Going Vegan - What You Should Know

Wed, 01/11/2017 - 10:11

I have heard many a registered dietician refer to a vegan as a carbitarian– simply because of many individuals make this lifestyle choice based on ethics and not necessarily nutrition. Therefore they don’t have all the tools they need to pursue this diet in the healthiest way possible. 

Now, in my opinion, through all my experience, and my ongoing conversations with the majority of doctors and registered dietitians over the last 20 years, being an omnivore who eats mostly plants, healthy fats, some whole grains, and organic sustainable meat in moderation, is ideal.

That said, for a host of reasons, you may choose to vary from this suggestion and opt to cut out meat based on food allergies, ethics, personal preferences, and so on.  

I respect your opinion and your personal choice. That’s why I will always make it my mission to facilitate you in all your endeavors as healthily as possible. Hence the reason I worked with a registered dietician and professional chef Megan Marlow on the vegan meal plan created for the My Fitness app community. 

I’m guessing you are aware of the importance of getting enough protein and foods rich in iron, B-12, and calcium. A vegan diet is often associated with deficiencies in these key nutrients, therefore mindful eating is critical. There are absolutely plant-based sources for all the above, you just have a more limited list of sources. To make this as quick and easy for you as possible, here are some great vegan sources for all the above nutrients:

For Protein:
•    Hemp, pea, vegan, or brown rice protein shakes
•    Tempeh
•    Seitan
•    Lentils
•    Black beans
•    Kidney beans
•    Chickpeas
•    Pinto beans
•    Lima beans
•    Black-eyed peas
•    Quinoa
•    Green peas
•    Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
•    Almonds
•    Almond butter
•    Bulgur wheat
•    Sunflower seeds
•    Cashews
•    Spinach
•    Broccoli

For Iron:
•    Spirulina
•    Pumpkin seeds
•    Quinoa
•    Blackstrap molasses
•    Tomato paste
•    White beans
•    Cooked spinach
•    Lentils

For B-12:
Look for foods fortified with B-12 and consider supplementing with a B-12 shot at your doctors office every couple of months. Do not rely on nutritional yeast for vitamin B-12 unless it says on the package that it is supplemented with it. Nutritional yeast does not naturally occur in nutritional yeast, contrary to what you might have heard. The following foods are often fortified with B12
•    whole grain cereals
•    plant milks like almond milk and coconut milk 
•    some meat substitute products like veggie burgers, contain added vitamin B-12

For Calcium:
If you don’t eat dairy products, you will need to get your calcium from supplements and especially dark green leafy vegetables. Because you are also at risk for Vitamin D deficiency as a vegan and Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium, be sure to get at least 15 minutes of off-peak sun on your bare skin each day if possible. Magnesium and potassium also help with calcium absorption. Here is a list of vegan foods with a nice combination of calcium, magnesium, and potassium:
•    Almond butter 
•    Amaranth
•    Artichoke
•    Black Currants
•    Blackberries 
•    Blackstrap Molasses 
•    Broccoli 
•    Collard Greens 
•    Dates
•    Figs
•    Fortified non-dairy milk 
•    Great northern beans
•    Hemp milk
•    Kale
•    Navy beans
•    Oranges 
•    Raw fennel 
•    Roasted sesame seeds
•    Tahini
•    Tempeh 
•    Turnip Greens

The bottom line:  You can absolutely be the picture of wellness as a vegan provided you are mindful of the potential pitfalls and make efforts to incorporate the foods listed above. And the general rules of good nutrition still apply– don’t overeat and eat clean. If you start to feel weak or tired this is usually a good indication that you are deficient in one of those key nutrients I mentioned, so be sure to listen to your body and practice mindful eating.

**Get 20% off Alaya Naturals organic plant-based vegan protein powder by using code JMBLOG at checkout!!