Whether you already follow a vegan diet, are slowly transitioning towards one, or simply trying to eat more vegetables and plant-based foods, one thing’s for sure: modern-day life often makes it harder than it ought to be! There are many aspects of everyday life which require changes in order to accommodate this way of life, and these can be a challenge particularly for those who follow a strict exercise and fitness routine. Unsurprisingly, the same issues and challenges crop up for many living on a plant-based diet. Our nutritionist Lucy-Ann is on board to offer a few hot tips on what you should be including in your day-to-day meal plans!
Top 12 protein/mineral rich foods
Possibly the most common concerns about adopting a vegan diet, is that individuals won’t get enough protein or calcium, particularly for those who regularly exercise. As long as a person following a vegan diet is eating adequate calories, as well a good variety of plant-based foods and proteins throughout the day, it is actually difficult NOT to get enough protein and essential minerals!
If you’re a regular exerciser, or athlete, ideally you need to be aiming for between 1.2-1.4g of protein per kg of body weight, per day. You’ll find the most effective form of protein in either an increased amount of protein-rich foods (see the list below!), or in taking a good quality plant-based protein powder - e.g. hemp protein or pea protein.
Let me begin by introducing you to some excellent examples of plant-based foods that significantly contribute to meeting a person’s protein needs (and mineral needs too).
- Almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts
- Spinach, watercress, kale, cabbage, rocket and herbs
- Avocado, olives
- Chickpeas and beans
- Puy lentils, green lentils
- Broccoli, Cauliflower, celeriac, courgette, squash, onions, carrots, peas
- Romaine lettuce and Cos lettuce
- Tomato, cucumber, fennel
- Quinoa, millet, oats
- Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and hempseeds
- Tofu (soya bean curd)
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Aside from growing your own vegetables, which of course is pretty much “free food”, the following strategies will really help too…
- Buy in bulk – foods such as seeds, wholegrains, nuts, beans, and pulses are much cheaper when bought in bulk from health food stores. Check out your local health stores or venture on-line.
- Deals online – shopping for dried goods tends to be cheaper online so spend some time researching websites of health food stores
- Opt for own-supermarket brands rather than big brands for tinned foods such as beans - always great as emergency foods to have in the cupboards!
- Don’t be afraid to buy frozen vegetables such as peas, broccoli and cauliflower, beans and corn, as well as fruits such as mango and berries. These foods are, more often than not, picked and then immediately frozen, so retain their nutritional goodness and freshness.
- Lastly, visit shops and supermarkets late in the day, when you may just find some super offers on display!
Bonus Tip: How to avoid discarding a bunch of mouldy veg at the end of the week
Well…. eat more veggies! OK… on a more serious note, if at all possible, try and shop every other day, instead of once a week. Rather than doing one big shop, I find seeking out smaller producers, and smaller produce shops and buying seasonal, local foods means you never know what your meals will consist of, making plant-based living always an exciting surprise!
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- Seeds such as hempseeds, ground flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds contain good amounts of protein and minerals and the “mother” omega-3 fatty acid ALA.
- Leafy greens such as watercress, lamb’s lettuce, romaine lettuce, spinach and kale all contain calcium, magnesium and vitamin C.
- Sweet Potato and all types of squash are rich in vitamin C, B6, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Sweet potatoes are also an excellent source of vitamin A and beta-carotene, two very important antioxidant nutrients for a healthy immune system, and healthy skin.
- Quinoa, wild rice, barley, wholegrain rice, and millet are all perfect carbohydrates, rich in minerals and B vitamins for energy production.
- Coconut milk, almond milk or rice milk – nut or cereal milks are perfect for porridges, drinks and smoothies.
- Tofu is a calcium and protein-rich soya bean curd that works wonderfully well for stir-fries, salads, vegetable kebabs, soups and broths.
- Avocados are rich in oleic acid, a wonderfully healthy “monounsaturated” fat that may help lower LDL or harmful cholesterol. Avocados are also an excellent potassium-rich food, boast good levels of fibre, antioxidants, and vitamins C, E, B6 and the mineral magnesium.
- Puy lentils or green or brown lentils are full of plant protein, minerals, slow-burning carbohydrate and fibre… perfect all-round vegan foods.
- Fresh fruits provide a delicious natural sweetness to the diet. Choose fruits such as apples (full of fibre, vitamin C and a powerful antioxidant called quercetin), berries, papaya, pears, kiwis, plums and mango.