How to Make a Healthy Meal Plan for New Vegans
Nine Tips for Creating a Healthy and Balanced Vegan Meal Plan
1. Eat according to the seasons and your body composition.
Buy seasonal and locally grown vegetables. It is best to avoid fruits during the winter months as fruits are very refreshing for the body.
Since winter is dominated by cold, it is better to eat foods that warm up rather than create heat in the body.
2. Include protein with every meal like beans, lentils, peas, nuts and seeds.
Protein grounds your blood sugar, repairs and builds tissue, and lowers hunger hormones.
Protein facilitates metabolic functions in the body and helps regulate fluid balance.
3. Your plate should include a rainbow of vegetables and fruits every day.
Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables in different colors as they contain an abundance of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.
These are all essential nutrients that keep cells functioning efficiently, promote healthy metabolism, and protect cells from damage.
If your body gets all the nutrients it needs, you’ll feel more energized and focused.
4. Healthy fats are important
They provide a source of energy for the body, facilitate the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K), manufacture hormones and protect your cell membranes.
Good sources of fat include avocado, extra virgin olive oil, walnuts, flax seeds and flaxseed oil.
Vegans can get omega-3 fatty acids from hemp, chia seeds, purslane, seaweed, nuts, and some green leafy vegetables.
Omega-3s are essential for brain health, mood regulation, cardiovascular function, and reducing inflammation in the body.
5. Make sure you get enough B12 and iron.
They are essential nutrients needed for metabolism and energy production in the body.
There are some sources of vitamin B12, including nutritional yeast, yeast spreads (like marmite), chlorella, and nori seaweed.
Vegan sources of iron include dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, pine nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, apricots, greenstrap molasses, kidney and pinto beans, lentils, chickpeas , spirulina and wheat germ.
6. Don’t forget the calcium
Calcium is another important mineral that vegans can get from plant sources without the need to consume dairy products.
Calcium-rich foods include green leafy vegetables, broccoli, sesame seeds, tahini, sweet potatoes, almonds, hazelnuts, and legumes.
7. Include lots of fiber
Consume a good amount of soluble fiber (beans, sprouts, sweet potatoes, broccoli, pears) as fiber helps maintain healthy blood sugar and gut health.
Fiber keeps your gut regular and your gut microbiome (beneficial bacteria in the gut) healthy.
8. Read food labels
Check labels to identify whether foods are vegan or not, and also to avoid nasty ingredients and hidden sugars.
Many products claim to be “sugar-free”, “natural” and “a healthy alternative”; however, this is often far from the truth. Food manufacturers use these terms to draw attention to the sale of their products.
Natural flavors and colors usually mean they were chemically made in a lab using toxic ingredients.
9. Avoid frying and cooking foods with damaged hydrogenated oils such as rapeseed oil or vegetable oil.
Be aware that dairy-free spreads are also a source of damaged oils. Nut or seed butters are a more nutritious and healthier option.
Do not heat food to high temperatures, either for boiling or frying, as this can destroy the nutrients in the food.
Try to eat raw or lightly sautéed or steamed foods if needed.
New to veganism? Discover the benefits of a whole plant-based diet.