Updated: Mar 15
Deciding to go vegan is a huge decision. Its a great thing to do, for the animals, for the planet and for yourself, but how do you do it, what do you eat? The internet contains loads of information, so much that it get confusing and asking a vegan can be scary. What if they laugh at you, what if they don't want to talk to you because you still eat meat? Even if you watch them you may not be able to see what they're doing that is so different. So, what do vegans eat?
Whatever diet you eat you need to make sure that you are getting all of the nutrients that your body needs. There's carbohydrates, protein and fats, there are also the vitamins and minerals that have to be included as well as making sure that you are getting enough calories. When eating a diet that contains meat it is easy to get enough protein, fat and calories, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals will come from fruits, vegetable and grains, like brown rice and wholewheat pasta. But, when eating a vegan diet how do you get the protein, fat and calories that other people get from meat?
Ok, let's tackle protein first, this is the thing that a lot of people fuss over. Protein can be found in almost every food, even lettuce has protein in it. This doesn't mean that you can get all of the the protein that you need from lettuce though. Protein is made from amino acids, these are like Lego bricks in our bodies, imagine getting a truck made out of Lego, taking it apart and making a plane and keeping the bricks that you didn't use to make something else later. This is what our bodies do with protein. They break the protein apart, take the amino acids they need and save the rest for later. The protein that is in lettuce doesn't have all of the amino acids that our bodies need, it's like taking the Lego truck apart and not finding the right bricks for the wings of your plane, you will need to get the right bricks somewhere else. In food, this means that you will need to eat something that has the missing amino acids, maybe some brown rice or kidney beans. By eating a variety of foods you will get all of the different amino acids that your body needs.
Getting enough fat on a vegan diet is easy as our bodies don't need a lot. You can eat means avacados and seeds are also a great source of healthy fats, you can also add a small amount of oil to cooking if you really need to increase the amount of fat that you are eating. Many people eat nuts to get healthy fats, but people with nut allergies can't do this. Getting enough fat isn't something that you really need to worry about as long as you are getting enough calories and you do that by eating lots of everything. Meat, dairy and eggs contain a lot of calories, mainly because they have so much fat in them, whole foods usually have more carbohydrates than fat which our bodies use for energy so, to make sure we get enough calories, we just have to eat bigger portions. I know that some people will worry about getting fat and being overweight, but that is really hard to do when eating a whole food plant-based diet as our bodies love this kind of food. Whatever our bodies don't use we poop out, it's not like added fat that gets stored around our tummy and heart.
Vitamins and minerals can be found in all whole foods, minerals like iron can be found in kidney beans and dried apricots, vitamin E is in walnuts and this is why it is important to eat more than just salad to get everything that you need.
Foods high in protein include:
Food high in iron include:
Fortified plant milks
Foods high in calcium include
Green Leafy Vegetables
Foods high in vitamins and minerals include
It seems complicated when you try to work out what you need to eat to make sure that you get everything that your body needs, but as long as you are eating a wide variety of foods, and you are eating enough of those foods, you'll be fine. For example brown rice contains carbohydrates, fibre, potassium, sodium, protein, calcium, iron, vitamin B6, magnesium, zinc, copper, magnesium...