas, Gardein’s beefless ground crumbles ($5), black beans, shredded lettuce, vegan cheese, salsa, Tofutti sour cream, and hot sauce
Taco night is one of my favorite nights. Piling up all these goodies on a tortilla is truly mouth-watering. I make the beefless ground crumbles with seasoning, and it’s so good even my meat-eating husband can’t get enough. And even though I use whole grain or corn tortillas 99 percent of the time, sometimes I can’t resist the white fluffy ones.
Dessert: Popcorn with almond dark chocolate
Breakfast: Oatmeal cooked in water with blueberries, a splash of soy milk, and a tiny bit of brown sugar
The second the weather starts getting cold, I start craving oatmeal again—something I rarely eat in the spring or summer.
Lunch: Hummus and veggie rolls
If I want a light lunch, summer rolls are the way to go…even in the winter. I usually make hummus and veggie rolls because it’s such a satisfying combo of carrot, spinach, bell pepper, cucumber, and celery. Plus, they’re easy to pack up and take with me if I’m not working at home.
Dinner: Pizza with vegan mozzarella, onions, green peppers, and mushrooms
Everyone assumes I can’t eat pizza anymore, but oh boy are they wrong. Whenever I’m craving some, I either make my own at home or order from a place nearby. They happen to have vegan cheese—which is amazing—but that’s pretty rare, so it’s not uncommon for me to just go with sauce and veggies. Cheese or not, I always get mushrooms, green peppers, and onion, as well as some extra marinara sauce so I can dip my crust into it.
Breakfast: Just Egg omelet with onions, green peppers, vegan ham, and vegan cheese with watermelon slices and a matcha latte
Ever since Just Egg has a weirdly-realistic egg substitute, I’ve been enjoying it as a weekend breakfast. I used to eat omelets almost every day before going vegan—this exact combo, in fact!—so it’s fun getting to have it again.
Lunch: Tomato soup
Now that it’s colder outside, I’m craving soups more and more every day. One of my favorites to sip on is Imagine’s Creamy Tomato Soup ($4), which isn’t made with any milk, but is still just as creamy as the kind I grew up with.
Snack: Handful (…or two) of raw almonds
Dinner: Burrito bowl with brown rice, lettuce, black beans, green peppers, onion, tomatoes, vegan sour cream, and salsa
Sometimes I just throw together whatever I have on hand, and this was definitely one of those dinners. But honestly…is there anything better than a burrito bowl? I could eat Mexican food every day of the week.
Breakfast: Matcha pancakes and a vanilla soy latte
I absolutely love pancakes, and this healthier version I posted on my website is something I make on the regular. Plus since it only has a handful of simple ingredients, it’s easy to whip together. My husband and I also grab our favorite warm and cozy beverages from a coffee shop nearby over the weekend, and a vanilla soy latte always hits the spot.
Lunch: Sushi with brown rice, avocado, and cucumber with raspberries
If I’m craving sushi, I’ll go grab some from the organic grocer next door. I’ve always been a huge sushi fan, and it’s actually one of my favorite things to eat vegan. (Funny enough, like pizza, it’s also a meal most people don’t think I can have.) Since I never liked raw fish anyway, loading up on veggies instead is such a delicious, light, and energizing alternative.
Snack: Peanut butter and celery
Dinner: Spaghetti night with garlic bread
Every Sunday night is spaghetti night in my apartment. My husband and I live for it. Instead of making healthier noodles like I normally would, we don’t mess around and always go for the real deal (the thick white pasta!) and make our own marinara sauce from scratch—basically a spicier version of my dad’s famous recipe that I’ve loved since I was little. Having this tradition to look forward to definitely takes away those end-of-the-weekend blues.
Originally published January 15, 2019. Updated January 8, 2021.
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