Make sure that everyone takes a multivitamin and eats at least one hearty serving of protein each day in addition to a variety of fresh produce, vegetables and whole grains. Avoid eating a lot of empty calories and fried foods. A plant-based diet is an extremely healthy way of eating.
For a breakdown of how many grams of protein/fat/carbohydrate recommendations per age and gender go here.
Now for the long version:
There is a myth that if you are not eating animal products then you are not meeting certain nutritional needs. There are two items that families on a plant-based diet need pay particular attention to when going over your meal plans: protein and vitamin B12.
As for B12, we eat nutritional yeast flakes, which provide a good source of vitamin B12 as well as adds flavor to pasta, pizza, tofu scrambles, pesto, soups and the like. You can also find B12 in fortified foods. The easiest way to make sure that you have B12 is to take a multivitamin.
Did you know that almost everything you eat has some protein in it including vegetables? Many doctors, nutritionists and medical professionals are confused on this point and believe that the best form of protein comes from animals. Quite the contrary, animal protein has many unhealthy things in it that you will not find in plant proteins such as antibiotics, toxins, saturated fats. In addition, meat is completely void of any dietary fiber.
Most doctors have not received sufficient nutritional training while in medical school. This is from the “Status of Nutrition Education in Medical Schools” on the National Institute of Health (NIH) website:
Numerous entreaties have been made over the past 2 decades to improve the nutrition knowledge and skills of medical students and physicians. However, most graduating medical students continue to rate their nutrition preparation as inadequate… Furthermore, rather than rely on curriculum administrators or deans, we surveyed the nutrition educators, who are most knowledgeable about the required nutrition content of the curriculum. Indeed, some researchers have found contradictory information regarding the extent of nutrition instruction in the curriculum when the same questions were posed to administrators and nutrition educators…
There is also the concern that plant protein is not a “complete protein” and that one needs to combine foods, such as eating rice with beans in order to have the kind of protein that is comparable to meat. This has been found to be unnecessary. From the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine:
We now know that intentional combining is not necessary. As long as the diet contains a variety of grains, legumes, and vegetables, protein needs are easily met. Especially protein-rich vegetarian foods include soy-based products like tofu, texturized vegetable protein, tempeh (a fermented soybean product), and veggie burgers, seitan (a meat substitute made from a wheat protein called gluten), black beans, lentils, chickpeas, grains such as quinoa and bulgur, and whole wheat bread.
According to the nutrition course I took in college and the resources listed below, only 10% to 20% of your diet needs to be protein. The rest of your diet should be carbohydrates, produce and healthy fats. Of course, requirements vary depending on which chart you look at.
To meet my family’s nutritional needs, we all take a multivitamin and I focus on having at least one meal each day that includes a hearty serving of clean, plant protein.
Nutritional Requirement Resources:
Complete Nutrition for Children:
More on Vegan Nutrition:
© Jill Powers and The Feel Good Vegan 2010.
Artwork courtesy of Corel