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Written by: Nicole Osinga, RD

With food prices continually on the rise, eating healthier on a budget is a concern we often hear from our clients. To help facilitate this conversation, I’ve pulled together some tips to share with your clients on how to create an accessible plant-based meal plan on a budget.

I have been a plant-based eater myself for over 10 years and have found plant-based eating can be very cost-effective. As we know, while some options are more costly, like pre-packaged plant-based meals or pre-made veggie burgers, there are also budget-friendly options like beans or tofu that can easily be whipped up into delicious plant-based dishes. Encouraging your clients to be strategic with produce and using a mix of fresh and frozen, along with lower-cost pantry staples like oats and rice, will help them save money in real time.

It is also possible to build a meal plan from items commonly found within food pantries or through local food support programs, making plant-based eating accessible for Canadians across economic groups.*

So what does a plant-based diet entail and how can we support our clients in adopting one in a cost-conscious way?

Nutrient Adequacy of a
Plant-Based Diet

Contrary to a common notion, a plant-based diet does not equal vegan – it means increasing the intake of plant-based products and decreasing the intake of animal-based items.

A plant-based diet can still meet all of your nutritional needs, however there are a few nutrients that can be a little harder for your clients to get on a plant-based diet, so we have to be mindful of them when discussing meal planning.1,2 Those nutrients include:

  • Protein: found in tofu, tempeh, beans, nuts, and seeds
  • Vitamin B-12: found in fortified plant-based milks (ie soy, almond, cashew, oat, rice, etc) and nutritional yeast
  • Iron: found in beans, broccoli, and fortified cereals
  • Calcium: found in calcium-set tofu, broccoli, and fortified plant-based milks
  • Zinc: found in beans, nuts, and seeds3

 

 

Money Saving Tips

With these tips, it is possible for your clients to build a budget-friendly, plant-based, week-long meal plan with accessible food options.

1. Plan meals in advance – Have your clients plan their meals for the week and make a grocery list. Suggest they only buy what they’re sure they will use, and make sure they take an inventory of what they already have in their cupboards to avoid adding duplicate items to their grocery bill.

2. Replace meat with other proteins – Recommend to your clients to try replacing meat 1 or 2 times per week with beans, legumes, or tofu. These are all affordable and nutritious sources of protein.

3. Buy frozen fruits and vegetables – Frozen fruits, berries, and vegetables are usually just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts. For example, research has found that four vitamins (ascorbic acid, riboflavin, α-tocopherol, and β-carotene) in frozen commodities were comparable to and occasionally higher than that of their fresh counterparts.4  Frozen produce is available year-round and is often sold in large bags.

4. Buy in bulk – Many foods are available at lower prices when purchased in bulk. These include grains, legumes and spices. They keep for a long time in airtight containers and can be used in a variety of nutritious, inexpensive dishes.

5. Pre-prep meals – Encourage your clients to pre-prepare meals and snacks themselves whenever they can. If they’re in a time crunch, they can buy pre-chopped veggies but if they’re looking to save money, prepping veggies at home is a more economical choice.

6. Buy conventional produce – You don’t always have to buy organic. Organic will always come at a higher price tag, but conventional produce can get you the nutrition you are looking for. During the summer months, look for produce for purchase at farmer’s markets or produce stands.

7-Day Meal Plan

Check out this budget-friendly, 7-day, plant-based meal plan with accessible food options to share with your clients!

Nicole is a Registered Dietitian in Canada, with Masters and Undergraduate degrees in Human Nutrition and a Certified Diabetes Educator. She has her own one-on-one counselling practice with a focus on weight and chronic disease management. She also works part time at a community hospital, covering the cancer care and rehabilitation units. Nicole is currently a member of the 2022 Becel Centre for Heart Health Steering Committee, a team of registered dietitians working to create practical and relevant content.

* Food insecurity is a growing issue in Canada intensified by the pandemic, with 1 in 10 Canadians facing food insecurity. Becel is supporting food banks across Canada through its Kind Hearts Fund and invite others concerned with ensuring nutrition to those in need to contribute in any way they can.


References:

  1. Rizzo, N. S., Jaceldo-Siegl, K., Sabate, J., & Fraser, G. E. (2013). Nutrient profiles of vegetarian and nonvegetarian dietary patterns. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 113(12), 1610–1619. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4081456/
  2. NHS. The Vegetarian Diet. May 2022. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-to-eat-a-balanced-diet/the-vegetarian-diet/
    Government of Canada. Canadian Nutrient File (CNF) - Search by food. May 2022. Available at: https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/index-eng.jsp
  3. Bouzari, A., Holstege, D., & Barrett, D. M. (2015). Vitamin retention in eight fruits and vegetables: a comparison of refrigerated and frozen storage. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 63(3), 957–962. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25526594/