It seems to me that the biggest hurdle that many people have to becoming a vegan, is knowing what foods to eat so that each meal is still healthy and well-rounded.
I can understand how overwhelming it can be to be faced with planning and preparing your meals in a way that is different to what you are used to, and how it is a concern whether or not you are getting enough of all the foods to provide complete nutrition.
All you need to really know is the four vegan food group, and to then try and incorporate one of each group with every meal. Understanding the vegan food groups really takes away the mystery and confusion around preparing meals that are tasty and healthy.
This food group is for sure the most obvious for vegans and those following a plant based diet. Vegetables should be consumed in abundance in a vegan diet due to being nutritional powerhouses. Vegetables are a protein source (Yep! Broccoli for example provides 30% of its calories as protein!), contain essential vitamins and minerals, are high in fibre, and have antioxidant qualities.
Aim to have 2-3 different kinds of vegetables on your plate with every meal, and try to include the various colours of the rainbow to experience optimal health.
You can prepare vegetables in so many ways, such as by steaming, sauteeing, frying, roasting, having them in a salad, or blending them in a smoothie.
Just like vegetables, fruits contain loads of minerals, vitamins, fibre and antioxidants. Most fruits are also low in fat and cholesterol, making them a great healthy snack. One of the best things about fruits is that they are sweet, but they are still low-glycemic, meaning they won’t cause spikes in your blood sugar levels.
Eating 1-2 pieces of fruit a day will do wonders for your skin and immune system. Add fruits to salads, smoothies or eat them on their own to enjoy them.
By legumes, I am talking about lentils, beans and peas. The benefits of adding this food group to a vegan meal is that they are an important protein source. They also provide calcium, iron, soluble fibre, and the good omega 3 fats.
There are many ways to incorporate legumes into your diet, such as blending chickpeas to make hummus, adding beans into soups and salads, turning lentils into burgers, and eating tempeh as a replacement for meat in a meal.
This food group means foods such as bread, rice, pasta, tortillas, and cereals. You want to make sure you are eating the most whole version of these grains as possible. This means, no white rice, white bread or white flour tortillas, but instead opting for the wholegrain varieties instead.
I personally choose to go gluten free as my body doesn’t react well to gluten that comes in a lot of grains. So I choose to eat a lot of brown or red rice, quinoa and buckwheat based noodles and pasta to fulfill my wholegrain needs.
And that is really as simple as it gets- the four essential vegan food groups to try and have with every meal.
If you are still feeling confused, then you might like to check out my free meal planner that is made up of a week’s worth of healthy, vegan, and gluten free recipes along with a shopping list and substitution guide. This free meal planner can help to demystify the whole plant based diet even more so that you can see there really are endless possibilities to eat, even as a vegan.
- What do you find most challenging about eating more vegan foods with your meals?