Eating a whole foods, plant-based diet is one of the greatest things you can do for your body. It can lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer—not to mention that it's delicious and opens up a whole new world of food choices. Personally, I've greatly improved my digestion after years of stomach issues, cleared my skin, and boosted my energy so that I can enjoy life so much more. Still, maintaining a healthy, balanced vegan diet without relying on less-than-healthy processed foods can be tricky for the typical busy American. Fortunately, it can be done. The key is preparation! Preparing your meals and snacks for the week ahead will save you time, money, stress, and even calories. It’s easy to do, and after a few weeks you will have your system down to a science. Below are my tips for pre-preparing your healthy and delicious meals for the week! 1. Create a simple meal plan and plan your cooking time. Your meal plan might have two different breakfasts you’ll alternate each day—or even one—plus a few dishes you can alternate for lunch and dinner. Make a list of meals you already know how to prepare. If you're craving variety, add some new recipes to your my VT recipe box and create a shopping list. Decide which days you’ll do your shopping and cooking, and stick to them to avoid mishaps.
2. Stock your kitchen. In addition to the things you know you’ll need for this week’s cooking, make sure your kitchen is equipped with dried herbs and spices, plus easy-to-add sauces. I always make sure to have canned beans in the pantry, frozen vegetables in the freezer, and pre-cooked grains in the refrigerator so that I can throw a meal together quickly when I'm in a pinch. 3. Get cooking. I like to prepare one or two complete meals that I can then eat throughout the week. Enchiladas, lasagna, noodles, casseroles, and veggie burgers all keep well. I also like to make a large batch of grains and legumes to keep in the fridge, and I make sure to stock my produce drawer with fresh green vegetables. To make it delicious I add spices and sauces, alternating depending on my mood. My favorite quick meal combo is brown rice, lentils, broccoli, kimchi, and a generous drizzle of tahini. When the rice and lentils are precooked, it takes about 8 minutes to make the entire balanced and delicious meal!
4. Make sure you’re set up to snack well. I’m a huge snacker, so to avoid midday hunger pangs and unhealthy temptations, I make sure to stock my kitchen with fresh produce, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. Having the healthy stuff on hand makes it easy! ------ Jenné Claiborne is passionate about helping women adopt and maintain a plant-based diet so they can improve their energy, lose weight, and feel their very best. She is the founder of The Nourishing Vegan, a New York–based personal chef service. She is also the creator of Sweet Potato Soul, a vegan food blog that features recipes, tips, and cooking videos. In 2013, Jenné launched the 21-Day Vegan Blueprint, an interactive online program that takes the guess work out of becoming vegan. Follow Jenné on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.