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Incorporating Plant Based Meals

posted Oct 29, 2018, 11:51 AM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN   [ updated Oct 29, 2018, 12:04 PM ]

The benefits of incorporating more plant based meals were discussed in our last blog. So this week I’ll put it all together and focus on ways to incorporate more plant based foods into your current meals. It really isn’t hard, if you follow these guidelines.

As you replace some of the meat in your diet with plant based foods, there are a few nutrients you’ll want to be sure to consume on a daily basis.                       

Calcium -  Calcium can come from a variety of foods.

            - Dairy products tend to have the most calcium, but fortified plant based milks (soy or almond) are also good sources.  

        - Tofu with calcium

        - Dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and collard greens, broccoli, some beans (soybeans, chickpeas)

        - Almonds 

Vitamin B12  -  B12 is found predominately in animal foods. If you consume dairy and/or eggs you typically get enough, however if don’t consume any meat or meat by-product you will either need to choose foods fortified with B12 or take a vitamin B12 supplement (cobalamin). Check with your doctor before taking a supplement as B12 can interact with certain medications.

        - Fortified foods such as cereals, soy milk, nutritional yeast, and meat analogs  

        - Dairy foods 

        - Eggs

Protein – Protein can be found in animal foods and many plant based foods. There are a variety of plant based foods that contain protein.

        - Legumes (beans, lentils, peas)        

        - Dairy foods (milk, yogurt, cheese)

        - Eggs       

        - Soy products 

        - Nuts and nut butters

Vitamin D – There are very few foods that contain vitamin D. Our bodies can make vitamin D from UV sunlight, but those who don’t get a lot of sunlight and do not consume dairy foods may have difficulty meeting their needs. Check with your doctor about having your vitamin D levels checked if you are concerned.

        - Eggs 

        - Fortified dairy foods, soy beverages, orange juice, and ready to eat cereals       

Iron – Iron content is highest in meat foods, but iron needs can met through plant based foods. Be sure to consume foods high in vitamin C at each meal to increase iron absorption.

        - Beans, including tofu                                                                                                                                                                                                          

        - Dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, swiss chard)     

        - Fortified breakfast cereals 

        - Baked potatoes  

       - Cashews and pumpkin seeds

Here are examples of how to increase plant based proteins in your breakfast, lunch and dinner meals, all for about 2000 calories. You can adjust the portion sizes up or down to meet your calorie needs.


2 egg vegetable omelet, slice of toast with peanut butter, 1 orange or 6 oz glass orange juice


2 cups Southwestern vegan chili, 1 cup mixed fruit salad with 6 oz non fat Greek yogurt, whole grain roll or corn bread


2 cups Rustic spinach salad with seeds, 3 oz grilled salmon, 1 cup Mixed grain and bean salad


1 oz unsalted mixed nuts, 1 cup steel cut oats with dried fruit, or 8 oz spinach and berries power smoothie


The key is to make ½ of your plate vegetables and fruit, ¼ of your plate whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta), and ¼ of your plate lean meat or plant based protein foods (beans, lentils, nuts, seeds). Check out our recipes for more plant based foods.