I’m mixing things up today by featuring some WFPB recipes! (WFPB stands for “whole food, plant-based.”) These tropical lentil bowls are served with rich and creamy coconut rice as well as a fresh mango-avocado salsa. Make this plant-based meal prep ahead, and you will have some crave-worthy lunches ready for you on busy weekdays. Try this one and see that plant-heavy meals do not have to mean sacrificing flavor!
Remember in my unrolled egg rolls post how I talked about the disagreement concerning the term “plant-based”? If so, you may also recall how I said I was going to avoid using this term as much as possible. Well, I decided to go ahead and use it here.
This recipe can be a “plant-based” meal prep whether you use it to mean devoid of all animal products or just mostly plants. Use vegetable broth in this recipe to eliminate the use of animal-based foods.
Or use chicken bone broth for the “mostly plants” option. (This will also provide some additional protein.) However you choose to use the term “plant-based,” this recipe can fit.
The “whole foods” part of WFPB recipes refers to the use of (guess!) whole foods with minimal or no ultra-processed foods. This brings me to the topic of why I don’t typically provide vegan alternatives for the recipes on this site.
There are a lot of low-carb recipe alternatives offered here, why not suggest vegan alternatives as well?
If you have been reading for a while, you may have noticed that I suggest low-carb alterations to my recipes very often. I even have a whole section for low-carb recipes in my Recipe Finder.
However, I don’t have a separate section for vegan recipes. Are you wondering why?
Many of the recipes I post can easily be made low-carb with some simple changes. These typically involve skipping the grains or swapping certain veggies or fruits for low-carb alternatives.
Recipes modified in this way are still whole food recipes. They also maintain the dietary components that promote satiety (protein, fiber, water). Vegetables cover the fiber where grains were removed.
There are fake vegan meats, cheese, etc. substitutions currently available for just about any animal-based food that you can imagine. However, these products are usually ultra-processed and nutritionally inferior to the animal-based foods they replace. They typically require heavy fortification to mimic the nutrient content of animal-based foods.
Vegan cheeses, for example, often don’t match the protein and calcium content of dairy cheese but are just as high in saturated fat. And unlike the naturally occurring fat in dairy cheese, the plant-based cheeses often contain a lot of added oil.
It would not be inclusive, from the standpoint of nutrition, to suggest swapping meat, eggs, and dairy for these vegan alternatives. Those who want to avoid animal products should completely reconfigure the diet, not try to replicate an animal-based diet with ultra-processed products.
These tropical lentil bowls are a good example of what that reconfiguring might look like. I can’t easily make this one low-carb, since the lentils, rice, and mango here are all carb-rich. If you are eliminating all animal-based products, I do not recommend layering additional restrictions on top of that without consulting with a health professional.
Is this plant-based meal prep a good choice for weight loss?
I’d definitely call this plant-based meal prep delicious and full of nutrient-rich, healthy foods. I tend to go veggie-heavy in the winter, but sometimes I feel like a little taste of the tropics. This helps to satisfy that craving.
But is it low-calorie and one of my top picks for a weight loss goal? Not so much.
I’ve noticed through the years that when I formulate vegan recipes, I tend to add a lot of fat. Admittedly, there are some exceptions (such as a thick pea soup). However, dishes without animal-based foods typically only feel satisfying to me if I add a lot of olive oil, coconut, avocado, nuts, seeds, etc.
Higher fat foods pack a lot of calories into a small volume, meaning I’d need smaller portions for a calorie deficit. I would have to eat a volume of food that would not feel filling *to me*.
I’m not saying that you are guaranteed weight loss by eating a whole food, satiating diet. However, I think that battling incessant feelings of hunger would make it more difficult to meet a weight loss goal.
Noticing these things about yourself regarding how you tend to cook and compose meals can be extremely helpful. Those with a weight loss goal who eschew animal products should still aim to incorporate a lot of protein, fiber, and water. Unless you find high-fat foods extremely satiating (resulting in eating less), they will add a lot of calories to your meal in a small volume.
But what if I do have a weight loss goal?
Don’t worry; I have you covered. I’m going to tell you how I would modify this meal to make it lower in calories without reducing volume. Head on down to the recipe notes to learn more!
On the other hand, individuals who’ve eliminated animal products and have trouble consuming enough energy should leave things as is. These WFPB recipes provide a beautiful rainbow of phytonutrients and are delicious, whether you go with the lower or higher-fat version.
While I'm on this topic, if you did find this site through a search for weight loss recipes, have you heard of SMART goals? “SMART” stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Though I talk about “weight loss goals” a lot here, weight loss actually isn’t the best thing to target for a SMART goal.
The issue is that weight loss isn’t a behavior.
Though you can stack the odds in your favor, weight loss can’t be assured within a specified time frame the way diet and fitness goals can.
Think about it. Do you think it is more attainable to walk for 30 minutes 3 times this week or to lose 1-2 pounds by the end of the week? If you set SMART goals for diet and fitness that help you to sustain a calorie deficit, weight loss should (eventually!) follow.
That is why I talk a lot about creating satiating meals that will make it easier to maintain a calorie deficit. If you have a weight loss goal, it is better to focus on food and fitness-related health behaviors, rather than obsessing over the scale. So, let’s get on with the recipe, shall we?
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The calorie information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don’t sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to this post. Let’s get cooking!
Plant-Based Meal Prep: Tropical Lentil Bowls with Coconut Rice
For the tropical lentils:
- 1 cup brown lentils, dry
- 2½ cups broth (veggie broth or chicken bone broth, your choice)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- salt, to taste
- 8 ounces canned crushed pineapple
For the coconut rice:
- 1 cup brown rice, dry
- 2½ cups reduced-fat coconut milk (I used Trader Joe's brand; 70 calories per ¼ cup)
- 2 tablespoons cashew pieces (to garnish)
- 2 tablespoons toasted coconut flakes (to garnish)
For the mango-avocado salsa:
- 2 medium mangos, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium avocado, peeled and chopped
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 medium red pepper, chopped
- 1 jalapeno, chopped (remove seeds for less heat, if desired)
- ½ teaspoon lime zest
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
- I used four 3½-cup containers for the lentils and rice, as well as four 2-cup containers for the mango-avocado salsa (i.e., eight containers in all).
To make the tropical lentils:
- Put all of the ingredients for the tropical lentils, except the pineapple, into a saucepan. Let it come to a simmer over medium heat.
- Once the lentils start simmering, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook for 45-60 minutes, long enough for the lentils to become soft without becoming mushy.
- Stir in the undrained pineapple during the last 10 minutes of cooking. While the lentils cook, work on the rest of the dish.
To make the coconut rice:
- Put the rice and coconut milk into a saucepan. Let it come to a simmer over medium heat.
- Once the rice starts simmering, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook for 45 minutes.
- Work on the mango-avocado salsa while the rice cooks.
To make the mango-avocado salsa:
- Sprinkle the chopped avocado with the lime juice to help prevent browning.
- Mix all of the mango-avocado salsa ingredients together in a medium bowl. Divide the salsa evenly among four 2-cup size containers.
To complete the meal prep:
- Divide the cooked lentils evenly between the four larger containers. Divide the coconut rice evenly between these containers as well. Garnish the rice with the cashews and the coconut flakes.
- Keep the containers refrigerated until ready to serve.
- Either reheat the container with the lentils and rice or allow it to come to room temperature. Top with the mango-avocado salsa. Savor your colorful and healthy meal prep!
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). I’d place this meal in the “healthy decadence” category, with all of the lush coconut milk involved. If you have a weight loss goal, I would make the following changes to knock off over 200 calories per serving:
- Cook the brown rice in water instead of coconut milk.
- Skip the garnishes (the cashews and coconut flakes).
Do you have a favorite website for WFPB recipes? I’m looking for a resource that aligns with the recipes here (no refined grains, no added sugar, minimal ultra-processed foods). Preferably one that is not animal rights-focused, nor making (often exaggerated) human health and environmental claims.
Is that too tall of an order? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!