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What Do I Eat as a Vegetarian or Vegan?

Updated on June 23, 2017

What Does The "Vegan" Me Eat?


My Vegan Journey Began with This Book

"Do They Think We Don't Eat?"

When my son was young, he came to me one day and said, "Mom, because I don't eat meat, people are always asking me what I eat. Why? Do they think we don't eat?"

"What do you eat?" has been the question that I have been asked most since going meat-free. This is the same question that most people wanting to become vegetarian (vegan) ask themselves. It is the same question I asked when I decided to become vegan. After reading The McDougall Plan 30 years ago, my husband and I agreed to try being a vegan family (family of 7). As the family cook, I had to learn how to answer this question, "What's for dinner?" As Mom, I had to start answering that question without saying chicken, roast beef, hot dogs. I had start identifying our meals in a new way.

15-Minute Meals

Meatless Pepperoni Pizza

Remember, a lot of the pizza flavor that we love comes from the tomato sauce.
Remember, a lot of the pizza flavor that we love comes from the tomato sauce.

Start with the Familiar

There are a few meal names that don't have to change: spaghetti, enchiladas, stir-fry, soup and sandwiches, shepherd's pie, lasagna, stuffed peppers, pot pie, burgers, pizza. You could also classify your meals as Italian, Indian, Chinese, Mexican, German, and so on. In the beginning of your dietary change to vegetarian/vegan using familiar meal names will help you adjust.

It's okay to use faux meats to get you over the loss of meat in your diet. Once you have learned to eat differently, drop the faux meats and learn to cook with just vegetables.

How will my meals be vegetarian? Here is a sample: capellini pomodoro (chopped tomatoes with spices over pasta), pasta primavera (pasta with marinara sauce and veggies), pizza (refrigerated pizza crust or purchased one with pizza sauce, veggies, faux meats and cheese), veggie burgers and veggie hot dogs, stir-fry with tofu or just veggies, shepherd's pie (crushed tomatoes, diced veggies, topped with mashed potatoes), Mexican (tostadas, bean enchilladas), Indian (rice, lentils, veggies and spices).

Easy Beginner Vegetarian Meals

Choose some favorite dishes that will work for you and those you feed. You may want to start with 4 breakfasts that you rotate with an additional day of trying something else. For lunch, have a few options that will work even on busy days. Snacks and desserts should be healthy, but an occasional sweet treat, like a piece of cake, is just fine.

The hardest meal, if you are feeding others, is dinner. As you are making new meals and trying new things, make a list of the meals that work best for you and your family and of the restaurants that offer the best vegetarian meals. If you lead a busy life, you don't want to come home and begin making a complicated meal. Pasta can be easy, crock pot meals (ready when you get home), soup and sandwiches, Asian (stir-fry), Mexican (tostadas). You do have easy options.

Check out these links for breakfast recipe options: Easy French Toast, Easy Oatmeal, and Breakfast for a Crowd.

Breakfast: a few options

cold cereal
fruit cup
chopped fresh fruit
hash browns
almond milk
seeds/chopped nuts
vegan sausage
chopped nuts
maple syrup
nondairy yogurt
dry fruit/raisins
sliced fruit
faux sausage
fresh fruit
orange slices
coffee, tea, juice
coffee, tea, lemon water
coffee, tea, juice
coffee, tea, juice
Choose whatever vegan breakfast options best for you and repeat them. Save a recipe for a once-a-week. Vegan recipes are easy to find online.

Full Week $20 Vegan Meal Prep

You Can Do This

When I became vegan in 1987 in Georgia, there were no faux meats or milks. Back then, personal computers were a thing of the future, so no online recipes. The cookbook I used was my old, faithful Betty Crocker Cookbook. I could make quite a few recipes that tasted delicious just by substituting hearty vegetables for the meat, like root vegetables and mushrooms and beans. It has been a fun challenge!

(Check out this BBQ Chickpea Salad.)

Lunch: a few options

Pasta Salad
Veggie Sandwich
Loaded Potato
Veggie Burger
spring mix greens
sweet or white potato
bun or bread
hummus, mustard, mayo
margarine or vegan sour cream
nut butter
homemade or purchased burger
tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, celery, broccoli, carrots
lettuce, tomato, peppers
steamed veggies, vegan bacon bits
ketchup, mustard, relish
cup of bean soup
BBQ chickpea salad
side salad
tomato, lettuce, onion
salad dressing
fresh fruit
fresh or dried fruit
potato chips
fresh fruit
tea, water, fruit drink
tea, water, fruit slush
tea, water, nondairy milk
tea, flavored water
tea, water, nondairy milk
For lunch options choose 3 or 4 meals that you like and repeat them. Vary you pasta salad by using rice instead, or vary your veggie sandwich by wrapping it in a collard leaf. If something isn't working change it. There are many vegan recipes onli


There are no recipes included in this article because my intent is to help you plan meals. Choose a few meals that you think you, and the people you cook for, will enjoy. Repeat those meals, but occasionally try something new or some new recipe. The key to success is to repeat.

If eating the same meals week after week doesn't appeal to you, try a 3-week menu. Mondays might be Italian food, Tuesday burgers, Wednesday Chinese, and so on. Then, each Monday for 3 weeks, have a new dish, same with the rest of the days of the week. After 3 weeks, start over with the same menu.

So, if on the first Monday you have spaghetti, then on Monday, week 4, you will have spaghetti again. If on the first Tuesday you have pizza, then on Tuesday, week 4, you will have the same pizza again. Learn to repeat what you like (or everyone likes).

Dinner: a few options

Shepherd's Pie
Cabbage & Bean Stew
Capellini Pomodoro
Chickenless a-la King
crushed tomatoes
corn tortillas
beans & cabbage
spaghetti noodles
faux chicken strips
chopped cooked veggies
refried beans
other veggies
chopped tomatoes
mixed veggies
mashed potatoes topper
sauce and spices
pearled barley
light vegan gravy
Spanish rice
bread or rolls
garlic bread

Example of a 3-week Dinner Menu Rotation

Mexican Monday
Italian Tuesday
Crock Pot Wednesday
Baked Thursday
Asian Friday
spaghetti w/marinara
lentil stew
stuffed peppers
rice & chickpea stir fry
fajita pizza
spaghetti squash
soup & sandwich
chili casserole
noodles & veggie stir fry
pasta primavera
potato mushroom stew
eggplant parmesan
smoked tofu & spring rolls
You will find recipes posted on this site, but I am just getting started, so check back here to find more. In the meantime, just do your google searches.

Two Dessert Recipe Options

If you need your chocolate fix, here are some good and easy options for you to try: Chocolate Haystacks and Brownies.

Desserts and Snacks

Fresh Fruit
chocolate dipped
strawberry pie (raw)
cake in a cup
granola bars
banana pops
peanut butter apples
apple crumble
strawberry shortcake
trail mix
fruit smoothies
fruit & yogurt parfait
fruit pie
chocolate brownies
Here are a few dessert and snack ideas in case you are drawing a blank.

Was This Article Helpful?

If you think this article was helpful, please leave a comment below and let me know. This article would have been a great help to me when I was trying to figure out how to feed myself and how to refer to my meals. Instead of saying, "We're not having chicken tonight, but something like it." You can say, "We're having Chinese Chickenless a-la King," or something that makes you and your family feel comfortable about describing your meal. I will be posting more recipes, lots of comfort foods, so be sure to check back to my site.


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    • Happy Vegan profile image

      Beverly Jean 8 weeks ago from Denton

      I'm glad you liked the article, Ike, and that it gave you something to think about. There are lots of food options. I was just trying to show that. Thanks for commenting.

    • profile image

      Ike 8 weeks ago

      The concept of replacing the meat or diary with a substitute faux meat sounds like a good idea. If one is able to continue eating the same type of meals that they have grown accustomed to save for the meat, then the change process will be comfortable especially mentally.

      I have realized that most of us have a limited number of foods we eat regularly and have grown accustomed to. This article really expands the mind on the variety of foods that can be eaten when going vegan. Turns out here is so much to choose from. Who would ever have thought so!!!

    • Happy Vegan profile image

      Beverly Jean 8 weeks ago from Denton

      Thank you, Plant Powered, for your comment. I think we all struggled at first. Your "snack box" idea is a good one.

    • profile image

      Plant Powered 2 months ago

      Well written, Beverly. Several years ago, my wife and I struggled to transition to the new way of eating when we realized most of our preferred high-calorie foods were out. We launched into the beans as a replacement, but soon added lentils, chickpeas and quinoa. The biggest thing for us was filling a small "Snack Box" with quick items like chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts and snack bars. Then, we could manage through the rest of the meal cooking process. Your matrix of meal options looks really good. Now I'm hungry

    • profile image

      Fred 2 months ago

      Great article!