I had a request to talk give out some vegan recipes and I finally decided to tackle that one for ya! Oh hey Melissa, this ones for you. 🙂 Now, as you all probably know, I’m a complete carnivore (no offense to all the vegans and vegetarians out there) and due tot that, I don’t really have any full meals that are vegan to share with you. I was going to do one meatless Monday this vacation with a soup, but I didn’t think that was very creative so I thought it would be better to just do some bloglovin and share some amazing recipes from the blog-o-sphere. I will however give some tips and factoids about the nutritional requirements I think are important as you have to be much more mindful that you are giving you body what it needs for any diet that requires restriction.
So how ’bout some lil pointers first eh?
The first thing that comes to mind is protein. It’s the question that makes all vegans (and vegetarians) go crazy because it really isn’t that hard to get all of your protein from non-animal sources, it just takes a lil bit more thought.
I will go off the deep end here and say that if you’re a hard core bodybuilder you may need some protein powder of some kind to meet your needs if your diet is also carb restricted. I firmly believe that high protein is needed to build a decent amount of muscle, many will argue against this notion, but this is what I believe.
There are many sources of protein in nature other than in animal products. Yes, vegetarians will have it easier as they can include dairy, fish and eggs, if they chose, and that should mean they have no problem reaching their requirements for protein BUT vegans, it can be trickier.
With plant based proteins, they are incomplete (with a small handful of exceptions which most people don’t eat, like some forms of algae/kelp I believe), meaning they don’t have all of your amino acids. Due to this, it is crucial that you eat a variety of different foods to ensure you are getting all of your amino acids (ie building blocks of any new tissue, muscle, etc in the body), especially those essential ones that the body cannot make on it’s own. Now, I have now come to believe that you don’t need to do complementary pairing at every meal, but instead, having a day full of variety is enough to get what you need.
Here are some examples of foods for your essential ones. Make sure to include these in your diet daily as you cannot make these lil guys.
- Histidine: Rye, bananas, green vegetables, rice
- Isoleucin: Soy protein, seaweed
- Leucin: Beans, lentils, nuts, rice, oats
- Lysine: Beans, nuts, seeds, some grains
- Methionine: Beans, nuts, seeds, grains,
- Phenylalanine: Soy products, nuts and seeds
- Threonine: Lentils, black beans and sesame seeds
- Tryptophan: Spirulina, unsweetened chocolate, seeds, some grains (like quinoa), and dates
- Valine: Beans and legumes
The only other issue of getting enough protein with this lifestyle is whether or not your body responds well to the protein sources you have left. Personally, not only would I never be able to give up meat without feeling like I’m giving up the best foods (again, sorry to those who are not meat eaters, I’m just being honest), but my body just wouldn’t work eating vegetarian proteins. I can only eat beans and lentils once in a blue moon because they upset my stomach (way to gassy), I refuse to eat soy and well….there’s nothing really substantial left. Check out the video (click on the image) I posted below for my take on this issue.
So now that we got the big one out of the way, some other vitamins and minerals of concern, especially with vegans include:
B12: This guy is very hard to find naturally in non-animal products so you’re kinda stuck going with supplements or fortified foods. One natural source I do know of is nutritional yeast (which more use a cheesy tasting substitute). Guys, you need this one for sure as it can wreck havoc on your system from damaging your nerves, causing anemia or leading to heart problems. Take this one seriously or you will find yourself in a convulsive fit.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Without fish, this one can be tough because plant based sources are tricky to use by the body. For example, while flax is a source of omega fatty acids, specifically ALA, the body has to convert that ALA to EPA and DHA and it’s not very efficient at this process. As a result, you are kind of stuck getting a small fraction of what you see on the nutrition label. Best to find a supplement offering a high amount of DHA and EPA. The source is often algae.
Calcium: Although in smaller amounts, this one can be found in a number of plant based foods. Some of those include, dark leafy greens, beans, legumes, nuts, and many green vegetables. The issue once again comes down to the ability to absorb the calcium as there is a pesky thing called oxalate that is found in quite high amounts in those foods and that blocks absorption. Often, supplements are still required to get enough after accounting for lack of absorption.
Vitamin D: Once again, supplementation or fortified foods are your friends here as Vitamin D is a toughie in non-animal foods. Mushrooms are one of the only natural sources I can find.
Iron: Similar issue in a way to calcium. Iron comes in two forms, heme and non heme. Heme, which is in animal products, is much more bioavailable to our body’s to use, while plant based non-heme iron is harder for the body to use and thus you end up with much less in the end. Plant based foods such as grains, beans and lentils are great sources of iron BUT ensure to eat them with vitamin C to help with absorption.
Here is a great website to check out for more info! Click here.
Okay, wow this is getting long and we haven’t even gotten to the recipes yet. Okay, one final comment before I get to the food.
One major trend I see all too often with vegans and vegetarians is the fact that they eat way too many carbohydrates (as they may turn to fast or processed foods) because they don’t eat enough protein and therefore just don’t know what to eat. In the end, because carbohydrates really don’t satisfy you when consumed solo, you find yourself constantly hungry and munching and that can lead to weight gain. Just because meat is taken out of the equation (which is often the center focus of our meals these days) doesn’t mean that all you have left are carbohydrate heavy dishes.
On the other hand, I also see many very undernourished vegans because they are eating too many low calorie plant based foods and not enough fats and proteins. Although you may be getting lots and lots of vitamins and minerals from those veggies, your body needs fats and protein to sustain you, and, without them, it will start to break down quickly.
So, the key is balance. Be mindful that you get enough protein at every meal and don’t go overboard with excessive amounts of carbohydrates (as many protein sources are also quite high in carbohydrates), take supplements as needed and listen to your body. If you’re constantly getting sick, feeling tired or just not right, either you are missing something vital in your diet or it’s time to take a hard look at whether this lifestyle and determine if it’s something your body can handle.
Alrighty, now onto the fun stuff!
I have hunted down a good number of recipes that I hope you enjoy. I tried to include a variety of styles, types of meals, ease of cooking and tastes for you all.
Oh She Glows. Protein, check. Healthy carbphydrate sources, check. Greens…I would add some kale perhaps or another dark leafy green. Also, the fat free dressing is not something I’m a fan off. Add some fat with olive oil or add avocado to your salad so it sticks around a lil bit longer.
The Everyday Veggie. High protein but a lil on the carby side for my liking as it’s rice inside a tortilla. I would wrap it all up in a collard green wrap.
Chatelaine. I love the fact that they didn’t put it on a bun! They used portabello mushrooms as their buns which are natural sources of both protein and vitamin D.
Eating Bird Food. You didn’t think you would get away without getting something that looks like oatmeal did you? I would however add some more protein to this dish by either adding some protein powder (vegan of course, peanut flour would be ideal) or hemp seeds.
My New Roots. For the request for a vegan cheesecake, here is a beauty! Do not be afraid of the fats in this one as they are coming from healthy sources including nuts and coconut oil PLUS this is a treat. It’s much better to be eating those fats then the hydrogenated ones found in a commercial cheesecake no?
See, being vegetarian or vegan is not hard, it just takes a lil bit of base knowledge about your bodily needs, some more thought perhaps in the beginning and dropping the stigma that you will be eating leaves for the rest of your life.
Experiment and have some fun!
I hope this post helped some of you out.
It’s officially Christmas Eve tomorrow and I can’t wait!
All the best,