If you’re not sure how to eat a healthy, balanced meal after eliminating meat, dairy, and eggs from your diet, you’ve come to the right place.
You’ve likely heard that eating more vegetables and less meat is beneficial to your health. Perhaps you’ve been inspired to try a vegan diet that eliminates all animal products, including dairy and eggs, to improve your health or lose weight.
If your meals are rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains, a vegan diet can be a healthy way to eat.
To prevent missing out on key nutrients or consuming mostly processed vegan foods, it’s best to follow a well-planned vegan diet. Here are nine helpful tips for getting started on a healthy vegan diet.
1. Put vegetables at the center of your meals
Instead of focusing on what they can eat on a plant-based diet, many people focus on what they can’t eat. However, a delicious meal doesn’t have to be all about meat.
Vegetable dishes are an excellent choice for several reasons: they contain many vitamins (like A and K) and minerals (like potassium), low in calories. They have high fiber content that can help you feel fuller.
2. Consume a wide range of foods
When eating a vegan diet, it’s necessary to eat balanced meals that include a variety of healthy foods to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need.
Beans, for example, provide fiber and protein, while leafy greens are rich in vitamins A, C, and K.
To ensure you get all the benefits, choose vegetables in all the colors of the rainbow.
Red tomatoes contain lots of lycopene, which is good for your heart, blue blueberries contain lots of anthocyanins, which are suitable for your brain, and orange sweet potatoes contain lots of vitamin A, which is good for your eyes.
Combine brown rice or quinoa with beans and a mix of roasted or fried vegetables for an easy, balanced grain bowl.
Try a hearty bowl with our spicy wheat berry black bean chili, rich in nutrient-dense vegetables and whole grains, or a simple, balanced meal of brown rice and beans with vegetables.
3. Opt for whole grains
Replacing nutritious grains like brown rice and quinoa with refined grains like white pasta and white bread adds iron and B vitamins (nutrients lost in refined grains) to the vegan diet. High fiber in whole grains keeps you full for longer and may even aid weight loss.
4. Learn about new plant-based proteins
If you’re vegan, this may seem obvious, but eating more plant-based proteins is something everyone can do to improve their health. Saturated fats are abundant in animal protein sources such as beef and cheese (and avoiding animal foods has other environmental benefits as well).
Some excellent vegan protein sources are tofu, edamame (soybeans), tempeh, chickpeas, lentils, and beans.
Nuts like almonds, pistachios, and walnuts, as well as seeds like sunflower and pumpkin, are high in protein. Although many people believe that it’s difficult for vegans to get enough protein, it’s usually not a problem for someone who eats a varied diet and intentionally includes plant-based protein sources.
Women should consume 46 grams of protein per day and men 56 grams – a reasonable amount, according to the Institute of Medicine.
12 cup dry rolled oats (5 grams of protein)
2 tablespoons peanut butter (8 grams of protein)
1/2 cup chickpeas (5 grams of protein)
1 cup cooked quinoa (8 grams of protein)
24 almonds (6 grams of protein)
1 cup cooked whole-grain spaghetti (7 grams of protein)
1/2 cup tofu (10 grams).
Men could add just 12 cups (9 grams) of cooked lentils to meet their daily protein needs.
5. Opt for omega-3 fatty acids that don't come from fish
Some nutrients are hard to come by even if you eat various healthy vegan meals. Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are necessary for eye and brain development and heart function.
Omega-3 fatty acids are mostly present in fatty fish like salmon but can also be made by the body in small amounts by ALA, a type of omega-3 found in flaxseed, walnuts, and canola oil, and soy.
DHA is now added to several foods, including soy milk and breakfast bars. DHA. There are also EPA made from algae available.
6. Vitamin D mustn't be forgotten
Vitamin D is not only found primarily in canned fish such as salmon and sardines and fortified dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, but also in fortified non-dairy products such as orange juice, soy, or almond milk.
Some UV-exposed mushrooms can also serve as a source. In the summer months, when the sun shines more, our skin can produce vitamin D on its own.
The daily requirement for vitamin D is 600 IU, but other experts believe it should be closer to 1,500 IU.
To reach this level, many people, even vegans, may need to take a supplement.
7. Get your iron pumping
Iron is best obtained from animal sources such as meat and chicken, another nutrient vegans should watch out for.
Vegans can also get this mineral from beans, legumes and leafy greens, but plant-based non-ferrous iron isn’t as readily absorbed as heme iron from meat (heme iron).
Eat iron-containing foods and vitamin C-containing foods, which enhance absorption, rather than calcium-containing foods, which can interfere with iron absorption, to get the most out of plant-based iron.
See also: How to go raw vegan
8. Watch out for B12 deficiency
Meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs are high in vitamin B12, which supports brain function and helps our bodies convert food into energy.
Vegans can get B12 through fortified cereals or energy bars but should consult their doctor before taking supplements. For most adults, the DV for vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms.
9. Don't assume vegan food is healthier
Vegan cookies aren’t always healthier for your waistline than conventional cookies. Even garlic bread made with vegan margarine isn’t per se better for your heart than garlic bread made with butter.
Saturated fats are abundant in coconut oil and palm oil, which are commonly found in processed vegan foods.
Stick to whole grain tortilla French fries with guacamole, carrots and hummus, almonds and dried fruit, and whole-grain tortilla French fries with guacamole.
It’s okay to indulge in vegan treats once in a while, but don’t think they’re “healthy” just because they’re vegan.
The key is preparation.
Refined grains, sweets, and junk food are a problem for everyone, not only vegans. And both vegans and nonvegans might slip into the habit of making these things the staples of their diet.
Important nutrients are essential for any type of healthy diet. While many of them may have been abundant while you ate meat and dairy, as a vegan, you’ll need to find new ways to get them into your diet.
Animal protein isn’t the only source of protein. Protein is also abundant in soy products (for example, tofu and edamame). Seitan (produced from gluten), chickpeas, lentils, and nutritional yeast are also good sources.
Vitamin B12 deficiency might make you feel fatigued and feeble. Getting enough vitamin B12, on the other hand, can be difficult for vegans because it is not found in plants. To get your full, eat fortified cereals, rice, and soy beverages, or take a supplement. The suggested daily dose for most individuals is 2.4 milligrams, but consult your doctor to determine what is best for you.
Essential fatty acids: A deficiency of essential fatty acids has been linked to brain health issues such as cognitive impairment and depression. Fill up on nutritious grains and leafy green veggies to acquire your vital fatty acids (e.g., kale, spinach, and collards). For snacks, try a small handful of unsalted nuts such as walnuts, pistachios, or almonds. Nuts are heavy in calories, so limit your intake.
Iron: The richest sources of iron are red meat and egg yolks. They are, nevertheless, heavy in cholesterol. Tofu, black-eyed peas, and dried fruits are examples of iron-rich vegetables (fresh fruits contain iron as well; you just receive more iron from dried fruit because you eat more of it.).
Vitamin D: Ten to fifteen minutes of sunlight exposure per day, as well as fortified orange juice and soy, can provide an extra boost of vitamin D.
See also: What Supplements Do Vegans Need