Are you looking for plant based recipes for weight loss? Since sharing a few months ago that I’ve started following a plant-based diet to heal my gut, one of the top requests I receive is for meal ideas and recipes.
People email me every day asking questions like:
- How can I get started with a plant-based diet?
- What are good recipes for beginners?
- Are there any plant-based recipes my family will actually eat?
All of the vegetarian recipes below are ones I have personally used and enjoyed during the last couple months, so I can assure you that they work and taste delicious. I choose recipes that are simple to make and most can be frozen, since I typically use meal prep and make my meals on the weekends. (My family does not eat the same diet I do.)
Whether you are following a specific plant-based diet like vegetarian, vegan, Nutritarian, whole-food, plant based (no oil, sugar or salt) or simply want to eat a healthier diet while losing weight, this list has recipes for you.
What is Plant-Based Eating for Weight Loss?
Quite simply, a plant-based diet is eating whole, real foods that grow in the ground.
Eat real foods, not too much, mostly plants.–Michael Pollan
Eating plant-based means that vegetables, fruits, grains, beans should make up the majority or all of your diet. Nuts, seeds, and avocado can be added in very small amounts.
What Can Vegetarians Eat for Protein?
One of the biggest benefits to a plant-based way of eating is that it’s very high in fiber. Most Americans get 5-10 times the amount of needed protein (yet worry constantly that they need to add more protein), yet are lacking when it comes to eating enough fiber.
For healthy, wellness, and longevity, you should eat at least 25-30 grams of fiber a day. The most healthy civilizations are those where people eat 75-100 grams of fiber a day, yet only 3% of Americans get anywhere close to 30 grams.
While eating the vegetables, fruits, grains, potatoes and beans that are listed here, any vegetarian or vegan will get the necessary protein to meet their daily needs. If hunger or growth is a concern, vegetarian protein sources like tofu, edamame, peas, tempeh and chickpeas can be included in meals.
Many people who follow a whole food, plant-based lifestyle do not eat animal products, but anyone can benefit from adding more plants to their diet and reducing the amount of meat and dairy they consume.
What Are the Best Plant-Based Recipes for Losing Weight?
If weight loss is your goal, it’s important to choose plant-based recipes carefully. Some vegetarian recipes are heavy with oil which is counter-productive to weight loss.
Some recipes have a high amount of nuts, and while nuts are healthy they should be eaten in a very limited way if you have too much body fat.
Finally, I steer completely clear of vegetarian alternative meats and cheeses. These are processed foods that not much healthier than the original animal foods.
If you are wondering what is left to eat, don’t worry! There is a huge variety of healthy, delicious foods available to you. All of the recipes listed below are no oil and low in sugar, salt, and fat.
Why Does a Plant Based Diet Help You Lose More Weight?
One of the truly amazing things about a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet is that you get to eat more food – a LOT more food – and lose more weight.
The reason for this is a concept called calorie density.
Calorie density is the amount of calories in a gram of food, which is important because humans eat a consistent weight of food from day to day.
Most people eat 3-5 pounds of food per day, no matter what type of food they are eating. This is why attempting to cut calories and eat smaller portions is so challenging.
You will naturally lose weight when you eat the same volume of food but switch to foods that are lower in calories.
Plant Based Diet Before and After: Can You Lose Weight on a Plant-Based Diet?
When I switched to a plant-based diet, my goal wasn’t primarily weight loss, but I was amazed when the pounds started dropping off.
I started this new way of eating weighing 145 pounds, which was a healthy weight but at the top of my range for a woman who is 5’3.
Today, just a few months later, I weigh a healthy 120 pounds, my stomach issues are healing and I’m off almost every medication I was taking.
Best of all, I feel fantastic!
Plant Based Meal Prep for Weight Loss: Start with the Basics
When I first started a whole food, plant based (WFPB) way of eating, I spent hours searching for and creating new recipes. I enjoy cooking so this wasn’t a burden to me, but I quickly realized it wasn’t necessary.
As much as I love and enjoy many of the vegan meal prep recipes below, they aren’t what I eat most of the time.
Most of my meals are basic, fresh whole foods that take just minutes to prepare. Include some of these in your meal prep each week, then add just one or two recipes that look delicious.
Vegetables are the main food to eat when you are following a whole food, plant based diet and especially when you want to lose weight. Make it a goal that half of your plate (every time you eat) is vegetables.
Keep chopped fresh or cooked vegetables on hand so you can quickly add them to meals. Frozen vegetables are easy to cook in minutes in the microwave.
Eat a large (serving-bowl sized) salad once a day and use one of these oil-free dressings drizzled over it.
During the summer, grilled vegetables taste delicious and are full of flavor.
Keep a large variety of both fresh and frozen fruit on hand to enjoy.
Cooked potatoes of all types as part of your plant-based meal prep. Click here for a huge list of how to eat potatoes without added fat and sugar. If you can find them in your area, I recommend Japanese sweet potatoes which are my all-time favorite potato.
4. Whole Grains
Include cooked whole grains as part of preparing for a week of healthy vegetarian meals. Brown rice, whole wheat pasta, or oatmeal can be kept in the fridge and ready for a quick meal or side dish. Cooked grains can also be frozen and quickly added to recipes or any meal you enjoy.
Beans are an incredibly healthy food that is so good for weight loss. (If you have trouble digesting beans, check out the tips in this post about restoring gut health with food.)
Canned beans are perfectly fine to use, although look for ones with no added salt when possible.
If you want to cook your own beans using dried beans, meal prep by soaking and then cooking any type of beans on the stove top, in the crock pot, or pressure cook with your Instant Pot.
Cooked beans freeze well. I freeze mine in individual portions so that I can grab some quickly to add to meals.
5 Plant-Based Breakfast Ideas for Losing Weight
These plant-based breakfasts are so filling and delicious, you won’t miss the meat or eggs.
McDougall Multigrain Hot Cereal – You can always eat a bowl of oatmeal cooked according to package directions (and it’s delicious!) but if you prefer a heartier texture, try this multigrain hot cereal. Note that it needs to soak overnight but is very easy to cook in the morning.
Instant Pot Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal – A popular favorite with readers of The Holy Mess, this sweet breakfast tastes as good as a dessert.
2. Tofu Scramble
Easy Tofu Scramble – Tofu scramble tastes similar to scrambled eggs. This recipe is full of lots of healthy veggies, too.
3. Breakfast Tacos
Easy Vegan Breakfast Tacos – These loaded tacos a hearty and filling. Perfect for a brunch or weekly breakfast.
4. Beans n Greens
Beans ‘n Greens – Beans and greens is one of my favorite breakfasts. It’s rich and filling and is a powerhouse of nutrition that makes me feel great all day long. This dish works for any meal but I like it for breakfast to start the day right.
5. Breakfast Potatoes
Potatoes are a wonderful filling food that helps you start the day satisfied. I eat some type of potato most mornings as part of my breakfast. (Potatoes are part of many of my meals.) Here are just a few options.
Stuffed Sweet Potatoes – Top a baked sweet potato with mashed banana with a tiny drizzle of lemon juice.
Japanese Sweet potatoes – Eat a cooked Asian potato with a side of greens.
Hash browns are a delicious breakfast side. I use the frozen, pre-shredded ones to keep it simple. Just be sure they don’t have any additional ingredients besides potatoes.
Waffle Iron Hash Browns – One of my favorite ways to make hash browns without oil is in the waffle maker or George Forman grill. They turn out so crispy and delicious. I like them plain, dipped in ketchup or barbeque sauce, or serve them with one of the sauces or gravies below.
7 Filling Lunches for a Vegetarian Diet Plan to Lose Weight
No time to cook in the middle of a busy day? No problem. Here are some quick plant based lunch ideas.
1. No-Tuna Salad Sandwich
Forks Over Knives No Tuna Chickpea Salad has a similar taste and texture to tuna salad but is completely plant-based. This recipe does include a small amount of tahini (fat) which you can use or leave out. I’ve made it both ways and it’s equally delicious. Serve this on bread, wrapped in a tortilla, or on top of rice or potatoes.
2. Huge Salad with No-Oil Dressing
Most days of the week, my lunch includes a huge serving-bowl size salad with one of the oil-free salad dressing options listed here. I love to load up my salad with all types of leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits to make eating it a real treat.
3. Raw Veggies with Hummus
Hummus is a wonderful way to add beans to your diet. Use this fat-free recipe and serve with baby carrots, cucumber slices, sugar snap peas, peppers, celery, jicama, broccoli, cauliflower or grape tomatoes.
Fat Free Hummus – Hummus is traditionally made with tahini and olive oil but it’s not necessary to create a delicious hummus. Sometime I make this fat-free version and drizzle just a bit of tahini on top, so I still get the extra flavor with just a small portion of fat and calories.
4. Vegetable Bean Soup
Along with my huge serving-bowl lunch salad, I usually have a small bowl of vegetable soup like this 15 bean soup. This filling lunch keeps me going all afternoon and is typically my largest meal of the day so I can eat a smaller supper.
5. Bean Chili over Baked Potato
Here’s a delicious plant-based chili recipe to enjoy in a bowl or make it even more hearty by serving it poured over a baked potato.
6. Vegetable Wrap
Use a whole grain tortilla or collard green to wrap up whatever veggies you have on hand. Use one of our spreads (below) to make your sandwich extra-yummy, or dip in a side of hummus.
Red Lentil Crepes – This red lentil flatbread is pretty amazing. You can make a crepe, flatbread, or pancake with just red lentils and water. Season how you like. I enjoy them with savory seasoning and then smeared with fat-free hummus and topped with veggies like lettuce, tomato, and cucumber for a quick lunch sandwich that is packed with fiber and nutrition.
7. Potato Salad
Potato Salad – This cold potato salad tastes just like the staple recipe we all grew up with but without the heavy, fatty mayo dressing.
7 Easy Dinners: Plant Based Recipes for Beginners
Dinner is an important meal for many of us as our day winds down and we gather with family and friends. If you are cooking for one, meal prepping, or serving a family, any of these recipes are sure to be a hit.
1. Bean Burgers & Potato Wedges
Jaroudi Family Bean Meatballs – I’ve tried quite a few bean burger recipes and this one is my favorite by far. I shape it into meatballs and serve it with fat-free marinara. I also shape it into burger patties and eat them like a regular hamburger with ketchup, mustard, and pickle. I’ve even grilled these and they stayed together.
Crispy French Fries – After trying a number of baked, oil-free French fry recipes, this recipe is hands-down the winner. It’s easy, delicious and can be baked in the oven or the air fryer. My family chows down on these and there are rarely any left-overs.
2. Grain & Vegetable Bowl
The possibilities for a grain and vegetable bowl are endless, but the idea is that you eat a huge bowl of greens and a grain with some type of sauce. This can be as simple as a salad mix from the store, brown rice, black beans and a jar of salsa. Don’t overcomplicate.
I especially like grain bowls because I have a large family with different dietary needs, so I can lay out the various options and let everyone build their own.
Veggie Bowl Recipes – Here’s a great resource if you want to branch out and try other variations.
3. Stir Fry Vegetables with Rice
You can use a recipe for oil-free stir fry or you can keep it simple like I do and just use a bag of frozen stir-fry mix from the freezer section of the grocery store. Use vegetable broth instead of oil and serve with soy sauce or coconut animos over brown rice.
4. Black Bean Tacos
Use black beans, kidney beans, or lentils in place of your favorite taco meat, or try this simple black bean taco recipe.
5. Vegetable Soup or Chili
The sky is the limit for delicious soup options that are plant-based. I love meal prepping big batches of soup on the weekends. I enjoy some fresh and freeze the rest in individual portions for later.
West African Peanut Soup – I know this soup recipe sounds a little weird but it is incredibly rich and delicious. I cook it without any oil. I leave out the peanut butter and then when it’s time to serve, I add 2 spoonfuls of PB2 peanut powder. This way I get all the rich peanut flavor with very little fat. It tastes amazing.
Lemon Artichoke Asparagus Soup – This soup has the best flavors of spring and is a real treat to eat. The potatoes make it filling.
The Holy Mess Vegetable Detox Soup – Make this popular soup recipe even more hearty by adding beans, rice, potatoes or whole wheat pasta to serve it as a main dish soup.
Vegan Potato Soup – My family, who are not strictly whole food, plant-based (WFPB) eaters goes nuts for this potato soup. One of my sons asks for it every week and gets upset when it’s not on the menu. If you have a large family, double the recipe.
6. Vegetarian Baked Beans
Here’s a delicious recipe for vegetarian baked beans. (Use the water sauté option so you don’t add oil.) It does have a bit of sugar in it with maple syrup, which you could replace with pureed dates if you prefer. You can also use no-sugar ketchup.
Serve beans as the main dish with a salad, or serve over rice or a baked potato.
This vegan corn bread makes a great side to any soup, especially chili. It is one of the first plant-based bread recipes I made. My kids loved it.
8. Lentil Loaf
This recipe is a bit more complex but if you are craving a hearty comfort food, this Lentil Loaf (like meatloaf) is really delicious. I made it for my Easter dinner this year and froze the leftovers in individual portions and enjoyed them for lunches. One batch makes quite a few servings.
Top 5 Plant-Based Sauces, Spreads & Gravies for Beginners
Does eating simple vegetables, beans, grains or potatoes seem bland or boring? Try one of these sauces and you’ll be looking forward to each meal.
1. Vegetarian Alfredo Sauce
Cauliflower Alfredo – I’m a little bit nutso about this alfredo sauce. I really love it! My daughter and I have found ourselves coming back to this recipe many times and never seem to get tired of it. We like on spaghetti squash, whole wheat pasta, bean pasta, or even rice and baked potatoes.
2. Corn Butter
Giving up butter was definitely a change for me, both in cooking and spreading on foods. With cooking, I’ve learned that vegetable broth can be used in sauteeing and applesauce can be used in baked goods.
For spreading on bread or muffins, corn butter is one option. I don’t think it tastes much like real butter but it is tasty.
Corn Butter – This recipe is easy to make with canned or frozen corn and a few simple ingredients.
3. Vegan Cheese Sauce
Discovering vegetarian cheese sauce really rocked my world. Does it taste like cheese? Umm, not exactly. I would say it’s cheesy. It’s absolutely delicious but you’ll enjoy it more if you eat it for what it is, not expecting it to taste exactly like dairy products. But once you see the calorie and fat savings, you’ll know it’s worth it.
Plant-Based Cheese Sauce Recipe – There are quite a few vegetarian cheese sauce recipes around and you can find recipes that use cashews, potatoes, oatmeal and even zucchini as the base. Here is one vegan cheese sauce recipe I like.
4. Brown Gravy
This very basic vegan brown gravy recipe is delicious on mashed, roasted, or boiled potatoes, rice, or any starch you like. I add mushrooms to mine. I make large batches and keep it stocked in the freezer.
5. White Bean Spread
This white bean spread is delicious on vegetables, breads, potatoes, or red lentil crepes. You can use it in a similar way as hummus.
Low Calorie Plant-Based Snacks
I like to keep my snacks simple on a plant-based diet. Because my meals are so filling with all the fiber, I actually rarely snack and find that I am quite satisfied. When I do need something to tide me over between meals, these are the options I enjoy.
1. Raw Veggies with Hummus
Enjoy a wide variety of raw vegetables like baby carrots, cucumbers and pepper slices with hummus for dipping. (Use the fat-free hummus above or purchase your favorite kind.)
Fruit makes a wonderful snack because it is sweet and filling. Apples, bananas, peaches, plums, pears, watermelon, and berries are just a few of my go-to snacks. Click here for more fruit recipes.
This Rainbow Chia Seed Pudding is a delicious plant-based snack or dessert that adults and kids love.
This may sound a bit crazy, but I snack on potatoes. I’ll even grab a cold potato and munch on it between meals. Little baby potatoes are great for snacks and yellow golden potatoes are good, too.
One fun quick snack I enjoy is baby potatoes cut in half and smeared with hummus. Filling, delicious, and 100% healthy.
4. Rice with Almond Milk
This snack tastes like rice pudding.
I keep cooked brown rice on hand both in the fridge for meals and in individual portions in the freezer. Pour a serving of cooked brown rice in a bowl and pour plant milk (almond, oat, or your favorite) over the rice. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cook for 1-2 minutes in the microwave until hot. Allow the rice to sit for 2 minutes to absorb some of the milk and become soft.
I enjoy this as-is, but if you want it sweeter, add applesauce, mashed banana, or 1 chopped date before cooking.
5. Banana Nice Cream
Since switching to a whole food, plant based diet, I’ve become a bit obsessed with nice cream and have it for dessert several nights a week.
6 Best Easy Plant-Based Desserts
Enjoy the treats you love with these healthier vegetarian desserts. Each of these is low in calories to make sure you still reach your weight loss goals.
I’ve made both these Nutmeg Notebook Chocolate Cherry Brownies and Dr. Furhman’s Black Bean brownies and love both recipes. When I need a chocolate fix, these are my go-to. I freeze them in individual portions and eat one plain or with banana nice cream for a real treat.
2. Dr. Fuhrman’s Healthy Chocolate Cake
I’m not going to lie. This chocolate cake recipe sort of blows my mind. It has beets, zucchini, carrots, pineapple and banana in it! Sweetened with dates, it’s quite dense and more like an old-fashioned date bread than a chocolate cake. It does have nuts so it’s a treat food, and it’s a bit of work, but it’s so worth it on special occasions. It makes a large pan but freezes well.
Believe it or not, I actually prefer this without the frosting. I love the frosting as a dip for fruit and like the cake as-is so I can really taste the fudgy goodness.
3. Banana Nice Cream
Healthy ice cream? Yes, please! This is my go-to plant-based dessert that I eat several nights a week. I love trying all the various flavor combos like chocolate cherry, peanut butter banana (with powdered peanut butter to cut the fat), or strawberry banana.
4. Vegan Carrot Cake
This Forks Over Knives carrot cake recipe that’s a bit of effort but so worth the time. This is a heavy, rich cake loaded with pineapple, nuts, oats, bananas and more. This was one of the first dessert recipes I made when I switched to a WFPB lifestyle.
5. Chef AJ Jam Bars
These oatmeal jam bars are fast to put together with just a few simple ingredients but make a real treat. Enjoy them for breakfast or a dessert.
6. Chocolate Avocado Pudding
This plant-based chocolate pudding is very rich and creamy because of the avocado. I absolutely loved it.
Whether you want to eat a full plant-based diet for losing weight or you simple want to add some healthy recipes to your current diet, these recipes will fit your needs! They are easy for beginners and best of all, simply delicious.
I can’t wait to hear about how these recipes work for you. Tell me about it in the comments.
More Recipes for Weight Loss
Restoring Gut Health with Food
Everything But the Bagel Seasoning Recipe
Ann Hall says
Thank you so much Sara for your great ideas for weightloss. I think these recipes are great. Very tasty and easy to prepare. If you can I would appreciate a few more ideas that I can make that my husband would also enjoy with some meat or fish included as well as healthy desserts. Keep up your great work. You are such an inspiration to me to not give up. I am going through a lot of financial stress in my life as well and all of your ideas have been such a great help.
Thanks for the feedback. We will keep the family-friendly recipes coming!