You may have learned that vegan diets have linked with many health benefits. These benefits include lowering blood pressure and cholesterol,helps with type 2 diabetes and weight loss.
Switching to a vegan diet is a great way to make positive changes for your health, the environment and of course, animals. However, it can be challenging to maintain a balanced vegetarian diet that provides all the nutrients you need, especially when you are new to a vegan diet.
This article uncovers 5 common mistakes people make on a vegan or vegetarian diet, and how to avoid them.
- Eat more carbs and less protein
To replace meat, most vegans focus on getting their foods from processed carbohydrates, such as white rice, noodles, breads and mock meats.
Protein-rich foods like fish, chicken and eggs tend to be filling. But, when you don’t replace these animal-based protein with refined carbohydrates instead of plant-based diets, you may feel hungry soon after meals.
A typical balanced plate should be filled with half non-starchy vegetables, a quarter of plant-based protein (tofu, beans, legumes), and a quarter of whole grains.
- Eating mostly mock meats
Many plant-based products found in the grocery store are processed foods or mock meats to replace the real meat. While they may be delicious and convenient, they are mostly refined carbohydrates. This may lead to over consumption of carbohydrates and would eventually convert into fat cells.
Aim to eat whole-food sources of carbohydrates or source of fat and protein.
For example, whole grains like oats, legumes like black beans, root vegetables like carrots, fruit like berries, snack on high fat and protein nuts, seeds and yogurt. Whole foods contain fiber to increase satiety and are healthier options as they are chemical-free.
- Not drinking enough water
Going vegan may seem healthy but if you’re not drinking enough water, you might end up with poor digestive issues. Vegans or vegetarians tend to have higher fiber intake, since legumes, vegetables and whole grains are staples in vegan diet.
Drinking enough water not only prevents you from dehydration, but easing fiber to move through the digestive tract and prevent issues like gas, bloating and constipation. Make sure you’re drinking at least 2L of liquid a day, and spread your water intake throughout the day.
- Not taking B12 supplements
Vitamin B12 are found mostly in animal-based foods, such as meat, eggs and milk. Plant-based foods don’t contain much vitamin B12, and this may lead to vitamin B12 deficiency. A B12 deficiency can increase inflammation, and eventually lead to health issues likes stroke, dementia, depression and even Alzheimer’s Disease.
Even though I always recommend getting your nutrients from whole foods, this is when you will need foods fortified with vitamin B12 or a supplement.
- Thinking you don't have many options
When you are new to vegan diets, you may think that you are stuck with only green vegetables or mock meats, especially when you were heavy meat eaters. Good news is, vegan or vegetarian diets are filled with many great options!
Start by trying new things and increase variations (Eat the Rainbow!). There are many colour categories in fresh goods, for example, you can eat peppers, tomato, strawberries, apples, potatoes, and pomegranate for red foods. Eating the rainbow gives you 7 varieties of food and that’s when you can optimize your nutrient intakes.
A balanced vegan or vegetarian diet can be very healthy and nutritious. Not only it can bring you health benefits, but to the environment too! So, make sure you plan your meals to prevent nutrient deficiencies or you could consult a nutritionist or dietitian.
Written by: Jasmine Lim
(Love Earth Nutritionist)
[Bachelor of Science Degree in Dietetics (major) &
Food Science (minor) lowa State University, USA]