How to be a healthy vegan
There is so much debate today about what’s the healthiest diet. Many believe that a vegetarian or vegan diet is the healthiest way to eat. But is it?
Well, it depends. What people often forget is that the general rules of healthy eating still apply. Vegetarian and vegan does not necessarily equal healthy!
Vegetarian: a diet that excludes meat products and any foods that has meat in it. This diet is naturally lower in saturated fats and protein which means that vegetarians need to have alternative protein sources which may include dairy products such as cheese, yoghurt and eggs. These will also provide some saturated fat along with some all important calcium and vitamin B12.
Vegan: a vegan diet excludes not only meat but all animal products. It’s free from dairy, eggs and honey. Vegans also need to look out for some natural food colourings and gelatin which are often sourced from animals.
The most important question is, what the excluded food groups are replaced with?
Many unhealthy and processed food today are naturally vegan. These are often loaded with unhealthy fats, salt, sugar, refined grains, chemicals and artificial additives. Chips, jelly, margarines, pretend meats and many sweets are naturally vegan but that doesn’t mean they are healthy. Many vegans live on this diet for years before realizing that they don’t feel well and start to make changes.
How to be a healthy vegan?
- Eat real food. Forget fake meats made from stuff you can’t pronounce. Eat food that comes from nature. Eat plants. Your diet should be based on vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, rice and potatoes.
- Cook from scratch. Making a soup or salad doesn’t take long. You can also make soups in batches and freeze them. You can make a soup from any vegetable! You can even make soups from fruit which is lovely and refreshing, a bit like a smoothie.
- Vegan on the go. If you are super busy just pop into a café or supermarket – you can pick up a salad or soup anywhere! We love the salad choice at M&S and Pret cafes have some fabulous soups you can grab on the go!
- Add plant based proteins. Add some soy, tofu, lentils, chickpeas and hemp to your diet. If you are running low on ideas and time, there is an abundance of products available today to help you with this from pasta to smoothies. They are super tasty and quick to make! (read our blog How to boost your diet with plant based proteins)
- Supplement. Have your levels checked first (you will need a blood test) or speak to your doctor for recommendations. Most vegans need to supplement vitamin B12 however there are a few plant-based products you can eat such as sea vegetables, spirulina, agar-agar, or jaggery (a type of sugar) to boost your intake.
- Avoid processed grains. This is not a vegan thing but a health thing. As vegan food choices are restricted many vegans find themselves living on bread. Bread, especially the glutenous, processed kind is not good for anyone. Go for healthy options with reduced gluten such as spelt or rye, or choose a gluten free bread (there are many artisan gluten free bread available, mostly online) and make sure you watch your intake. When you fill up on bread there is less room for vegetables.
- Watch your carbs & sugar. We all need a treat but a vegan diet can be high in sugar, mainly because the main event on the plate often comes from simple carbohydrates such as potatoes, pasta, bread or rice. These break down quickly in your body and cause blood sugar levels to rise – acting like sugar. If you eat puddings or sugary sweets after your meal or snack on them in between meals it can play havoc with your insulin and blood sugar levels going up and down all day. Go for low GI / GL options. Make sure you always consume some healthy fat with your carbs (such as coconut oil, avocado or nuts) and fibre (in form of vegetables) to slow the absorption of carbs. This way you create a balanced and healthy meal.
- Go part time raw vegan. Raw vegans consume a plant based diet and all of their food is un-cooked (not heated over 40C). While we don’t advocate doing this full time as it’s extremely restrictive, having a few meals a week “raw vegan” style is a great way to add more nutrition to your diet. This may include raw salads, smoothies or even soups made in a high speed blender. You can replace your pasta with some courgetti (gently softened for a few minutes) or other veggies, using a spiraliser. You can get ready to use spiralised veggies from Ocado.
If you are looking for a healthy option product or idea add your question in the comments below and we can help you with some product advise.