1. Vegetables should be the stars of your dish

People often view veganism as a restrictive diet. However, once you start exploring your options, you will realize how it will actually expand your food choices. It is an excellent opportunity to cook with the vegetables you never tried before. Veggie-packed meals are the clear winners in the kitchen: Veggies are nutrient-dense. They are full of vitamins and minerals and keep you feeling more satisfied for longer periods due to their high fiber content.

2. Embrace variety - eat all colors of the rainbow

Getting all the nutrients you need is not more challenging when on a vegan diet. However, vegan or not, you still need to make sure you eat balanced meals, which include a wide variety of healthy foods. A great way to recognize the variety of a dish is by looking at how colorful your plate is. All these colors promote your health in different ways. For example, Lycopene in red tomatoes promotes heart-health, anthocyanins (the stuff that makes blueberries blue!) promotes brain-health, and the orange material found in sweet potatoes and carrots - also known as vitamin A - keeps your eyes and retinas healthy.

3. Go for whole grains whenever possible

Always consider swapping refined grains, such as white pasta, white bread, and white rice with whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, or oatmeal. This adds nutrients, such as iron, vitamin B, and fiber to your diet, all of which are removed during the processing of these grains.

4. Vegan foods are not always healthier

Just because they’re vegan, doesn't mean these cookies are any better for you than regular ones, as they still contain copious amounts of fat and sugar. Processed vegan foods often contain palm oil, which is laden with saturated fats. If you fancy a snack, stick to a whole-food, nutrient-dense treats, such as carrots, hummus, nuts, dried fruits, or guacamole. If you indulge in processed snacks, don’t blind yourself and pretend they’re healthier just because they’re vegan. Ignorance will affect your waistline over time.

5. Watch your vitamin D intake

Non-vegans typically get their vitamin D fix from fish or fortified dairy products like milk and yogurt. While vitamin D in these products is healthy, fish and dairy come with a lot of unhealthy and unethical “extra-baggage.” As a vegan, you should keep your vitamin D intake in mind. Typical vegan sources include fortified plant-based milk and mushrooms. However, mushrooms only contain vitamin D, when they have been exposed to UV light for some time, which doesn’t make them a reliable source. You may want to consider exposing yourself to the sun instead: Our skin can synthesize vitamin D when exposed to sufficiently strong sunlight. Which may be easier said than done in notoriously smoggy cities, such as Jakarta. If none of those mentioned above sources are reliably available to you, you may want to consider supplementing vitamin D. Beware, though, that many vitamin D supplements are encased in gel capsules, which contain bovine gelatin (i.e., cow bones!). Speaking about supplements, while you’re already at it, you may also want to consider throwing some B12 tablets into your shopping basket. Here you can read more about B12, and whether you should be supplementing it.

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