4 Simple Tips to Create a Balanced Vegan Diet
Following a vegan diet requires that you do not eat any foods that come from animal sources. No matter if you are considering going vegan or if you have been following a vegan diet for years, you need to pay careful attention to ensure that you receive sufficient nutrients through your daily food intake. The Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern released in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans focuses on providing Americans with suggestions as to which nutrient-dense foods they can consume to promote a healthy lifestyle. Vegans can follow this plan as well, using plant-based substitutes in the place of animal products. This eating pattern incorporates a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and protein-rich foods. According to Vegan Nutritionist Cathleen Woods, a balanced vegan dinner plate is made up of ½ vegetables, ¼ beans or legumes, and ¼ whole grains. Cathleen suggests eating fruit as a healthy post-dinner treat, as well as nuts, seeds, and healthy fats in moderation to complete the foundation of a balanced vegan meal.
Not sure where you can incorporate those fruits and veggies into your diet? Check out 5 Simple Tips to Sneak Fruits and Vegetables for guidance!
Here are 4 simple tips can help you maintain a balanced vegan diet and provide your body with the nourishment it needs every day:
1. Where’s the protein?
One common misconception about vegans is that their choice to avoid any animal-based products causes them to lack sufficient protein intake. However, what most people don’t realize is that there are a variety of protein sources that can allow vegans to stick to their eating patterns while also making sure that their bodies are still getting the protein they need on a daily basis. For example, utilizing legumes, nuts, and seeds in meals can provide your body with a foundation of complete proteins. In an article published on the USDA’s ChooseMyPlate.gov, protein intake can be met through the combination of a variety of plant-based sources such as beans, nuts, and nut butters. Instead of using meats as the centerpiece for meals, some common vegan options include tempeh, tofu, and seitan. Tempeh contains approximately 15 grams of protein per ½-cup serving, and tofu provides about 11 grams of protein per 4-ounce serving. Seitan, a form of cooked wheat gluten, provides about 21 grams of high-quality protein per 3-ounce serving. If you find yourself unable to consume sufficient protein through whole food sources, consider protein supplements such as Nuzest’s Clean Lean Protein. This protein is made from 100% golden peas, and contains no gluten, dairy, soy, nuts or eggs. With four delicious flavors to choose from - Rich Chocolate, Smooth Vanilla, All Natural, and Real Coffee - you are sure to find an option that works great for you and your tastebuds! Or, check out our new Functional Flavors Chai Turmeric + Maca, Vanilla Matcha or Coffee Coconut + MCTs.
2. Calcium intake in a balanced vegan diet
Calcium has an essential role in forming and maintaining our healthy bones and teeth. When it comes to calcium intake, individuals are often stumped when it comes to finding whole foods that will provide the calcium that they know is in milk-based products such as cheeses and yogurts. However, there are a variety of calcium sources out there that can provide vegans with the calcium that they need to maintain strong and healthy bones. Leafy greens such as kale and spinach, and other vegetables such as broccoli, are excellent natural sources of calcium. Calcium is also found in plant-based sources such as almonds, dried beans, and sunflower seeds and is often added to products such as soymilk and tofu. In addition to their contribution of calcium to one’s diet, cooked vegetables such as spinach and kale also provide about 4-5 grams of protein per one-cup serving!
3. Get those vitamins!
A key component of a vegan diet is including a variety of foods that can provide your body with necessary vitamins and minerals. For example, Vitamin B12 is often found in animal products such as fish, poultry, meats, and eggs, and may be difficult for some vegans to consume in sufficient quantities. Vitamin B12 aids in the normal formation of red blood cells and promotes and maintains the health of nerve tissues in our bodies. A lack of Vitamin B12 in your diet can lead to nerve and brain damage and even anemia. For vegans, some sources of Vitamin B12 recommended on ChooseMyPlate.gov are fortified products such as breakfast cereals, veggie burgers, and soy milk. Another vitamin of concern in vegan diets is Vitamin D. Vitamin D is often found in fatty fish, meats, and dairy products such as cheese, none of which are options for vegans. As a result, vegans often receive their Vitamin D through the consumption of Vitamin-D fortified foods and through daily sun exposure. Some examples of foods fortified with Vitamin D are soy milk, orange juice, a variety of breakfast cereals, and rice milk.
4. Power up with grains!
When it comes to grains, there are tons of options for vegan meals! Whole grains such as quinoa, bulgur, and wheat berries can also be used to form the foundation of various side dishes and salads to form a balanced vegan meal. According to an article published on USDA.gov, we each need between 6-8 ounces of grains daily, with at least half of these grains being whole. One-ounce servings recommended by the USDA include:
- 1 slice of whole-grain bread
- 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice or whole-grain pasta
- 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal
These whole grain options can be paired with other delicious foods to create balanced vegan meals. For example, you can prepare a bowl of oatmeal topped with mixed berries, nut butter, and flax seeds for a nutrient-packed breakfast to kick-start your day. A potential dinner option could consist of a stir fry combining tofu, a cup of cooked broccoli, and a cup of brown rice. There are so many yummy flavor combinations out there! Following a balanced vegan diet can be simple! All it takes is a little bit of time and planning, and you can be on your way to maintaining a healthy and balanced vegan lifestyle. Follow these tips to create balanced vegan meals that can provide your body with all of the nutrients it needs every day! Check out Nuzest's recipes section for delicious vegan meals and treats that everyone can enjoy! Be sure to view the recipes for Gluten-Free, Vegan Power Pizza Crust and Matcha Sugar Cookies for some yummy vegan options!