Are you hesitating to go vegan, for fear of being condemned to eating bland foods and missing out on key nutrients? Then read on – to learn what nutrients you need to watch out for, what to put in your pantry, key questions pre-vegans ask, and a few delicious vegan food ideas.
Why go vegan?
There are many reasons someone would consider going vegan, including ethical reasons regarding animal rights, as well as a rising amount of research indicating a vegan diet’s potential health benefits.
What does it mean to be vegan?
Being vegan is defined as the consumption of a plant-based diet, while avoiding all animal foods, such as meat (including red meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, and insects), dairy, eggs, and honey. You can still have all the fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, beans, and lentils you want! With some guidance and imagination, you can create a colourful, tasty and nutritious array of foods, meal plans and desserts, while staying true to your vegan lifestyle.
Like all new food regimes, going vegan requires diligence, imagination, and some planning. For new vegans, it is crucial to be prepared and educated when starting out, in order to ensure that your daily regime is made up of a balanced intake of adequate nutrients.
Are there any nutritional deficiencies to be concerned about when going vegan?
The short answer to this is “yes.” However, this can be the case with any diet, if it is not properly executed.
The most common concern is “How do I get my protein?” By combining any two of the following 3 food groups – lentils, nuts & seeds, and grains – you are getting the nutritional equivalent to animal proteins, such as steak, eggs, fish or poultry. So hummus (chick peas and sesame seeds), or lentil soup with walnuts, or sesame seeds sprinkled on your morning oatmeal, are all nutritious complete proteins.
Further to protein, some other common nutrients of concern in a vegan diet include omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, iron, and zinc. All can be found in a balanced vegan diet: omega-3 fatty acids (hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, flax oil), B12 (nori seaweed, supplements), iron (dark leafy greens, lentils, quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal, pumpkin seeds), and zinc (pumpkin seeds, kidney beans, sesame seeds, chic peas, cashews).
Q: As vegans do not eat dairy, how will I get enough calcium?
A: Contrary to popular belief and media promotion, dairy-sourced calcium is not the best source of calcium, as it is difficult to digest. The food highest in absorbable calcium are sesame seeds (this includes tahini and hummus). Other great plant-based calcium sources include collard greens, kale, and brussel sprouts.
Q: Does being vegan mean I will be skinny?
A: Not necessarily. Diet type alone does not correlate to weight. However, if the vegan diet is balanced, the diet may have a positive impact on weight management.
Q: Can I eat gummy bears and marshmallows?
A: First off, these man-made snacks are not part of a balanced or nutritious diet. However, when a craving hits, you can still enjoy gummy bears and marshmallows made from vegan ingredients. Be warned, most gummy bears and marshmallows are made of gelatin, which is an animal product, so visiting a health-food store to stock up your pantry with vegan snacks is a good idea.
What would you find in a healthy vegan pantry?
What you will not find in a vegan pantry:
What can I eat as a vegan that is delicious and nutritious?
There are many delicious food combinations to make your mouth water. Here are a few examples of healthy vegan breakfasts, lunch/dinner and dessert ideas:
Snacks & Desserts
The above provides an introduction into a healthy vegan food regime. Should you have further questions, book a vegan nutrition session with Eileen in person or via Skype.