Becoming vegan likely means for you that your diet had to change drastically. It is normal to find vegan nutrition overwhelming in the beginning and wonder what is right for you and what is not. In this post I would like to suggest a checklist for any new vegan to go through when going through this change. Even if you’re not vegan and just want to try switching to a plant-based diet, you can use this checklist to make sure you covered all areas to thrive on your new diet and enjoy your new lifestyle. It is amazing to go to bed every night knowing you did not harm animals, but it is also important to know you took care of yourself and your body.
B12 and D vitamin supplements
Now it may be so that you will not need B12 in the beginning (especially if you supplement with enriched foods but in the long run it is important to take it. For Vitamin D, while not related to the plant-based diet itself, it is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies (especially if you live somewhere cold) so vegan or not, you should be taking at least a little bit of it to stay healthy.
How much B12 should I take when living on a plant-based diet?
You have three options which are the current recommendations for B12 intake for vegans. To receive at least three micrograms (mcg or g) of B12 per day by eating fortified foods two or three times a day. Alternatively, you should take a daily B12 supplement containing at least 10 micrograms. The last option is to take a B12 supplement with at least 2000 mcg each week.
Protein, carbs and fats
The other thing you need to keep in mind when becoming vegan is your macronutrient intake. The basic three are carbohydrates, proteins and fats which your body needs certain amounts of to function properly. You should focus on making sure you eat the right amount of all three – especially protein and fat since I believe carbs will be almost impossible not to get enough of. To make sure you eat enough protein, carbs and fats in the beginning, I advise you use an app like Lifesum or Cronometer to track your macronutrients until you learn how to balance your diet.
How can I make sure to get enough protein as a vegan?
Getting enough protein as a vegan is a lot easier than people think. Here are a couple of tips on making sure you get enough protein on a plant-based diet:
- Eat oats for breakfast – for extra protein, you can add some peanut butter to them.
- Put oats and protein powder in your smoothies – you may not need to use any protein powder at all but if you exercise a lot and are an active person you may want to consider supplementing with it.
- Eat lots of beans and lentils – if you incorporate beans and lentils regularly into your meals you should have no problem eating enough protein as a vegan.
- Eat tofu – eating tofu is one of the easiest (and tastiest!) ways to get more protein into your diet.
Focus on fruits and vegetables
It can be difficult in the beginning but one of the best things you can do for yourself and your body is to create the habit of eating many fruits and vegetables. When you are craving sugar – try to eat dates, bananas, apples and any other natural source rather than jump into the vegan junk food.
Here are some suggestions for healthy vegan snacks:
- Hummus with carrots (or any other veggies)
- Peanut butter with apples
- Fruit and nut blends
- Roasted chickpeas
- Rice cakes with fruit, veggies, hummus, etc.
- Popcorn – if you make it yourself, tastes really good with nutritional yeast
- Peanut butter with any fruit
- Baked veggie chips – cut up your veggies in small pieces and bake them covered with a bit of oil
- Any kind of smoothie you like
Omega-3 and omega-6 fats
When you first become vegan, you may find yourself worrying whether you will get enough omega-3 and omega-6 fats in your vegan nutrition. Don’t worry – those two are a lot more common than you think. You can find these essential fats in a lot of vegan options.
Omerga-3 fats can be found in:
- flax seed
- chia seeds
- hemp seeds
- small amounts can be found in other nuts, seeds and grains
Omerga-6 fats can be found in:
- hemp seeds
- sunflower seeds
- avocado oil
You can add these regularly in your smoothies or oatmeal to make sure you got your fats covered.
What about calcium?
It is likely that all your life people were telling you that calcium comes from milk and that milk is the most reliable source of calcium. The good news is that calcium can easily be found in numerous vegan options. Here are some examples of vegan calcium sources:
- green, leafy veggies (spinach, kale, etc.)
- sesame seeds, tahini
- most vegan milk and yoghurt is fortified with calcium
- dried figs
- haricot beans
Vegan nutrition has never been as easy as it is now and you can get all the information you need with just a few google searches. Being vegan and healthy is possible and there are thousands of people out there proving that every single day.
You will find that there may be some additional things to consider based on your needs but making sure you get all of the abovementioned is an easy way to start your vegan journey on the right foot.