Vegan Diet Can Provide a Balanced Diet

A vegan diet not only means not eating meat but any food that comes from animals in any way. This includes milk products, eggs, honey and gelatin, which comes from bones and other animal tissue.


Some feel a vegan diet is healthier than other diets. Others think it is wrong to use animals for food. Some religions forbid eating meat. Some say a vegan diet costs less than a diet that includes meat.

Whatever the reason, if properly planned, a vegan diet can provide all the nutrients a person needs. For instance, substitutes for 1 oz of meat include:

  • ¼ cup cooked dried beans, peas, or lentils
  • ½ oz (1 Tbsp) nuts or seeds
  • ¼ cup tofu or tempeh
  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter

Substitutes for dairy:

  • Soy milk fortified with calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12. Fortified milks made from rice, almonds, or oats can also be used.
  • Fortified soy cheese and soy yogurt.

Here are a few things to pay attention to in order to achieve a balanced diet.

  • Calcium: Eat calcium-rich foods like calcium-fortified breakfast cereals, soy milk, and orange juice. Other foods that have calcium include certain leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and tofu. Talk to your doctor about a daily calcium supplement.
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D and calcium are important to keep bones strong. Eat fortified soy milk and breakfast cereals.
  • Iron: Bodies don’t absorb iron from plant foods as well as they absorb iron from meats. Vegans need to regularly eat iron-rich foods like cooked dried beans, peas, and lentils; leafy green vegetables; and iron-fortified grain products. And eating foods rich in vitamin C will help the body absorb iron.
  • Vitamin B12: Since vitamin B12 only comes from animal sources, vegans will need to rely on foods fortified with this vitamin like soy milk and cereal or take supplements, which is especially important for vegan women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Supplements can also be used to add nutrients that are missing. Vegans also need to make sure they are getting the following nutrients:

  • Protein: There are a wide variety of products that allow vegans to get the protein they need. They include soy products, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include hemp seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, certain leafy green vegetables, soybean oil, and canola oil.
  • Zinc: There are many foods that are good sources of zinc: whole-grain breads, cooked dried beans and lentils, soy foods, and vegetables.

Here is a delicious recipe to try with fresh cut vegetables.

Hummus

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 tsp. Cumin Powder

1 Garlic Clove

Lemon Juice from one Lemon

2 tsp. Tahini

Blend this in a processor until thick and fluffy

Add 1 can of chick peas – drained and rinsed, blend with minimum water until smooth

Add salt and lime juice to taste, if needed

Top with olive oil, olives and paprika


By Subha Rajan, MD, ThedaCare Physicians - New London