Whenever I find myself apart of a conversation about the vegan diet lifestyle, it always seems to become focused on the barriers to adoption. In theory, it seems simple enough: if I stick to eating a plant-based diet, I will reap the rewards of increased protective nutrients that have all sorts of disease preventing effects. But then, the perceived barriers in adopting this diet become obvious. We immediately begin thinking about the replacements we will need to fill in for our dairy milk and cheeseburgers. What exactly is a plant-based diet in terms of breakfast, lunch, dinner, desert and a midnight snack? Below, I have compiled information from Vegan for Life and several cited sources to provide you with a important information on a balanced vegan diet plan that can be successfully adopted by many happy and healthy vegans everywhere. I hope you enjoy as I did!
There are tons of barriers that I hear talked of consistently: “I love meat too much”, “I cant afford to be vegan”, or “I’ll become nutrient deficient”. I’m going to focus on the last one because it provides us with an opportunity to discover that vegan diet lifestyles can indeed offer basic human nutritional requirements and even vitality. We can easily achieve this and create great vegan diet plans by following vegan food guidelines. These guidelines offer a tool for efficiently planning meals to satisfy critical nutrient requirements and peak nutrition. Critical nutrients include: folic acid, fiber, potassium, calcium. vitamin D, iron and B12 (if your over 50). As I read through various guidelines, I am finding that they typically include categories such as nutrients, food groups, life cycle stages and dietary patterns(dairy or eggs etc.) According to U.S. dietary guidelines, the key to meeting peak nutrition is to consume adequate quantities of various foods to meet individual calorie requirements. This seems to be especially important for vegans who need to substitute animal-sourced critical nutrients with plant-based ones.
I am excited to share with you the simplicity involved in vegan meal planning. I love the variety of food options that exist. Once you are clear on what nutrients you need to be at peak nutrition, the necessary food groups and servings, the possibilities are endless! You can create a simple no-fuss diet plan or get creative with flavors, ethnic recipes and delicious substitutions.
Whole Grains and Starchy Vegetables
These are your high fiber foods that also provide protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins. Whole grains are definitely ideal but fortified products can also provide important contributions for children and athletes. I like to think of it as making small changes that may not be the best but still allow us to move in the right direction.
Legumes and Soyfoods
Of all plant foods, legumes and soyfoods are the most protein-rich. They are among the few dietary sources that provide the essential amino acid lysine. They are also important sources of iron. Examples of legumes include beans, peanuts and alfalfa. These are thought to be similar to meats, poultry and fish in their protein contributions. Soyfoods are a sort of sub-category that include foods made from soybeans like tempeh, tofu, soymilk and veggie meats. They are not a distinctive nutritional requirement, but soyfoods can be valuable due to the delicious and nutritious options they provide in replacing meat and dairy products.
Nuts and Seeds
Moderate nut consumption can improve cholesterol levels and aid in weight control. Adding an additional serving from the legumes and soyfoods group is a simple solution for those who have nut and/or seed allergies.
Vegetables contain thousands of health improving plant chemicals and are superb sources of vitamins C and A. Leafy greens like kale, collards, spinach and turnip are rich in vitamin A, C and K, potassium, iron, folate and sometimes calcium. I have crossed paths with a fair amount of people who either dislike leafy greens or have minimal experience eating them. I like the idea of a slow introduction to these nutrient dense foods by mixing small amounts into soups and stews. Frozen vegetables are a good alternative to fresh for those with less time.
Ideally fruits should be consumed in their fresh raw state, they are rich in vitamins C and A as well as certain minerals. Fruits also provide an abundance of phytochemicals.
Added fats are not essential for vegans but can contribute to a well-balanced diet.
Below I have included food items that can be incorporated to create a menu specifically for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Using the vegan food guide above you can measure out the serving sizes as you plan your meals. Please note, the variety and possibilities are numerous, I have only given you a few examples but the possibilities are vast!
- Muesli and other grains, soymilk, almond milk and other vegan milks, whole wheat toast and other types of whole grain breads, green and yellow plantains, sweet and white potatoes, peanut butter and other nut butters, banana, strawberries, acai fruit, blueberries, mushrooms, vegan butter, vegan pancakes (egg replacements include flaxseed, a water, oil and baking soda mixture, agar powder and a soy flour and water mixture. There are many easy to follow instructions on how to create these simple substitutions).
- Hummus, whole wheat toast, tempeh strips, vegan cheese, sauerkraut, tortilla chips, cantaloupe, carrots, vegetable juice, bean burritos, avocado, leafy greens, crackers, tofu, textured vegetable protein. Lentils and other legumes. Broccoli, cauliflower and other vegetables. Tofu, tempeh, seitan. Vegan cheese, vegan mayonnaise and other vegan “dairy” products.
- Veggie burger, sweet and/or white potato, squash, zucchini, leafy greens. Yuca root, pumpkin, yams and/or other root vegetables. Leafy greens and microgreens. Tomato sauce and tomato paste. Pasta, gnocchi and other vegan pastas. Rice, couscous, quinoa, cornmeal and other grains. Chick peas and other beans. Vegan tortilla wraps.
- Olives and other fruits, vegan yogurt, vegan cheese, vegan ice cream. Mixed nuts. Dried fruit. Cereals. Vegan baked goods. Crackers. Avocados and other vegetables. Leafy greens. Vegan crackers. Vegan shakes and smoothies.
Luciana Baroni (2015) Vegetarianism in Food-Based Dietary Guidelines. International Journal of Nutrition – 1(2):48-73.