7 Healthy Tips You Need To Start Your Vegan Diet
1. Eat a Variety of Foods
A complete meal starts with a variety of healthy foods. This will make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need on a vegan diet, it’s important to eat balanced meals that include a selection of healthy foods. For example, you’ll get protein and fiber from beans; leafy greens are great sources of vitamins A, C and K. Choose produce from all colors of the rainbow to get all the benefits. Red tomatoes are good for the heart with its lycopene, blue blueberries have brain-boosting anthocyanins and orange sweet potatoes have lots of vitamin A to help keep eyes healthy.
2. Make Vegetables the Stars of Your Meals
A great meal does not have to center on meat. Veggie-packed meals are a winning choice all-around: veggies are full of vitamins (like A and K) and minerals (like potassium), they keep your calories in check and, because they are high in fiber, they can help you feel more satisfied and healthier.
3. Choose Whole Grains
Swapping out refined grains, such as white pasta and white bread, for whole grains, such as brown rice and quinoa, adds iron and B vitamins to a vegan diet (nutrients that are stripped out when the grains are refined). And, the extra fiber from whole grains will help keep you full, and may even help you lose weight.
4.Don’t Assume Vegan Food Products Are Healthier
Vegan cookies aren’t necessarily any better for your waistline than regular cookies. And garlic bread made with vegan margarine isn’t necessarily any healthier for your heart than one made with butter. Processed vegan foods often contain saturated-fat-laden palm oil and coconut oil. Stick to whole, nutritious foods that just happen to be vegan, such as carrots and hummus, nuts and dried fruit, whole-grain tortilla chips with guacamole. Indulging in vegan treats every so often is fine, but don’t justify them as “healthy” simply because they’re vegan.
5. Discover New Plant-Based Proteins
This seems like a no-brainer if you’re vegan, but one thing everyone can do for better health is eat more plant-based proteins. Animal sources of protein, like meat and cheese, tend to be high in unhealthy saturated fat. (Plus, there are plenty of good environmental reasons to cut out animal sources of food.) Vegan sources of protein really are plentiful and include: tofu, tempeh, edamame (soybeans), lentils, chickpeas and beans. Nuts, like almonds and walnuts, and seeds, like sunflower and pumpkin seeds, also deliver protein. Even though many people think it’s difficult for vegans to eat enough protein, it typically isn’t an issue for someone eating a varied diet and consciously including sources of plant-based protein.
The Institute of Medicine recommends women get 46 grams of protein daily and men 56 grams—an amount that’s pretty easy to reach. Women would meet their daily quota with ½ cup of dry oatmeal (5 grams protein), 2 tablespoons of peanut butter (8 grams), 1/2 cup of chickpeas (5 grams),1 cup of cooked quinoa (8 grams), 24 almonds (6 grams), 1 cup of cooked whole-wheat spaghetti (7 grams) and 1/2 cup of tofu (10 grams). Men could add just ½ cup of cooked lentils (9 grams) to meet their daily protein requirement.
6. Focus On Fish-Free Omega-3s
Even when you eat a variety of healthy vegan foods, some nutrients will be hard to come by. DHA and EPA, two types of omega-3 fatty acids, are important for eye and brain development, as well as heart health. Omega-3 fatty acids are found mainly in fatty fish like salmon, though they can be made by the body in small amounts from ALA, another type of omega-3 that’s found in plants like flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil and soy. A variety of foods, including soymilks and breakfast bars, are now fortified with DHA. Supplements of DHA/EPA made from algae are also available.
7. Be Aware of B12
Vitamin B12—a vitamin that helps transform food into energy in our bodies and aids in brain function—is found mainly in animal foods, such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy foods. People following a vegan diet can get some B12 from fortified cereals or energy bars, but should talk with their doctor about taking a supplement. The DV for Vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms for most adults.