Assumptions about healthy vegans can go many ways: toothy carnivores are often quick to point out how lacking a plant-based diet is, and plant-based people often believe that ditching the meat and dairy has solved dietary woes. As for these particular meat-eaters, this assumption is usually based on fictional information and centers around protein, which is more or less a non-issue for a balanced plant-based diet. On the other side of the table, too many vegans fall into the misconception that cutting out animal products equates to a healthy diet, so they become a little lax in preparing properly nourishing food for themselves. Well, neither one of these directions hold much water. The truth is that plant-based eaters can be super healthy, but like anyone, we too have to think about what we eat and make sure to balance our diet. Here are some tips to eating well on a plant-based diet for every meal. 

The Breakfast Club

First of all, breakfast is too easy of a meal to skip. Do you wake up late, throw on some work attire, and settle for a hot beverage and some sort of to-go bar? This does not make for a healthy way to start the day, especially if you do it everyday. Try these tips to wake up right.

  • Tip #1: Carve out 30 minutes in the morning. Eating is more important than showering — yes, we said it! — so sacrifice a shower if something has got to go. Otherwise, start the day a little earlier. A nutritious breakfast of whole foods can take less than half and hour.
  • Tip #2: Don’t forget balance. It’s also fairly normal to consider toast and jam breakfast, but this doesn’t make for a well-rounded meal. Try to include some fresh fruit, something for protein (granola, organic soy milk, or nut butter), and a whole-grain carb. Try something like this Banana Oatmeal with Hazelnut Butter and Raisins.
  • Tip #3: Drink water before you eat anything. Drinking water in the morning, on an empty stomach, comes with beau coup benefits, like cleaning out your system, helping with bodily pains (see hydration) and possibly battling cancer.

The Mid-Morning Munchies

Usually, three or four hours after breakfast, a little pang of hunger starts to surface. Maybe it’s not a full-on, give-me-a-sandwich type of craving, but something is required. So…

  • Tip #1: Prepare for it. Don’t get stuck and go looking for anything to quell your hunger. Have something substantial and healthy — coconut is a favorite, or dehydrated fruit and nuts — to knock down the flame until lunch. See these 10 Healthy Vegan Snacks to Keep at Your Desk at Work.

Lunchtime Rocks

Something about lunchtime just feels great. Usually, it means a break from a hard day’s work, a chance to both breathe and get refueled for the downhill run of the schedule. So, don’t slump it off. Make the most of it.

  • Tip #1: Pack it when possible. Eating out in restaurants can be healthy, but it can also be expensive. Instead, pack your own lunch, and make sure it’s loaded with the nutrients you need: a source of protein, some complex carbs, and fresh vegetables.
  • Tip #2: Then, find a nice spot — a park bench or window seat — to enjoy it while relaxing. Attempting to work and eat is counterproductive. Stop completely, without feeling guilty about it, and know you’ll be fresher, truly ready to roll after lunch. Savor the food for all its worth.
  • Tip #3: Get creative. Sandwiches are great, but packed lunches don’t have to be so simple. Make some hummus and bring some fresh veggies and kale chips to scoop it up. Or some spinach and artichoke dip. Make enough to get you through a day or three.

Mid-Afternoon Munchies

There can be a bit of a “vegan curse” in that we tend to get hungry a little more regularly than those who ate a half-pound cheeseburger and chili fries for lunch. Of course, real, whole foods can fill you up, but us plant-based eaters know the power of munching around the clock. So, keep that in mind, and let that afternoon coffee break be for something more healthy. See these 10 Healthy High Protein Vegan Snacks.

  • Tip: Smoothies are awesome in the afternoon. They give you that finally energy burst for finishing off the day strong, but they don’t weigh heavily in the system. Plus, they can be really rich nutritionally. Check out the The Ultimate Green Smoothie Cheat Sheet.

Dialing Down Dinner

Dinner is delightful, or it should be. It’s the time for winding down, for socializing with those you love and for really savoring your food. Dinners should be worthwhile events of the day, not microwaveable slop in front of the TV.

  • Tip #1: For some reason, despite better wisdom, dinner is often the biggest meal of the day. Just because it’s always been that way, doesn’t mean it has to be. Dial it down a bit. Homemade soup and really good salad is perfect. Maybe a sorbet kicker if something else is needed.
  • Tip #2: Eat plenty of raw food. This will aid with digestion through the night. It won’t be overwhelming for a system that is taking a pause from heavy activity. This also means you are eating whole, clean foods instead of a couple of frozen vegan corn dogs.
  • Tip #3: End with a bang. Go for a nice digestive if that’s what you are into, or if you are in need of more healthiness, a green tea or calming tea. A good night’s sleep is something a healthy dinner can really help with, and that’s just as important as eating right.

BONUS Recommendation: Download the Food Monster App

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Image source: Creamy Vegan Artichoke Spinach Dip