You can’t help being aware of meals that are different from the traditional ‘meat and two veg’ of yesteryear. When we say different, we mean lots of things.
It could mean eating a meat other than chicken, beef, lamb or pork (such as rabbit, goose, venison). Or it could mean eating a different cut of meat to a leg of lamb, filet steak or pork loin – ‘nose to tail’ eating is also becoming a trend.
It can also mean eating a diet where animal products are completely eliminated, or at least minimised. A vegetarian diet, where followers eat no meat or fish, has been around forever. But a relative newcomer is veganism (at least in popularity – it has been quietly doing its thing for decades). Someone following a vegan diet avoids all meat, fish, dairy, eggs and even honey.
So if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, or you’re considering becoming one, how do you make sure you’re getting all the right nutrients?
The Problem of Protein
The first thing most people worry about is protein, especially on a vegan diet that eliminates eggs and dairy, good sources of protein. But let’s get things right from the start – there is no protein problem!
Vegetarians and vegans have lots of protein sources at their disposal. Nuts, seeds, beans, chickpeas, pulses and grains are all rich plant-based protein sources. Wholegrains such as quinoa and buckwheat are surprisingly high in protein. Soya products such as soya mince or tofu are also great for protein.
Base each veggie or vegan meal on approximately one quarter protein, one quarter wholegrains and one half veggies or fruit. Wholemeal toast with baked beans and a side salad is perfectly protein balanced. As is a soya mince and chopped veggie bolognaise with wholewheat spaghetti.
The Vegan Society have a helpful Vegan Plate guide full of more tips.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Possibly one of the most successful, and incorrect, advertising campaigns last century was that of the dairy industry. How engrained it was in all of us, that the only way to get calcium in our diet was to drink cow’s milk. But how oh-so wrong! We don’t need milk for strong bones.
Calcium is abundant in veggie and vegan foods – green leafy veg is practically a calcium party! Let’s take broccoli for example. The humble green floret is packed with bone-strengthening calcium. Other good calcium sources are tofu, sesame seeds and dried fruits.
The only nutrient that’s near on impossible to get from plants is vitamin B12. B12 is made by bacteria in the guts of animals and is abundant in red meat. The Vegan Society and the NHS recommend taking a B12 supplement, as well as consuming foods fortified with B12 such as fortified breakfast cereals and soya milk.
Everyone’s favourite opinion divider, Marmite, is also fortified with vitamin B12.
Another nutrient people are concerned about when not eating meat or dairy is iron. But again, with careful planning, there’s no need to lack in this vital nutrient.
Good veggie and vegan sources of iron include dried fruits, nuts, pulses, wholemeal bread and dark green leafy veg such as broccoli (what a hero!) and spring greens.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Found abundantly in fish, omega 3 fatty acids are an essential nutrient, needed for heart and brain health. Again, it’s still possible to get enough omega 3, by eating walnuts, tofu and flaxseed.
Three half walnuts and a heaped dessertspoon of ground flaxseed sprinkled over cereal or that soya bolognaise is enough to stay topped up.
A little spoken about nutrient, iodine is needed in the tiniest amounts weekly and is essential for good thyroid health. Its found naturally in fish, but seaweed is also a good source.
Some vegetables will contain iodine if they’re grown near the coastline (iodine from salt in the sea seeps into the ground and is taken up by plants). But as it’s tricky to know where your veg is grown, try some seaweed snacks once or twice a week.
A Healthy Vegetarian or Vegan Diet
A carefully balanced veggie or vegan diet is full of all the vital nutrients you need. And since it’s heavily reliant on vegetables, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds, it’s naturally lower in calories (just limit the vegan junk food that’s now everywhere), saturated fat and cholesterol.
So fill your plate, don’t forget the broccoli and enjoy!
Disclaimer: This blog is based upon research and personal experience. If you are wanting to change your diet, please consult a certified nutritionist beforehand.
Image: <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com</a>Categories: Balanced diet, Diet, Nutrients, Uncategorized, Vegan, Vegan diet, Vegetarian @ 2019-04-03 08:23:15