Thinking of adopting a more plant based diet in 2020? Whether you are taking part in Veganuary or switching to a vegan diet long term it’s important to ensure you get all the essential nutrients for optimal health. Nutritionist Christine Bailey, author of Go Lean Vegan shares her top tips plus an example meal plan to help you lose a few pounds too.
The New Year is typically a time to reflect and plan for the year ahead. If ditching the meat is on your list there are a number of factors to consider to get the best results. This is especially true if you’re looking to improve your fitness goals. But with careful planning there is no reason why you can’t build muscle, lose fat, and boost your performance on a vegan diet.
Importance of protein
If you’re looking to build muscle and lose fat you will already know the importance of protein in your diet. Consuming sufficient protein is essential to maximise muscle growth and repair. Not all proteins are made equal, and especially not for building muscle. The body needs 21 amino acids and 9 of them (termed essential) must be obtained from food. This includes leucine which is particularly useful for building muscle. Getting sufficient protein can require more attention on a vegan diet as many plant based proteins are not absorbed as efficiently by the body and can be lower in certain amino acids.
Here are some of the best vegan protein rich foods. Make sure your meals include a sufficient amount of these foods to reach your protein needs.
- Grains like rice and oats
- Vegetables and legumes like peas, beans, lentils and soya products (tofu, tempeh, edamame)
- Nuts like almonds, peanuts, walnuts, and pistachios
- Seeds like quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, sunflower and pumpkin.
Omega 3 fats (DHA and EPA) are typically lower on a vegan diet. While certain seeds like flaxseed and chia seeds contain the parent omega 3 fat known as α-linolenic acid (ALA) the conversion to the more active forms DHA and EPA is limited. Taking a vegan DHA / EPA supplement can therefore be beneficial. Getting sufficient healthy fats in your diet is equally important – here are some great choices:
- Avocado and avocado oil
- Nut butters like peanut, almond, cashew
- Nuts like cashews, walnuts, macadamias, Brazil nuts
- Tahini (sesame seed paste)
- Flaxseed, Chia seeds
- Olives and olive oil, cold pressed rapeseed oil, macadamia nut oil
Essential Vitamins, Minerals & Nutrients
Certain nutrients can be lower when following a vegan diet – these include vitamin D, vitamin B12, Zinc, Calcium, Iron and iodine. For this reason supplements alongside a nutrient dense diet can be helpful. Levels of creatine can also be lower as this is obtained from animal sources – this is particularly important if you are looking to get greater muscle gains in the gym. Using vegan protein powders and vegan protein bars can be helpful depending on your training / exercise levels.
Not sure how to get started? Here’s an example two-day meal plan for weight loss
BREAKFAST: Scrambled tofu (see recipe) with 2 oat cakes and ½ small avocado
LUNCH: Broccoli Cream Soup (see recipe) with wholegrain roll with 1tsp peanut butter
DINNER: 2 Tex Mex Burgers (see recipe) with 200g steamed vegetables (broccoli, green beans, carrots) and side salad
SNACKS: ONE PRO Nutrition Vegan Protein Bar, 100g Coconut yogurt with handful of berries
Nutritional Details For Day 1
Calories 1665kcal Protein 82.2g Fat 68.4g Carbohydrates 149.9g, Sugars 39.3g
BREAKFAST: Overnight Peanut Butter Bircher – blend together 1 small banana
75ml almond milk, 15g peanut butter and 1tbsp raw cacao. Stir in 2tbsp oats and 2tbsp mixed seeds and soak in the fridge overnight. Top with chopped apple to serve
LUNCH: Warm lentil Salad with Tahini Cream (see recipe)
DINNER: Vegan Bolognese (see recipe), 200g steamed vegetables, side salad
SNACK: ONE PRO Nutrition Vegan Protein Bar, 2 rice cakes with hummus
Nutritional Details For Day 2
Calories 1694kcal, Protein 80.7g, Fat 69.9g, Carbohydrates 157.8g, Sugars 52.9g