Today is a great time to be vegan or switch to a plant based diet whatever your age. If you are a young mum, a student, or are trying to be healthy into older age, a plant based diet can support you towards optimal health and can be suitable for the whole family to enjoy.
You need to educate yourself about the nutrients you need however. It’s easy to veer towards processed foods and fake animal products and have an over reliance on carbohydrates if you don’t think carefully about what you should be eating.
There are some nutrients which you need to be particularly aware of on a vegan diet, such as vitamin B12 which should be obtained through fortified foods and a good supplement. Also omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D, iodine, calcium and sufficient protein intake are key nutrients to be aware of. Veganuary’s nutrition section has lots of information on this and you can also talk to your healthcare provider or a Registered Nutritional Therapist to make sure you are getting what you need.
A well planned whole foods plant based diet can support the whole family towards optimal health.
It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.
– American Dietetic Association 2009
What to Eat?
A key aspect of a healthy diet is preparation. A little time spent planning your meals and shopping and batch cooking to freeze, will help to avoid you making unhealthier food choices when you are in a rush or hungry. Plan your meals around a protein source such as beans, lentils, tofu, nuts and seeds, a complex carbohydrate such as brown rice or quinoa (reduce this if needing to lose weight however), a healthy source of fat such as coconut oil or avocado, and at least half a plate of vegetables of different colours including lots of green leafy veg.
You can prepare different types of salads and slaws, roasted veg, spiralised vegetable noodles, cauliflower ‘rice’ and a couple of dressings such as tahini or cashew cheese sauce to have in the fridge and add to batch cooked frozen meals such as chilli or lentil dahl. If you do all your thinking and prepping ahead it makes it easy to put together a simple and healthy meal in minutes.
If you are new to plant based eating, source a few easy recipes online and perfect them and then gradually build up your repertoire. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different spices and lots of fresh herbs which can instantly transform a dish into something special. There are a huge variety of plant based meals and ideas, and you will no doubt find it’s a much more exciting and tasty way to eat than perhaps your previous diet!
If you are all going plant based then it makes sense to eat together as much as you can and get the whole family involved in the selection and prepping of meals. Often leftovers can be used for packed lunches the next day, maybe to accompany some fresh salad or in a wrap.
Encourage young children to try different textures and flavours from a young age to avoid fussy eaters, and get them involved in cooking and baking too. If you already have a picky eater in the family you can ensure extra nutrients by blending veg into sauces or adding spinach or avocado to smoothies. Also try the veg both raw and cooked as often children will eat it one way but not another. Smoothies are a great breakfast option for all the family, especially when you add in one of Pulsin’s protein powders such as pea, rice or hemp.
Try not to be over reliant on gluten products which may cause intolerance in some people. There are lots of alternatives to wheat based foods such as bread and pasta, and if you actually start reading ingredients on packaged foods you’ll realise how dependant on wheat we have become as a nation. Buckwheat is a seed and not a grain and its flour can be used to make buckwheat pancakes which are a delicious weekend brunch treat served with blueberries, lemon juice, coconut yoghurt and a drizzle of maple syrup. Quinoa is a great pasta alternative and is very versatile, tasting great as a salad or even made as a porridge with coconut milk and cinnamon. Try butternut squash or courgette noodles instead of spaghetti and serve with a simple home made tomato sauce and some added borlotti beans. Rice paper wraps are a great gluten free option filled with raw veg and a peanut satay dipping sauce.
Here is an example of a day’s meal plan that can be easily adapted according to needs of the family such as breakfast at work, packed lunches, busy lifestyles or weight management.
- Overnight oats soaked in hemp milk with cinnamon, chia seed, grated apple & raisins (can be taken to work in a jar).
- Puy lentils (pre-cook in vegan stock night before) with watercress, sundried tomatoes, sliced avocado and a spoonful of hummus (could put this in a wrap alternatively).
- Vegetable and bean chilli with cauliflower ‘rice’ (best for weight management) or wholegrain rice, and rocket salad or broccoli (chilli and cauliflower rice can be pre-prepared and frozen, leftovers can be added to salad for lunch the next day).
Snacks (if required)
- Fresh coconut, chopped.
- Nut butter and carrot sticks or buckwheat crackers.
I hope that’s given you a few ideas and inspiration for family plant based eating and please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you require further support.
Louisa Richards – www.vegucatenutrition.co.uk
Louisa Richards is a Registered Nutritional Therapist at Vegucate Nutrition. She has a vegan diet and supports her clients’ health and weight management through nutrition education about plant based eating, mindfulness and neuro-linguistic programming. She holds one to one consultations either in Sheffield or by Skype, and runs Plant Based Nutrition courses. She also advises food outlets about plant based catering. She can be contacted on 07715 537045 or email [email protected]