Vegan Fitness Meal Plan and Grocery List

When you are starting out with a plant-based diet, it can be hard to figure out what to eat. Harder still, is knowing what to pick up at the grocery store. I'm going to create an example meal plan (similar to things I eat from day to day), and I'm going to develop this plan so that it's specifically geared toward physically active individuals. I shall call it: my Vegan Fitness Meal Plan and Grocery List. There, that wasn't so hard, was it? Feel free to jump ahead to the meal plan or the grocery list.

Many athletes and partakers in recreational fitness are interested in incorporating large quantities of protein in their diet, so I will address this goal as well; in the interest of showing that it can easily be done, this vegan meal plan meets a 20% / 28% / 52% macronutrient breakdown for protein, fat, and carbohydrates respectively.

Most people don't believe this much protein is necessary, and in fact the maximum recommended amount of protein is 1.6 grams per kilogram (or 0.73 grams per pound) of lean body mass – anything more than this has been shown not to provide any further benefit. Keep in mind, this is the recommendation for serious strength and fitness athletes, so 1.6g / kg could still be a bit high for most people's purposes.

All of that being said, this meal plan is based around sustaining strength and fitness levels for a lean, moderately active 200 lb human that works 40 hours a week. And again, just to show that it can be done, let's say this human desires to eat 20% protein throughout the day – this will come out to roughly 3500 calories and 185 grams of protein, rather than 145 grams of protein, as per the 1.6g / kg guideline. If you are less worried about protein, and wish to have a higher carbohydrate intake, you can simply replace some or all of the tofu with more fruits and vegetables.

And if you are not a lean 200 lb human (most of us aren't), then you can adjust the portions for each meal accordingly. If you are 150 lbs in lean body mass, then not only is your basal metabolic rate lower than someone who's 200 lbs in lean body mass, but the calories you burn during work or physical activity will also be fewer. In this example, you can't quite say "I weigh three quarters as much, so I'll eat three quarters of the portions," but that will get you close (you can do these calculations yourself with the magic of the internet, but in this case you'd probably want to cut the portions to about seven eighths as much). This does not have to be a strict meal plan – it can simply be used for inspiration, as an idea for planning out your own meals.

You may be wondering: if most of us aren't a lean 200 lbs, then why did you make a meal plan for that person? That's not very useful, is it? The answer is: I wanted to create a meal plan that could sustain a very fit individual, perhaps someone that has been hitting the gym for years and is now considering a vegan diet. Someone in this scenario is likely very interested in the vegan lifestyle, but is also concerned about maintaining the muscle mass that they worked so hard to build. This does not make this meal plan useless for everyone else, it just takes a little effort (as described above) to adapt to your own situation (just like any generic meal plan).

Eating while physically active is always a little more expensive, especially when maintaining 200lbs, but I've designed this meal plan so that it shouldn't break the bank. It comes out to about $19 a day while living in the Northeast of the U.S. – produce would likely be cheaper further West in warmer climates. This estimate also assumes organic grocery shopping, and could be much cheaper when eating conventionally grown food (more like $11.40 per day for someone 200lbs, and $9 for someone 150 lbs). Costs can be further reduced by buying some items in bulk (e.g. nutritional yeast, vital wheat gluten).

This meal plan is carefully designed to meet and exceed the RDA for all essential micronutrients (with a little extra zinc thrown in to account for lower absorption rates from plant sources of zinc). To supplement this meal plan, I recommend a small daily zinc supplement (you can cut a 50 mg tablet into quarters), 1000 mcg of B-12 taken twice a week, and vegan D3 during the winter. If you don't include iodized table salt with your meals, you may wish to take a kelp tablet twice a week for thyroid health. Vegan DHA/EPA from algae can be included if desired, though it is the most expensive of the supplements. DHA from algae can be especially useful for joint recovery, but is also beneficial for brain, eye, and heart health – it's essentially the vegan alternative for fish oil.

Other than that, the diet is primarily whole, plant-based foods, with a few processed items included (i.e. soy milk, tofu, seitan). This is because most whole plants are made up of less than 20% protein. Many legumes contain 20% protein, or slightly higher, but this is not sufficient to balance out the other food groups that are lower in protein (given the protein goal of this plan). To maintain 20% protein for the entire meal plan, some processed foods had to be included. If you feel strongly about sticking with whole foods, you may substitute tofu and seitan with tempeh, which is made from whole, fermented soybeans.

If you have a gluten or soy allergy, you can replace the seitan or tofu with more lentils or beans (for a slightly lower protein percentage). Sprouted whole wheat wraps could be replaced with corn tortillas, and sourdough toast could be substituted with a gluten free variety, or simply omitted and replaced by rice or more fruit. The soy milk can easily be replaced with a protein+ variety of almond milk, or any other variety of plant milk if you're not too concerned about your protein percentage. If you have a peanut allergy, the peanut butter could be replaced by a nut or seed butter of your choice.

There are five meals (including the smoothie), plus baked tofu strips for snacking. The oatmeal, burritos, and smoothie take very little time to make. The lentil soup, baked tofu strips, seitan, gravy, sweet potatoes, and broccoli can all be meal prepped. If you cook your own beans, those can be meal prepped, too, and perhaps sprouted for easier digestion. Just be careful about storing large quantities of beans, because they spoil after about three days in the fridge. Either store them in the freezer, or can them yourself if you're feeling industrious.

Depending on your schedule and eating habits, you may want to eat your meals in a different order. That's totally fine. Oatmeal could be eaten before work, one or two of your prepped meals could be brought to work, and the rest could be prepared and eaten after getting home. Do what works best for you, just try not to eat too much right before going to bed. Water intake is something else to consider; while the food itself contains a decent amount of water, you should try to drink at least an additional eight cups of water to aid in digestion and stave off dehydration.

The Meal Plan

Oatmeal: Protein Fat Carbs kcal
1 cup rolled oats 11 5 47 307
2 cups water

Berry Smoothie: Protein Fat Carbs kcal
2 cups unsweetened, unfortified soy milk 18 9 2 200
2 medium bananas 2 1 48 210
150g frozen blueberries 1 1 14 76
150g frozen strawberries 1 0 11 52
2 tbsp peanut butter 8 17 6 200
*This smoothie could be drunk very closely to another meal because the lack of chewing reduces the effect of satiety registered in the brain.

Seitan, Sweet Potato, and Broccoli with Gravy: Protein Fat Carbs kcal
100g seitan 21 1 4 106
250g sweet potato 4 0 43 215
300g broccoli 8 1 12 103
0.5 cup chickpea gravy 3 14 5 164

Lentil Soup with Sourdough Toast: Protein Fat Carbs kcal
2 cups lentil soup 20 9 35 345
2 slices sourdough toast 7 2 32 174

Veggie Bean Burritos: Protein Fat Carbs kcal
2 sprouted whole wheat wraps 8 7 52 320
300g pinto beans, rinsed 21 3 44 342
50g onion 0 0 4 20
75g bell pepper 1 0 3 23
75g crimini mushrooms 2 0 3 16
1 rounded tbsp nutritional yeast 3 0 1 30
2 tsp chia seeds 1 2 0 32
20g arugula (optional) 0 0 0 5
hot sauce (to taste)
*Saute onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms in a little bit of water. Add pintos (along with any spices, as desired) and heat until warm, then mash ingredients together. Add half of the refried beans to each wrap, then add the rest of toppings before wrapping up.

Baked Tofu Strips for Snacking: Protein Fat Carbs kcal
16oz extra firm tofu 46 24 6 445
1 tbsp olive oil 0 14 0 120
tamari (to taste)
*Cut tofu into 3/8 inch slices, lay slices onto oiled baking sheet and drizzle with tamari to taste. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes, flip the strips, and bake for another 20 minutes or until desired crispiness.

Total Protein Fat Carbs kcal
186 110 382 3505
*Carb values were based on net carbs, which are the total carbohydrates minus the fiber (in this case, 95 grams).

The Grocery List

I'm going to break the grocery list into two categories: pantry items, and weekly items. Pantry items are ingredients that you can either easily buy in bulk, or that are used slowly enough that you have no reason to buy them every week. Weekly items are foods that you need to stock up on every week, either because they're best eaten fresh, or just because they're eaten in larger quantities.
Weekly Shopping Price $ (estimate)
1.5 lbs rolled oats 1.94
2 x 8 count whole wheat wraps 7.98
7 x 15oz cans pintos 6.09
4 large onions 3.49
6 large bell peppers 9.00
1.2 lbs crimini mushrooms 11.50
3oz arugula 2.99
1 head garlic Can't stand the stuff
1 lb carrots 1.00
1.5 lbs potatoes 1.20
1 bunch green kale 2.99
2 small lemons 1.50
1 loaf sourdough bread 4.99
7 x 16oz packages extra firm tofu 15.4
7 medium sweet potatoes 4.99
4 medium bunches broccoli 9.99
2 x half gallon unfortified soy milk 7.98
2 bunches bananas 2.60
40oz frozen strawberries 10.40
40oz frozen blueberries 10.40
1 jar peanut butter 3.70
Total: $120.13

Admittedly, this does come out to be pretty expensive, especially for one person (though a 200 lb person). If you can afford it, buying the right food should be a pretty high priority in your budget – health is everything, after all. If you buy conventional food, you can likely save about 40% of the cost. You could also save money by buying smaller quantities of the more expensive items that don't provide a lot of calories (e.g. bell pepper, mushrooms, berries).

Even if you don't follow a meal plan close to this one, it's at least a handy list to see what nutritional powerhouses you could be adding to your diet (if you're not eating sweet potatoes, you better start!). Finally, don't just stick to one grocery store. Shop around a little to find which grocery stores have the best deals on your weekly staples.
Pantry Items Price $ (estimate)
1 lbs nutritional yeast 5.00
2 lbs chia seeds 6.99
750ml extra virgin olive oil 9.99
7.5 lbs vital wheat gluten 30.00
25 lbs green lentils 45.00
1 lb chickpea flour 6.20
half gallon tamari 24.93
hot sauce varies
herbs and spices varies

That's all! I know this is a long post (I sure put a lot of work into it), so thank you so much for reading. I hope this can be useful to a few people in some way – please let me know if there's a way I could make this information even more useful. As always, please leave a comment if you have something to add, or just something to ask.


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