Consuming plant-based foods can provide essential nutrition. Whether you’re considering becoming vegan or just adding more plant-based meals into your diet, registered dietitians offer advice on how best to achieve this.
Begin by learning more about vegan versions of some of your favorite dishes like ice cream, pesto pasta and pancakes.
Vegan diets require careful planning in order to ensure adequate protein consumption. Protein is an essential nutrient needed to build and maintain muscles as well as support immunity and cell growth, and there are numerous plant-based sources that provide this protein, such as beans, nuts, whole grains and soy products – one serving of chickpeas contains eight grams! Beans can also be added into chili, meatless pasta dishes and burgers or soup – try Cookie and Kate’s vegetarian chili recipe or Detoxinista’s cashew-based mac and cheese recipe!
Look for protein sources in whole grains like quinoa and buckwheat as well as in vegetables like kale, spinach and Swiss chard to add variety to your meals and snacks each week. Legumes such as peas and lentils can also provide great sources of protein; use them to create soup, hummus or burritos!
Note that while veganism provides high levels of protein, it may not provide the full set of essential amino acids (EAA) found in animal-derived proteins. Therefore, to achieve balance it’s essential to include a wide variety of plant-based foods in your daily diet.
Start slowly if you’re new to veganism: Choose just one or two animal-based foods per week that contain animal proteins to replace with plant-based alternatives, for instance swapping out traditional dairy alfredo with homemade cashew alfredo sauce, or replacing ground beef with sauteed tempeh on taco night. Gradually incorporate more plant-based foods until reaching your desired level of veganism.
Carbs provide energy and are found in most foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. Although carbohydrates may contribute to weight gain, choosing nutritious carb sources such as fruit-based smoothies packed with vitamin A, C and K-rich berries and bananas is one way of getting them into your diet; similarly whole grains like brown rice and quinoa provide fiber, iron and B vitamins; while protein-rich legumes such as black beans chickpeas and lentils make excellent sources.
Learn to create plant-based meals from scratch so you can avoid foods containing animal products, like ice cream, pesto pasta and quiche. Incorporating one or two vegan meals each week may help gradually eliminate animal products from your diet.
Introduce more plant-based foods into your diet can help meet the recommended intake for many nutrients, including protein, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. You’ll also get more vitamin D, zinc and folate.
If you are concerned that a vegan diet might not provide sufficient of certain essential nutrients, consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian. They will help create a plan tailored specifically to meet your needs and goals – especially if any preexisting conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease exist.
Start adding more plant-based foods into your diet by switching out traditional processed meat-based items for vegan alternatives, like switching dairy milk for non-dairy alternatives such as almond, oat or cashew milk. Also replace traditional vegetable soup, pasta and chicken entrees with versions made with vegetables marinara sauce or cashew sauce instead.
Many people worry that going vegan will mean consuming too much fat, but in reality there are plenty of plant-based options for healthy plant-based fats. Instead of meat or dairy products as protein sources, vegans rely on beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh and edamame along with whole grains, nuts and seeds as vegan protein sources which naturally contain less saturated fat while offering heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. You can also check out this link to more about how vegan foods can functions as a meal replacement.
Opting for whole, natural foods will also help you avoid processed vegan options that are high in saturated fats like cookies, muffins and garlic bread. Aim for meals featuring vegetables, whole grains and beans/legume as ingredients such as spaghetti with meatballs/chili/chickpea burger or even cashew cream mac and cheese which all make delicious alternatives to such processed vegan fare.
Make sure you’re getting enough protein, calcium, and iron. Protein can be found in beans, legumes, tofu, fortified soy milk or quinoa; vitamin D can be obtained through various vegetables as well as fruits. Check with a dietician or doctor regularly to make sure that any deficiencies are avoided.
If you’re struggling to start living the vegan life, start small: plan one vegan meal each day. This will give you the chance to experiment with new ingredients and recipes, while still feeding your family the foods they know and love. Oh She Glows offers great resources for vegan cuisine; another way is purchasing a cookbook on veganism for even more ideas. Some people opt for rotating all-vegan weeks; other weeks only partially vegan weeks.
Vegan diets may make it challenging to meet all of your nutritional requirements. Vegans who avoid all animal products such as eggs and dairy typically do not consume enough protein, calcium, zinc, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid EPA and docosahexaenoic acid DHA).
To meet these nutritional needs, ensure you stock up on leafy greens, beans, nuts and seeds, whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa and sprouted and sourdough breads as well as plenty of fruits and vegetables of various colors – choosing tomatoes which provide heart-protecting lycopene as well as blueberries with their brain-enhancing anthocyanins! Also eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Select produce that contains heart-protecting lycopene while blueberries contain anthocyanins which boost both brain activity.
Supplements may help ensure you are getting an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals, according to Gudzune. It’s important not to overdo it as higher dosages could cause adverse side effects. Before making any decisions regarding vitamin supplements, consult your physician.
When first starting on a plant-based diet, registered dieticians can be invaluable resources for planning meals and understanding food labels. They’ll also teach you how to make nutritious vegan dishes so that processed food won’t sneak through! A registered dietician can also advise you on the most efficient transition path – be it full veganism or flexible vegetarianism; and help prevent common pitfalls like low energy levels and digestive issues from coming your way. You can locate one online or by contacting the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; your physician can refer you.
Minerals play a critical role in keeping your body running optimally, from strengthening bones to sending nerve impulses. Furthermore, minerals play an integral part in preventing chronic disease and improving overall wellbeing – and there are plenty of ways for vegans to obtain them!
Vegetables offer an abundance of essential nutrients, such as calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium and zinc. Beans, leafy greens, dried fruits and whole grains are excellent sources for these vital vitamins. You can add these nutritious veggies to soups and stews or enjoy them fresh on salads and sandwiches for optimal nutrition!
Nuts and seeds such as almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews, walnuts and peanuts provide a wealth of minerals – copper, iron, zinc manganese and molybdenum among them! Try adding some to your morning cereal or use them to replace meat in burritos or burgers!
Starchy vegetables like potatoes, pumpkin and butternut squash provide essential sources of fiber, potassium, magnesium, iron phosphorous and zinc as well as being abundant sources of vitamins A and K.
Organ meats like liver and sardines provide essential minerals, including copper, folate, selenium and vitamin B12. Fortified eggs or spirulina provide convenient sources of zinc. Fish is the premier source of omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA which you can also find in tofu or soybean oil.