Meal Planning for Different Diets
By: Carrie Walco-Bowman
For whatever reason, it seems like everyone is following a different eating plan, diet, or lifestyle these days. Some people diet to lose weight from gaining too much during the holidays, pregnancy, or overeating easy-access fast food. Then there are healthy eating plans and lifestyles for other purposes. Some contain high protein to gain weight and bulk up for bodybuilding, low carbohydrates to reduce blood sugar, or plant-based lifestyles for ecological and health-related reasons.
If you need to plan meals and groceries for any amount of people with different diets, it can be frustrating. Now, breathe a sigh of relief because we have several easy tips, meal ideas, and substitutions for some of the most popular eating plans and diets: low carb, low calorie, gluten-free, vegetarian, and high protein.
LOW CARB MEAL IDEAS
Low carbohydrate diets contain under 100-150 carbs a day or 20% of calories from carbs. Ketogenic (keto) diets require even less, 20-50 carbs per day, or 10% of calories from carbs.
Low Carb Tacos
You can easily wipe out most of the carbs by substituting lettuce instead of shells or tortillas. Or, significantly reduce carbs by using a low carb tortilla or low carb wrap. Make sure to point out the low carb and high carb items if they don’t already know. Then, have people choose their ingredients and amounts to suit their likes and diet. Done!
Check out our site for more low carb bulk ingredients and meals.
LOW-CALORIE MEAL IDEAS
According to everydayhealth.com, “A low-calorie diet is one that restricts your intake to 1,200 to 1,600 calories per day for men, and 1,000 to 1,200 calories per day for women. Some people go on a very low-calorie diet for rapid weight loss, often consuming only 800 calories a day.”
Low-Calorie Salad / Salad Bar
This is almost the same process as the tacos above, except you need to make sure there are enough low calorie and tummy-filling options with lots of fiber and lean protein. Include at least two dressing choices, one low calorie and one that doesn’t have any dieting restrictions. Some tremendous low-calorie salad bar choices that pack on the protein and flavor are skinless lean meats, boiled eggs, bacon sprinkles, feta or goat cheese; or roasted tofu, edamame, or quinoa for vegan eaters. Green onions, fresh herbs (like cilantro or basil), spicy peppers, and celery are super low in calorie but high on flavor. And, of course, lots of greens and veggies for fiber!
Find more low-calorie meal ideas in the MightyMeals Under 500 Calorie meals and ingredient selector.
GLUTEN-FREE MEAL IDEAS
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten is often accidentally added to gluten-free foods during the manufacturing and packaging process. So, make sure foods are labeled gluten-free, are naturally gluten-free, or ask/research before buying them. Your gluten-free friends will appreciate this greatly.
Since gluten-free diets must restrict things like traditional pasta and bread, try to provide alternate options as substitutes. My gluten-free friends LOVE lasagna made with no-boil gluten-free lasagna noodles. These can be found in almost any store now, and most brands provide a recipe right on the box. Super (no-boil) easy! Just make sure that all of the other ingredients are also gluten-free. It can even show up in cheese or baking powder.
Discover all of our gluten-free meals and ingredients.
VEGETARIAN MEAL IDEAS
A strict vegetarian lifestyle does not include any foods that contain meat in any form, as a whole food or a derived source. This includes all animals, fish, shellfish, dairy, eggs, and so forth. If you didn’t already know, there are also plenty of “hidden” animal sources of food. Some of the most common ones include casein (derived from animal milk), gelatin (derived from animal collagen), isinglass (derived from fish bladders and most often found in wines and beer), and whey (a dairy product loaded with protein found in a lot of high protein powders and products).
TIP: Some vegetarians do not follow a strict vegetarian diet and opt to eat fish or dairy at times. When meal prepping for vegans or vegetarians, asking is always best.
Vegan Stuffed Mushrooms
Just about everyone loves a great stuffed mushroom as an appetizer or a full meal. If you have a recipe that contains meat, try substituting it with a vegan meat substitute. Using portabella mushrooms will go a long way since their texture is denser and “meatier” than other mushroom varieties. A lot of vegetarians also consume dairy and cheese, so you may be able to include it. If not, use a vegan substitute or a recipe that doesn’t require them.
Check out our Vegan Stuffed Portabella for more ideas or to order.
HIGH PROTEIN MEAL IDEAS
People who follow a high protein diet consume more than the recommended daily amount of protein (more than 50 grams/day for women, over 60 grams/day for men). This diet is good for athletes and other people who want to build muscle. It can also help you lose weight since protein is slowly digested, creating a long-lasting energy source that keeps us full. Lean animal meats and fish are some of the highest protein sources: chicken breast, pork chops, tuna, salmon, skirt steak, and lamb roast. However, there are plenty of options for vegans and vegetarians. Tofu, lentils, beans, peas, seeds, and nuts are some of the highest forms of vegetarian protein.
Oatmeal is highly versatile and is gluten-free in most cases. So, it’s highly adaptable to many diets. To make it low carb, use less oatmeal and more protein add-ins or boosters.
The first step is to make plain oatmeal, and then add in your high protein boosters: eggs, nut butter, Greek yogurt, silken tofu, chia seeds, or protein powder. Don’t forget to add these AFTER you make the oatmeal or learn the hard way (like I did).
Mighty Meals offers high protein-boosted meals, like our Low Carb Bulgogi (56 GRAMS!), and our Philly Cheesesteak Pita (62 GRAMS!), as well as high protein snacks, like the Mighty Bite and Berg Bite cookies by Berg (also vegan and gluten-free).
We regularly add new menu items and rotate our meal offerings, so check back often.
Don’t forget to ask your friends and family what fits their diet or lifestyle best. They are usually your best sources. They will know what to look for and what they like best. I hope these ideas help you plan and create meals for different diets with ease.
For more ideas about dieting, you can find sample meal plans and more info about high carb, low carb, and ketogenic diets on our blog by Chase McKesey, Sample Macronutrient Meal Plans for a High Carb, Low Carb, and Keto Diet.