Going Vegan the Healthy Way

The choice to transition to a vegan diet takes planning. In this episode we cover the nutrition considerations of going vegan.

First, decide whether an overnight transition or gradual transition is best for you. A gradual transition from eating animal products to no animal products could start with switching one meal, like breakfast, to vegan and trying that for one week. The next week, add the next vegan meal.

Just like non-vegan diet, it’s possible to miss out on important nutrients even when you feel like you’re eating very healthy. Just because the food you’re eating is vegan, doesn’t mean it's 100% healthy. As you learn more about vegan meal planning, what you like and don’t like, eat a wide variety of plant foods, planning a healthy diet that incorporates all the vitamins and nutrients you need.

One nutrient to be aware of if you’re going on a vegan diet is vitamin B-12. This is commonly found in meat. One way to incorporate this into a vegan diet is by using nutritional yeast which is a natural source of B-12. It has a little bit of a cheesy taste and comes in a powder form. Try sprinkling it on veggies or popcorn. You can usually find it in bulk spice sections or in a supplement area of the store.

Iron is another concern for vegans. Many people have iron deficiency even as meat eaters so if this is you, be very aware of the non-meat iron sources in your diet. The best one is probably beans. You’ll absorb non-meat iron better if you pair it with vitamin C so for example have beans along with red bell peppers. Get iron fortified cereals and have those with strawberries.

There are plenty of studies to dig into on vegan and vegetarian diets. One which involved 96,000 Seventh-day Adventist participants in the United States and Canada, looked at body mass index among a spectrum of vegetarian diets from vegan (no animal at all) to semi vegetarians and found average BMI increased in participants who ate more animal product. Vegan average BMI was 23.6 and semi veg was 27.3. A BMI between 19 and 25 is considered normal.

As you start substituting your proteins for plant proteins, here are ideas to get you started:

For meat try:

  • Shelled edamame

  • Lentils

  • Mushrooms, which will take on the flavor of sauces and spices

  • Beans

  • Tofu

To substitue eggs:

  • 1/4 cup applesauce

  • 1 mashed banana

  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin

  • Flax "egg": 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoons warm water (until it forms a gel)

  • Egg substitute like Ener-G Egg Replacer

Listen to the full episode for dinner vegan swaps and vegan diets for people with diabetes.

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