The Ultimate Guide to Whole Food Plant-Based Meal Prep
Busy routines and nutritious meals often don’t go hand in hand. If you find yourself stressing about cooking a healthy meal or compromising on nutrition due to your busy life, it’s a sign to start meal prepping.
Whole Food Plant-Based meal prep is the savior that can take away all your stress related to cooking healthy meals while you juggle other parts of your life.
This article will help you learn all about meal prep – the basics, some helpful tips, and of course, some awesome meal prep ideas to get you going.
What is Whole Food Plant-Based meal prep?
Meal prep, the short form for “meal preparation,” is the concept of preparing meals in advance on days when you are less busy. It can be a complete meal or parts of meals that you can assemble quickly.
As the name suggests, a Whole Food Plant-Based meal prep refers to meal preparation using wholesome, plant-based ingredients.
There are many ways you can prepare meals ahead of schedule. Some of the common ones include:
- Cooking full meals sufficient for a few days, refrigerating it, and reheating when you’re about to eat.
- Batch cooking: cooking a large batch of a recipe, dividing it into portions, and freezing it. You can eat it over a few months.
- Grab-and-go meals which is basically a fully assembled portion of individual meals that you can simply grab and eat over the next few days.
- Prepping cooking-ready ingredients ahead of time. It can be chopping veggies or boiling beans which can save you a lot of time cooking the meals in the kitchen.
While these are some popular methods, there’s no hard and fast rule as to when, how, and for how many meals you should do meal prep. Depending on your schedule, food preferences, and dietary goals, you can choose the ingredients and methods that suit you the best.
Moreover, you can choose if you need to do meal prep for only one meal or all. For example, if you’re not much of a morning person, you can choose to prepare your WFPB breakfasts in advance.
Before we discuss the basics of WFPB meal prep, let’s take a look at why you should consider it.
6 reasons why should you meal prep
The most evident advantage of meal prepping is saving time cooking. However, there are many other benefits you can reap by practicing vegan meal prep.
1. Helps manage time
It’s completely understandable how challenging cooking can be if you’re pressed for time in your day-to-day life. Cooking is a big task involving so many decisions and activities. You have to decide what to eat, make sure the ingredients are available, do the pre-cooking preparations, and then cook the dish – all of it takes a lot of time.
Meal prep is the way to go to take off a load from this part of your life. Not only does it help you save time on cooking, but you can also manage your time better to accommodate cooking and other activities. The result? You will be a lot less stressed.
2. Ensures nutritious meals
Besides saving your time, meal prep helps you ensure that you get proper nutrition throughout your busy days without spending a lot of time in the kitchen.
As you plan and prepare meals in a less stressful situation, you can focus on your meals’ nutritional aspect, which you might have been overlooking otherwise. Meal prepping helps you carefully choose the ingredients for your meals.
3. Aids weight loss management
If you’re on the quest to lose weight or manage your weight better, meal prep is an excellent way to help you stay on track.
Plant-based meal prep for weight loss is super helpful in maintaining your meal portions and making the right food choices. Ahead-of-schedule meals will help you avoid excessive eating as your portion size is already in place. Moreover, it can also prevent you from impulsive ordering or snacking triggered by the right food being not available.
4. Saves you money
Another incredible advantage of Whole Food Plant-Based meal prep is that it can help you save a lot of money. Planning your meals gives you a clear view of what and how much you need in the coming days. Thus, it helps you shop effectively, preventing any unnecessary food shopping.
5. Reduces food waste
Ingredients passing the expiry date. Leftovers left forgotten in the fridge. Vegetables gone stale. Food wastage becomes almost an everyday thing with regular cooking. More so when you’re too busy to keep a check on your pantry or fridge. Meal prepping can help you avoid all of it.
6. Less cleaning in the kitchen
Cleaning is yet another time-consuming part of the kitchen. Scrubbing off those utensils every day is no fun at all. Meal prepping is excellent for dealing with this mess too. Since you will be cooking less frequently, there will be much fewer utensils to clean on a daily basis.
The basics of meal prepping
With all those fantastic benefits, it is time we dive right into the most crucial part – the basics of meal prepping so that you are equipped at all times.
Planning is the foundation of an effective Whole Food Plant-Based meal prep. If you don’t think it through, meal prepping may bring you more stress instead of relief.
Just grab a paper and pen or your device to make notes of what you want to eat over the next few days, the ingredients you’ll need, and schedule the cooking accordingly. You can also devote a specific time for planning weekly, fortnightly, or even monthly. It will help you get in the zone quickly.
The next essential for meal prep is the right kitchen equipment, including the appliances and cookware. While a refrigerator is a must-have, you should also ensure that you have other instruments to help you cut down on cooking time, chopping, peeling, etc. You might also want to consider investing in automated gadgets such as a vegetable chopper, rice cooker, and so on.
Besides the electronics, you may also need cookware of appropriate size to cook the large portions at once. It’s totally up to you to decide whether you need new cookware or existing ones suffice.
Along with the cooking equipment, storage containers are equally essential. Depending on the number of meals you’re preparing in advance, you’ll need enough containers of appropriate size to store the food.
Let’s say you are portioning lunch (having rice, beans, and some side veggies) for five days; you’d need five microwave-safe compartmentalized boxes. Similarly, you may need glass jars to store runny recipes; reusable, airtight bags to store chopped vegetables.
Some of the most useful container types you should own include:
- Microwave safe boxes in which you can store and reheat the food quickly.
- Compartmentalized boxes for meals that have multiple components.
- Airtight containers, mason jars, and Ziploc-type bags to keep ready-to-cook ingredients fresh and crisp.
- Freezer-safe jars or boxes that have room for the food to expand.
- Leak-proof containers that prevent food spillage.
Shopping is another vital part of meal prep. While shopping for kitchen equipment and storage containers is a one-off activity, grocery shopping will be regular.
A well-thought-out Whole Food Plant-Based shopping list will make your meal prep easy to navigate. It will also help you ensure nutrient-rich meals by including the right ingredients. Additionally, it will help you keep your shopping within budget.
The ingredients you use in your dishes are of paramount importance in the Whole Food Plant-Based meal prep. To make sure you eat nutrient-rich meals throughout, you’d need a variety of nutrient-dense ingredients in your meals that also combine well. Moreover, you’d also need to make sure they don’t burn a hole in your pocket.
Some of the most nutritious and cheapest ingredients for a vegan meal prep include:
- Purple cabbage
- Leafy greens
Last but not least, you can’t ignore the food safety part of meal prep. Since you will be storing and eating food over a long duration, it’s crucial that the food remains safe to eat and doesn’t lead to food poisoning or other health issues.
As per FDA food storing guidelines, some of the practices to keep your prepped meals safe for eating include:
- Freeze or refrigerate food within two hours of cooking.
- Keep your refrigerator clean and store food in clean containers.
- Maintain the refrigerator temperature at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
- Keep a check on old stored items for spoilage.
- Eat refrigerated meals within 3-4 days, while you can eat frozen meals for up to 2-3 months.
Similarly, you should also follow a few things when you are about to reheat and eat the frozen/refrigerated meals:
- Reheat food within 2 hours after removing it from the refrigerator at a temperature above 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- For thawing the frozen food, use a water bath and quickly reheat it once defrosted.
- Avoid reheating food more than once.
10 tips to get vegan meal prep started
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to give you some handy tips that will help you get started with WFPB meal prep.
1. Make a meal prep schedule and stick to it
Time management is at the core of Whole Food Plant-Based meal prep. Preparing a plan for everything – meal planning, shopping, and cooking – will help you deal with it with ease.
2. Organize your workflow in the kitchen
Preparing large batches of food or multiple food items requires multitasking. It’s best to think of a workflow that allows you to prepare various recipes at once to avoid spending too much time in the kitchen. For example, while you are chopping veggies, there’s stew brewing on the stovetop and oatmeal cookies baking in the oven.
3. Include a wide variety of ingredients in your shopping list
From fruits to vegetables to grains, your shopping list should have a wide variety of nutrient-rich items that you can use in your recipes.
4. Keep your pantry well-stocked
You won’t have to run around for last-minute shopping if you have a pantry with staple ingredients such as grains, beans, potatoes, condiments, etc. You can also keep some frozen vegetables and fruits to avoid any rush for fresh ingredients.
5. Select the right combination of recipes
It is another crucial step to make your meal prep effective in all respects – from nutrient-richness to lesser cooking time.
6. Store different recipes separately
Once you’ve cooked different recipes, it is essential to store them properly to keep them fresh for longer and taste delicious. Make sure you store each recipe in a different container to start with.
7. Label the storage containers
If you have prepared multiple dishes for many days, locating them in the refrigerator can be confusing. So, the best way out is to label the containers with the dish name or the date and time it is to be consumed by.
8. Start small
Full-blown meal prepping can be overwhelming until you get the hang of things. It’s best to take small steps. You can start by prepping one meal for a few days and then move along as it gets more manageable for you.
9. Don’t over prep
It is also possible that you get too much into the WFPB meal prep mode. In such a case, you might find yourself prepping for too long in the future and ending up with food wastage. So, keep track of how it is working for you and move with it accordingly.
10. Keep your goals in mind
Do you want to try plant-based meal prep for weight loss, or is it to maximize nutrition? Whatever might be your goal, keep it in mind. It will help you plan and execute your meal ideas effectively.
10 Whole Food Plant-Based meal prep ideas
Now comes the delicious part. Let’s give you ten super easy Whole Food Plant-Based meal prep ideas for breakfast to dinner.
1. Overnight oats jar
- Fruits (berries or banana)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Coconut milk
- Peanut butter (optional)
- In mason jars, add in all the dry ingredients. Pour coconut milk over it and top it off with the fruits.
- Put on the jar lids and transfer them to the refrigerator. You are good to go for up to a week.
- When you’re ready to eat, just take out the jar and dig in!
2. Nut and chip granola bar
- Peanut butter
- Dried cranberries
- Crushed almonds
- Chocolate chips
- Maple syrup (Optional)
- Throw in all the ingredients in a bowl and mix them well.
- Line a baking tray with parchment and place the mixture in the shape of a bar.
- Bake the bars, let them cool, and store them in an airtight container. Wherever you feel hungry (breakfast or evening), you can have a go at the bar!
3. Green dream smoothie
- Lemon juice (when serving)
- In a freezer bag, portion each of the ingredients and throw them in the freezer.
- When ready for a quick smoothie, take out a bag, throw all the ingredients in a mixer, add some water, and a dash of lime juice.
- Blend it all in and enjoy a super healthy and filling smoothie!
4. Rice veggie bowl
- Boiled rice
- Bell pepper
- Seasoning (salt, pepper, and turmeric)
- Stir-fry the veggies with seasoning.
- In 3-4 meal boxes, portion rice and veggies to keep them in the refrigerator.
- Take one out for lunch or dinner, reheat it, and relish the dish!
5. Mediterranean bowl
- Boiled chickpeas
- Cooked quinoa
- Diced tomatoes
- Diced cucumber
- Diced bell pepper
- Seasoning (salt, pepper, chili flakes)
- Mix in all the ingredients, put them in boxes to refrigerate.
- Take it out for lunch or dinner, and eat it within 2-3 days.
- You can also freeze it to use it over a longer duration.
6. Black beans burrito
- Whole wheat tortilla
- Boiled black beans
- Assemble the ingredients into wraps.
- Store them in a box in the refrigerator and eat when you want over the next 3-4 days.
7. Vegan pesto pasta
- Boiled whole wheat pasta
- Pesto sauce (blend basil, coriander, garlic, and sunflower seeds)
- Cut cherry tomatoes
- Nutritional yeast
- Seasoning (salt, pepper, mixed herbs)
- Mix in all the ingredients and portions in separate containers.
- When you want to eat, just microwave the pasta and enjoy the delicious taste.
8. One-pot curry
- Boiled kidney beans
- Salt and spices (turmeric, coriander powder, cloves, peppercorns, garam masala)
- Chopped parsley (for topping)
- Throw in all the ingredients in a pot with water. Let them cook slowly until soft.
- Store the curry in the refrigerator. Reheat when eating. Top with freshly chopped parsley.
- Combine it with boiled rice during lunch or simply sip the flavorful soup over dinner.
9. Veggie loaded sweet potato soup
- Sweet potato
- Seasoning (mixed herbs, salt, pepper, and chili flakes)
- Ground flaxseed
- In a pot with water, let the vegetables cook until soft. Mash the veggies with a spatula.
- Add the seasonings and ground flaxseeds.
- Let the soup cool down and store it in the refrigerator. Just reheat and relish the tasty and healthy soup.
10. Chickpea skillet
- Boiled chickpeas
- Half-boiled cubed sweet potatoes
- Diced tomatoes, red bell pepper, and onion
- Salt, pepper, and paprika
- Lemon juice and coriander (when serving)
- Mix all the ingredients and portion them in separate freezer bags or airtight boxes.
- Store them in the freezer until you want to eat.
- Before eating, unpack the dish and reheat it. Squeeze some lemon juice and freshly chopped coriander to add flavor.
Hope you enjoyed reading the article and feel confident about WFPB meal prep. Share the article with your busy friends and family to help them explore meal prepping.