How to Start Meal Planning as a Vegetarian
A lot of people (especially athletes!) are moving to a more vegetarian, plant based diet nowadays. I think it’s a great idea and I’m a strong supporter of this movement, it’s even something I’ve been doing a lot more of myself. However, it’s easy to miss out on key nutrients like protein, iron and B12 if you aren’t paying attention. Meats are abundant with protein, iron and B12 so it would never have even crossed your mind about what foods had them or not when it would come to meal planning. These are also nutrients that we desperately need as athletes in training because it can become a rabbit hole towards fatigue and energy loss. As long as you keep a few things in mind, there shouldn’t be any problems putting together a vegetarian meal plan.
You need to keep a mental list of vegetarian proteins in your head. There is the obvious choice of legumes like beans and lentils, but there are so many other options out there too. Green leafy vegetables are packed with protein. By weight, spinach has more protein than red meat. Then you have cereal or grain based proteins like quinoa and farro. AND eggs, oh eggs are the best ever!
Once you have your protein base figured out, start thinking veggies and what is in season. Summer veggies like asparagus, tomato and zucchini goes well with pastas. Roasting fall veggies like butternut squash is a good match with some quinoa, goat cheese and walnuts. Potatoes work with just about anything and everything. If you really stick with seasonal veggies it won’t be that hard to figure out what you want to pair together.
Carbs! They have taken a beating between the Adkins diet, the gluten free movement and my least favorite of them all, the paleo diet. For starters, we are athletes and we need carbs. It’s just that simple. How many elite runners are saying “not eating any carbs really helped me have a PR at Boston this year”? I’d bet zero. Not only are carbs fuel for us, they are also a good source of protein. There really isn’t much of a downside unless you eat a loaf of Wonder bread everyday. Rice is a great base for Indian curry lentils, farro for spiced root veggies, pasta with anything. Except maybe black beans. That doesn’t sound very good.
So, once you have started figuring out what you like, what works and what doesn’t, it’s super easy to start putting together your very own vegetarian meal plans.
Related Article: Why Potatoes Aren’t Horrible for Endurance Athletes