Building Your Vegan Pantry
Part 3 of my 5 part series on building a vegan pantry for great vegan meals.
Just because someone is a vegan does not mean they will be naturally thin and super healthy. This is because it is still possible to have too many calories as a vegan, despite the wealth of nutrient-dense foods to choose from. So, every effort needs to be made to create balanced meals.
This can be a challenge, especially if you are first starting out as a vegan. One reason for this is that certain vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin B12 and Iron, are more easily found in meat products. In addition, Iron is more readily absorbed in the body when paired with meat. Also see: Quick and Easy Vegan Dinner Ideas
Today let’s talk about the challenges vegans face when putting meals together. It is designed to help you create healthy and balanced meal combinations that will leave you full of energy.
Getting Adequate Protein
Vegan Nut Butters
People who eat meat take getting enough protein for granted. All they need to do is consume dairy products and a serving or two of meat or fish a day in order to do it. But vegans need to get their protein from plant sources. Fortunately, there are things in the plant world that are still rich in protein:
- Soy Products
- Nuts, seeds, nut milk, and nut butter
- Grains, especially quinoa and farro
- Legumes such as black beans, chick peas, and kidney beans.
Another suggestion is to drink one or two protein shakes or a protein powder drink daily. Just make sure the packaging indicates that it is vegan-friendly. A popular ingredient in most protein powders is whey, which is derived from milk and should be avoided.
The protein shake I like is made with hemp milk and hemp powder. In my article Hemp The Nutty Seed with a Questionable Past I talk about the wonderful benefits of hemp milk. Check it out here if you’d like to read it.
Getting Enough Iron in Your Diet
For women, getting enough iron is enough of a challenge. For a vegan, it’s even tougher and many vegans end up with iron deficiencies. On the advice of your doctor, you may want to take an iron supplement. You can find plant-based, vegan-friendly iron supplements at the health food store. In addition, eat these foods:
- Green beans
- Brewer’s yeast (a supplement)
- Wheat germ
- Lima beans
- Dried fruit such as raisins and prunes
- Cooking in a cast iron skillet
- Blackstrap molasses (use in baking or take as a supplement)
In order to make plant protein more absorbable, pair it with vitamin C-rich food, drink, or supplement. For example, you can have a small glass of orange with a meal that contains a lot of iron.
Eat Foods Rich in B-Vitamins
Vegans get enough of most of the B Vitamins because grains are a good source. However, Vitamin B 12 is a little more challenging. The only hope for this is to supplement it with a vegan-friendly version of B 12 which is often synthetic. Some cereals and drinks also contain B 12.
Getting Enough Calcium
Thanks to fortification, it is easier than ever for a vegan to get their calcium. Here are plant-based choices to consider:
Hemp milk, soy milk, almond milk, cashew milk, and rice milk are often fortified with calcium. Make sure the product is vegan-friendly and contains a good amount of calcium.
Leafy green veggies and other vegetables such as bok choy, collard greens, turnip greens, and okra are also rich in calcium.
When preparing the vegetables, try not to boil them unless you drink the water. A lot of the calcium leaves the food during the cooking process and goes into the water.
GETTING IT RIGHT
If you’ve been a vegan for a while, you may already have the hang of this. If not, you may want to plan some of your meals out in advance until you get the hang of it. Even if you’ve been a vegan for a while, it’s a good idea to periodically take a step back and plan a few meals. Not only will this help ensure that you get the nutrients you need, but it helps build variety because you can plan meals around new ingredients.
Besides planning meals, you can also keep a food journal. In it, keep track of what you eat, how you cooked it, whether or not you like it, and if you would change anything. It’s also a good way to see if you are getting the right nutrients. You don’t need to analyze it too heavily. You can just glance at it to make sure you’re getting what you need.
It’s a good idea to take vitamin supplements like B12, Iron, Hemp Oil, Vitamin D to make sure you get the minerals you need to keep you healthy.
Eating the right combination of protein, grains, nuts, and vegetables provide lots of opportunities to create delicious and healthy plant-based meals. It can sometimes be hard to know where to start. Here are some cookbooks that I recommend. I have used these cookbooks and found them very helpful in giving me a starting place for my own creations.
Have A NaturallySweet Day