Hello there! Feeling uninspired about dinner time? Or completely confused by what people even eat on a veggie diet? Well tadada here are seven easy meals, one for each day of the week! They pack a punch in terms of nutrition, while also being super tasty. (No raw kale here!)
These seven dinners are formulas rather than recipes, because a) that would make for a very long blog post, b) I generally wing it rather than measuring ingredients out and timing each part of the process. Hopefully it will provide you enough inspiration to try them out though! If you want actual recipes to follow, they are of course only a Google / Pinterest search away. For easy recipes (and lovely Irish accents), check out the Happy Pear YouTube channel.
As mentioned earlier, the dinner ideas featured are high in many nutrients. I designed them with pregnant and postpartum women in mind, with the focus on nutrition superstars for making a baby and recovering from birth. This is part of my upcoming Sane Mama course (get a mini taster here!). But of course the meals are suitable for everyone!
If you are feeding little kiddos, you may want to omit the soy sauce because of the salt content and the whole nuts because of the choking hazard. Please tell me if you know of any low salt replacements for soy sauce in the comments. Anyhoo, I’ve listed how many servings of the Daily Dozen each dinner provides. If you’ve been reading for a while, you know I love that app! To get extra healthy “servings”, you can have berries or any other kind of fruit for dessert, or have a side salad with the main dish.
With all this talk of tasty and nutritious food, you may be worried these suggestions are expensive and overcomplicated. However, all the meals are based on affordable staples: beans, rice, etc., rather than trendy superfoods. If you want to save money, you can buy dry beans and soak them overnight. If you don’t want that hassle, you can use them out of the can (which is what we currently do). I’m no chef, so the meal formulas are quite simple, yet tasty! If you want more guidance on eating vegan meals on a budget, check out books like Vegan on the Cheap.
You may be in a completely different season and area of the world from me writing this right now (summer in the United Kingdom!). So I’m not making any specific recommendations of which vegetables to use. The more the merrier! Your best bet to get a variety of vegetables (and fruit) is to sign up for a veggie box. We get ours every week from Abel & Cole and it’s super convenient! Yes, you might pay a bit extra for buying organic and for the convenience of having it delivered, but by focusing on simple staple foods (see paragraph above), you could be saving quite a bit of money that you can reinvest in your health.
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Mediterranean Monday: pasta with tomato and veg sauce
Pasta and tomato sauce is one of our staple dinners. We start off with frying some garlic, sometimes with celery and grated carrot. We then add a variety of vegetables, depending on what we have. Then we pour a can or two of chopped tomatoes on top. We then add some kind of legume, such as chickpeas.
The amounts vary depending on how much you make. Most of these meals while work well warmed up, so I recommend making extra and keeping it in the fridge or freezer. This tomato sauce could also work as the base of the Tuesday dinner!
While that’s all simmering away, cook some wholegrain pasta. My favourite is tagliatelle – share yours in the comments! For a one-pot dinner, you could even pop it into the sauce, as long as the pasta is covered by the liquid.
At the very end, chuck a handful of spinach on top of the sauce to wilt for a couple minutes. Drain the pasta, add the sauce and enjoy! You can also sprinkle some nutritional yeast on top for the extra nutrients (B12 etc.) and for a slightly “cheesy” taste.
Daily Dozen score: 1 glass of water before dinner + 1 serving of beans (chickpeas) + 1 serving of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli or cauliflower for example) + 1 serving of greens (spinach) + 2 servings of other vegetables (the canned tomatoes and whatever other vegetables are added, e.g. courgette) + 1 serving of herbs and spices (buying mixed herbs works great for this) + 1 serving of whole grains = 8 out of your 24 daily servings of healthy foods!
Tex-Mex Tuesday: chili no carne
I’m going to preface this bit by saying I am in no means telling you how to make an “authentic” chili. If you do have recommendations on how to make yummy versions of the different dishes I’ve described, please write them in the comments below! This is just a simple and nourishing dish that works for our family, inspired by chili con carne (but with no carne of course!).
As with the pasta, we’d fry some garlic and potentially some other vegetables we have on hand, such as courgette. When they start to smell delicious, we’d add some canned tomatoes and beans. You can use whatever beans you want, e.g. pinto beans, black beans… I feel that a combo of at least two adds some interest to the dish. Then we’d add some cruciferous vegetables or greens, like kale and spinach for example.
While that’s all simmering away (the longer the better!), we’d cook up a grain. When thinking about dinner, I like to remind myself of the “grain, green, bean” formula suggested by Matt Frazier. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I’m a big fan of No Meat Athlete! I love their no fuss ideas, such as the grain, green, bean idea. Anyhoo, you could do brown rice or quinoa (technically a seed) or even both cooked together.
You can go as fancy or as no-fuss as you want with this meal. You can plonk the chili on the rice/quinoa and eat that as is, or add avocado for the healthy fats or tortilla chips for the… well just because they’re tasty!
Daily Dozen score: 1 glass of water before dinner + 2 servings of beans (pinto beans and black beans) + 1 serving of cruciferous vegetables (kale) + 1 green (spinach) + 2 servings of other vegetables (chopped tomatoes and courgette) + 1 serving of herbs and spices (cayenne pepper, chili flakes… whatever floats your boat!) + 1 serving of whole grains (rice / quinoa) = 9 out of your 24 daily servings of healthy foods!
Italian Wednesday: vegetable risotto
I’m not going to teach you how to make a risotto, because I am in no way a pro. However the principle is quite simple: keep adding broth to risotto rice and any accompanying vegetables. Wait until the rice has absorbed the broth, then add some more.
You could add whatever crisp vegetable is in season: asparagus, mangetout, broccoli… but also softer vegetables like squash. For better nutritional value – as risotto is essentially just white rice – I’d recommend upping the amount of vegetables that would traditionally be more of a flavouring in a risotto.
I feel that certain beans would work better than others in a risotto, but I can’t really put my finger on why that is. I guess white beans or edamame would look better than kidney beans. Anyway, unless you’re being judged on a cooking show, there is no right or wrong here, so feel free to experiment!
I might have already lost any Italians reading this post, so I’ll continue with the heresy, ha! I recommend adding black pepper and nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan to the risotto once it’s cooked.
Daily Dozen score: 1 glass of water before dinner + 1 serving of beans (borlotti beans) + 1 serving of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli) + 1 serving of other vegetables (asparagus) + 1 serving of herbs and spices (garlic, mixed Italian herbs) = 5 out of your 24 daily servings of healthy foods.
Comfort Food Thursday: lentil curry with homemade chips
So, confession time: I really didn’t like curries for several years. I’m slowly coming around now and curious about making them myself. I can’t however offer you a recipe because I don’t yet know how to do this myself! If you’re already in the habit of making meat-centered curries (e.g. a form of chicken curry), simply chuck in some red lentils and extra vegetables instead of the meat. Add use coconut milk as the liquid base. If you have any favourite recipes that are either plant-based or “veganisable”, please share them or link to them in the comments!
I love the idea of curry with chips (or fries if you’re in the United States) as a cheeky Thursday night treat! You can make this quite healthy (but still taste indulgent) by making the curry and the chips yourself. Leave the skin on the potatoes for extra nutrients!
Daily Dozen score: 1 glass of water before dinner + 1 serving of beans (red lentils) + 1 serving of cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower) + 1 serving of greens (spinach) + 1 serving of other vegetables (whatever you have available) + 1 serving of herbs and spices (either buy a pre-made curry mix or create your own) = 6 out of your 24 daily servings of healthy foods.
Stir Friday: tofu stir fry
Ah the stir fry… One of our favourite dishes! We’re in a bit of a panic about how we’re going to adapt it to be low-salt now that our baby is on solids… As we love our soy sauce! Anyhoo, this is a great dish to have up your sleeve: it’s quick, it’s tasty and it’s nutritious.
Start by pressing as much liquid as you can out of some tofu and frying it in a wok. If you don’t have a wok, get a wok, ha! You could try this in a large frying pan too. Add soy sauce and oil when the tofu starts to dry out. Then add vegetables. Crunchy veg are great for stir fries: red cabbage, broccoli, snap peas, cauliflower, kale…
Towards the end, add noodles for a couple minutes (I like ribbon ones or the very thin ones) and add another dash of sauce. You might want to check your noodles don’t contain egg if you’re keen to make this a vegan dish. Bonus: include nuts, like cashews, and some sesame seeds for extra protein and healthy fats. You could also add edamame beans (my favourite!).
Daily Dozen score: 1 glass of water before dinner + 2 serving of beans (tofu and edamame) + 1 serving of cruciferous vegetables (red cabbage) + 1 serving of greens (kale) + 1 serving of other vegetables (snap peas) + 1 serving of nuts and seeds (cashews and sesame seeds) + 1 serving of herbs and spices (chili flakes, ginger) = 8 out of your 24 daily servings of healthy foods.
Saturday: DIY pizza
Mmmh pizza… one of my favourite foods (along with sushi!). And it’s very easy to make them at home, or at least something resembling a pizza, ha. There’s several ways of going about this: you can make the base yourself, you can buy a pre-made one or you could use something like pitta bread to make mini pizzas. As I’ve said before, I’m not a purist about food – it might not be as “authentic”, but if it tastes nice and gives us the nutrition we need, I’m all for it.
Whichever base type you choose, add some tomato sauce to it (fried garlic + a can of tomatoes + herbs). As far as cheese goes, you could buy some vegan “cheese” or make something similar yourself, by blending cashews for example. Up to you to determine where you are on a given evening on the convenience – nutrition spectrum!
Then add whichever toppings you like. I love artichoke (you can buy bits of artichoke in jars), pineapple and aubergine (you’d probably need to cook that a bit beforehand). The DIY pizzas then only take about ten minutes in the oven and I love that everyone can choose their favourite toppings! You can add some basil leaves after it comes out of the oven if you happen to have any.
If you’re feeling a bit fancy, whip up a side salad by mixing some lettuce and/or dark greens (like rocket) with some cherry tomatoes. You can then make an easy dressing: half olive oil, half balsamic vinegar, a teaspoon of mustard, a pinch each of sugar, salt and pepper.
Daily Dozen score: 1 glass of water before dinner + 1 serving of greens (in the side salad) + 2 servings of other vegetables (toppings, tomato sauce and tomatoes in the side salad) + 1 serving of nuts and seeds (if you made the blended cashew “cheese”) + 1 serving of herbs and spices (garlic and mixed herbs in the tomato sauce and basil) + 1 serving of whole grains (if you use whole grain pittas or a whole grain base) = 7 out of your 24 daily servings of healthy foods.
Sunday: roast veggies and “meat”
It’s possible to have a Sunday roast without actual meat! For the vegetables, think of vegetables that go with a traditional roast: potatoes, broccoli, brussels sprouts… Or go Mediterranean with aubergine, courgette and tomatoes. In any case, have a quick google for the cooking times of the different vegetables and either layer them strategically or put them in the oven at different times. You could add a can of tomatoes and some chickpeas on top, or just leave the vegetables as they are.
This can be an easy “one-pot” dinner that is also super satisfying. If you’re missing the taste of meat, or you just want something a bit different, you could add a vegan meat alternative to this dish. Simply check the cooking instructions on the pack and add them to the vegetables however many minutes before the vegetables will be “done”. Vegan meat alternatives aren’t always healthy per se, but I believe in a balanced approach to nutrition. There’s nothing wrong with eating fake meat, especially if the rest of your diet is great!
Daily Dozen score: 1 glass of water before dinner + 1 serving of beans (if you added the chickpeas) +1 serving of cruciferous vegetables (brussels sprouts / broccoli / cauliflower) + 2 servings of other vegetables (aubergine / tomatoes / courgette) + 1 serving of herbs and spices (garlic and rosemary for example) = 6 out of your 24 daily servings of healthy foods.
With balance in mind, I created a meal-plan and shopping list for a whole week of plant-powered meals. You’ll get the dinners described here, but also lunch ideas that re-use the dinner leftovers. You can also just print out the blank meal plan and shopping lists and use them as you wish! Check them out here!
Please share which dinners you already do or you’re tempted to try in the comments below!