Updated: Jan 27
Are you looking for a few low-calorie vegan meal ideas to try this year? Do you feel unsure about what makes a meal vegan or low-calorie? I provided a few nutrition and cooking tips with meal ideas that you can try to get started with #Veganuary!
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First, let's start with the basics of developing a balanced meal, here are a few questions to keep in mind: Is there a balance of all macronutrients; carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fiber? Is there enough flavor to make the meal appetizing? What foods in the meal provide the most calories? Are the food items available or in season at the moment to buy?
Note: Everyone requires different calorie and nutrition amounts to be healthy
What makes a meal vegan? The simple answer is that a vegan meal does not contain any animal products such as meat, poultry, shellfish, seafood, dairy, eggs, or honey.
What makes a meal low calorie by the standards that are used in nutrition labeling?
A food that has less than 40 calories per 30 grams or more per serving, basically 1/4 cup of food is considered low calorie if it is 40 calories or less. To put this in perspective about 1/4 cup of peanut butter is 380 calories! Peanut butter is mostly fat which provides the most amount of calories out of the macronutrients so it would make sense that peanut butter would not be considered a low-calorie food. However, as I mentioned above, it is important to create balanced meals with ALL three macronutrients so you can still incorporate peanut butter into a meal with smaller amounts. An example of a low-calorie food would be blueberries since they are about 30 calories per 1/4 cup serving!
Here are a few meal ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner & desserts that are between 200-300 calories each for you to choose from below
Breakfast Meal Ideas
1. Blueberry Tofu Yogurt & Granola Parfait
Cooking tip: Use silken tofu and frozen blueberries
2. Rice Paper "Bacon" with Tofu "Egg" Scramble
Cooking tip: Liquid smoke adds the "bacon" flavor, ground white pepper adds "egg" flavor and nutritional yeast adds the "cheesy" flavor
3. Overnight Oats with Cocoa Powder and Banana
Meal prepping tip: Use 8 oz mason jars to prep ahead for 3-5 days worth of breakfast & store until use
These 8 oz mason jars can be found on amazon.com or at major stores such as Walmart and Target.
Lunch Meal Ideas
1. Zucchini Noodle, Tofu, and Vegetable Spring roll with Pesto Dipping Sauce
Meal prepping tip: Use a zucchini noodle spiralizer and vegetable chopper for quick meal prep
These vegetable choppers and spiralizers can be found on amazon.com for safer and faster meal prepping (pictured on the right)
2. Quinoa, Cauliflower, and Black Bean Taco Bowl with Peppers
Nutrition tip: Make your own taco seasoning to reduce the amount of sodium in the meal
3. Spicy Peanut butter Sweet Potato Soup
Nutrition tip: use PB2 powder as the peanut butter replacement for fewer calories
BBQ Chickpea Lettuce Wraps
Cooking tip: Use butter lettuce versus romaine lettuce to hold better
Nutrition tip: Use a no-sugar-added BBQ to reduce sugar/calorie content
2. Spaghetti Squash with Marinara Sauce
Nutrition tip(s): Use fresh tomatoes and herbs to make lower-sodium marinara sauce, use parchment paper versus oil on the sheet pan to reduce fat content
3. Cauliflower, Cucumber, and Sun-dried Tomato Sushi Roll
Nutrition tip: White rice is lower in calories than brown rice due to the lower amount of protein
1. Cocoa Powder Coconut Mousse
Nutrition tip: Use partial fat canned coconut milk for fewer calories
Meal prepping tip: Refrigerate coconut milk overnight
2. 1 Ingredient Soft Serve Banana Icecream
Cooking tip: Use very ripe bananas for a sweeter taste. Freeze the peeled and sliced bananas overnight
3. 2 Ingredient Watermelon Jello
Nutrition tip: Use no-sugar-added watermelon juice to reduce sugar content
Cooking tip: Add chunks of watermelon to jello for added nutrients
Agar flakes is used in place of gelatin (non-vegan). Agar flakes can be purchased on
amazon.com or other health food stores.
The options for the three different meals listed above can be used to create a meal plan for an entire week. My suggestion would be to make double portions to use for two meals and to prep ahead of time, especially if you have a busy week and are unable to cook the day of. If you decide to make these please tag me on your social media @nutri_flourishllc on Instagram and @NutriflourishLLC on Facebook to let me know your thoughts!
Audrey Butler, RDN, LDN is a Dietitian in Chicago who helps individuals implement a nutritionally-balanced diet using a plant-forward approach to feel healthy and energized. As a vegetarian nutritionist, she knows first-hand what the journey is like to implement a nutritionally-balanced diet, vegan diet, vegetarian diet, and plant-based diet located in Chicago.