If you are following the vegan diet, you must have realized that getting the proper daily nutritional values is quite difficult. That’s why we recommend supplements. But difficult doesn’t mean impossible. For all of you that love to cook and have lots of time, we asked 33 vegan bloggers and nutritionists the following question:
What Is Your Best Tip to Meet Your Daily Nutritional Needs as a Vegan?
Although some of the experts admit the necessity of taking a supplement, especially, vitamin B12, still they provide lots of options for other nutrients that are difficult to find in a vegan diet, such as iron, protein, calcium, vitamin D, and omega 3 fatty acids.
Keep reading to see what the experts recommend.
Lisa Goodwin – 2 Share My Joy
During my certification in vegan nutrition, I worked on a case study evaluating common vegan eating mistakes and appropriately adjusting client meal plans to meet dietary needs.
Quickly, I found there are two major mistakes made by aspiring vegans that cause them to give up on the vegan diet, make them feel sluggish, or result in malnourishment.
The first mistake is not eating enough calories and the second mistake is not including enough plant-based protein sources, such as legumes or tofu, in their diet.
Plants contain fewer calories per gram than animal-based foods, so it is important to eat enough to meet nutritional needs.
My two most important tips for vegans include tracking food intake for one day to make sure enough food is being eaten and include a source of plant-based protein (tofu, chickpeas, beans, lentils, etc) with lunch and dinner.
These food sources are filled with important minerals, protein, and B-vitamins.
In my experience, a nutritionally sound plate for lunch and dinner contains 2 cups of vegetables, ½ to 1 cup of whole grains or starches, at least ¾ cup of plant-based protein, and a small number of healthy fats.
Bintu Hardy – Recipes From A Pantry
My top tips to meet nutritional needs as a vegan is to ensure I am getting enough protein from specific sources such as legumes, nuts, and seeds.
I also make sure to have a daily intake of foods that have Omega -3 fatty acids – fish is said to be the best source of this but as vegans don’t eat fish, these need to be found elsewhere.
(Here are our favorite vegan omega-3 supplements)
There are also other vitamins and minerals such as calcium that health experts suggest we should make sure we are getting so I always seek out the best ways to take these when it comes to a vegan diet.
If I cannot find alternative vegan-friendly foods to ingest these vitamins and minerals then I will often take a supplement to ensure I am still getting it.
I try to avoid taking supplements if I can help it though.
When it comes to my meals, I also try to make sure they are totally balanced – basing them with starchy carbohydrates and having a variety of fruit and vegetables and possibly some dairy alternatives. That way I can ensure I am getting plenty of each food group without having to worry.
Holly Clegg – Healthy Cooking Blog
Meat, dairy, and eggs provide important nutrients the body requires; however, as a vegan who stays away from these particular foods it is important to find other food sources to get all of the body’s necessary nutrients it needs.
Iron and protein are specific nutrients that are easily attainable from animal foods, but a vegan needs to pay close attention to getting enough in their diet.
If your body does not get enough of iron or protein you will be at risk of health problems.
One easy, inexpensive food to get both iron and protein are beans. Beans and legumes are a staple in the vegan diet as they are an easy way to receive important nutrients, such as iron and protein, often found in animal products.
Pair beans with rice to receive the complete protein of all 9 essential amino acids. Beans are also full of heart-healthy fiber, folate, are low calorie and fat-free.
Think of beans as a nutritional crouton – toss into soups, chilis, dips and atop salads. Add black beans to your menu as they are rich in fiber that promotes a healthy digestive tract, can reduce your risk for certain cancers, and help control diabetes. If you eat beans 4 times a week, you can reduce heart disease by 19%!
Lisa Mitchell – Sacred & Delicious
It’s critical for vegans to get enough protein. In our holistic health practice—my husband practices functional medicine and Ayurveda, and I’m a wellness mentor focusing on diet—we often meet vegans who have become extremely depleted by not eating enough protein.
Protein is an essential component of every cell. It is a key to building and repairing bodily tissues and muscles, and must be available to generate enzymes and hormones.
Although many vegetables, nuts, and grains contain some amount of protein, Ayurveda recommends whole cooked mung beans as the best protein source.
Among all the legumes, whole mung beans are the easiest to digest when combined with fresh ginger and garlic. They also have a second benefit, in that they are highly detoxifying. By gently scraping the colon, liver, kidneys and lymph system, toxins that naturally accumulate in the body are easily released.
Cooked mung beans serve as a delicious base for vegetable soups, and they can stand on their own as a bean soup to demonstrate your brilliant use of spices! Mung beans combined with caramelized onions and spices also make delicious veggie “burgers.”
I find this a strange question to be asked (although it definitely happens) because there is an underlying assumption when people ask if you’re meeting your nutritional needs that they think it’s more difficult or impossible on a vegan diet, which is complete nonsense!
Honestly, I think vegans are better about getting their nutritional needs met than many non-vegans because there is already a mindful approach to eating.
You can get plenty of healthy fats from nuts and nut butter, nut milk, avocado, olive oil, and other cooking oils.
Many veggies have lots of protein, like broccoli and peas, as do beans, lentils, quinoa, tofu and many grains including freekah, wheat berry, barley, farrow, seeds and so many more. Then there are also the new meat substitutes like the impossible and beyond burgers, which have even more protein ounce for ounce than a beef burger (plus tons of other good nutrients as well).
You can get calcium in soy products, broccoli, collard greens, okra, kale, and other leafy greens, or you can buy or make fortified nut milk (just like cow’s milk is fortified, almond and soy milk are as well).
The healthiest diets are the ones where people eat little-to-no processed foods, lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, fiber and whole grains. Vegans are more apt to do this than people on other types of diets, meaning the likelihood of meeting your nutritional goals is actually easier than for most people.
I love eating vegan for this exact reason. I always feel my best when I’m getting tons of fresh vegetables grains and fruit. And vegan chocolate of course!
Jane McKay – The Zen of Slow Cooking
My best tip to meeting your daily nutritional needs as a vegan is to eat a rainbow of colors, a variety of textures, and flavors.
By combining an assortment of delicious plant-based foods on one plate or in a bowl will keep it interesting and nutritious.
On regular rotation in our house is a Buddha Bowl, the perfect example of how to pick and mix your way to optimal nutrition.
Fun to assemble, and a break from the routine of sandwiches and salads, a Buddha bowl gives me the freedom to be creative with a variety of ingredients, ethic flavor profiles, and bold flavors. Have fun with it!
- Fill a bowl a third fill with leftover grains such as quinoa, amaranth, brown rice for carbohydrates and protein. A great way to include gluten-free grains if you are intolerant or allergic.
- Add color and vitamins & minerals with a handful of fresh, crunchy, chopped or quick cooked vegetables such as radish, cucumber, and red onion. Use fresh herbs liberally. I keep a jar of roasted peppers and sundried tomatoes in my pantry.
- Pack with protein & flavor and jazz up low-fat plant-based alternatives beans, tofu, pea protein, & lentils with spices. Turmeric, cumin, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper are always in my cupboard.
Boost good fat content with slices of avocado, nuts, and seeds, and olive oil (here are some other great vegan fat sources). For the all-important omega 3 add chia seed, flaxseed and algae oils.
Add texture on top with a couple of tablespoons of seeds or nuts (pumpkin, walnuts, hazelnuts, toasted almonds, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, hemp), or simple toasted croutons.
Boost the flavors with pickles, chutneys, & fruits such as pomegranate seeds, and to improve gut bacteria add fermented kimchi (touted as beneficial to health)
Dressings & specialty ingredients like a simple French vinaigrette, hot sauce such as Sriracha, tahini citrus or a ginger soy-based dressing will amp up the flavor.
Sandra Sellani – The 40-Year-Old Vegan
My first tip is to take a B12 supplement every day. As vegans, we don’t get this because our fruits & veggies are so thoroughly washed that this important nutrient is washed away.
You can also get B12 by adding nutritional yeast to your food – it’s got a great cheesy flavor and is a great topping for pizza, pasta, soups, and popcorn.
Additionally, ensure you have three servings of beans each day.
Beans, more than any other food, is associated with longevity worldwide – any bean will do – and that includes soybean products like tofu and tempeh.
Eat your greens and get a wide variety of fruits, veggies and whole grains. Have a little fat with each meal (not oil) such as avocados or nuts, since fat is needed to help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K.
Finally, get some exercise and sunshine for natural Vitamin D and you will have everything you need for optimal health.
Gwen Leron – Delightful Adventures
My best tip is to include a wide variety of different veggies, beans, grains, and fruits in your diet, every day. A good way to get lots of nutrition into one serving is to make smoothies!
Don’t restrict yourself by sticking to the things you already like, keep trying new things.
If you think you don’t like a certain ingredient, look online to find a recipe that calls for that ingredient and give it a try.
You may just find a new favorite that not only tastes good, but is also good for you.
Wendy Hodge – Wendy’s Way To Health
Following a vegan diet doesn’t need to be complicated, but it does take more than simply cutting meat out of your diet if you want to be healthy.
The best way to be healthy as a vegan is to eat a wide variety of fruit & vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
Plan your meals, and use a checklist, so that you know you’re hitting your targets, and not just guessing.
Do your research so that you know which foods belong to which food groups, and then you can plan according to your nutritional needs.
Search Google and Pinterest for recipes, and create a base of favorites.
When you’re starting out, learn all of the different ways to use swaps or substitutes for foods like eggs and cheese, so that you don’t feel like you’re missing out.
I think nutritional yeast is one of the best-kept secrets of the vegan world – I love adding it to my meals for a cheese flavored Vitamin B boost!
Laura Brooks – Laura The Chef
Eat plenty of plant-based proteins:
Protein is an essential nutrient in any diet and it is necessary for keeping you feel full for longer.
Most experts agree that it is possible to get enough proteins on a vegan diet since almost all vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds contain some protein. A complete protein is a food that contains all nine essential acids necessary for human.
Complete plant-based protein sources include soy, hemp seeds, quinoa. Protein pairing is also important in vegan diets, for example, when eaten together, rice and beans create a complete protein.
Eat smart carbohydrates:
Vegan diets tend to be high in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates take many forms from starchy vegetables and whole grains (good carbs!) to processed bread, cookies and refined grains (not so good carbs!).
Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains and whole fruits, raise blood sugar slower than their simple carbohydrate counterparts. And help maintain satiety.
Complex carbohydrates include whole grains, beans and peas, and whole fresh fruits.
Dr. Keith Kantor
A vegan diet seems like it is extremely healthy and those who follow it will improve their health from simply being vegan but that is not always the case. It is important to still remain conscious of macronutrient, (carbohydrates, fats, and protein) intake daily – see our guide on vegan macros.
If a vegan diet is not balanced and does not contain enough fiber, protein, or healthy fats it could actually cause hormone imbalances, specifically insulin, resulting in weight gain and other negative symptoms like low energy, nutrient deficiencies, hair loss, etc.
It is essential to track macronutrients often to ensure that you are getting adequate protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, water, and fiber daily.
- Fat 50-60%
- Carbs – 20-30%
- Protein – 20%
One of the biggest mistakes a vegan can make is consuming too many starchy carbohydrates from low-quality sources like vegan packaged snacks, etc. Yes, vegan “junk foods” are not as common as traditional junk foods but they are still available. Consuming carbohydrates from whole unprocessed sources like sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown or wild rice, sprouted grain bread, steel cut oats, etc. will be very helpful.
The best sources of carbohydrates are vegetables and some fruits. Non-starchy vegetables like greens, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc. and for fruit, berries are the best, they are high in fiber and low in sugar. Aim to consume at least 25 grams of fiber per day to ensure you are consuming the recommended 9-11 servings of vegetable and fruits.
Ines Schuber – Fit On Veggies
There are several things I do daily that are now things I do on auto-pilot in order to meet my daily nutritional needs as a vegan.
First I make sure to stick to my 3 meals a day.
Second I make sure 80-90% of everything I eat are whole foods and if possible organic.
This way I’m sure that I’m going to get the most nutrients from it. I also try to have a mix of raw and cooked food at every meal.
If I’m hungry in between meals, I always eat a healthy snack which I always make sure to prepare during my meal preps.
And last but not least, and if you were to choose only one of this advice to implement right now, it would be to diversify the foods you eat.
Switch things up and make sure to have as many colors as possible in your plate. The more colorful the most nutritive and powerful the food will be.
And if you have the option between 2 colors of a vegetable like yellow or red pepper, always go for the brightest options because this is the one that will have the most antioxidant power!
Robert Herbst – W8lifterusa.com
While vegans know they have to mix and match their foods to make sure they are getting the full range of amino acids to build muscle, they should not forget two micronutrients which are not found in plants.
The first is vitamin B12. B12 is important because it is involved in a wide range of vital functions, including the formation of red blood cells, energy production, and the creation of DNA.
Since B12 is not found in plants, someone on a strict vegan diet should eat foods fortified with B12 such as cereals or take B12 supplements.
The other micronutrient is creatine. Many people have found that creatine helps to gain muscle and improve strength and recovery time in anaerobic activities such as weightlifting.
Again, since creatine is found naturally only in animal sources, any serious gymgoer who is vegan should take creatine supplements. One can get bigger and stronger on a vegan diet. You just have to pay attention to the fine points.
Lindsay Moe – The Live-In Kitchen
I make sure I get enough protein by trying to incorporate an obvious protein three times a day.
Lots of foods have small amounts of protein that can add up, but making a concentrated effort is important for maintaining balance.
I’ll choose something like almond butter toast for breakfast, snack on nuts or a homemade nutty granola bar, and incorporate something like beans, tofu, or tempeh in my dinner. With vegan food, it can be easy to fall into only eating a pile of vegetables or reaching for junk food to fill up.
Even if you’re having something carb heavy like pasta, sprinkle on a few pine nuts, hemp seeds, or a homemade vegan parmesan made with nuts and nutritional yeast.
These will add protein and other nutritional benefits to help balance out what might be an otherwise calorie deficient or heavy meal.
Beverly Friedmann – My Food Subscriptions
Eating healthy foods that are rich in protein is key when it comes to meeting your daily nutritional needs on a vegan-friendly diet.
Foods like tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, and nutritional yeast are all high in protein and vitamins and can be served in a variety of ways (hot or cold).
Remaining conscientious of eating a diet that is dense in protein and balanced is key to meeting daily nutritional needs as a vegan, but you can also think outside of the box and splurge on foods that are healthy and tasty.
Adding some nutritional yeast to a vegan-friendly cookie recipe is one of the best tips!
Christel Oerum – Diabetes Strong
Meeting your daily nutritional goals while eating vegan can certainly be done but it does require a bit of planning and mindfulness.
The main thing to pay attention to is getting enough of micronutrients such as vitamin B12, iron, protein, calcium, vitamin D, and omega 3 fats that non-vegans typically get from meat and dairy.
Your doctor can determine if you level of these micronutrients are low, but you can be proactive by ensuring you eat enough fruit and vegetables high in these micronutrients or add a supplement.
Specifically, when we discuss fitness and muscle building, it’s recommended to eat a healthy amount of protein.
Often people think of protein as animal protein, but there are plenty of good vegan protein options available as well.
Getting your protein requirements filled can be easy and tasty. Just by snacking on a cup of edamame you’ll consume 17 grams of protein, while also getting your fill of many other healthy micronutrients.
Not into edamame? Then how about cooking up a big batch of hearty chili using black beans and tofu? If you get just ¼ cup of tofu and ¼ cup of beans in your bowl, you’ll be getting about 15 grams of protein, and who only eats ¼ cup anyway?
Or how about a summer salad of leafy greens, strawberry, quinoa, green peas, and crunchy hemp seeds? Throw in ½ cup of quinoa, ½ cup of peas, and 1 tablespoon of hemp seeds and you’ll get more than 11 grams of protein.
Just find the high protein vegan options that work for you and be creative.
Jennifer Hanes – Dietitian Jenn
For a vegan, nutrients of note are vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids in the form of dha and epa.
Protein can be a problem if the diet isn’t well planned, so they should make sure to include plenty of brands, nuts, seeds, and soy (particularly remove and edamame).
They’ll need even more of their looking to build muscle.
Leigh Ann Lindsey
1. Nutrient-Dense, Plant-Based Protein Shake
I am not a big advocate for protein shakes/meal replacements. They tend to have far too little nutrients and far too many sugars.
Thankfully, there are a few new plant-based meal replacement powders now on the market that are packed with a huge variety of nutrients, free from common allergens and sweetened with stevia to avoid the sugar overload.
I mix one of these up on a daily basis and then add in other highly nutritious foods like chia seeds, hemp hearts, flax seed, etc.
Another great option is a vegan multivitamin. Personally, I prefer the shake because it taste great and is easily absorbed by the body.
2. Avoid Vegan Food Replacements
Simply because something has a “vegan” label on it does not mean it is even remotely healthy! In general, I do not eat replacement foods like vegan cheeses or meats.
Eating plant-based, whole-food is the best way to ensure you are getting a variety of nutrients while avoiding the often times harmful/fattening ingredients of processed vegan foods.
Does that mean you can never have a vegan burger? Absolutely not. But simply because you can now indulge in a delicious vegan burger does not mean you should on a daily basis.
3. Get Excited About Recipes!
There is truly an unending list of vegan recipes available on the internet and I can say first hand that many of them are quite quick and easy!
I try to make at least one new recipe per week to keep my taste buds (and my fiancé) intrigued and to ensure I am eating a well-rounded variety of foods. I always try to share recipes on my blog that have minimal ingredients and steps. Finding new recipes is one of my favorite parts of my week!
Sonila Cami – Mediterranean Latin Love Affair
The best way in my opinion to meet daily nutritional needs is to include a large variety of ingredients in your meals.
One of my most requested recipes at home is this Lima Beans salad.
The combination of lima beans, bell peppers, parsley and olive oil is not only delicious but also provides a myriad of nutrients from fiber, protein to antioxidants and minerals.
My other tip is to use fresh & seasonal ingredients whenever possible.
Canned ingredients will have fewer nutrients and lots of sodium.
If you look at the lima beans salad above, yes it does take 45 minutes to cook them in the instant pot but that’s not active cooking so you can still do other things around the house while the beans are cooking.
Seasonal ingredients will be cheaper and fresher than other types, which will, in turn, make for a more nutritional meal.
Alex Johnson – Medmunch
Legumes, nuts, and seeds are going to be your best friends as a vegan.
Legumes, in particular, are one of the best plant-based proteins you can go for. They also contain good amounts of iron and zinc, which many vegans are deficient in.
As they don’t need to be cooked, they are the perfect food to base your lunches around – simply toss in a few veggies and you’ve got yourself a filling and healthy meal that you can prep before you head off to work.
Nuts and seeds are also worth having on hand – they’re high in iron, zinc and vitamin E as well as protein and healthy unsaturated fats.
Some nuts like almonds also contain a reasonable amount of calcium. Nuts are super versatile, so you shouldn’t have trouble adding them into your diet.
They’re a perfect go-to snack when you’re on the move, or you can chop them up and add them to cereals. They also make a great addition to many salads and can make them more a lot more filling and appetizing.
In particular, flax, chia, and hemp seeds are worth eating for their high omega-3 content, which is primarily found in fish.
Ashley Hubbard – Wild Hearted
My best tip, as a three-year vegan, to meet daily nutritional needs is to not overthink it.
I, personally, have a tendency to want to plan every little minute detail and it usually ends up to me just giving up on the whole thing.
Nutrition gets complicated because everyone is trying to tell everyone else the best new information.
My absolute best tip for new, or otherwise, vegans is to simplify.
Eat only whole foods. The cheapest and healthiest foods in the grocery store are the simplest – fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans.
Morgan Balavage – Splendid Yoga
My best tip for meeting your daily nutritional needs is to eat the rainbow.
The more colorful the food you eat, the more micronutrients you’re getting, the happier your body is going to be.
Many of my clients want to reach for the protein powders, but honestly, you’re probably getting plenty of protein and need more water.
Starting your day with water-rich organic fruit like berries, peaches, mango, and kiwi hits a lot of shades on the rainbow.
A smoothie for lunch will help you feel more energized, and you can sneak a few handfuls of spinach and chard in there to get some greens going.
An evening meal of vegetables heated with a delicious sauce and served with rice and few tablespoons of beans (I like broccoli, eggplant, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, brown rice, and chickpeas sautéed with a green curry sauce – check the label for fish sauce!) makes for a delicious 10-minute dinner.
It’s a common misconception that a vegan diet makes it challenging to fill your protein needs.
If you’re looking for the most protein-packed foods to fuel your workout, seeds and nuts are your best bet.
Pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds are all 15%-25% protein, by weight, about the same as red meat. In fact, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, and seitan all have more than meat does.
The important thing to keep in mind is that many plant-based protein sources are “incomplete,” which means they don’t contain every amino acid your body uses.
Some (like quinoa, soybeans and tofu/tempeh) are complete on their own, but others like peanut butter need to be combined with another source (like whole grains – so that PBJ sandwich is just fine!)
The best tip for a plant-based diet supporting a workout regimen is something I recommend for everyone: vary it up! As long as you’re eating a mix of different foods and food groups, as minimally processed and close to “real” as you can get, it’s easy to meet your body’s needs. You also get great trace minerals and vitamins that help maintain a healthy system!
Aliya Jasrai – Hayya Health
Although I am not a Vegan yet, I’m passionate about plant-based, sustainability and ethicality lifestyle.
As a Nutritional Therapist, my aim is to support people’s wellbeing even if you’re Vegan and for them to have the right daily nutritional needs from fresh foods.
It’s vital to ensure they don’t become deficient in any of the 8 essential nutrients (Vitamin B12, Protein, Iodine, Vitamin D, Iron, Calcium, Selenium and Essential Fats from Omega 3 & 6).
However, they need to be more conscious of the 3 key nutrients listed below and, in some cases, supplementation may be beneficial:
- Vitamin B12 – unfortunately you can’t rely totally on a plant-based diet so you need to ensure the foods are fortified. Otherwise, take a good B complex supplement which includes B12.
- Protein – some plant foods are low in certain amino acids that are required by the body.
- Iodine – you must ensure that iodine-rich foods are included in your diet or that you take a supplement.
also highly recommend going through a nutritional deficiency assessment as this will check if you are meeting the daily intake for ALL nutrients and not just above!
Nicole Spaulding – Dr. Seltzer Weight Loss
My biggest tip to meet your nutritional needs as a vegan is to account for your protein.
So often when someone chooses to become vegetarian or vegan, they have done little to no research on alternative proteins.
While veggies and beans have some protein, beans are high in carbohydrates, and one can only eat so many beans.
Track what you’re eating for a few weeks. You will be surprised how little protein you are consuming and how high in carbohydrates your diet has become.
Take advantage of vegan products that are high in protein.
Typical almond milk yogurt has an average of 5g of protein, try Kit Hill non-dairy Greek-style yogurt, 10g of protein per serving. Instead of “regular” pasta try POW! Lentil pasta 14g of protein per 2oz.
Ryan Banks – Fantastic Gardeners
It’s been a few years since I decided to stop eating animals and I’m often running more than 25 miles a week.
That’s why as a vegan whose job requires a lot of heavy physical activity, to ensure I maintain a protein and energy-rich diet without any animal protein is literally vital.
For pure plant-based options, I like a lot of beans: lentils, red beans, and garbanzos in hummus.
Amy’s has a lot of good soups. Also nuts like almonds; nut butter is great as well. I soak them in water prior to eating them, cashews 2 hours and other nuts 8-12 hrs look them up specifically.
For meat alternatives, the only two brands I like are Field Roast & Upton’s. They both make really good vegan sausages, patties, etc. And most of their stuff is soy free as well. However, I try to not to do too much soy.
I try to balance plant proteins with rice, whole grains, and lost of vegetables, especially dark leafy greens. Stir-fry’s and bowl variations are the easiest at 1st to find ways to incorporate these items.
I also eat avocados daily, hemp shells, chia and flax seeds. Medjool dates too!
Also, a single tablespoon (7 grams) of dried spirulina powder contains (2Trusted Source): Protein: 4 grams Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 11% of the RDA, Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 15% of the RDA, Vitamin B3 (niacin): 4% of the RDA, Copper: 21% of the RDA, Iron: 11% of the RDA and It also contains decent amounts of magnesium, potassium and manganese and small amounts of almost every other nutrient that you need.
Andre Arriaza – Barcelona Eat Local
There are two sides of being a vegan when it comes to meet nutritional needs.
From one side you get to eat plenty of healthy plant foods such as grains, beans, lentils, tofu, vegetables, fruits, and herbs.
These foods lack some important nutrients such as protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium.
Which brings me to the other side, the complement to the plant foods.
That’s why I make sure that I add nuts, seeds, and soy foods (rich in protein), walnuts and hemp seeds (omega-3), and plant-based milk and orange juice (rich in calcium and other vitamins).
Rachel Fiske – Smart Healthy Living
Eating a plant-based diet has consistently been shown to be one of the best ways to optimize health and prevent disease.
However, it can be a very real challenge to ensure your nutritional needs are always met, especially if you are trying to build muscle.
One big concern amongst nutrition and fitness professionals is that most vegan protein sources are also very high in carbohydrates (beans, legumes, grains) and often overall the diet is very high in carbohydrates and in many cases, low in protein, which can lead to a spike in insulin, blood sugar and cortisol, and this, in turn, can work against muscle gain.
To ensure protein intake is adequate, mix up your sources between legumes, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, edamame, hummus, tempeh, tofu, nutritional yeast and spirulina (both also great for B vitamins).
It’s also a good idea for vegans (especially vegan athletes) to supplement with a plant-based protein powder, such as hemp or pea powder. Space out your protein over the course of the day, but be sure you get in a protein-rich meal or snack within 30-60 minutes of a workout.
Betty Davies – Slow the Cook Down
It is so important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet when following a vegan diet, it is very easy to not get enough nutrients and minerals that your body needs.
I often load up my dishes with chickpeas, lentils and a variety of beans that are a rich source of fiber, protein and lots of vitamins and minerals.
They are a really easy and budget-friendly way to replace animal proteins in foods such as curry, chili, pasta, and stews.
I always try to add a variety of vegetables to every meal to get a good balance of vitamins – adding something green, something red, something yellow is a great way to start.
I find that meal planning and prepping is also a great way to keep eating healthy and not reaching for junk food and unhealthy processed options.
Marissa Szabo – Well and Simple Health
When it comes to veganism (or really any diet that eliminates a significant number of foods), the key is eating a wide variety of whole foods.
Variety is important in ensuring that you are consuming the spectrum of nutrients that your body needs, including all 9 essential amino acids.
Being mindful about eating a lot of different colors is a great way to know that you are eating a variety of nutrients.
Whole foods are important in ensuring that you’re consuming nutrients rather than empty calories and chemicals and preservatives.
There are a lot of ultra-processed substitute products out there, and most of them are not doing your body any good.
Katie Moseman – Recipe for Perfection
Since vegans don’t consume dairy, it’s important to make sure that you’re getting enough calcium from other sources.
Good sources of calcium include soybeans and other beans, as well as calcium-fortified plant-based milk.
Try snacking on edamame or incorporating fortified plant-based milk into a smoothie or iced coffee.
Alex Robles – White Coat Trainer
My best tip to meet your nutritional needs as a vegan is to meal prep.
Meal prepping is the absolute best way to:
- Know what ingredients are in your food
- Not worry about eating healthy food
- Meet your nutritional needs
As a vegan, it can be difficult to get enough of certain micronutrients such as B12, EHA, DPA, Iron, and Calcium. By meal prepping, you can strategically create meals that supply an abundant amount of these nutrients.
- B12 – Add nutritional yeast to your dish. Bring a ziplock bag of B12 fortified cereal to snack on
- EHA,DPA – These omega 3s are primarily found in fish oil. We make sure to get enough by adding chia seeds to everything we prep. This includes homemade protein bars, homemade protein shakes, and even our prepped fruit and veggie smoothies. (Alternatively, get yourself some premade vegan protein bars)
We also carry ziplock bags of walnuts.
- Iron – In order to meet our iron, we always include some type of legume to our main dish. In addition, we often prep black bean burgers which are extremely high in iron.
Lastly, we add seeds to anything that we can – our favorites are hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds.
- Calcium– The last nutrient we ensure to include in our meal prep is calcium. Calcium can be found abundantly in leafy greens such as spinach, collard greens, and kale – all of which are used in our fruit/veggie smoothies.
We often use tofu as a base for our main dish as well.
Meal prepping takes us 2-3 hours per week, and we prepare enough food to supply us with 2-3 different options each for the entire week.
Amanda Cerny – Fitplan
Every morning I start the day with a healthy serving of fruit. Then, I rely heavily on vegetables for the remainder of the day.
I get my protein from beans, nuts, and other sources of plant protein.
In fact, I maintain my great health without the use of any sort of supplement. It’s only whole foods for me.
But I am very cautious in maintaining my health.
I go the extra step of getting a blood test done every four months just to check that my nutritional levels are on point.
Thank you so much to all the experts that contributed to this post!
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