Making healthy choices is more of a priority as we get older, and for many this might mean considering a vegan diet or adding vegan meals a few days a week.  Choosing vegan protein powders, using vegan ‘non dairy’ milk in smoothies and shakes and making high protein, plant-based recipes is becoming more and more popular. But what does it mean to choose vegan and follow a plant-based or vegan diet?

What is a Vegan Diet?

A plant-based or vegan diet is one that avoids all animal foods such as meat, dairy, eggs, and honey as well as products like leather and anything tested on animals. This includes avoiding products that contain whey or casein found in most protein powders, gelatin found in gummy candies, and egg products like egg noodles and ramen noodles. Some are vegan for ethical reasons while others recognize the health benefits of cutting out certain foods like high fat meats.*

A plant-based diet increases intake of fiber and phyto nutrients such as vit C and folate as you fill your plate with more legumes, greens and vegetables. A vegan diet also tends to be low in saturated fats as you are not eating red meat, but this can also mean your diet is low in protein, B12, Vit D, omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, iron, zinc and muscle building essential amino acids like leucine – all commonly found in lean meats, dairy and eggs.

To ensure you are getting enough vegan sources of protein and calcium do your homework. There are plenty of substitutes in beans, nuts and vegetables that offer plant based sources of both protein and calcium, but it may mean adding foods in larger quantity to get the amount of daily protein you require.

Vegan sources of calcium include watercress, kale, kidney beans, bok choy, sesame seeds, almonds, broccoli, spinach and almond, hemp, rice or soy milk while lentils, beans, quinoa, tofu, soy milk, buckwheat, edamame, tempeh, greek yogurt, nuts, nut butters, sunflower seeds, spinach and broccoli make great sources of vegan protein.

If you are considering a vegan diet for health reasons keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  Consider slowly swapping out your usual protein sources for plant-based proteins or substituting a couple vegan meals a weeks for your normal lean meat dishes. Here are some simple vegan swap and pantry staples that might help you get you started.

Vegan Swaps

Don’t give up all your favourite, just make simple swaps for vegan choices.

Dairy (cows) milk -> almond, soy, hemp, rice or coconut milk

Eggs -> chia or flax (1 tbsp chia or ground flax with 3 tbsp water. Let sit for 5 mins.)

Butter – extra virgin olive oil, coconut or avocado oil

Honey – maple syrup, brown rice syrup

The Vegan Pantry

Have these staple items on hand to make vegan meals and snacks easy to make.

  • Black Beans, Chickpeas, Edamame
  • Raw Nuts and Seeds
  • Nut Butters, Seed Butter
  • Flax, Chia Seeds
  • Bean Dips (hummus), Salsa
  • Brown Rice
  • Whole Grain Flour
  • Quinoa
  • Falafel Mix
  • Veggie Burgers
  • Dark Greens – Spinach, Kale, Swiss Chard
  • Maple Syrup or Agave nectar
  • Almond, Soy, Hemp, Coconut, Rice Milk
  • Boomer Nutrition Organic Vegan Protein Powder
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Coconut oil
  • Dairy Free Dark Chocolate
  • Fresh & Frozen Fruit
  • Fresh & Frozen Vegetables
  • Rice Paper Wrappers and Rice Noodles

Swap out your usual dairy milk when making a mornings smoothie, try a brown rice & pea protein based vegan protein powder instead of whey, add more beans to your meals and give quinoa a try in place of noodles. A vegan diet or a vegan meal a few times a week can certainly help add more fiber and nutrients to your diet which can have many healthy benefits, especially if you are careful to include plenty of vegan protein too.

*Consult with your family Doctor before making substantial dietary changes like cutting out entire food groups, especially if you are under a Doctors care and taking medication for any medical conditions.

PIN to your Healthy Eating or Plant Based Vegan Diet Pinterest Board for easy reference.

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