As a health coach, I hear from a lot of people who worry that they aren’t getting enough nutrients on a vegan diet. With so much processed vegan “meats” and “cheeses” and junk food on the market now, it’s pretty easy to eat meat-free and not get enough nutrients. I recommend eating mostly unprocessed plant foods, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and grains for optimal nutrition and saving the processed and packaged stuff for once-in-a-while eating. If you’re eating a wide variety of foods, you’re probably getting enough nutrients and don’t need to worry.
Here are my top 3 tips for being a health vegan:
Always Add Greens. Add leafy green vegetables to your meal, even if the recipe doesn’t call for it. If you’re making a soup or stew, add some spinach. If you’re making a tofu or tempeh dish, you can serve it over arugula, and the heat from the cooked food will steam it. If you’re making a stir-fry, throw in some boo choy or kale. You can always serve your meal with some sautéed greens or a big leafy salad.
Eat the Rainbow. Micronutrients are what give fruits and vegetables their colors, so if you have at least four colors on your plate at each meal, you can be sure you’re getting a wide variety of nutrients. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. Choose red onions instead of white, throw some purple cabbage onto your salad, add some shredded carrot to your stir-fry. White and black count as colors, so why not start your meal with some garlic and add some black olives to the finished dish?
Supplement Vitamins B12 and D. Vitamin B12 is actually a byproduct of bacteria, and it’s not very prevalent in plant foods so it’s something vegans need to supplement. As we age, B12 becomes difficult to absorb, even for omnivores, so everyone over the age of 50 should supplement, regardless of diet. Vitamin D is actually a hormone that the body produces after sun exposure, and it’s a nutrient that most Americans tend to be deficient in, so supplementing is important. Recommended dosages for both supplements tend to vary, so it’s good to research what’s best for you.