How to thrive on a plant-based diet
Well-planned vegan diets contain all the nutrients we need to remain strong and healthy. Plus people often eat more fruit and vegetables and enjoy meals higher in fibre and lower in saturated fats when they adopt a vegan diet.
The Vegan Plate by Registered Dietitians Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina is a reliable ready-reference. Jack Norris and Ginny Messina also have provided great technical breakdowns of the nutrients and minerals needed in vegan diets, and where to get them. Here are some useful tips and tricks to ensure you’re getting everything you need from your plant-strong diet:
Eat lots of different plants, the more colourful the better! Try to include plenty of vegetables (especially green leafy veg), plus fruits (including berries), beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
Watch your weight
Vegans, like everyone else, need to pay attention to their weight if they want to enjoy good health. Eat just enough calories to maintain a healthy weight. If you need to gain weight, try adding extra protein-rich foods or healthy fats like avocados.
Choose good fats containing Omega-3 (like walnuts, flax seeds, rapeseed oil), yet eat these in moderation. Try and avoid processed 'trans fats' in snack food, fast food, fried food and many baked goods.
Limit your intake of refined sugar. It provides no nutrition at all and as nice as it tastes, is really nothing but empty calories.
Limit salt (sodium) consumption from all sources.
Great sources of iron include beans, legumes, green vegetables, nuts and seeds. Try to ensure you eat these foods alongside foods rich in vitamin C for optimal absorption.
Include foods fortified with vitamin B12 and other nutrients, such as some cereals, plant milks, yeast extracts and nutritional yeasts, to help you meet your needs.
Reliable supplements can be helpful, especially for vitamin B12, vitamin D, iodine, calcium and long-chain DHA Omega-3 fats. To make life easier, consider taking The Vegan Society's Veg1 supplement.
The key to being a healthy, happy vegan
By following the guidelines above and taking a sensible approach to healthy eating, you’ll find you can easily meet all of your nutritional needs on a plant-based diet. Following a well-planned vegan diet rich in vitamins, minerals, good fats and fibre, with good protein and carbohydrate intake, you’re likely to also enjoy health benefits such as a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. You'll wish you had started sooner!