Eating a plant-based diet does not just mean avoiding animal products and processed foods. It's overarching aim is to get you to increase the nutrient density of your diet, via consuming a variety of delicious wholefoods.
Majority of the benefits from following a plant-based diet actually comes from what you end up eating more of, not so much what you end up excluding. And although this is a very healthy way of eating, it needs to planned well to ensure that you get all of your nutrient needs.
Below are some major tips to help you meet key nutrient needs on a plant-base diet...
TIP 1. – GET YOUR PROTEIN
You actually get more protein from plants than you think.
Although most plants contain some protein, there are particular types that contain richer amounts. Also, a lot of protein rich plant foods also contain good amounts of iron and zinc! Aim to include one or more of these at each of your main meals:
Legumes – beans, lentils, peas (e.g. chickpeas, borlotti beans, black beans, kidney beans)
Soy foods – tofu, tempeh, edamame, and/or soy milk
Nuts – whole nuts and/or nut butters (e.g. peanut, almond, macadamia)
Seeds – whole seeds (e.g. pepitas, chia seeds and flaxseeds) and seed pastes (e.g. tahini)
Example meal & snack ideas
Add a cup of canned chickpeas to: curries, salads, stir-fry
Add nuts & seeds to: salads, breakfast cereals, stir-fries, smoothies
Add tofu or tempeh to: curries, stir-fries, nourish bowls, burgers, rice paper rolls
Snack on: dry biscuits with almond butter, nuts hummus & carrots, edamame
Sip on: smoothies with tahini, chia seeds and soy milk
TIP 2. – YOU STILL NEED CALCIUM, BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TO DRINK COWS MILK
Cows get their calcium from plants and so can you.
Calcium is essential for more than just strong bones and teeth; it plays a role in nerve signalling, muscle contraction and relaxation, and keeping a normal heartbeat.
If you’re avoiding dairy foods and/or following a plant-based diet, it is imperative that you consume the following calcium rich foods:
Calcium set tofu
Greens: spinach, broccoli, bok choy and collard greens
Calcium-fortified plant milks: rice, oat, almond, and soy milks
Almonds and brazil nuts
Chia and sesame seeds
Tofu and tempeh
Example meal & snack ideas
Add tofu to salads, curries and nourish bowls
Add greens such as kale, broccoli and spinach to you salads or strir-fry
Add fortified plant milks to your cereal, coffee, or smoothies
Add baby spinach, tahini, banana and fortified plant milk to make a calcium rich smoothie
Snack on almonds
TIP 3. – ADDING VITAMIN C RICH FOODS WILL HELP YOU ABSORB MORE IRON
Certain plant foods contain good amounts of iron, however it comes in a form known as ‘non-heam’ iron. This type of iron is not absorbed as well as the type you get from animal foods (haem-iron).
But here’s the good news...
If you eat something that is rich in vitamin C alongside your plant based iron food, it will enhance the absorption of the non-haem iron, by up to 6 fold.
That’s up to 6 times more non-haem iron being absorbed… just by adding Vitamin C foods to your meal.
On average, most people do consume vitamin C rich foods with their meals.
An easy way to get your vitamin C is by eating bright coloured fruits and vegetables.
For example, combine the following with your iron rich plant foods:
Tempeh (contains non-haem iron) + red capsicum (vitamin C)
Chickpeas (contain non-haem iron) + parsley & tomato (vitamin C)
Quinoa (contains non-haem iron) + green leafy vegetables (vitamin C)
Lemon (vitamin C) - squirt it over your plant-based meal