Going Vegan? What You Need To Know…

 

Yes, Beyoncé has done it again! With a couple of Instagram snaps to her 112m followers, she has got the whole interwebs talking. This time, about her diet. 

 

A couple of days ago, Beyoncé posted her plans to go back on her vegan eating plan in preparation for Coachella. While the skeptical could argue that it’s a great plug for her and hubby Jay-z’s 22 Days Nutrition meal plan, I think that anything that encourages people to make healthier choices is positive. And the evidence (both health and environmental) to support a more plant-based diet is growing by the day. 

 

If you’re going to dabble in some more meat-less meals, join Bey on her Coachella plan or aim to make a longer term switch, choosing vegan is not as hard as you may think. Like with anything new, it just comes down to a little planning and a few habit switch-a-roos. 

 

So, we want to lend a hand with some MNB myth busting and handy hints to help you get started… 

 

Be prepared to be asked about your protein intake. 

One of the biggest misconceptions is that you’ll be lacking protein if you’re eating a plant-based diet. Protein is everywhere… AND you don’t need as much as most people think. 

 

The main thing to be aware of when it comes to protein and a plant-based diet, is to ensure that you are consuming enough ‘complete proteins’.

Protein is made up of amino acids. Some foods have all of the essential amino acids, like tofu, tempeh, protein powders (complete proteins) whereas others only have some, like pulses and grains (incomplete proteins). That’s okay though because each incomplete protein source has a series of BFFs, that when you pair them up in a meal, they make up a complete protein – huzzah! 

 

Here is our guide on pairing food to make complete proteins!

 

But, for some weird reason as soon as you start eating vegan people feel compelled to discuss your protein intake. So be prepared to be asked about it … a lot. 

 

Watch out for hidden ingredients.

Sometimes things you think are vegan friendly aren’t and things you think aren’t…. ARE! For example… Oreos are vegan friendly, some orange juice is not.

 

Milk powder, whey, egg products, fish oil and gelatine are the usual non-vegan suspects lurking in seemingly ‘safe’ foods. There are also some food colourings which are derived from animals. 

Also, check beer and wine for fining agents as they often use fish bladders – ewwwwwwwwwww!

 

Have a look at the ingredient list to make sure you’re not caught by a sneaky ingredient in a seemingly ‘safe’ food and always look for the big ‘V’ to show that it is certified vegan.

 

Vegetarian, Vegan, Plant-Based … What’s with all of the labels?

Vegetarian: 

Vegetarians will not eat meat but will consume other animal ingredients such as eggs, dairy and gelatine.

No, vegetarians don’t eat fish, but there is some debate around some seafood, such as mussels. This is centred around whether they have consciousness and neurological function.

 

Vegan: 

Generally speaking, the term ‘vegan’ is used to describe a lifestyle choice rather than just a type of diet. 

Vegans have opted for a cruelty-free lifestyle for ethical, health or environmental reasons (or all of these) which means, it goes beyond what they choose to eat and includes; using cruelty-free products (e.g. make-up, cleaning etc), not wearing animal products like leather or fur and not participating in events that are deemed to be detrimental to animal welfare (e.g. horse racing, using animals as entertainment, contribute to habitat destruction). 

Diet wise, vegans will not eat, wear, consume or use anything that is derived from or tested on an animal. This includes by-products such as honey and gelatine.

 

Plant-Based: 

Plant-based is a descriptor for someone opting for a vegan style diet but who does not subscribe to all aspects of the lifestyle. 

 

Vegan food is hard to make – Myth Busted!

Vegan food is super easy to make, it just comes down to becoming familiar with go-to ingredients and what works well for baking substitutes (i.e. mashed bananas, non dairy yoghurts and ‘chia eggs’ work really well to bind baked goods).

 

To begin with, a lot of people use vegan friendly ‘portions’ to replace meat (Beyond Meat burgers, veggie sausages, Vegan Quorn etc) as it is more familiar. These go well with your usual vegetable and carb pairings but try to avoid getting into the habit of relying on these – because they’re boring!

 

There are a wealth of awesome, easy recipes out there to try and experiment with. Here are a few of our faves:

Vegan Wagon Wheels – for a sweet treat

Vegan Chili Con Carne – for some comfort food

Vegan Tamari Zoodles – when you’re short on time

 

Like any healthy diet, try to opt for non-processed ingredients where you can, and stick to fresh and natural. And don’t be afraid to experiment, that’s part of the fun!

 

Want some help with meal guides? We’ve got you covered there too smile The Active Living Program has a specific Vegan/Vegetarian meal plan each week, including recipes and snacks – FOR FREE! Yep, it’s a full wellness program for free – so you can use as little or as much of the program as you would like. You can learn more right here x

 

You won’t get enough iron or calcium without meat and dairy – Myth Busted!

While every person is different with what their body needs, there are lots of iron and calcium sources which are plant-based. 

 

The key is – maximising absorption. You can eat all of the nutritious food you like, but if your body is not digesting properly it’s not absorbing the vitamins and minerals.

 

So, step one is to take care of your gut health (read more about that here and here) and learn about what you can do to make sure you’re supporting your body to get the most out of the food you’re eating. For example, pairing and iron source with a vitamin C source will help increase absorption. Whereas, drinking tea or coffee with your iron source will limit it.

Likewise, vitamins D and K and magnesium increase calcium absorption and oxalates inhibit it (foods containing oxalates include; chocolate, grapes and eggplant).

 

Here are some examples of foods high in iron and calcium:

  • Iron: Tofu, tempeh, lentils, kidney beans, chick peas, pumpkin seeds, tahini, quinoa, leafy greens (kale, beet greens, chard, broccoli, cabbage), mushrooms, prune juice, and tomato paste or juice.
  • Calcium: Fortified breads, cereals, juice and non-dairy milks, almonds, chia seeds, sesame seeds and/or tahini, oranges. artichokes, broccoli, greens (collard, beet, turnip, bok choy, kale) and tempeh. 

 

You can’t eat out – Myth Busted!

It has never been easier to be vegan. There are so many more options and plant-based diets are becoming more mainstream by the day. 

The key is, don’t be afraid to ask and prepare to be flexible. 

My top tips for eating out:

  • Look up the menu beforehand if you can, so you know what you’re dealing with
  • Always have a snack on hand! I always have some nuts, a protein bar or bliss balls in my bag or car. A: because I love snacks and B: so no matter what happens, I have a little go-to to tie me over if I’m caught out unexpectedly.
  • Make sides your friends. As a vegan, you’ll become pretty savvy at creating a meal out of sides :) 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask! Ask what options they have for you. I have ended up with some awesome meals unexpectedly just by asking what was available. There is normally an option for you but if not, you can usually ask for the dairy component to be removed from the vegetarian meal. BUT the best is when there is an awesome Chef who offers to whip you something special up. You would be surprised by the number of Chefs who have offered or insisted on trying out a new dish and have thanked me for the opportunity to go off-menu. It doesn’t happen all of the time but, it has happened more than you would think. 

 

Supplements

A general, high quality multi vitamin is probably a good choice for everyone, so it would be worth investing in. It is also recommended that you take a B12 supplement, which can be in the form of under tongue sprays or melts and injections. They come in tablets too but if your digestion isn’t great, you won’t be getting the full dose.

 

A lot of people are deficient in B12 (as it once again comes down to healthy digestion) but as a vegan, it is certainly a key supplement to be adding into your routine. 

 

But please pop and see your healthcare professional before making any major dietary or lifestyle changes. They can advise you on any specific supplements you will need or considerations to make based upon your health and personal requirements.

 

You’re not alone!

So there you have it, some key tips to get you started! But remember, you’re not alone! There are millions of people on vegan and plant based diets.

From everyday folk (like me!) to artists, scientists, politicians and elite athletes… you’re in good company :) 

 

So… who out there is already Vegan / plant-based and who is interested to give it a try?