I have been vegetarian since the age of 15, (let’s just say that’s now more than a few decades ago!) but my desire to be plant-based started long before my teenage years. I remember as a child not feeling comfortable with eating meat (except bacon!) and feeling funny about consuming another animals’ blood.
My parents weren’t of the same mindset, so I was (somewhat) forced to continue eating meat that is UNTIL I hit puberty and built up the confidence to step into my beliefs and in alignment with what I felt to be right and true for ME. Going against your parents’ beliefs is NEVER easy, but to their credit, they responded with grace and compassion.
In the last 22 years of being vegetarian, I will fully fess up that there have been a few occasions (I think 4 to be exact) where I did eat a little chicken or fish. These occasions occurred during my second pregnancy, and anyone who has experienced being pregnant knows that you can’t deny what your body wants (I also ate a packet of pickled onion monster munch in that pregnancy!) I have also been vegan before but after my first pregnancy I first starting eating eggs, then dairy crept back in and without really realising it (I guess my attention was on my baby) I had stopped being vegan.
That is until last week. Where I felt the undeniable call to step back into alignment with my inner self and return to a vegan diet. As a health coach, I often get asked whether it is healthy to be vegetarian or vegan and my answer is: yes if you do it right. You can be a junk-food veggie, or be eating tons of processed fake-meat and gluten on a vegan diet. It’s very possible to eat few plants despite being on a plant-based diet!
“Some foods have the power to heal, while others have the power to harm.”
In this blog, I intend to cover some basic tips for being healthy on a vegan diet and share some of my favourite recipes and further resources for you.
First of all, let’s look at a few of the benefits of a vegan diet :
- For the environment: it’s the single biggest difference we can make to the health of the planet. We could cut global greenhouse gases by 23% with a vegan diet.
- For our health. Research has linked (non-junk/processed) vegan diets with lower blood pressure, cholesterol, lower rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. A plant-based diet also is generally alkaline and less inflammatory.
- For our weight. It’s easier to maintain a healthy weight on a vegan diet.
- For animals. There is a lot of cruelty and suffering involved in the meat & dairy industry.
Vegan Considerations :
A healthy vegan diet consists of :
- A whole food plant-based diet
- A minimum of 5 servings of vegetables and 1-2 servings of fruit
- 2-3 serving of whole grains and a limited amount of refined carbs
- Several different plant-based proteins with every meal – see options below.
- Good quality fats: avocado, nuts, olives, cold-pressed oils.
Vegan Protein sources:
Per cup :
- Tofu 40g
- Raw almonds 30g
- Red lentils 18g
- Edamame beans 16.8 g
- Chickpeas 14.6 g
- Red beans 15g
- Cooked quinoa 8g
- Broccoli 2.6g
- Peas 7.9g
For a complete veggie & vegan protein list see here.
Vegan Calcium sources : Vegetables, pulses nuts & whole grains provide significant quantities of calcium, and our ancestors likely relied on these foods for their calcium. These are better sources of calcium than dairy as they contain magnesium which helps the absorption of calcium. Best sources include:
- pumpkin seeds
- cooked dried beans
- tahini/sesame seeds.
Supplements : It is pertinent for vegans to supplement at least these vitamins :
- B complex
- Vitamin D (in Winter)
- Vegan omega fatty acids
- Protein powder can be a useful addition
See my blog post: Do I need to supplement for further information.
Simple healthy vegan recipes :
How-to-make delicious tofu
- 200g plain tofu – I use Feto; fermented tofu or Taifun/Tofu natur
- Knob of diced ginger
- Juice and zest of 1 lime
- Sprinkle of chili flakes
- Sesame oil and a little olive oil
- Tamari or soya sauce
- Dice the tofu and ginger
- Place in a shallow ovenproof dish
- Sprinkle with chili and pour juice and zest of lime
- Add Sesame oil, a little olive oil, and tamari
- Leave to marinate for a minimum of 20 minutes, or overnight
- Bake in the oven at around 160 for 15-20 minutes or lightly fry
- 1 cup Frozen peas (cooked)
- 1 cup nutritional yeast
- Fresh mint
- Olive oil
Blend all ingredients. Serve on top of quinoa or use as a dip or as a side with salad.
One-pot lentil curry
- Yellow onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 1 TBSP curry powder
- 2 TSP ginger, ground or fresh
- 1 cup of red lentils
- 1-2 cups of water
- 1-2 cups coconut milk
- 2 tightly packed cups of kale or spinach
- Lemon/lime wedges
- Coriander to serve
- Heat a large pot with some coconut oil
- Saute veg for 5-10 mins
- Add spices, lentils for a minute then add water
- Bring to the boil
- Lower heat and cover to cook around 15 minutes
- Stir in coconut milk and kale/spinach
- Season and serve
Vegan Mac n cheese
- 1 butternut squash
- 200g coconut milk
- 1 tsp veg stock
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 250 g gluten-free macaroni
- Pepper & salt
- Peel and chop the butternut squash, steam for 15 minutes
- Use a little of the steaming water to blend squash into a pure
- Cook macaroni
- On the hob heat the puree with the coconut milk and add the additional ingredients
- Add macaroni and put in a serving dish
- Bake in the oven for 10 -15 minutes
Top with – Crispy kale: Tear kale off the stem and lay in a baking tray, add olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and tamari. Massage and bake for 10-15 minutes
- 2 cups gluten-free flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- Sprinkle of salt
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
- 1 cup almond/rice/coconut milk
- 1/3 cup of olive or coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-2 cups blueberries, raspberries or strawberries
- 6 drops of doTERRA wild orange essential oil (request a sample here).
- Mix wet ingredients: Add the milk, sugar, oil and vanilla, stir to combine a few times to help soften the larger grains of sugar.
- Mix dry ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.
- Combine wet & dry: Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix until just combined. Don’t overmix.
- Toss in the fresh or frozen berries and gently fold them into the batter.
- Scoop up the batter and pour into silicone moulds or equivalent.
- Bake: Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
- Let cool a few minutes and enjoy warm or at room temperature.
Additional Resources :
- Game changers, Netflix
- Forks over knives, Netflix
- How not to die, Michael Gregor
- Deliciously Ella podcast