Building Satisfying Plant-Based Meals

Published on : 3/22/21
  • Nicole Reilly, MS, RD, CD 
    Part 2 of 2

    So, you have decided to eat more plant-based meals. But you are not sure where to start. Follow these tips and meal planning tricks to help you build plant-based menus that keep you energized and satisfied throughout the day.   

    Minding Your Meals 

    Nutritionally speaking, when building plant-based meals, you should be sure to incorporate enough protein, healthy fats, and fiber to keep you satiated (that feeling of satisfaction or fullness). You might have to experiment with different portion sizes and pay attention to your hunger levels throughout the day to ensure you are getting enough to eat. In general, aim for 15-20 grams of protein per meal, and include a good source of fat, such as oils, nuts, seeds, or avocado. Including a variety of different grains, legumes, and vegetables throughout the day and week will help you eat a variety of different nutrients. In addition, choosing whole grains (such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, and oats) and starchy vegetables (such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, or winter squash) will help you feel more satisfied than if you fill up on refined grains. 

    You can also use some mindful eating principles when making food choices. You might check in with yourself to see if you have any cravings, or what kinds of foods you are in the mood for in the moment. On some days, you might want a fresh, crisp salad, while on others, you want a hearty stew, or a sandwich on a crusty baguette. Ignoring these factors may leave you feeling dissatisfied despite having made a nutritionally complete meal.  

    Lastly, be sure to prepare meals that are full of flavor and visually appetizing. Meat and dairy can provide complex flavors to foods. For satisfying and delicious plant-based meals, you want to build in a variety of flavors and textures. Missing that umami (earthy, meaty flavor)? Try adding some roasted mushrooms, tomatoes, soy sauce, or miso paste. Roasting or caramelizing vegetables can also ramp up the flavors. Need to brighten up a dish? Try adding a splash of vinegar, squeeze of citrus, or a handful of chopped fresh herbs. The possibilities are endless! 

    5 Tips to Transition to Plant-Based Eating

    When making the leap to plant-based foods, follow these five easy tips: 

    1. Rather than going 100% plant-based, you might instead try to go plant-based one or two days each week. You will still reap some of the health and environmental benefits.
    2. Think about the plant-based meals you already enjoy and regularly build them into your diet. Examples may include oatmeal with berries and nuts, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or rice and beans.
    3. Experiment with different meat and dairy alternatives. They are great sources of protein and other key nutrients, such as iron, B12, and calcium, and they can add variety to your diet.
    4. Think about foods with meat, dairy, and eggs that you may miss and experiment with plant-based variations. Find new recipes to stay motivated. There are tons of great plant-based cookbooks and websites to explore.
    5. Plan your meals for the week. Plug them into a calendar and have some easy options on hand (such as veggie burgers, hummus/pita, or frozen rice and bean burritos) in case something comes up or you do not have the energy to cook.

    Try This At Home! 

    Here are some simple plant-based meal ideas to get you started.     


    • Overnight oats made with soymilk, chia seeds, and frozen fruit
    • Whole grain toast with nut butter, sliced banana, and glass of almond milk
    • Scrambled tofu burrito with spinach, peppers, and home-fried potatoes 


    • Hummus wrap with roasted vegetables and a piece of fruit
    • Minestrone soup with baguette and a side salad
    • Rice and bean burrito with avocado and tortilla chips and salsa 


    • Coconut chickpea curry with vegetables and brown rice
    • Peanut butter noodles with seared tofu and stir-fry vegetables
    • Quinoa grain bowl with sweet potatoes, kale, craisins, walnuts, and a tahini dressing
    • Chickpea pasta with homemade pesto, sundried tomatoes, and portobello mushrooms 


    • Roasted chickpeas or edamame
    • Whole grain crackers with hummus
    • Avocado toast with sunflower seeds or “everything-but-the-bagel” seasoning
    • Apple and peanut butter 

    Adding A Little Zing To Your Diet 

    In addition to the above ideas, you may want to add some fun, tasty treats to your diet. Here is an easy energy bite recipe that is sure to rev you up! 

    Trail Mix Energy Bites

    Makes 1 dozen bites 

    1 cup old fashioned oats
    ⅔ cup toasted coconut flakes
    ½ cup natural peanut or almond butter
    ½ cup ground flaxseed
    ⅓ cup agave or maple syrup
    ¼ cup craisins or dried cherries
    Pinch of ground cinnamon
    1 tsp vanilla extract

    Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Chill in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes. Roll into 1.5” balls. Enjoy immediately or wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

    When making lifestyle changes, be sure to create realistic goals that will set you up for success. If you are trying to eat more plant-based meals, be sure to incorporate enough variety to keep your tastebuds and body happy. No soggy tofu, please! With these tips and tricks in your toolbox, you can build flavorful, nutritious plant-based meals and snacks for you and your friends and family to enjoy.