A meal plan is basically a guide that helps you plan out your meals and snacks daily. A 2000 calorie meal plan will provide your body with a good balance of nutrients that are good for your health and provides the proper amount of daily nutrition your body needs to function properly. A plant-based diet is based on a different set of the five food groups than the usual five food groups issued by the American Dietetics Association Guidelines that include meat and products. This food group consists of the following:
- Fruits such as oranges, grapes, bananas, strawberries, cherries, blueberries, mangoes, etc.
- Vegetables like cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, lettuce, broccoli, collard greens, kale, cauliflower, carrots, etc.
- Starchy vegetables/whole grains that include potatoes, green peas, yams, sweet potatoes, corn, winter squash, yucca, rice, quinoa, barley, pasta, millet, oats, whole wheat, etc.
- Beans and legumes like kidney beans, lima beans, dried peas, lentils, black beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, etc.
- Nuts and seeds
A plant-based diet is rich in fiber from the vegetables and fruits and contains healthy fats that come from whole grains and nuts. It is also very low in cholesterol and saturated fat. People tend to lower their body mass index (BMI) and lower their body weight. Eating a diet based on only plant-based foods is the best way to help prevent a number of diseases. It helps reduce the risk of hypertension, cholesterol, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and certain types of cancer.
There are several varieties of plant-based diets. The 3 most common diets are:
- Vegan – Absolutely no animal products like meat, dairy products or eggs are consumed.
- Lacto-vegetarian – No meat or eggs are consumed, but dairy products are acceptable.
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian – No meat is consumed, but eggs and dairy products are acceptable.
You can be on a plant-based diet even if you don’t want to go completely vegetarian. There are also people who go by semi-vegetarian or flexitarian which means they will eat meat, pork, poultry and fish on occasion. Another one is pescatarian where they will also eat fish along with plant foods.
Here are the servings from each food group that are suggested to reach your daily nutritional needs:
- You should have 7 or more servings of vegetables. One serving equals 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables or a half cup of cooked vegetables.
- Your starches should also include 7 or more servings. A small potato or a half cup of cooked whole grains equals 1 serving.
- You should have 2 to 3 servings of fruit each day.
- Beans and legumes should be 2 servings. A half cup of cooked beans or legumes equals 1 serving. So about a cup a day is good.
- About 1 ounce of nuts and seeds are good on a daily basis. You could have some walnuts or maybe a tablespoon of flax seed sprinkled on your cereal in the morning.
The calorie count would break down to 30 to 50 calories per cup of vegetables, about 200 calories per cup of starch, fruits would be around 60 calories per serving, approximately 100 calories per half cup of beans and legumes, and around 50 calories for each tablespoon of nuts and seeds. So the totals for each group would be 350 calories for 10 vegetables, 1000 calories for 10 starches, 120 calories for 2 fruits, 200 calories for 1 cup of beans or legumes, and 1 tablespoon of nuts and seeds would be 50 calories. The total would be 1720 to 2000 calories per day. Around 10 to 15% of the calories would come from protein.
Here is a sample menu to give you an idea of what a plant-based 2000 calorie meal plan looks like:
- Breakfast would include 1 cup plain oatmeal, 1 cup of low-fat milk, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, 1 cup of strawberries, and 2 tablespoons of walnuts.
- Lunch would consist of 1¼ cups of vegetable soup which includes a half cup of white beans, a 2-ounce breadstick, 8 pieces of baby carrots, and 1 cup of low-fat milk.
- Supper would be 1 4×4 piece of vegetable lasagna (made with spinach, carrots, marinara sauce, onions, mushrooms, part-skim ricotta cheese, part-skim mozzarella cheese, basil, garlic, lasagna noodles), 1 to 2 cups of tossed salad with 2 tablespoons of Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing, 1 cup of pears, and 1 cup of ice tea.
- Snacks could include ¾ cup of honeydew, 1 cup of low-fat yogurt, and 1 ounce of sunflower seeds. These snacks would be spread out throughout the day.
This meal includes all the essential nutrients you need to stay slim and full of energy. This is not only healthy for you but healthy for the planet as well. We all know that recycling, using reusable bags, walking or riding a bicycle instead of driving, etc. helps keep our planet “green”, but many people don’t realize how much your diet can have an impact on the planet. One of the largest contributors to the environmental issues we have today come from livestock. Whole foods, plant-based diets are more sustainable. Using plant-based protein instead of animal protein can lower the impact of our carbon output and greenhouse gasses.
Vitamins and minerals are essential for a plant-based diet. Micronutrients are crucial to good health. Fortunately, you can easily find practically all of the vitamins and minerals that are necessary on a well-balanced plant-based diet. Iron, calcium and vitamins D and B12 are the nutrients you need to worry about when you are on this type of diet. Only a handful of plant-based foods contain these vital nutrients. As long as you are aware of this and with proper planning, you won’t need to worry about vitamin deficiencies.
Vitamin B12 can be found in yeast. Vitamin D is acquired through sunlight and helps your body build strong bones, absorb calcium, and help your muscles to contract. So make sure you get plenty of sunlight. Iron helps to create red blood cells that deliver oxygen throughout your entire body. Iron can be found in legumes, spinach, and pumpkin seeds and work best with iron absorption when combined with foods that are rich in vitamin C. Not only can calcium be found in dairy products, but there are many vegetables that contain calcium.
That’s why it is extremely important that you include the foods from the five food groups when you plan your diet around plant-based foods. It is also good to know that fruit and starch based foods help to form the basis of a whole food, plant-based diet. Most Americans are used to a meal plan that builds their plate around meat. However, this diet centers around starch based foods and will definitely change your lifestyle for the better.