7 Nutrition Tips for New Vegans
By Dani Taylor
If you’re new to a vegan lifestyle, it can feel a little overwhelming at first. Figuring out what not to eat and what to eat, all while feeling like you’re overhauling your lifestyle overnight can be enough to make even the toughest people want to throw in the towel. Today I want to share with you seven nutrition hacks that can make your journey into a vegan lifestyle much smoother and easier while ensuring you meet your nutritional needs!
1. Make greens & beans the base of one meal a day.
Leafy greens are THE most nutritionally dense foods on the planet. Kale, spinach, collards, chard and more are more loaded with vitamins and minerals than any other foods. And beans are packed with protein and fiber. Combined, a dish with a base of greens and beans packs a huge nutritional punch that will help to ensure you’re getting the most nutritional bang for your buck.
If eating greens daily is new to you, start with milder tasting greens like romaine lettuce as the base of a chickpea Caesar salad. (Check out our Buffalo Tofu Salad with Creamy Ranch Dressing) Over time, your palate will be accustomed to these flavors and you can work your way up to a kale and lentil buddha bowl. Feel free to top these bowls with delicious dressings or sauces, nuts and seeds, dried fruit, or whatever tickles your fancy.
2. Start your day with a super smoothie.
This is another easy way to make sure you’re getting the most out of your day. Having a big nutritionally dense smoothie for breakfast really sets the tone for the day by prioritizing nutrition right from the start. There are so many possibilities for delicious, healthy breakfast smoothies. Here is a formula for a simple morning smoothie that will leave you feeling energized and can be customized to an endless combination of flavors!
1 c nondairy milk
1 small frozen banana
½ c berries or other fruit
1 Tbsp seeds, nuts, or nut butter
1 handful of greens
1 scoop vegan protein powder
Ice and water to desired texture.
3. Recreate vegan versions of your favorite meals.
One of the big mistakes of new vegans, is that they try to totally re-invent the wheel from day 1. Not only does this lead to feeling incredibly overwhelmed, but it also leads to feeling restricted of the foods you used to love. When this happens is when most people decide to give up on veganism altogether. Luckily, in 2020, you can recreate any dish you can imagine in a vegan way. As they say “anything you can eat, I can eat vegan!”
Explore some of the many mock meats, nondairy cheeses and desserts. I guarantee there are more out there than you would expect! Try looking up new recipes that make vegan versions of your favorite foods. Learning how to make a delicious vegan pizza or chocolate cake, for example, can really scratch that itch and help keep you on track. Remember, in order to be successful, this has to be sustainable for you.
4. Try a new fruit or vegetable every week.
Many of us grew up eating the same old fruits and vegetables (if any at all!). For me it was that sad diced mix of carrots, peas and lima beans and some red delicious apples (has there ever been a more ironically named fruit?). It’s easy to overlook that there 300,000 different varieties of fruits and vegetables out there when you’ve been eating the same ten or so your whole life.
To make trying new produce fun, consider trying one new fruit or vegetable every week. If you’d like, you can even look up a fun recipe with it and make an event out of it. You won’t always love everything you try, but I am certain you will find lots of new nutritious foods you may have never tried otherwise!
5. Download the Happy Cow app
One of the struggles for new vegans is finding places to go out to eat that can accommodate the vegan lifestyle. Happy Cow is a free app, available in over 180 countries, that can tell you all of the vegan, vegetarian, veg-friendly etc. restaurants, cafes, bakeries, farmer’s markets and stores in your vicinity - wherever you are! This is especially helpful when traveling and in unfamiliar surroundings. Not only can you see what’s available and where (yes, it gives directions also), but you can read ratings from thousands of other vegans and even leave your own tips and reviews for others.
6. Eat at international restaurants
When in doubt, international restaurants often have vegan options on their menu as plant based eating is much more prevalent in other parts of the world. When eating Italian, opt for a vegetarian pizza minus the cheese, or pasta marinara or arrabiata. Thai places make the most amazing tofu curries, stir-fries and noodles, but check that they do not have fish sauce. Indian restaurants usually have a vegetarian section to their menu – you just want to make sure they do not have ghee or a cream base. Japanese food is another great option, where you can order veggie sushi and some miso soup.
7. Find a supportive community.
You don’t have to do it alone! Thanks to the world wide web, you can connect with fellow vegans in seconds. There are so many vegan Facebook groups, whether you’re looking for vegan recipes, vegan pregnancy support, local meetups, fitness advice and so much more! Want some help getting started? Check out the Vegan Strong Subscription Box Facebook Group (obviously this needs a different name) for plant-based beginner tips, advice, and a supportive community.