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Here you will find tons of information about healthy eating and incorporating the principles of healthy nutrition into your daily life. Built around Dr. Cederquist’s nutritional foundation for healthy weight loss, these articles place a wealth of information right at your fingertips.

Why & How to Make Plant-Based Meals (with 10+ Recipe Ideas!)

Meatless Mondays are great and all but why settle to just one day? Enjoy these plant-based meal ideas any and every day of the week!

Why & How to Make Plant-Based Meals (with 10+ Recipe Ideas!)


Plant-based recipes and plant-based meals have been all over the place lately. It may raise the question, "Are plant-based diet recipes even that healthy?"

This article addresses meatless dinner ideas and beyond to break down why plant-based meals might be all they are cracked up to be. Explore how to make plant-based meals, including delicious plant-based dinner recipes!

Why Try a Plant-Based Diet? 

It used to be just bland veggie burgers that were a meatless option. Now, corporations are spending millions of dollars to fine-tune imitation meats. With the rise of plant-based options, it can be hard to tell what is actually healthy and what is just filled with additives. 

Often, the best way to enjoy plant-based dining is by making homemade meals. Even though chain restaurants are offering plant-based options, often these options are high in preservatives to make what was once fresh stay sustainable long enough to reach the customer. 

On the other hand, tailoring homemade meals to meet plant-based needs allows for home chefs to be more flexible. It also gives cooks control over what is actually in their food. Plus, homegrown or fresh garden ingredients can add a level of nutrients that is unparalleled. 

Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

Experts rave about truly plant-centric diets, and for a good reason. Plant-based diets are generally higher in nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and nutritious fruits and vegetables. 

Studies suggest that a plant-based diet has the power to: 

• Protect against some diseases
• Decrease mortality risk
• Increase skin, nail, and hair health
• Increase energy levels
• Decrease inflammation and injury recovery times
• Help sustain weight loss without counting calories
• ...and even more! 

Beyond being a great way to nourish most people's bodies, it can also be a great way to serve the planet. A plant-based diet is thought to cut a person’s carbon footprint in half, as meat-based ways of eating typically take more resources like fuel and water to produce. 

How to Make Plant-Based Meals

The first thing to understand about a plant-based diet is that it is not strictly vegetarian or vegan. It is not meant to be restrictive, but rather to focus on the following food groups and foods: 

• Fruits
• Legumes 
• Lean meats (if not entirely vegan)
• Nuts
• Seeds
• Vegetables 
• Whole grains

Making a meal more plant-based can simply mean increasing the number of colorful foods. For example, adding bell peppers to a dish not only increases the nutrients. It also adds bright orange, red, and yellow colors to the table and can make eating more exciting. 

Plant-based eating is not meant to be boring and actually about experimentation and finding new flavor profiles. The evolution of plant-based milks is one great example of how plant-based alternatives can be nutritious and delicious. 

Plant-Based Diet Recipes

In addition to starting the day out right with healthy plant-based breakfast recipes, continue the healthy eating all day long! Here are 10+ plant-based recipes for enjoying alone or with a couple of veggie-based friends. 

1. Healthy Homemade Tomato Sauce

Pasta is a long-time favorite of veggie lovers. It is also easy to omit the meat or to increase the herbs on a favorite Italian dish. 

Try making homemade tomato sauce, and remember that plant-based recipes can be just as nutritious when they come from a can! 

2. Vegan Potato Salad

Looking for a mayo-less, delicious potato salad recipe? (Even if you do not love potato salad, this great plant-based recipe might just change your mind!)

Like most traditional potato salad recipes, it is exactly what you want: Creamy and flavorful. Unlike most traditional recipes, it is free of what you do not want: Heavy mayo that can turn the salad from a delicious spud to dud. 

(The side dish would go great with the best veggie burger - see #6!)

3. Barley Salad with Spinach

Barley may be an overlooked whole grain, but it truly shines in this plant-based, barley salad recipe! It makes a delicious side dish or even a complete meal. 

Not to mention, the barley can be prepped in advance for the quickest recipe assembly.

4. Curry Roasted Butternut Squash & Cauliflower with Chickpeas

For a flavor-packed, plant-based recipe, this curry roasted butternut squash and cauliflower with chickpeas recipe is a must! 

Aromatic olive oil and curry seasoning wonderfully balance the nutty sweetness from cauliflower and butternut squash. The veggies are then topped with sauteed chickpeas.

5. Garlic Butter Sauteed Mushrooms 

Just the name of this recipe alone is mouth-watering. The butter in garlic butter sauteed mushrooms can easily be swapped out for another vegetable oil or butter-like plant-based spread. Mushrooms are great for adding a meaty flavor while skipping the meat. 

6. The Best Veggie Burger Recipe

Even the carnivores will go crazy over this flavor-packed entree. The best veggie burger uses all the right spices and chickpeas, which are high in protein. 

Overall, veggie burgers will still leave one feeling full (but not too full) after eating, unlike other plant-based options. 

7. Whole Wheat Penne with Vegan Cashew Alfredo

Penne with alfredo is a classic, and vegan cashew sauce gives it an upgrade. Combine whole wheat penne with vegan cashew alfredo for a healthy elevation on a dinnertime favorite. 

As an added bonus, nutritional yeast and cashews give the sauce its cheesy flavor without the need for any cheese. (The cashew sauce can also be used to make a vegan mac and cheese!)

8. Delicious Falafel 

As mentioned above, plant-based diets are anything but boring and this falafel recipe proves just that! Its plant-based roots are grounded with the use of chickpeas and whole wheat flour, as well as a bounty of spices that really marries all the ingredients.

Enjoy the falafel as-is, in a rice bowl or salad, wrapped into a pita, and beyond!

9. Vegetable Potstickers with Tangy Soy Garlic Sauce

Potstickers may sound like a labor-intensive recipe. However, pan-fried and steamed vegetable potstickers with tangy soy garlic sauce are easier and definitely more nutritious than take-out. 

Full of meat-like mushrooms and plenty of veggies, this recipe is also easy to make gluten-free as necessary or desired. 

10. Sesame Soba Noodles with Edamame

Looking for a unique, fresh, and craveable weeknight meal? Entirely plant-based and gluten-free, look no further than this sesame soba noodle recipe!

Also feel free to experiment with different ingredients and flavors, including a delicious Thai peanut sauce!

11. Vegetable Fried Rice

Craving stir fry but not all the unwanted oils and calories that often come with it? Prepare this healthy vegetable fried rice recipe packed with plant power from brown rice, tofu, and a bounty of veggies!

12. Chana Masala

Chana + Masala = Protein and fiber-packed chickpeas overloaded with flavor thanks to delicious spices! The chickpea, tomato-based dish is authentic to Indian cuisine and naturally plant-based.

The dish can be made in just over 30 minutes on the stovetop or prepared in an Instant Pot. No matter the cooking method, the plant-based recipe is sure to please.

13. Burrito Bowl

Commonly prepared with black beans, sauteed veggies, and rice, burrito bowls are perfect for plant-based eating! They are also highly customizable, so add or remove certain ingredients like tempeh and favorite toppings.

While burrito bowls are mostly plant-based, add lean meat as desired. Chicken, sirloin, and shrimp make great additions! 

14. Chili

Extremely versatile and easy to make vegetarian or vegan, chili is high-protein, fiber-packed, and overall just nutritious! And not to mention, a quick plant-based meal idea… 

Swapping beans for meat will not change the protein content much. However, feel free to keep or omit turkey or another lean ground meat as desired. 

Recapping Plant-Based Diets and Dishes

Plant-based recipes just got an upgrade. Enjoy these tasty dishes, as well as peace of mind, knowing that plant-based diets can contribute to overall health outcomes. 

Focus on veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and lean meats (as desired) to get started today! 

References:

Hever J. Benefits of a plant-based diet. Plant-Based Dietitian. https://plantbaseddietitian.com/plant-based-diet-benefits/

Zanteson L. Plant-Based Meat Alternatives. Today's Dietitian. Published October 2021. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/1021p42.shtml.

Sydney Lappe's Photo
Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on December 20, 2021. Updated on December 29, 2021.

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