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What Are Some Healthy Vegan Lunch Ideas?

Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on April 28, 2022

People become vegan for a variety of reasons. Some do it for religious reasons, and some because they are concerned about animal suffering. Others choose to go vegan to improve their health. A vegan diet can provide health benefits, but it requires some planning. You'll need to create menus carefully to be sure that you get the nutrition you need. Develop a list of healthy vegan lunch ideas, and one-third of your work will be done.

Vegan, Vegetarian, or Plant-Based?

Vegan and vegetarian diets are similar but not the same. Vegans eat no animal products. They don't eat meat, including poultry and seafood. They also don't eat eggs, dairy products, or honey. Many vegans avoid buying animal products such as wool, leather, and beeswax. This makes them different from vegetarians, who only avoid foods that require the killing of animals.

You may have heard of a plant-based diet. Some people use this term interchangeably with vegan. Sometimes people who call themselves plant-based eat small amounts of animal products. Most plant-based diets emphasize whole foods and minimize those that are highly processed. 

Is a Vegan Diet Nutritious?

You may wonder whether you can get the nutrition you need from a vegan diet. Experts say yes. Still, it's important to know these vegan nutrition facts.

Protein. Many plants are high in protein. Unless you are eating highly processed foods, you should get enough protein without eating animal products. Good plant-based protein sources include:

  • Beans, lentils, green peas, and edamame (soybeans)
  • Soybean products like tofu and tempeh
  • Whole grains like oats, quinoa, and barley
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Vegetables such as spinach and Brussels sprouts

Vitamin B12. Vegans may need to take a supplement to get their B12 because plants don't provide it. You may not need a supplement if you eat cereal and other foods fortified with B12. Check labels, or talk to your doctor.

Iron. Plants contain less iron than animal products, but you don't have to eat meat to get iron. Spinach, raisins, oatmeal, and some beans are good sources. Vegans may take in less iron than meat-eaters, but they rarely get iron-deficiency anemia

Omega-3s. Certain fatty acids are essential for good health. Vegans may be deficient in one type, omega-3s. Flaxseed and walnuts are good plant-based sources of omega-3s. 

Calcium. If you don't eat dairy products, you can get adequate calcium from green leafy vegetables. Tofu is also a good source. 

Is a Vegan Diet Healthy?

Eating a plant-based diet may help you stay at a healthy weight. Studies show vegans are less likely to be overweight or obese than those on other eating plans. Vegans and others eating plant-based also have a reduced risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure 

It's possible to eat an unhealthy vegan diet. Vegans who eat a lot of sweets and junk food aren't improving their health. They can even be malnourished

Ideas for Healthy Vegan Lunches

These vegan lunch recipes will get you started. You can add, subtract, and substitute to make your meal your own. 

Salads. Salads are a great way to get your greens in, but a healthy vegan salad is more than greens. Try adding texture with crunchy vegetables, nuts, or seeds. Fruits, cooked vegetables, grains, and beans are good add-ins as well. Try these combos that add protein and other important nutrients.

  • Cowboy Caviar. Mix corn, black beans, and kidney beans. Add canned diced tomatoes, chopped chiles, and diced onion. Dress with a little lime juice and oil. Serve over salad greens, or scoop up with vegan corn chips. 
  • Curried Chickpea Salad. Canned chickpeas get crunch from the addition of apple, celery, and red onion. Dried cranberries, spices, and condiments create a pleasing flavor profile.
  • Citrus Salad. Pieces of grapefruit and orange top fresh greens. A combo of vinegar, lime juice, and oil makes the dressing. 

Soups. Soups are great on a chilly day, but they aren't just for the winter months. They can range from hearty to refreshing. Check out these plant-based lunch ideas.

  • Italian Summer Soup. This soup features tomatoes, zucchini, bell pepper, and white beans. It's light but nourishing.
  • Carrot Ginger Soup. Stewed carrots form the base of this soup. Ginger, onions, and Indian spices make it tasty.
  • Gazpacho. This traditional chilled soup features tomatoes and cucumbers. Peppers, vinegar, and garlic amp up the flavor.

Bowls. They go by a variety of names, such as Buddha bowls, power bowls, and grain bowls. The formula is simple. Start with a healthy grain. Add a layer of greens or vegetables. Add protein such as beans or tofu, and top with a tasty sauce. You don't really need a recipe to create a bowl, but these will get you started.

  • Quinoa and Black Bean Salad. It's labeled as a salad, but this recipe also qualifies as a bowl. A variety of peppers add a kick to the quinoa and bean mixture.
  • Spring Veggie + Grain Bowl. Quinoa is a complete protein, so you don't really need another protein in this fresh dish. Toppings include asparagus, carrots, and radishes. Tahini and lime make a delicious dressing.

Sandwiches, Tacos, and Wraps. Sandwiches are a traditional lunchtime choice, but why stick to bread? Wraps and tacos make healthy lunches, too. These vegan recipes aren't short on taste.

  • Hummus and Veggie Wrap-Up. Spread a whole-wheat tortilla with hummus and top with crunchy vegetables.
  • Veggie Bean Wrap. Fill tortillas with a mixture of mangos, lime juice, cilantro, and avocado. Black beans provide the protein.
  • Delicious Tacos. Mushrooms sauteed with peppers and onions sub for meat in these vegan tacos.
  • Peanut Butter 'n Fruit-wich. Spread peanut butter on whole-wheat bread. Top with grated carrots and thin slices of crisp apple. 

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Cleveland Clinic: "8 Steps to Make the Healthiest Salads Ever," "13 of the Best Vegetarian and Vegan Protein Sources," "Recipe: Spring Veggie + Grain Bowl."

Harvard Health Publishing: "With a little planning, vegan diets can be a healthful choice."

NutritionEd.org: "What is the Difference Between a Vegan and a Vegetarian?"

PennState Extension: "Make a Healthy Meal Bowl."

The Permanente Journal: "Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets."

Rush University Center for Health: "Carrot Ginger Soup," "Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet."

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: "Hummus and Veggie Wrap-Up," "Italian Summer Soup."

U.S.D.A. My Plate: "Citrus Salad," "Cowboy Caviar," "Curried Chickpea Salad," "Delicious Tacos," 
"Gazpacho Soup," "Peanut Butter 'n Fruit-wich," "Quinoa and Black Bean Salad," "Veggie Bean Wrap."

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