People who have stopped eating meat and all animal products often questioned by their family and friends whether one will get enough nutrients to maintain a healthy body. The American Dietetic Association has confirmed that "appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthy, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in preventing and treating certain diseases. Well-planned vegan diets are appropriate for individuals during all life cycle stages, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and suitable for athletes." (1)
We will explore and give you an idea of whether you've been eating a well planned vegan diet or not in this article.
Half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables!
Fruit and vegetables are an important source of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber. When it comes to food choices, variety plays as important a role as quality, since no fruit or vegetable can provide all the necessary nutrients by itself. More vegetables than fruit should be consumed of the recommended five servings per day, and three should be in the form of vegetables and two in the form of fruit. (2)
Another quarter of your plate should be whole grains whenever possible!
A quarter of your plate should be filled with grains. Always consider swapping refined grains, such as white pasta, white bread, and white rice with whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, or oatmeal. They contain essential vitamins (especially B vitamins) and minerals (iron, zinc, magnesium). By contrast, refined cereals such as white flour and white rice lack essential nutrients. (3) On top of that, they can also increase blood sugar and insulin levels faster, increasing the risk of obesity and diabetes. (4)
Incorporate protein-rich plants (1/4 of your vegan plate)
Protein plays a vital role in the meal. Meat has always been associated with a protein source for human health, especially in building muscle mass. People might not pay attention to beans and legumes as the primary protein source when eating a vegan diet. Most people rarely consume beans and legumes, not knowing they are superfoods, such as red beans, mung bean, soybeans, tempeh, black bean, chickpeas, etc.
Even though fruits, vegetables, grains also contain protein, beans give you the highest amount of protein. Getting your source protein from beans is better in comparison to meat. They came with a lot of fiber, while meat doesn't have any fiber, and it comes with saturated fat, which you do not want.
So if you're going to get enough protein, a rule you can follow is to include beans and legumes in your lunch and dinner. It is a myth that plant-protein is inferior compare to animal protein (5), but know that plant protein contains complete amino acids. Check out this article if you need to find out more about protein!
You can get all the other nutrients on a well-planned vegan diet!
Part of a well-planned vegan diet is knowing what nutrients to be aware of and incorporating them into your diet. Overall, focus on eating a varied food that includes protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy alternatives for calcium. A few essential nutrients to be aware of include: vitamin B-12, vitamin D, iodine, and omega-3 fatty acids. Check out this article to find out more about these specific nutrients and whether you need to supplement it.
A variety of foods is important!
In other research, it was stated, "Well-planned vegan diets, based on a wide variety of plant foods and excluding all animal derivatives, provide adequate nutrition throughout all life stages, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, and childhood." (6)
They emphasize a wide variety of plant foods, which is important. If you live in the city, you most likely have access to a wide range of foods, even imported foods from foreign countries. But you can be healthy with local Indonesian foods too! Just make sure that you are eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and legumes with different colors. Make your plate like a rainbow!
Planning is the key!
Whether you are a vegetarian, vegan, or an omnivore, a well-planned diet is essential to avoid nutritional deficiencies. Optimal vegan nutrition is ensured by eating a balanced and varied diet without losing sight of critical nutrients. Nutritionists also recommend having a blood test done every year or two!
If you are not there yet, don't stress out. Everyone who went through transition becoming a vegan has experienced this. Create your shopping and meal plan to have a wide variety of plant foods today!