In our last blog, we reviewed the vegan diet. If you haven’t, please check out this post to learn what veganism is and what some of the benefits are when you base your diet in plants.
Since veganism is a different approach, as you convert you’ll need to rethink where you get the building blocks of a healthy diet. While fiber may be easier to get when your diet is plant based, protein may not be! This is especially true if your dinner plate included a larger percentage of animal products like meat and dairy.
Vegans put their diet together in a different way.
Legumes like beans, lentils and peas are great options for protein, fiber, and minerals such as iron, folate, manganese, zinc, and others.
Nuts, nut butters and seeds are an important part of a vegan diet. Rich in protein, they also provide many of the same nutrients as legumes. In addition, they include selenium and vitamin E! Nuts and seeds are very versatile as they can be eaten on their own or used (with a little bit of extra work) in sauces or desserts and cheeses! Look for unbalanced unroasted nuts and seeds in order to get as much nutrition as possible.
Tofu and tempeh are sometimes included. These traditionally processed products are made from soybeans and are found in abundance in Asian diets. Tofu can be used sautéed in sauces, scrambled like eggs, or grilled! Tempeh (a fermented version) and can be used in many of the same ways. As a bonus, the fermentation may produce small amounts of vitamin B-12, traditionally hard to get in a vegan diet.
Plant milks and yogurts are also popular. Look for calcium fortified versions of these.
Seaweed is a tasty treat that also packs a nutritional punch! It provides DHA, an essential fatty acid with many benefits. Seaweed contains magnesium, riboflavin, manganese, potassium, iodine, and antioxidants! Since iodine is important but hard to get in a vegan diet, include at least 2-3 servings per week. Avoid eating too much at one time, especially if your seaweed is kelp (the highest in iodine).
Nutritional yeast is made from a deactivate strain of yeast. It’s usually found in yellow powder form or as flakes. One ounce contains about 14 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber. In addition, it is commonly fortified with zinc, magnesium, copper, manganese, and B vitamins (including B-12).
Fruits and vegetables can help you avoid vegan junk food. (Vegan junk food is highly processed and probably not healthy). You can create a vegan ice cream (for example) by blending a frozen banana until smooth and then perhaps adding additional toppings of flavors such as blueberries.
Eggplant and mushrooms provide meaty texture in vegetable form and work great on the grill! Jackfruit is also a wonderful meat substitute in savory dishes.
And, of course, cauliflower is being used more and more in many different ways, including pizza crusts! (If you buy commercially produced cauliflower pizza crusts, check the ingredients! Many include eggs and cheese.)