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Lower cholesterol and get lean with this 7-day vegetarian diet plan

Craig is a fan of juicy burgers, steaks, and fried chicken wings so he decided to take the ultimate challenge in 2017 by going vegetarian.
/ Source: TODAY

Have you every thought about trying a vegetarian diet? Well this 7-day plan is the perfect way to test it out! It was originally designed for Craig Melvin, who is a big guy (more than 200 pounds) and had an ambitious training schedule with Bob Harper. So the portions here are large, with a lot of protein.

If you're smaller than Craig or looking to lose weight, simply lighten up on the serving sizes at meals, enjoy one or two daily snacks and omit protein powder in the morning smoothie.

So, what's on the menu? You guessed it...tofu, lentils, beans, and "fake steak." Try it for a week and see how you feel!

The 7-day plan

Click to enlarge!


Ready to hop on board? Here's what you need to know...

  • Eat on a schedule: at least every four to five hours.
  • Mix and match any of the meal and snack options. Repeat favorite meals/snacks as often as you’d like.
  • Include a non-meat protein source at every meal: eggs, dairy (yogurt, cheese, milk), quinoa, tofu, lentils, tempeh, starchy beans (chickpeas, black beans, edamame, etc.), nuts or seeds.
  • Choose high-quality starch whenever possible. For example, pick whole-grain bread and pasta, brown and wild rice, quinoa, oats, baked/roasted potatoes and root vegetables, etc.
  • Tote along nutrient-rich mini-meals and snacks, so that you're armed with the right stuff when hunger strikes.
  • Enjoy unlimited amounts of non-starchy vegetables (carrots, tomatoes, peppers, celery, cucumbers, etc.) at any point in the day.
  • Drink lots of water throughout the day. Aim for at least eight 8-ounce glasses daily (64+ ounces total).
  • Note: if you are a big guy like Craig and performing vigorous strength-training exercises, add a daily protein beverage (1-2 scoops protein powder + 1 cup low-fat milk; skim milk or unsweetened vanilla almond milk) after your workouts.
Casey Barber / Casey Barber

1. Protein smoothie and eggs

To make a protein smoothie, puree 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 scoop protein powder (hemp, pea or whey), 1 small container of nonfat Greek yogurt, 1/2 banana, 1 cup preferred fruit (fresh or frozen), and 3 to 5 optional ice cubes. On the side, enjoy 2 hard-boiled eggs or 4 egg whites.

2. Protein smoothie and tofu scramble

Make protein smoothie. On the side, enjoy a Tofu Scramble.

3. Protein smoothie and oatmeal

Make protein smoothie. On the side, enjoy 1 cup prepared oatmeal topped with 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts and berries.

4. Protein smoothie and Greek yogurt parfait

Make protein smoothie. Make a Greek yogurt parfait by layering 1 cup plain, reduced-fat Greek yogurt with 2 tablespoons granola and 1/2 cup chopped fruit, then drizzle on 1 teaspoon honey.

5. Protein smoothie and avocado toast

Make protein smoothie. On the side, top 1 slice whole grain toast with 2 tablespoons mashed avocado and 1 to 2 tablespoons roasted peanuts.

6. Protein smoothie and Craig McMuffin

Make protein smoothie. On the side, toast 1 whole grain English muffin. Stuff with 3 scrambled egg whites, sliced tomato and 1 slice of reduced-fat cheese. Enjoy with optional ketchup, hot sauce or salsa.

7. Protein smoothie and Joy's Protein Pancakes

Make Protein Smoothie. On the side, make Joy's Protein Pancakes using the recipe found here.

Casey Barber / Casey Barber

1. Bean burrito

Fill 1 whole grain tortilla wrap with 1 cup black beans, lots of vegetables, 1/4 cup reduced fat shredded cheese and salsa. Enjoy crunchy carrots on the side.

2. Cold sesame noodles and edamame

Toss 2 cups cooked whole grain spaghetti with 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil. For sauce, mix 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter, 4 teaspoons low-sodium vegetable broth, 4 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce, 1 to 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar and an optional dash of hot sauce. Toss sauce with noodles and garnish with optional scallions and chopped veggies (like cucumber and baby carrots). Season with pepper and sprinkle on optional red pepper flakes. Serve hot, cold or room temperature. On the side, enjoy 1 cup steamed edamame in the pod.

3. Garden omelet

Prepare omelet with 1 whole egg and 3 egg whites. Stuff with any preferred vegetable combination and the option for 2 tablespoons cheese. Enjoy with 1 slice of whole grain toast.

4. Veggie burger and quinoa-chickpea salad

Make 1 bun-less veggie burger. Enjoy with 2 cups of the Quinoa-Chickpea Tabbouleh recipe found here.

5. Baked potato topped with vegetarian chili

Prepare 1 baked potato and serve with 2 cups of vegetarian chili (canned or homemade).

6. Power salad

Toss mixed greens with unlimited veggies, avocado, tofu, black beans, chickpeas and 2 tablespoons vinaigrette dressing.

7. Chinese takeout

Sauteed tofu with vegetables. Serve with 1 cup brown rice.

Casey Barber / Casey Barber

1. Apple and peanut butter

Serve with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter

2. Homemade trailmix

Combine 1/2 cup whole grain cereal, 2 tablespoons almonds and 1 tablespoon raisins

3. Greek yogurt

Enjoy a single container low-fat Greek yogurt

4. Chocolate protein muffin

Prepare Chocolate Protein Muffin using the recipe found here.

5. Pistachio nuts

Enjoy 1/2 cup of pistachio nuts in the shell

6. Banana and nut butter

Serve with 1 tablespoon nut butter

7. Lentil or black bean soup

Serve 1 to 2 cups of lentil or black bean soup.

8. Pumpkin seeds

Enjoy 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds in the shell

9. Avocado toast

Toast 1 slice of whole grain bread and top with 2 tablespoons mashed avocado and an optional sprinkle of pepper, salt and fresh lemon or lime juice

10. Almonds and pear

Enjoy 1 pear with 1/4 cup almonds

11. Veggies and Hummus

Enjoy assorted vegetables with 1/4 cup hummus

12. Cheese Stick and Orange

Enjoy 1 cheese stick and an orange

13. Greek yogurt and sunflower seeds

Top a single container low-fat Greek yogurt with 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds.

Casey Barber / Casey Barber

1. BBQ cauliflower steak, quinoa and edamame

Prepare Cauliflower Steak using the recipe found here. Serve with 1 cup cooked quinoa and 1 cup edamame in the pod.

2. Salad and pizza

Enjoy 2 to 3 slices of any thin-crust veggie pizza (frozen, restaurant or homemade). For a homemade version with a sweet potato crust use the recipe here or try this version with a cauliflower crust.

3. Baked Asian tofu

Prepare Baked Asian Tofu using the recipe found here. Serve with roasted broccoli and 1 cup cooked whole grain.

4. Vegetarian chili

Enjoy 2 cups of canned or homemade vegetarian chilli. For a homemade version use the recipe found here. Top with an optional 1/4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar and/or nonfat plain Greek yogurt.

5. Buffalo tempeh "wings" with blue cheese dip

Prepare Buffalo Tempeh "Wings" using the recipe found here. Serve with mixed greens topped with 1/2 cup cooked quinoa, 1/2 cup chickpeas and 2 tablespoons vinaigrette or make Quinoa-Chickpea Tabbouleh using the recipe found here.

6. Portobello pizzas and soup

Top 3 portabella mushrooms with sauce and reduced-fat cheese. Serve with 2 cups lentil, split pea or black bean soup.

7. Veggie burgers

Serve 2 veggie burgers, each on half a whole grain bun (1 hamburger bun total). Serve with kale chips made using the recipe here.