Whether you want to make your own vegan freezer meals or you are wondering about the ready made plant based convenience foods that are now widely available in supermarkets, you need to do some research. Replacing a meat heavy diet with a vegan diet needs planning to ensure that you and your family are still getting all the nutrients you need.
Quick vegan freezer meals
Most of us are looking for freezer meals because we are time poor. If we are working and feeding a family, we are looking for ways to save time once we get home. One way to do this is to buy ready to eat meals from a supermarket. The other is to make our own freezer meals at home.
If you are planning on making your own vegan freezer meals, you need something quick that you can double the quantity of or batch cook in an afternoon. Here are some ideas for super quick vegan freezer meals:
Butter bean mash (The Veg Space) is quick and easy and you can make a big batch and freeze what you don’t use. All you need are tins of butter beans, some seasoning (herbs, spices or stock and lemon juice) and a vegan spread. Butter beans (and most other beans) are a sustainable and unsung hero. They are cheap and contain proteins (UN).
One of our go to vegan freezer meals is curry. Who doesn’t love curry? And the best bit is that storing a curry helps the spices to develop and become even more delicious. This recipe has a basic tikka masala sauce which is served over soy curls (My Darling Vegan). Use cauliflower or chickpeas if you can’t access soy curls. Soy is sustainable to a point – the demand for soy is driving deforestation in some countries (WWF).
Vegetable lasagne has long been a favorite in our household and it is easy to make in batches. This recipe from Simple Veganista uses cashew ricotta that she makes herself as the alternative to dairy cheese. Delicious rings a warning bell about cashews – they are farmed in India and the safety of employees and unfair wages are a blight on this protein and fiber rich nut that is so popular. A simple roux sauce or bechamel sauce made with soy milk is also just as nice layered with the marinara, pasta and veg.
Try a vegan lentil hotpot like this one from Pinch of Nom. It has an onion and mushroom base, mixed with lentils and topped with potatoes like an ordinary hotpot. Make double or even triple batches and put the extra meals into the freezer. Lentils are a sustainable protein source. In this video for Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, Corey Loessin & his son Aiden who farm in Saskatchewan explain how lentils are a crop that has little waste, is good for arid conditions and has the potential to support the food requirements of a growing population.
Changing to a vegan or plant based diet
This last recipe is what I call a ‘fake meat alternative’. It looks like and has the texture of a meat based meal. It is an adjustment to move from a meat to plant based diet. Worth doing if you are interested in green living and are environmentally conscious. This kind of recipe can be a gradual introduction, made initially with a mix of meat & lentils. Gradually increase the lentils and reduce the meat until it is completely vegan.
Meat based diets are bad for our health and the environment. There is growing evidence that meat based diets are associated with increased risks of diabetes, cancer, diverticulitis and cardiovascular disease (Harvard Health Publishing). Beef cattle contribute the most out of livestock to greenhouse gasses and exacerbate climate change (FAO). With a growing population, we need to find more efficient ways (using less land and water) to feed the world. Half of the arable land in the world is used for agriculture, if we all ate a plant based diet, we could reduce that by 75% (Our World In Data).
If you are moving from a meat based to plant based diet, you need to ensure that you get the nutrients you need. But a healthy plant based diet is possible. Craig McDougall, MD and John McDougall, MD recommend a B12 supplement and sufficient sunshine for vitamin D. B12 is the only nutrient you can’t get from plants. They also recommend changing the diet or using supplements to counter lack of protein, iron, calcium or fatty acids. In their practices in Portland, OR and Santa Rosa, CA, they have not seen any deficiencies in over 5000 patients on a low fat, whole foods, vegan diet.
Are plant based ready meals healthy?
The supermarkets have all jumped on the bandwagon of plant based ready meals, but are they actually healthy for us? Research on supermarket ready meals suggests that ready meals contribute to obesity. In an analysis of 166 ready meals from 41 stores in the UK, the overall finding was that in general they were highly salted, high in saturated fat and low in sugar (although this varied across ranges).
Sales of meat free plant based foods have increased by 40% in the UK between 2014-2019 (Mintel). The question is are plant based ready meals healthy? The impression is that they are, making consumers think they are eating healthily but many contain ultra-processed foods. And ultra processed foods need a lot of seasoning and flavoring added. This typically comes in the form of salt, sugar or fats (BBC).
When you choose vegan freezer meals in the supermarket, choose good quality brands where the food is not overly processed and the ingredients are transparent. Jessica Ball, a dietician, gives us a useful list of brands – we chose two with very clear ingredient lists:
- Amy’s makes soups, wraps and pizzas and they are available at Walmart, Target, Amazon and others. There’s a full list of ingredients, many organic, on the website and they are all in plain English. The vegan range also includes dairy free, gluten free and low salt options.
- Kashi are already known for their cereals, bars and waffles but they also make plant powered bowls using quinoa, sweet potato and cashews. Kashi are also available at Walmart and Amazon.
We are sure there are more, so if you have a favorite brand that makes vegan freezer meals, let us know. The point is to choose your ready meal carefully. Read the ingredients list and if you don’t know what the ingredients are, put it back in the freezer! Also, think about how processed the ingredients are. If they are simply chopped or stewed, that’s great. But if they are ground up to within an inch of their life and you can see that additives have been added to make them flavorsome, you might want to choose something else.
Vegan freezer meals to go
Vegan freezer meals are time saving and they can be healthy, depending on what they include. Making your own freezer meals is the perfect solution, as that way you know exactly what has gone into the mix. Your only worry then is choosing ingredients that are sustainably produced. If you are purchasing ready made vegan freezer meals from the supermarket, take the time to read the ingredients list. It takes a bit more thought, but you are doing yourself and your family a favor by feeding them well.