If you’ve signed up for the 7 Day Veggie Challenge or are trying to balance your plant-based diet, you may be concerned with staying nourished and energetic. Being vegetarian or vegan doesn’t have to mean sacrificing an energetic lifestyle! In fact, many people report feeling better when they replace meat and/or dairy with plant protein. The key is to balance your intake of fats, proteins, and vitamins, and keep track of what and how much you’re eating if you are making a significant dietary shift for the first time. Keeping a food journal too stay on top of your intake has never been easier with apps like MealLogger, or simply keep a running list meals you’ve eaten when you sit down to check emails in the evening on your laptop. Sign up for Veggie Challenge to receive information tailored to your concerns during your first week or read on to learn about some common concerns for vegetarian and vegan eaters.
Getting enough iron, protein, B12, etc. Vegetarian and vegan diets are rich in the essential nutrients the body needs, but it is important to be aware of what your body requires in order to make the transition from a meat based to an omnivore diet. Finding good alternative sources of protein, calcium, iron, and B12 will help you to make the change by working these into your daily meals. We have published detailed information on maintaining a healthy diet here: http://www.veggiechallenge.com/tag/nutrition/ Bear in mind that it is particularly important to find reliable sources of Vitamin B12, Iodine, Vitamin D, and Omega 3. Our top pointers are:
- Include a wide variety of different foods in your diet, as no one food source is nutritionally complete in itself. Trying different food and meals will also keep you interested and more likely to commit to changing your diet.
- Use less refined grains as much of the nutrient content is lost. Whole unrefined foods are best.
- Use less salt. We need about 1,500 milligrams, or 3 grams, of salt daily to aid in proper nutrient absorption. In excess however, salt can result in water retention, dehydration, and high blood pressure over time
- Older people are more likely to develop a vitamin B12 deficiency because they are at risk for mal-absorption. For more information read http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/29/health/vitamin-b12-deficiency-can-cause-symptoms-that-mimic-aging.html?_r=0 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/29/health/vitamin-b12-deficiency-can-cause-symptoms-that-mimic-aging.html?_r=0
- Females require more iron than men and can boost their levels by using cast iron pans, including foods high in Vitamin C in meals. It is also beneficial to not consume tea, coffee or chocolate at the same time as iron-rich foods.
- Male vegetarians have much lower requirements for iron than women
- During pregnancy and breast-feeding women require extra nutrition, especially iron and b12. For more information readhttp://www.vrg.org/nutrition/veganpregnancy.php It is the position of Dietitians of Canada and the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Read more here: http://www.veggiechallenge.com/tag/nutrition/ and http://veg.ca/go-veg/vegetarian-nutrition/
Feeling nourished and energetic Making sure to consume enough calories, protein and Vitamin D is important for addressing feelings of fatigue and hunger and staying committed to a vegan or vegetarian diet. It can be easy to think of all the low-calorie foods you could eat as part of a vegan diet, such as salads and fruits, but it is also important to remember to eat denser, more calorie-rich foods. Those moving to a low-calorie vegan diet will need to be particularly aware of this. Getting enough fat in your meals will also make you feel satisfied and full. Finding good sources of protein is also important for feeling full and energized. Vegan and vegetarian food is rich in protein, but it can be difficult to adjust initially if you are used to large amounts of protein from an meat-based diet. Legumes such as lentils, beans and soy foods are a good source of protein that can be easily worked into your diet. For more information, The Toronto Vegetarian Society has useful information on energy foods and what to eat at veg.ca and also a helpful page on vegetarian energy foods for kids and athletes http://veg.ca/2006/02/17/vegetarian-energy-foods-for-kids-and-athletes/ For more ideas on how to feel properly nourished on a vegetarian and vegan diet, we recommend reading Ginny Messina, MPH, RD’s tips on committing to veganism, which address the most common barriers related to nutrition, practical issues, and social support: http://www.theveganrd.com/2012/09/ten-tips-for-staying-happy-and-healthy-on-a-vegan-diet.html