So you’ve decided to go vegan, now what?

The decision to follow a plant-based eating plan can be considered one of the best investments you can make for your health, as plenty of studies have linked this type of lifestyle to longer, healthier years. But how do you go about ensuring you don’t miss out on the good stuff?

Going vegan can go very wrong; if you don’t have a plan you could end up eating pasta and lettuce every day. Sad. Instead, it is worth it to invest a few minutes of making an action plan for optimal vegan living. There’s a plant-based alternative for almost every type of food you can think of, so you don’t have to miss out on any of your favourite foods.

Focus on the good stuff. Now that you have decided to skip on foods of animal origin, make sure to include alternatives that provide you with the nutrients you need. Because of the composition of plant-based foods you are more likely to cover your carb and fibre needs. What you’ll want to be on the look out for includes:

 

BENEFICIAL FATS

You probably already know that fats are friends, and I support that regardless of the type of eating plan you choose to follow. When on a vegan plan it is important to make sure you are covering your needs for this nutrient. Consider including these foods on your plate regularly: nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, hummus, raw cold-pressed oils, coconut and nut-based milk and spreads.

 

IRON

As for minerals from your food, iron may be the main concern when on a vegan plan. Plant based sources include dark leafy green vegetables (kale, bok choy, spinach), pulses (lentils, soya, chickpeas) and grains (quinoa, farro, oats). While these food sources provide a less absorbable form or iron, you can help by consuming them with a bit of vitamin C, which increases absorption. Think lemon juice on your salad. Vitamin C is also a big power player in skin health. It’s great to prevent skin damage and keep it naturally hydrated so incorporating this into your diet for a skin glow is important.

 

VITAMIN B12

Vitamin B12 used to be considered exclusively an animal-based nutrient. These days however we know it can be obtained from nutritional yeast and fortified soy-based drinks. When on a vegan plan you may consider that certain types of bacteria can produce vitamin B12 (for instance types of bacteria that might be found on the soil that is on a vegetable you eat), so if you are OK with consuming these go for it, otherwise you can look for a high-quality vegan supplement. The most crucial thing is finding a supplement that is of high quality; one that is an appropriate dosage, without any added chemicals and all-natural.

 

VITAMIN D

This one is tricky. Although you need to get some vitamin D from your diet, your body will only be able to use a different version of it, which becomes activated through your exposure to sunlight. One more excuse for a beach visit. Vegan vitamin D sources are quite limited so if you are considering a supplement check that it is lichen-based as most tend to be made from wool and that’s a vegan no go.

 

PROTEIN

Get ready to hear a lot of question about this one. Where do vegans get their protein from? First of all, in this protein-obsessed world of ours it is important to remember that we don’t really need so much. Having said that, plant-based protein options include pulses, peas, seeds, nuts, sea vegetables, and whole grains.  Looking after your gut health with these foods is also important.

Overall, focus on what feels good. For you. Perhaps you can start with Meatless Monday to ease into your new lifestyle. Or alternate your protein sources between animal and plant-based foods. Or swap your milk for a plant-based alternative. As with any eating plan, variety is important to ensure a range of nutrients make it into your body. Try to avoid replacing foods of animal origin with high-sugar foods and don’t get stuck on a single alternative (i.e. soy everything). Following a vegan eating plan is not about missing out. Rather, it’s the perfect opportunity to get creative and experiment with new foods.

 

This post was originally published on HerMove

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