Magazine Recipes

Low Cal Vegan Recipes For Winter That Will Melt Your Muffin Top

By Lora O’Brien

When the weather’s bone-chillingly cold outside, we tend to eat to stay warm: thick stews, chunks of bread, hot chocolate and steamy casseroles all come to mind. But when summer rolls around, many of us find ourselves stuck with a rather unwanted muffin-top we’re trying to lose thanks to all those heavy meals – and of course, Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts don’t help.

Luckily, there are a few solutions that will help you to pre-empt the urge to underdo a springtime diet: warming, delicious low cal vegan recipes for winter being the main idea here, but there are also a few steps you can make to your meals during winter to make them more filling and comforting, whilst also keeping them low in calories:

Use herbs

Don’t feel like you need to rely heavily on sauces to create flavour. Using fresh, tangy herbs will boost dishes due to their intense flavour, which makes them perfect for all kinds of foods from warm salads and sandwiches to soups and stews.

Switch heavy carbs for low carb veggies

Replace the pasta, rice and potatoes for veggie ‘noodles’ made with a spiralizer instead. There are lots of vegetables you can use for this: zucchini, beetroot and carrots make the best ‘noodles due to their texture.

Alternatively, you can also switch rice for a more calorie friendly option: cauliflower. All you need to do is pulse cauliflower in a blender or a food processor and it breaks down into a rice-like texture. Add it to a pan with a little coconut oil and garlic and it will taste delicious, trust me. If you still want to use rice, ditch white rice (which has pretty much zero nutritional value), and instead opt for wild rice, black rice or brown rice.

Beans (and pulses) are good for the heart

Forget the fart jokes when it comes to beans – these guys are going to totally reinvent your food this winter. Whether you turn chickpeas into hummus for a quick snack, or use beans to thicken a chilli or  in a soup, you’ll be treating yourself to loads of protein and filling fibre.

Pulses and beans also help to regulate blood sugar, reduce belly fat and boost metabolism, so you burn more calories. They’re super cheap to buy and great to have on hand.

Throw on some nuts!  

Whilst nuts are generally high in calories, they also supply a healthy dose of monounsaturated fats, fibre and protein that can really help to steady our blood sugars. Chop them up and add them to oatmeal, a salad or even a nice tagine. Just remember:  moderation is key.

Low Cal Vegan Recipes For Winter

1. Tofu Scrambled Eggs

Sure, smoothies and juices are delicious at breakfast, but they’re not exactly warming, are they? And when we’re in the midst of winter, we kinda want something to warm us from the inside whilst also nourishing us at the same time. One of my go-to recipes during the winter months is a tofu scramble. This recipe is packed with veggies and has a cheesy tang thanks to the nutritional yeast. It should keep you full pretty much all day!

Calories: 230 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

2.  Red White & Blue Quinoa Fruit Salad

I LOVE having a bowl of fruit for breakfast, but whilst in summer it can be refreshing against the humid heat, in winter it doesn’t have quite the same effect. That’s why this recipe is great! Adding quinoa to the fruit not only turns fruit into a more substantial meal, but quinoa is a great source of protein, setting you up for the day ahead. This has almost 400 calories, but to be honest, the recipe yields a LOT. I would eat half of this for breakfast.

Calories:  381 per serving (below) – but cut that in half.  

Get the recipe here.

3. Baked Vegan Breakfast Sausage Patties

These breakfast patties have the traditional flavour of a breakfast sausage, yet they’re made from pinto beans and seasoned with a bunch flavours such as sage, thyme and rosemary. Eat these alone or serve with some roasted tomatoes and steamed spinach for a healthier version of the English Breakfast.

Calories: 214 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

4. Chickpea Stir-Fry

It’s hard to believe that there are vegans out there who don’t go mad for tofu, but it’s true. So finding dishes like a stir-fry that uses chickpeas in place of tofu is a bit of a gift for soyaphobes. Not only is it vegan and gluten-free, it’s also (surprise!) oil-free, which is a great way to lower your calorie intake.

Calories: 240 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

5. Vegan Chickpea Meatballs

These are so easy to make! Make a large batch of these and then freeze them so you always have them on hand to throw into a dish. Whip up an easy tomato sauce, spiralise some Zoodles (zucchini noodles), and you have an awesome low cal dinner.

Calories: 28 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

6.  Vegan Cauliflower Rice & Broccoli Gratin

A gratin is traditionally a dish that is loaded with cheese, butter and then topped with breadcrumbs. Yipes! But thanks to a little creativity, that popular dish has been modified a bit and now forms this cheesy rice and broccoli casserole. The ‘cheese’ is based on nutritional yeast, and instead of white rice, cauliflower rice is used.  

Calories: 234 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

7. Vegan Taco Lettuce Wraps

I love tacos, but sometimes they can be very heavy after the tortilla wraps, the filling and of course the vegan sour cream topping. Well, this recipe makes them somewhat healthier to enjoy, and even swaps tortilla wraps for lettuce cups – which is a great way of adding more greens to your diet!  

Calories: 118 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

8.  Tex-Mex Quinoa Vegetable Soup

This hearty soup is brimming with goodness! From quinoa so the medley of vegetables and spices, it’s got great texture and flavour, too. And gthe best part? It can be cooked in a crock-pot so there’s no need to slave over the cooker. Hurruh!

Calories: 352 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

9. A Very Good Split Pea Soup

Who doesn’t love a warm bowl of soup when it’s freezing cold outside? This split pea soup is thick and hearty, perfect for the chilly winter season. It also has added cabbage into the dish for extra bulk and flavour, and can be made in a slow cooker so you can throw it in, leave it to brew and come back when it’s ready to be dished up.

Calories: 360 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

10. Buffalo Tofu Wrap with Chickpeas

Many of us tend to reach for a sandwich as soon as lunchtime arrives, yet these can come filled with unnecessary calories and ingredients when buying them premade. Well, ditch those sarnies and opt for this buffalo tofu wrap instead! Tofu is tossed in buffalo sauce with a boost of veggies such as celery, spinach, cucumbers and a vegan ranch dressing.

Calories: 116 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

11. Avocado Tomato Gouda Socca Pizza

I love me some vegan pizza, but afterwards I’m usually lying back on the sofa nursing a food baby. So I was happy to learn that this pizza recipe is grain-free and gluten-free thanks to the chickpea flour. It’s then topped with avocado, vegan cheese, tomato and sprouted greens. Yum!

Calories: 416 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

12.  Spicy Roasted Cabbage Wedges

Looking for a delicious side dish, but one that’s friendly to your love handles? Why not give these roasted cabbage wedges a try? When roasted, cabbage turns lovely and golden and super tender. And with just a few humble ingredients, such as olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, dijon mustard and some spices, each wedge has a zesty kick!

Calories: 56 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

13. Shawarma Roasted Cauliflower ‘Steak’

If you’ve never had a cauliflower steak before then it’s pretty much what it sounds like: cauliflower that has been sliced lengthwise into ‘steaks’ which are then seasoned, grilled or roasted until they’re crispy on the outside but tender on the inside. These steaks are then seasoned with a spicy blend, giving them a smoky, subtly spicy coating.

Calories: 144 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

14.  BBQ Crock Pot Lentil Chili

This crockpot lentil chili is bursting with flavour and is super easy to make. It requires a mere handful of simple ingredients such as BBQ spices, onions, vegetables and lentils, all of which add up to create a fiber-and-protein-rich meal.

Calories: 283 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

15. Creamy Pumpkin Kale & Zucchini Noodles

A rich and creamy pasta dish that doesn’t make you feel guilty? Hells to the yes! You can swap out zucchini noodles for sweet potato if you’d prefer, and if you want even fewer calories, swap out the vegan sausage for sauteed mushrooms instead. Pumpkin puree mixed with unsweetened cashew milk makes up the gorgeous, creamy sauce.

Calories: 329 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

16. Vegan Zucchini Fritters with Garlic & Dill

Don’t let the word ‘fritters’ make you think these can’t be low cal. These little patties are seasoned with garlic, dill and a hint of cumin. You can pan-fry them to a golden, crispy deliciousness and serve with a silky cashew cream, or use a non-stick pan to grill them with fewer calories.

Calories: 199 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

17. Easy Vegan Chilli Con Carne

Chilli con carne is a great recipe to make when craving something fulfilling. This recipe freezes well, so you could make up a large batch at the beginning of the week and keep it in your freezer for when time is short yet you crave something yummy! Serve it up on a bed of cauliflower rice to make it even lower in calories.

Calories: 340 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

18. Szechaun Tofu with Cauliflower

It’s SO easy to reach for the takeaway menu during winter for both comfort and convenience. Well, hide the damn menu because you just don’t need it! This recipe infuses everything you love about a Chinese takeaway, such as the sweet, savory and spicy sauce, whilst the celery adds a brilliant texture and the crispy, tender tofu chunks add a protein punch.

Calories: 271 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

19. Quinoa & Lentil Stuffed Vegan Cabbage Rolls

I love using some form of vegetable to make a wrap. It’s less sluggish than eating tortilla wraps, and is great for any season, as you can adjust the filling inside with whatever’s seasonal. Tender leaves of steamed cabbage are wrapped around a savory, smoky mixture of quinoa and lentils cooked in a rich tomato sauce until lovely and hot – just what you need when it’s cold outside!

Calories: 330 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

20. Winter Detox Moroccan Sweet Potato & Lentil Soup

Soup is a great way to keep warm and cozy during winter, whilst keeping your food healthy, packed with wholesome deliciousness and low cal. Remember, carbs are friends not foes, but it’s all about the right type, so whenever a recipe calls for sweet potatoes, boil them instead of baking – it seriously lowers their GI rating!    

Calories: 236 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

24. Curried Cauliflower Rice Kale Soup

It can be easy to grow bored of soup, so having exciting combinations like this curried cauliflower-rice-kale soup is great for keeping soup fresh! Thanks to the cauliflower ‘rice’ and kale, this soup has a great dose of veggies, whilst being both wholesome and filling.  

Calories: 162 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

25. Low Cal Vegan Ramen

I love this recipe so much, I could eat it every day. Fragrant broth stuffed with noodles and veggies is pretty much one of my favourite things. The best part of this recipe is that you can easily customise it to include all your favourite veggies and spices.

Calories: 281 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

26. Portobello Mushroom Burgers

This is a rainbow on a stick! Though it looks like the perfect BBQ food (and I guess it is, actually!), these grilled ‘burgers’ are sure to go down a treat in the colder months, too. Meaty mushrooms are actually the ‘buns’ here – the ‘burger’ is a chickpea based fritter.

Calories: 265 per burger.

Get the recipe here.

27. Skinny Chocolate Chip Cookies

Winter doesn’t make our sweet tooth go into hibernation, in fact if you’re anything like me, my sweet tooth gets worse during the winter months! All I want is a sweet treat or three, so I can’t wait to whip up these skinny chocolate chip cookies and feel zero guilt. They’re healthy, vegan friendly, gluten-free, and best of all – delicious!  

Calories: 80 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

28.  Vegan Chai Hot Chocolate

Who doesn’t love a mug of hot chocolate during winter? It’s like a warm, chocolatey hug in a mug! But unlike coffee shop versions, this is lower in calories yet high in flavour and naturally sweet thanks to the vanilla almond milk.  

Calories: 78 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

29. Sin-Free Chocolate Mousse

A chocolate mousse that has just FOUR ingredients and is low in calories?! Sign. Me. Up! Tofu is the base for this mousse, but you won’t even detect it once it’s blended down into a silky texture and mixed with ripe bananas and cocoa powder. A little maple syrup finishes it off, but it’s just as delicious without it.  

Calories: 126 per serving.  

Get the recipe here.

Main image: Spaghetti squash bolognese. Get the recipe here.

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