You may choose a vegan diet for ethical reasons or because you want to shift to a healthier way of eating. Of all the dietary changes you can make, going vegan can be the most challenging. Many of the foods you are accustomed to eating are now off your plate – dairy, cheese, meat, fish, eggs and poultry. You may think you now must shop only in the produce section. This approach is extremely limiting. Yes, you should explore the dozens of amazing fruits and vegetables out there and make them the bulk of your diet – but by no means restrict yourself to salads at every meal.
Many new vegans find they just don’t know what to eat – so they don’t. Or, they end up eating only fruits and vegetables and skipping essential fats and protein-filled foods. The result? Hunger, weakness, fatigue and nutrient deficiencies that lead them to proclaim: I just can’t do vegan, I need meat.
Switching to a vegan diet is one of the times you would benefit from meeting with a nutritionist, especially if you don’t have much of a culinary or nutrition background. You need to be smart about including healthy fats, which include coconut oil, raw nut butters, seeds (try pumpkin, sesame, hemp, chia and sunflower) and avocados. The inevitable protein question still lingers – you do need to seek out foods from substantial sources, which may include the same nuts and seeds that offer healthy fats, chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, white beans, lentils, tempeh, tofu or seitan. To feel satisfied and get your calorie needs, aim to include healthy fats and proteins at every meal. Quinoa, teff, amaranth, oats, corn meal, brown rice and sweet potatoes add calories and substantial, healthy starch to your vegan diet as well. If you eat gluten, experiment with farro and barley.
Here’s a sample day with 1,800 calories – sufficient for most active women and for inactive men. If you need more calories, add another serving of starch or protein at meals and include another snack. If you need fewer, skip one of the snacks.
Breakfast: ½ cup dry oatmeal cooked in water with 1 ounce of almonds, 1 cup of blueberries and 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk (394 calories)
Dinner: 1 cup of brown rice with sautéed tempeh (240 calories worth), 1 cup of broccoli, 1 cup of zucchini and 1 carrot (537 calories)
Snacks: 2 tablespoons of hummus with cut up celery and cucumber (150 calories) and 2 tablespoons of raw cashew butter with an apple (280 calories)