Top nutritional tips for vegans

by Mem Davis, B.Applied Science (Naturopathy Studies), Grad. Dip. Naturopathy

I’ve been vegan for five years and have never felt better. Like many of my clients,
I was initially a little uncertain about what to eat in order to stay healthy but being vegan is a lot simpler than you might think.

Although more people are adopting a vegan diet for ethical, health and environmental reasons, there’s a common misconception that eating vegan is boring. Rest assured, being vegan doesn’t mean having to miss out. It’s possible to eat both delicious and nutritious meals, and maintain a healthy body and weight by eating plenty of plant-based wholefoods.
The following tips will keep you fulfilled and satisfied on a vegan diet.

Vary your palate
The easiest way to access a variety of nutrients is to eat a variety of food.
Vegans don’t need to live on salads alone so an assortment of plant based foods – including wholegrains, legumes, fruit and vegetables – will give you better nutrition and more exciting meals.
It’s also important to make sure you’re eating enough for your energy needs. Depending on your activity levels, you’ll want to take in at least 1200 – 2500 calories per day. An average day might include a bowl of oats, fresh fruit, some nuts, seeds, different vegetables and generous servings of rice, quinoa, buckwheat or other wholegrains.

What about protein?
So many people worry that they won’t meet their protein needs as a vegan. But protein is found in all plant foods, wholegrains, beans, tofu, lentils and nuts.
By eating enough of these foods you can easily reach your daily needs, even as a growing child or athlete. As a general guideline, adults need between 40-70g of protein per day, with athletes and pregnant women being at the higher end of that scale.
Tip: An easy way to get enough protein is to make a smoothie and add a protein powder or raw ingredients (e.g. pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, raw cashews, chia seeds, old-fashioned oats, hazelnuts, spirulina, kale, spinach, rocket, wheat germ, coconut flakes).

Where will I get B12?
Getting enough vitamin B12 is important for the proper function of your nervous system and the prevention of anaemia.
Some foods, such as plant milks or some soy products and cereals, are fortified with B12, but this isn’t always sufficient. Although B12 production is linked with soil bacteria (not animal based foods as commonly believed), vegans are at higher risk of B12 deficiency. For this reason, I often direct customers towards suitable supplements.

Is veganism safe for kids?
The World Health Organization states that a plant-based diet is one of the healthiest around. So if your kids are eating a good variety of plant based foods, then their nutrition should be sound.
Bear in mind that teenagers do have a higher requirement for calcium, which can easily be sourced through leafy green vegetables, tofu, almonds and celery. An average vegan diet to meet calcium requirements might include: 

  • 1 cup almond or soy milk
  • ½ cup tofu
  • 2 cups kale or silverbeet
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp almonds

Vegan treats
Everybody deserves a treat now and then. There are now tasty vegan alternatives for icecream, chocolate, cheese, milk and sausages. So go on, treat yourself!