Considering the move to Plant-Based eating?
Sydney nutritionist & naturopath Hannah Boyd tells you what you need to know before adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet.
I work with a lot of clients who are vegan or vegetarian. It has never been more popular to go vegan. It also seems it’s never been easier to eat out with many vegan restaurants popping up all over the place. However, how you are eating at home matters a lot more than how many vegan cafes you can go visit.
As a vegetarian of 20+ years I know a thing or two about eating a diet predominantly made of plants. So, when it comes to helping people who want to go vegan or vegetarian there are a few things you need to consider before adopting a plant-based diet.
Yes, you need to eat vegetables!
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many plant-based people are not eating enough vegetables. When you start eating in a way where you are cutting out major food groups you’ll need to eat a wide and varied abundance of vegetables to ensure a diverse nutritional intake.
So don’t just pick up the same old spinach, broccoli and avocado – go nuts with all the veg you can! All the colours of the rainbow – the reds, oranges, yellows, purples and of course greens.
Don’t miss the fats
One of the biggest mistakes I see plant-based people making is cutting out fats from their diets. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes just because they didn’t realise they need them.
You need healthy fats in many different forms – and you need loads of them. If you are eating animal products your ability to include anti-inflammatory omega-3 oils is easy – once you ditch these you need to replace them AND make sure that your body uses them.
You need fats for your hormones AND for energy AND for skin AND for every cell in your body.
Plant-based fats are predominately Omega-6 based – so ensuring you have lots of them means you’ll be able to convert them to Omega-3s more readily. Include hemp, flax, chia and walnuts all the time. If you are vegetarian including good quality eggs will help a lot as well.
“This donut is vegan so it is good for me, right?”
Ummm, NO! Just because something says it is vegan does not mean it is should make up a regular part of your plate.
Life is about balance and sometimes you have the piece of cake, but vegan junk food is on the rise and available on every corner these days. These are sometimes foods.
No one way of eating be it vegan, vegetarian, omnivore or flexitarian should include a plate full of processed sugars and processed foods. Eating a wholefood plant-based diet is easy once you get the hang of it – but you will need to work hard to learn new recipes and incorporate plant-based proteins and fats into your diet.
Women – please eat enough!
This is a VERY common picture our clinic. When people start eating a plant-based diet and they cut out meat and dairy suddenly their daily caloric intake is greatly reduced. Throw into that mix an unhealthy fear of fats, an irrational fear of carbs and you see people not eating enough to fuel their bodies.
Please don’t get me wrong – this is not about calorie counting, or “dieting” or weight-loss. This is about the energy your body uses everyday for it’s regular functioning.
A large bowl with leafy greens and half an avo for lunch will not give you the energy your body needs for daily functioning. Supercharge your meals with fats, protein, fibres and carbs – yes CARBS.
Without adequate nutrition your body will suffer. We see an increase of anxiety, hormonal dysfunction including longer periods and lack of ovulation, poor sleep and low energy.
Any last thoughts?
Yes – you can be healthy as a vegan or vegetarian but you will need to work harder to ensure you don’t miss out on key nutrients for your body. There are key nutrients that you just can not get from plants alone.
You may need to supplement, and you should check your pathology regularly to ensure you are not missing these key vitamins and minerals.
These are a few you need to be mindful of ensuring you are eating:
- Vitamin A
If you are interested in eating more plant-based foods but are unsure how to make the healthy transition please speak to us at New Leaf Naturopathic Health. As trained nutritionists and herbalists our practitioners are the right people to see to start you on your journey to a plant-based diet.