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Are you passionate about animals or the environment?
If you said yes, than a vegan diet may be a good fit for you!
But exactly how do I start? Is it hard? Will I get enough nutrition?
If you have been googling everywhere looking for the answers, then I have great news for you!
This comprehensive Registered Dietitian written article goes into detail about how you can start and maintain a nutritionally sound vegan diet.
Lets get started with the basics…
Table of Contents
What is Vegan Diet?
Before we get into all the juicy details, lets define the diet:
Foods Vegans Can Eat:
- Whole plant foods (ie: whole broccoli, corn, apples, you get the idea)
- Any packaged/non packaged edible food that does not include any animal products (ie: vegan cereal, bread, frozen meals, etc.)
Foods Vegans Avoid:
- Animal Products (The most obvious being dairy, meat, fish, eggs, poultry).
- Any food that includes animal products (ie: eggs in cake, butter in biscuits, etc.)
In Summary: A vegan diet is one that excludes animal products, regardless of whether it is the main ingredient or not. In essence, a vegan diet is a fully plant-based diet.
Veganism For Beginners: Why Should I Adopt a Vegan Diet?
Alright, so now that we are 100% clear that a vegan diet is, why does anyone choose a vegan diet? After all, it does require label reading and perhaps a few awkward moments at social gatherings.
Overwhelmed? Don’t be. If you are dead set on following a vegan diet, you don’t have to do it overnight. You can eliminate animal products one by one using my stepwise approach.
Want some more good news? Those who stick with a vegan diet the longest have matched their values with the food choices.
These vegans align their morals with their food habits, making it harder to go back to eating animal products. There’s even research to back this up! One study found that individuals who followed a vegan diet for ethical reasons adhered to the diet longer.
Those ethical reasons may be the very reason you are reading this article in the first place. So if you can resonate with any of the reasons below, you are in luck! You have a reason that makes you even more likely stick with the diet long term.
And hey, if you are want to go vegan for health reasons, that’s at totally valid reason too. Just make sure you read the section: “How Healthy is a Vegan Diet” below!
Enough talk, lets get to the 3 whys:
1. For the Animals
A vegan diet is unquestionably the diet that reduces animal suffering the most. All animals raised for consumption, or secretions (ie: eggs, dairy), undergo suffering. Yes, even those claiming to be cage free, organic, or humanely sourced!
Whether it includes being killed alive, having children taken away at birth, or living in an space so small, movement is not possible, suffering is inevitable when a being is being raised for profit.
Wow. That was graphic, but lets bring it back down to you. Perhaps you are not a cow hugging, or pig petting kind of person… That doesn’t mean you want suffering to occur if you can meet your nutrient needs without animal products!
In the words of Jeremey Bentham: “The question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But, can they suffer?”
In Summary: Choosing to follow a vegan diet (hands down) reduces animal suffering. This is a huge, and completely valid reason to stick with this diet.
2. For the Environment
If you are as disturbed as I am about climate change, I’ve got some encouraging news for you:
You can make a difference.
No, it doesn’t require buying a Tesla or installing solar panels. Although, those may be ways to help the planet, but that’s a subject for another day.
The truth is this: there is only so much we can and cannot do based on the financial resources and power available to us. Switching to a vegan diet can be a quick, effective, and affordable approach that makes a big impact.
How big? Get this: even the animal products that contribute the least pale in comparison to their plant-based counterparts in regards to environmental deterioration. Why?
One Study estimated that farming contributes to 81% of the greenhouse gas emissions (including deforestation). The animal agricultural industry also demands approximately 43% of the entire worlds ice and dessert free land. That’s huge.
But what about organic meat dairy and eggs? That’s better for the environment, right? Not according to a French study, which showed that organic meat may be even worse than conventionally grown meat, as the increased need for land can offset the environmental advantages.
In Summary: In general, the more plants and less animals/animal products consumed, the better the health of the planet. Unlike many other financially expensive choices, choosing a vegan diet can be a cost effect intervention that makes a huge impact for planetary health.
3. For Social Justice (world hunger, racial disparities)
First things first, of course choosing to follow a vegan diet will not eradicate complex issues such as racial disparities and world hunger, however, a vegan diet may be an easy way to you can help.
As we have just identified in the previous point, numerous studies suggest vegan diets are best for the planet. With this concept in mind, if more people went vegan, there would be more water and land to grow food for hungry people. Planetary health and world hunger actually have a lot in common.
So going vegan really can make an impact on the lives of others… but what does a vegan diet have to do with racial disparities?
Lets take diary for example. Dairy is (arguably), the hardest non vegan food to give up. I mean, how many times have you said “I’d go vegan, BUT I can’t give up cheese!” Hey, I’ve said that too!
But the truth of the matter is, a staggering 2/3’s of the worlds population may have lactose intolerance, or difficulty absorbing the sugar found in milk (lactose), leading to rather uncomfortable symptoms, such as diarrhea. Yet, many still believe they need diary.
And for good reason, past dietary guidelines have recommended 2-3 servings of dairy a day! A “Dairy Group” persists as a food group by the USDA’s MyPlate, however, Fortified soy alternatives to dairy have now been added to this group (yay!)
While dairy products do contain essential nutrients, those essential nutrients are not exclusive to dairy products. Since those at the highest risk for lactose intolerance are mainly people of color (POC), recommending dairy exclusively does a disservice to POC. I
You can read more about this issue in this peer reviewed article.
In Summary: Can we solve social justice issues like world hunger and racial disparities, with a vegan diet? No. But a vegan diet is one that arguably helps in comparison to other diets.
How Expensive is a Vegan Diet?
A vegan diet can be as expensive or inexpensive as you want! The main factor that may increase the chances of your vegan diet being expensive? Convenience.
What do I mean by that? Let’s break it down into two simple categories of what I like to call:
“Convenience that Could Make or Break your Vegan Budget:”
- Convenience Meat/Dairy/Egg Substitutes: If price is a deciding factor for you, the biggest mistake I often see people making is replacing all their animal products for packaged vegan alternatives. Beyond Burger instead of burgers. Vegan “cheese” instead of dairy cheese. JUST egg instead of eggs from hens.
Now don’t’ get me wrong, these alternatives are delicious, convenient, and did I mention delicious?
But all of this goodness comes with a price tag that many can’t afford. Unfortunately, for us vegans, animal products are subsidized in the US. This means vegan alternatives may be more expensive than animal products.
But the truth of the matter is: you don’t need these alternative vegan products to be healthy. In fact, these alternatives don’t always supply all the nutrients you would have been getting from meat. This is ok though, we are going to learn about vegan ways to get those nutrients soon!
So, if you are trying to save money, use these convenience items sparingly, or buy on a sale. Depending on the sale and where you shop, these alternative products may be similar in price to their animal products.
- Convenience, Period: Lets say you go down to your local Walmart and get some beans and rice for a meal. You can purchase them the cheapest way (dried), or get your rice in frozen or in instant packs (more expensive). If you go even higher on the price range, you could purchase frozen meals that include beans and rice.
See what I mean? Purchasing food closest to its natural state, is likely to yield a cheaper cost, with exceptions of course! Exceptions including, certain fresh fruits and veggies (sometimes frozen or canned is cheaper), seasonal produce, sales, etc, and etc.
In Summary: Vegan diets don’t have to be expensive! If you buy mainly whole, unprocessed plant-based foods, you should save money.
How Healthy Is a Vegan Diet?
Take it from a Dietitian, a vegan diet can be as healthy or unhealthy as you make it.
Living on PB and J and pizza (hey its got tomato in it-that’s good right?) with no supplements in sight? Healthy is not exactly the first word that comes to mind…
However, getting a variety of mostly minimally processed whole foods and taking appropriate supplements is a healthy alternative, but here’s the kicker:
A whole foods, minimally processed diet is a healthy way to structure any diet. This includes vegan and non vegan diets.
When you base your food choices on whole foods, you will naturally decrease nutrients like salt, sodium and trans fat (nutrients most health authorities say we should limit).
In fact, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics position paper states “Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity.”
In Summary: A vegan diet may lower the risk of certain chronic diseases. When filled with variety of mainly whole, minimally processed foods and appropriate supplements, a vegan diet can be healthy.
Nutrients on a Vegan Diet:
Now that you know a vegan diet truly can be a healthy, lets talk about the “appropriately planned” part…
Unsurprisingly, if you decide to cut out all animal products from your diet, you will want to pay extra attention to certain nutrients. This is because so many of us rely on animal products to meet nutrient needs. After all, I know I am not the only one who once thought calcium was only found to dairy products!
So without further ado, here is THE list of nutrients you need to pay attention to when you cut out meat, dairy, eggs, and fish:
First and foremost, we MUST talk about vitamin B12. Because if there’s anything you take away from this article, it is this: Take your vitamin B12!
Why is this important?
The only food sources that naturally contain vitamin B12 are meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. All other foods claiming to have vitamin B12 were likely fortified (ie: Fortified nutritional yeast, soy milk, etc).
If you do not consume enough of this vitamin, you may eventually develop anemia, neurological problems, depression and even dementia.
Will I Need A Supplement?
In general, yes, you will most likely need a vitamin B12 supplement.
Many food companies are catching on to the need for more vegan products to have vitamin B12 added, but fortification is not universal or required. So generally, its best not to rely on fortified foods.
Luckily vitamin B12 supplements are easy to find and can be inexpensive.
Shopping for vitamin B12, and noticing that supplements can contain >1000 times the RDA? There’s good reason for that.
In the average healthy adult, only a small amount of is actually absorbed from a large dosed vitamin B12 supplement. This is because of the complexities involved in the absorption process.
Veganhealth.org has a great chart that considers the research on vitamin B12 absorption and helps you determine what dose you may want to take for your age/life stage. Check it out at their vitamin B12 chart here. FYI: the chart is based off of the cyanocobalamin form of vitamin B12 only, as this form is the most stable, and most studied.
If you are already taking a multivitamin, you may already have your B12 needs covered. Just make sure you double check your needs against what you are actually taking and always talk to your doctor about adding a new supplement.
In Summary: Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin found in meat and dairy products. Deficiency can cause neurological problems. Vegans can obtain Vitamin B12 from fortified foods and/or supplements. Veganhealth.org is a great resource regarding vitamin B12 needs.
One, if not THE most frequent question you may get as a new vegan is: “where do you get your protein?”
Let’s give these curious people the benefit of the doubt! Popular media and outdated traditional nutrition education would have you believe that protein must come from meat.
However, as nutrition science has evolved, even reputable nutrition organizations (such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) state protein needs can be met on a plant based diet.
How can you get enough protein as a vegan? Keep these principles in mind:
1. Maintain adequate calorie intake for your unique needs.
2. Eat a variety of plant based foods (avoid vegan diets that limit food groups, such as the fruitarian diet, a diet that only includes fruit).
3. Know your protein needs. While the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) states adults need 0.8 mg protein/kilogram body weight (1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds), some experts recommend more than this, such as at least 0.9 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day to take in account the reduced digestibility of plant proteins. FYI: If you have a medical condition, such as chronic kidney disease, or are an athlete, get personalized advice from a Registered Dietitian.
4. Pay extra attention to plant based foods rich in the amino acid lysine. This amino acid is not difficult to obtain, but… can fall to the way side, especially as you are starting a vegan diet, and may not be familiar with protein rich vegan foods- like beans yet.
Veganhealth.org recommends vegans eat 3-4 servings of foods high in lysine. Plant based foods high in lysine include:
Will I Need To Supplement?
If you follow the tips above, you shouldn’t need a supplement. However, if you are an athlete, trying to lose weight, or have a medical condition that requires you to increase or reduce protein, talk to your own Registered Dietitian.
In summary: In our industrialized society, protein deficiency is rare. In general, if you are eating a variety of plant-based foods (with special attention to lysine rich foods), and eating enough calories, protein shouldn’t be a concern.
I’ve got a “beef” to tell you about beef: Beans actually contain more iron (milligram for milligram (mg) ) than beef!
So why should you pay attention to iron when cutting out all animal products?
A couple reasons:
- Some of us have higher iron requirements
- The iron in plant products (non heme iron) is not as easily absorbed as the iron in meat (heme iron).
Lets dive in. You may require more iron in your diet if you are in one of the following categories:
- Women who menstruate
- Those with iron deficiency.
For example, the RDA for iron in menstruating women (18 mg) is more than double the amount men (8 mg) typically need! So it makes sense that ladies may need to pay extra attention to this nutrient on a vegan diet.
So, what’s a guy or gal to do about their concerns for iron?
While some studies show that vegans do not have a higher incidence of iron deficiency than omnivores, it’s possible vegans eat more iron rich foods in general.
Want to know something else that vegans may tend to eat more of? Vitamin C, which enhances the absorption of non heme iron.
So, if you are concerned, try these tips to maximize your absorption of iron on a vegan diet:
- Get familiar with plant based sources of iron! Good sources include tofu, beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc.
- Consume vitamin C rich foods (those with at least 25 mg of vitamin C, ie: 1/2 cup strawberries) with your plant based iron containing foods.
- Cook your grains and legumes well (reduce phytates (iron absorption inhibitors)).
- If you are a black tea or coffee drinker you should consume it about an hour or two before or after an iron rich meal. This is because a substance called tannins in tea/coffee can inhibit iron absorption.
Will I Need A Supplement?
Not necessarily! In fact, too much supplemental iron can have ill health effects.
If you concerned about your iron intake or experiencing symptoms of iron deficiency, such as a fast heart rate, unexplained fatigue, and pale skin, talk to your doctor about appropriate tests and supplements.
In Summary: Tips to maximize absorption include: making sure you consume lots of iron rich plant based foods (ex: legumes), along with a vitamin C rich food. Cook your grains and legumes well, and avoid getting your caffeine fix with your iron rich meal.
Most of us know that milk contains calcium and vitamin D, but did you know that milk is also the one of the major sources of iodine in the U.S?
That’s right! One glass of cows milk contains about 57% of your iodine needs? Caveat: iodine content will vary depending on what the cows were fed or how the udders were sanitized with iodine.
So as a new vegan, you may be thinking, how will I get enough iodine? And for good reason!
Iodine, is an essential mineral that is necessary for proper functioning of your thyroid gland, a gland that is important for metabolism.
But consuming too much or two little iodine could cause an over active or slow metabolism.
While vegans do not consume dairy or fish (high sources of iodine), iodine can be obtained from iodized salt (always double check the label), and certain sea vegetables, like nori and dulce.
However, since many of us are watching our sodium intake, and seaweed salad is not the most available or inexpensive product in the US, you may be asking…
Will I need a Supplement?
There are a few reasons why a iodine supplement may be attractive for vegans:
1. You are following a diet lower in sodium
Why? Because as previously mentioned, iodized salt is a good source of iodine, however, it comes with sodium. So iodized salt may be tricky to fit in your diet, depending on the total amount of sodium you consume.
2. You don’t enjoy or have access to sea vegetables
FYI: Another word of caution on sea vegetables: these products are not required to list iodine on the nutrition facts panel in the US. Depending on the amount you eat, you could easily exceed the amount of iodine you need for the day.
So, if you are thinking, yah, I’ll definitely need to supplement, keep these tips in mind:
- If you are looking for a supplement, be wary of high doses. Too much iodine can cause hyperthyroidism (an over active thyroid), as always, talk to your doctor about adding new supplements.
- Several kelp supplements have been found to contain more than the listed amount of iodine, meaning you may get too much iodine.
In summary: Iodine is becoming a nutrient of concern for people of all dietary patterns, not just vegans. To keep the thyroid gland and metabolism working efficiently, make sure you consume enough iodine from vegan sources, or talk to your doctor about supplementing.
Going vegan means giving up dairy, which often raises the question: “where am I going to get calcium?”
But the truth of the mater is: dairy products are not the only source of calcium. Plants can provide all the calcium you need for bone health.
Plant based foods High in calcium include:
- Calcium set tofu
- Calcium fortified plant based milk, yogurt and cheese
- Low Oxalate Green Vegetables (ie: broccoli, kale, turnip greens, Chinese cabbage, bok choy)
Moderate Calcium containing Plant based foods:
- White beans
Before you stock your fridge with tofu though, let me give you a few more bonus tips:
- Certain greens such like spinach contain oxalic acid, which binds much of the calcium. Don’t count to contribute a significant amount of calcium in your diet.
- Some vegan milk, yogurt, or cheese substitutes are not fortified (seems a bit counterintuitive right?) So if you want to replace your cows milk with plant based milk, make sure your plant based milk contains at least 30% the daily value of calcium.
Will I Need A Supplement?
If you are regularly consuming many of those plant based calcium rich foods above, you are probably fine skipping calcium supplements.
As with anything you add to your eating pattern, talk to your doctor about your specific needs.
In Summary: Familiarize yourself with sources of plant based calcium, so that you can feel confident you are getting enough. Good sources of calcium include calcium set tofu, fortified vegan alternatives, and low oxalate green veggies.
First of all, let’s get one thing cleared out of the way: Vitamin D deficiency is not exclusive to vegans! In fact, vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the US, yet, a vegan diet is one of the least common diets in the States.
Even though diet has not been proven as the main factor of vitamin D deficiency, some studies suggest that vegans fall short on the sunshine vitamin. Why? Possibly because food sources of vitamin D are mainly found in animal-based products, like fish.
So, if you are forgoing non vegan products, pay attention to Vitamin D, for optimal calcium absorption, maintaining strong bones and muscles function, and immune system health.
Remember how vitamin D was referred to as the sunshine vitamin? That’s because most of us can get enough of this vitamin (technically a hormone) from the sun.
However, depending on how much time you spend outside, where you live, or how dark or light your skin is, your absorption can vary. Not to mention the concerns associated with too much sun exposure.
Sure, you could eat vegan sources of vitamin D, such UV treated mushrooms, vegan fortified in some breakfast cereals and orange juice, nut or soymilks, but many of us aren’t eating enough of these foods to get all the vitamin D we need.
So while you could meticulously plan your diet to get adequate vitamin D, a better insurance policy may be to take a supplement. Especially if you stay inside most of day and/or live in a climate that has very little sunlight.
Will I need a Supplement?
Vitamin D deficiency is on of the most common nutrient deficiencies. Talk to your doctor about getting your levels checked and supplementing.
Pure Encapsulations offers a liquid vegan vitamin D3 supplement that has a dropper so you can easily tailor your dose. I really like this brand because they utilize independent lab testing, and many of their supplements are free from several of the common allergens.
Check it out below (affiliate link*):
In Summary: Vitamin D deficiency is common whether you are a vegan or not. Talk to your doctor about getting your levels checked and appropriate supplementation.
When it comes to immune system functioning, we often think about vitamin C, but if you have been plant focused for a while, you probably include plenty of vitamin C rich fruits and veggies.
The underdog essential mineral you may want to pay closer attention to for immune health is: zinc! Why? Because meat is rich in zinc and was likely the primary source of zinc in your pre-vegan diet.
So what options do vegans have for zinc?
So many! Plant powered sources include:
Just make sure you don’t rely on fruit and salad greens to meet your zinc requirements. These are nutrient dense foods, but not zinc rich foods.
Now, before you call it a day for your zinc needs after your daily oats and beans, lets talk about a few more things. Because as you may have heard several times in the plant based world, its not only what you eat, but what you absorb.
Like iron, phytates (a substance naturally found in plants) can inhibit zinc absorption. This means that even though a cup of oats may contain technically contain about 3 mg of zinc, you absorb less.
But don’t let any of your omnivore friends tell you plants are inferior! There are many ways to increase zinc absorption. Make sure you implement these tips to maximize zinc absorption:
- Soak and cook legumes and oats thoroughly
- Opt for sprouted, fermented or leavened foods (for example, choosing bread over crackers) when possible
- Include protein rich zinc sources (protein + zinc source increases absorption)
- If you want to provide extra insurance, consume 1.5 times the recommended requirement of plant based sources of zinc.
Will I need a Supplement?
If you are following a generally healthy vegan diet, you shouldn’t need to add on a zinc supplement!
Here’s what a day might look like with just over 150% the Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) of zinc for an adult female (zinc milligram (mg) content (rounded up) pulled from veganhealth.org):
Breakfast: 1 cup cooked oats, ¼ cups of raw peanuts for breakfast, ½ cup sliced strawberries (3.5 mg zinc)
Lunch: 1 cup boiled lentils, onion, 1 slice of vegan naan bread. Salad: mixed greens, onions, tomato, and 1/4 cup sunflower seeds (4.3 mg zinc)
Dinner: 1/2 cup tofu, 2 tablespoon miso, 1/3 cup boiled broccoli, ¼ cup dry roasted cashews for supper, 3/4 cup cooked white rice (4.7 mg zinc).
In Summary: Vegans need to pay extra attention to zinc to keep immune processes running smoothly. Include zinc rich foods, such as oats, soy, beans, nuts, and seeds. Maximize absorption by soaking/cooking grains and legumes, choosing sprouted, fermented and leavened products, and including protein with zinc sources. Consume 150% the RDA of zinc from whole, plant based foods if you want to extra insurance.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids:
Check out my other post called “No Fish Diet: What to Consider with Nutrition in Mind. But to wrap it all up with a nice little bow: the research is still unclear as to whether or not vegans need to supplement EPA and DHA, (types of Omega 3 Fatty acid).
What do we know? ALA (a essential omega 3 fatty acid) must be consumed everyday. These fats make up a parts of our cell membranes. If we don’t get enough ALA, we might a experience a variety of symptoms, including skin and hair problems .
ALA can be exclusively obtained from plants. Especially concentrated sources include:
- ground flaxseed
- chia seeds
But another type of Omega 3 fatty acid (DHA) is getting all the hype right now. This is the type that is concentrated in fish, and harder to obtain from a vegan diet (without supplementing). This is because conversion rates of ALA to DHA are thought to be poor.
While we know that DHA is an important component of the brain, we also know that adult vegans do not appear to appear to experience any significant health problems because of minimal DHA intake.
Want to learn more? check out my article about taking fish out of your diet here.
Will I Need a Supplement?
You can easily obtain all the ALA your body needs without supplementing. If you are concerned about DHA, talk to your doctor about a vegan source of DHA (algae based source).
If you are looking for a DHA supplement, Vivo Life offers a vegan supplement that has a dropper so you can dose. I love that they test for heavy metals, PCBs, and dioxins. You can even check their results of on their site!
Check them out here: https://www.vivolife.com/products/omega-3
In Summary: You can meet your ALA (the essential omega 3 fatty acids) via plant based foods, such as chia, flaxseed, and walnuts. If you are concerned about DHA, talk to your doctor about adding a vegan supplement.
Nutrients You May or May Not Need To Give Some Extra Attention to:
While selenium deficiency is not as common in the US, depending on where you live, you may need to need to practice extra diligence toward getting enough. Check out the selenium section in my article about giving up fish (a rich source of selenium) for more details.
Vegan sources of selenium rich foods include:
- Brazil nut (1 nut = about 91 mcg selenium (>100% the RDA for adults) DO NOT overdose! )
- Whole wheat pasta
- Sunflower seeds
Choline is one of the more recently discovered nutrients, and as such, we do not have any research on choline and non pregnant vegans. However, we do know that it is a essential nutrient with complex functions in the body, such as cell signaling.
We know so little about this nutrient that only Adequate Intake (AI) reference has been established. One study even suggests that most Americans do not meet the AI. As an FYI: an AI reference is established when there is not enough evidence to recommend a more heavily researched RDA.
You can learn more about choline in my post about giving up eggs here. But to sum up choline concerns in the meantime, aim to include choline rich foods at your meals. These are foods you would probably include anyways based on all the other nutrients you learned about so far!
Examples of choline rich vegan foods include:
- Soy (tofu, soy milk, , etc)
Last But Not Least, Don’t Forget Your Orange Vegetables:
Why? Vitamin A! You know the old saying carrots are good for your eyes? Well, there’s some truth to that.
Orange vegetables and fruits like carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin contain precursors (ex: beta carotene) that can be converted to vitamin A. However, only animal products (and retinal fortified products) contain vitamin A (pre-formed vitamin A).
Vitamin A is essential for vision and, immune function. Our bodies do not make enough vitamin A, so we have to consume enough through diet.
How does this apply to you as a vegan? You should aim to eat enough beta carotene rich plant based foods to meet your daily requirements!
But that’s not where the story ends. A large percentage of us may not be able to covert beta carotene to vitamin A as well as others, so vegans should eat some fat containing food (ie: nuts, avocado, olives, etc) with beta carotene containing fruits and veggies to increase absorption.
Consider talking to your doctor about adding a supplement with a small amount of preformed vitamin A if you are concerned. You won’t want to take large amounts of preformed vitamin A as this could be toxic.
Will I need a Multivitamin?
If you are saying WOW! That is a lot of nutrients that I need to keep in mind, please do not panic!
Ensuring your nutrient needs are met takes time and appropriate planning, no matter what type of diet you follow.
However, if you are the type of person who likes to have a “bit of extra insurance,” talk to your doctor about implementing a multivitamin.
Two brands that I personally like (and have their vitamins myself) are:
- Renzo Picky Eater Multi with Iron (affiliate link*)
I know, these vitamins are geared towards kids, but this company states says they can also be used for adults too! I (as an adult) have used them, and continue to use them every now and then.
Why did I include a kid vitamin for adults though? Because many vitamins I have researched go >100% the daily value, which may be unnecessary for those who generally consume a nutrient rich diet.
I also love that these chewable tablets contain many of the nutrients that are a bit more tricky to get enough of on a vegan diet. Renzo’s states they use third party testing (something that not all supplements companies do), and in my and my toddlers humble opinion, they are quite tasty!
Lastly, I really appreciate that you can easily adjust the dose in case you need more or less of the nutrients stated on the nutrition facts panel. This makes it easy for just about any family member to use!
Check out Renzo’s here (affiliate link*):
2. Vivo Life Multinutrient
Why? It features many of the more “difficult to obtain” nutrients for vegans like Vitamin B12, iodine, and vitamin D, and is all packaged in two pill (not 4+).
Vivo Life also uses third party testing for heavy metals and you can view their results on their site!
Check out their multinutrient here: https://www.vivolife.com/products/vegan-multinutrient
What About Prenatal Vitamins?
Consumer Notice: In affiliation with Best Nest Wellness. “What About Prenatal Vitamins?” Section of this article contains affiliate links. I am an affiliate for Best Nest Wellness, LLC. If you click and purchase from a clearly labeled “(affiliate link*)”, I earn a commission at no extra cost to you.
First and foremost: always talk to your Doctor/Obstetrician about your nutrient needs during pregnancy. She/he can help you figure out what prenatal vitamin best fits your unique situation.
I am taking Mama Bird AM/PM (affiliate link*) From Best Nest Wellness during my current pregnancy.
Personal story time: finding a prenatal that contained some of the nutrients many vegans have a harder time attaining was… a difficult!
I found that many vegan prenatal either:
A. did not have a significant amount of choline
B. Had >200% the amount of multiple nutrients (something I did not need for my personal situation).
C. Were not always transparent about their testing.
Mama Bird AM/PM has over half choline needs for pregnancy (which I found incredibly useful during that first trimester when I wasn’t eating much).
I also love that the customer service team was very supportive in answering my questions (believe you me, I e-mailed companies during my search)!
Best Nest Wellness uses third party testing, tests for heavy metals, and disintegration.
You can even see their Certificate of Analysis for their vitamins here.
I highly recommend you talk to your doctor about this prenatal if you are pregnant or planning a future pregnancy’s.
Want to save? Get 10% off with this (affiliate link*) here.
3 Dietitian Tips For Going Vegan (For Beginners)
Now that you are equipped with so much knowledge, I hope you are feeling that much more confident about starting a vegan diet.
But before you go, I wanted to leave you with a few more tips for success:
- Variety Is Key! Consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and healthy fats will help you meet your nutrient targets. So eat a rainbow of colors (really though, this is a general recommendation for any healthy diet).
But if you are saying, yah, but I need some guidance to make sure I am hitting those targets!
I. Hear. You. When you are starting a vegan diet (really, any new diet!) sometimes, we think we are getting enough nutrition, when really, we might be falling short on some nutrients. That’s why I recommend seeing a vegan Registered Dietitian (ideal scenario) or use a food tracking app like Cronometer.
Why do I love Cronometer (affiliate link*)?
Chronometer is awesome because it has a huge food data base, space to enter your own recopies, and provides you with in depth nutrient content. For example, individuals amino acids are listed so you can track lysine!
Yes, it may involve some measuring and time, but the good news is, you shouldn’t have to track forever! Once you get familiar with the what a nutritionally sound day or week looks like, you are equipped with carrying on those habits without tracking. So don’t forget to sign up for the free version of Cronometer here (affiliate link*).
- If you think you hate a bean, try a new recipe: Have you always said you hate broccoli, Brussel sprouts? Fill in the blank here? ________
Personal story time: I was not always a fan of avocados. In fact, when I went out to eat with my boyfriend in college, I would take all the avocado out of my salad and give it to him!
But later, I discovered a tasty way to make guacamole, and learned about avocado ice cream. Guess what? For what ever reason, I don’t mind avocado on my salad anymore! My college self would be shocked.
The same thing can hold true for you. The internet is full of tasty vegan recipes. Experiment, have fun! And be sure to comment below any favorites you find… help us all out!
- Your New Mantra :This is a Lifestyle Change: If you have read this thoroughly, I am going to assume that you decided to pursue a vegan diet for something outside of yourself. Perhaps you really care about animal welfare or the environment.
Whatever your reason, never forget it! Remember: most of the world does not follow a vegan diet. This means, you may encounter challenges when you go out to eat with friends, travel, or are pressured to eat your moms classic meat based recipes. This makes it so important to find a community that has like minded values.
Stand firm, but also know that no one is perfect. There is no vegan police going around and monitoring you. You are your worst critique, and tomorrow is a new day.
You choose a to follow a vegan diet out of compassion for others, but don’t forget to embrace that same compassion for yourself if (and when) you accidently consume an animal product.
- Take Your Supplements No explanation needed. Talk to your doctor about an appropriate supplement regimen for you. Lucky you! If you made it to the end of this post, you have an idea about what nutrients you may need to discus!
In Summary: New vegans might find it helpful to track their nutrient needs on a nutrition app like chronometer in the beginning. Have fun trying different recipes, and find community with like minded vegans who have the same lifestyle mantra you have. Last but not least: don’t forget to talk to the doc about supplements!
Did this inspire you to start a vegan diet with confidence? Do you have any other questions? Let me know below!
And by the way, I am no stranger to the feeling of “missing out” when everyone else is eating the (dairy based) ice cream!
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