The Best Vegan Dinner Ideas for Weight Loss, According to Nutritionists
So, you’re staring at the clock. You’re wondering what’s for dinner. But you’re also wondering when did your stretchy pants get so, um, un-stretchy. Maybe you gained some weight during the lockdown, or maybe you’re on a longer-term weight loss journey. Perhaps you just went plant-based and are looking to ensure you stay slim and don’t shift into the french fries and Oreo diet. Whatever the case, here you are, and you’re eager for some healthy dinner inspiration that won’t break the calorie bank.
1. Slow Cooker White Bean Stew with Tomatoes and Swiss Chard from Michelle Dudash, RDN, author of The Low-Carb Mediterranean Cookbook.
How to make it: In a slow cooker, combine 1 can drained cannellini beans, 1 can diced tomatoes, 1 bunch chopped Swiss card, 2 cups vegetable broth, and ½ a diced onion. Sprinkle in your favorite seasonings, like Italian seasoning, garlic, liquid amino acids, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Cover and cook on low for two-to-three hours. This recipe makes four one-cup servings.
Why it helps with weight loss: Load up on 1 ½- cups of this vegan stew for only 182 calories with nine grams of fiber, 11 grams of protein, and only a gram of fat. “This nutritional profile leaves you with some room to drizzle on some rich-tasting extra-virgin olive oil for added satisfaction, or pair with a glass of wine or kombucha, or square of dark chocolate to keep cravings at bay,” suggests Dudash. “A piping hot bowl is nourishing comfort food, too. Since it’s so easy to set and forget, it will leave you room for a workout, shower, and some self-care, priming you for a good night’s sleep and setting you up for weight loss success.” Easy to make and rich with nuanced flavor, we have a feeling this will become a go-to in your dinner repertoire.
2. Lentil Herb Soup from Jinan Banna, Ph.D., RD (https://www.jinanbanna.com)
How to make it: Rinse and drain 1 cup of red lentils until rinsing water is no longer cloudy. Set aside. Chop 1 large onion and 5 cloves of garlic and place in a bowl. Chop 3 tomatoes. Coarsely chop 1 bunch of coriander and one bunch of parsley and place in a separate bowl. Heat up a large pot on medium heat on the stove with a tablespoon of vegan butter.
Sauté the onion for five-to-seven minutes and then add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Then add the red lentils and 2.5 cups of water. Bring to a rolling boil, lower heat to a simmering level, and cover the pot partway. Add the tomatoes. Let cook until lentils are dissolved, about 20-25 minutes. Turn off heat, salt and pepper to taste. Add parsley and coriander and remove from heat. Add the juice of one lemon, stir well. Garnish with a few sprigs of parsley and/or coriander, a wedge of lemon on the side of the bowl, and/or some toasted sesame seeds. This recipe makes six servings.
Why it helps with weight loss: “This idea provides fiber and protein to help you stay full while trying to lose weight,” comments Banna. “It's important to focus on foods that provide a sense of satisfaction and don't have a lot of empty calories to leave you hungry again quickly.” As you refine your rendition of this soup, feel free to experiment with beans instead of lentils and different veggies and herbs. For a touch of heat, add some diced jalapeño for a garnish.
3. Vegan Hummus Pizza from Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a plant-based registered dietitian in the New York City area and owner of Plant-Based Eats
How to make it: Preheat the oven to 250 °F. Place six 4-inch whole-wheat pitas on a non-stick baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat ¼ cup water in a small pan over medium-high heat. Add onion slices; spread onions evenly in the pan, stirring occasionally, five-to-six minutes. Once the liquid is absorbed and the onions begin to brown, stir frequently until they're caramelized. Set aside. In a small pan over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add mushroom slices, stirring occasionally. Once mushrooms are almost cooked through, about five-to-six minutes, add tomatoes. Cook an additional two-to-three minutes. Meanwhile, increase the oven temperature to 350 °F. Place ¼ cup pine nuts on baking sheet and toast eight-to-10 minutes, tossing once. Spread each pita with 2 tablespoons hummus, then top with onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Add pine nuts and oregano. This recipe makes six pita pizzas with one pizza constituting a serving.
Why it helps with weight loss: “Just because you’re aiming to lose weight doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your favorite foods, like pizza,” says Gorin, much to our eternal happiness. “This hummus pizza is a healthier and lighter spin on traditional pizza. If you’d like to add additional protein, just toss on some rinsed and drained canned white beans.”
4. Vegan Crunchy Thai Salad with Tofu from Bansari Acharya, MA, RD at Foodlove.com
How to make it: Marinate a 14-ounce package of extra firm tofu cut into one-inch cubes in 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 tablespoon grated ginger, and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Grill tofu on a pan to desired crispiness. Chop up 1/2 of head Napa cabbage, 1/2 head of red cabbage, 4 green onions, 2 carrots, 1 bunch cilantro, and 1 red pepper and place in a large bowl. Grill tofu on a pan to desired crispiness. Add tofu to the bowl with the vegetables. In a blender, put in 1/4 peanut butter, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons agave or maple syrup, 1-2 teaspoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, a pinch of red pepper flakes, 1-inch piece of ginger, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, juice of 1 lime, 2 tablespoons oil of choice, and a few pieces of garlic and blend until a smooth consistency is formed. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss it. The serving size is two cups of salad per serving and this recipe makes three servings.
Why it helps with weight loss: “This recipe is excellent for weight loss as it is primarily made up of ingredients that are very low in calories but extremely nutritious. Along with being loaded with fiber from the vegetables, the tofu adds an excellent source of complete protein to the dish,” advises Acharya. “Peanut butter also provides some protein along with being an excellent source of unsaturated fatty acids. Feel free to swap Napa and red cabbage for green cabbage or the red bell pepper for any bell pepper color of choice.
5. Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Avocado from Dudash
How to make it: Place ¾ cup of quinoa in a medium pot and cover with cold water; let soak for 5 minutes. Drain thoroughly with a fine-mesh strainer; if you don’t have a fine-mesh strainer, then skip the soaking step. Add 1 ⅓ cups of vegetable broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat without lifting the lid and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, then spread it out on a plate to cool it quickly. Add 1 small peeled, seeded, and diced cucumber, ¼ teaspoon salt and a ¼ teaspoon pepper, 1 large diced tomato, 2 scallions thinly sliced, 2 tablespoons Italian flat-leaf parsley or mint, and ¼ cup olives to a large mixing bowl. Add the quinoa once it has cooled to room temperature. Gently fold in one large avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced. This recipe makes eight ½ cup servings.
Why it helps with weight loss: This avocado-studded salad will be one you come back to when you’re looking for a fast, healthy dinner time and time again. “Quinoa salad is very low in calories just 125 in this recipe, and you can prepare it in limitless varieties,” comments Dudash. “This a Greek-themed play on it. Enjoy it as a side salad with three grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, or sprinkle on beans, and nuts to make it a complete dinner meal.”