Erica’s Eats

Welcome to our recipes section! I (Erica) will be “managing” this section, though Katye will doubtless contribute often. Think of this section as your invitation to our recipe swaps!

As someone who spent most of her life eating meals based around animals and animal products, it was difficult for me to wrap my head around vegan meal planning. Dairy and eggs weren’t too difficult to replace (see “11 Vegan Egg Substitutions” at the bottom of this page), but meals had always revolved around a centerpiece of meat, and I hadn’t the slightest idea where to start without that as the launching point.

Naturally, I reached out to Katye! She had been vegetarian for many years before going vegan; I knew I could count as her as a trusted resource for plant-based, balanced meals. I also sought guidance from a Registered Dietitian to err on the side of caution.

Here are the key points of transitioning to a vegan diet:*

  1. Vitamin B12: You used to get this from supplements dumped into the feed of factory farmed animals, not from the animals themselves. (Back when humans ate vegetables, fruits and roots that came in contact with actual nature, we were receiving Vitamin B12 directly from the soil particles on our food.)
    1. If you prefer a supplement, that is certainly an option.
    2. If you don’t, try nutritional yeast. It’s flaky and yellow with a cheesy flavor. Sure, it looks like fish food, but it’s delicious and it means you’re getting all kinds of nutrients (including a load of B Vitamins) every time you mix it into a sauce or casserole, or sprinkle it on salad, popcorn, pizza, etc.
  2. Vitamin D: Most Americans fail to consume enough Vitamin D, but you would have gotten some by eating fish and drinking fortified cow’s milk. Now you will find it in fortified plant-based milks, cereals, orange juice, and some mushrooms.  Look for D2 when possible.
  3. Calcium: This used to come from dairy products. Well, little did you know there is plently of calcium found in dark, leafy greens and broccoli. If that doesn’t sound good to you, grow up… Kidding! (Sort of.) Most of the non-dairy milks are fortified with calcium, much like dairy milk is with vitamins D and A. And boy do you have options! There are non-dairy milks made from soy, almond, coconut, hemp, hazelnut, cashew, and more! I prefer coconut or vanilla cashew for drinking. YUM.
  4. Omega 3s: ALA omega 3s from plants are essential for the body.  You will get these from the same sources as before, but will likely get more of them!  Good plant sources include flax and chia seeds, canola oil, soybeans, and walnuts.  In addition, it may be a good idea to check out a vegan DHA supplement.
  5. Iron: You used to get this from red meat. Now you’ll receive iron from beans, dark greens, nuts and seeds. (Happy, unintentional rhyming!) This is partly why kale has become inextricably tied to veganism; kale, spinach and other dark, leafy greens are nutrition-packed!
  6. Zinc: Although not necessarily a nutrient of concern, it’s a good idea to eat some foods that are high in zinc each day as well.  You’ll find zinc in fortified breakfast cereals, beans, peas, cashews, almonds, and oatmeal.
  7. Protein: If you’re like me, meat was the star in each meal and your main source of protein. While there are several meat substitutes on the market (we suggest Beyond Meat and Gardein), you can also get protein from whole foods like – you guessed it – beans (including lentils and chickpeas), dark greens, nuts and seeds.
    1. Soy is another staple in many vegan diets and comes in many forms, including: soymilk, tofu (fermented soybean curd in a block, often marinated or fried and substituted for meat), tempeh (fermented soybean patty that is delicious grilled and BBQ sauced), edamame, miso (savory soybean paste) and soy sauce.
      1. Worth mentioning here is liquid aminos. It’s just like soy sauce, except it’s packed with 16 amino acids!
    2. One more vegan protein of which you should be aware is seitan. It’s essentially a glob of wheat gluten (GF vegans, beware!) You can make it at home or buy it in stores. Season it, coat it in breadcrumbs, slice it like lunch meat…whatever you like!
    3. Small like sesame seeds and almost flavorless, hemp hearts can be mixed into or sprinkled on anything (from stir fry to smoothies) and will offer a healthy dose of B Vitamins, plus lots of protein!
    4. Check out this website for more information on vegan protein sources and requirements.

Use these tips when meal planning, along with Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate seen here:

Healthy Eating Plate

(Obviously the dairy will be non-dairy.)

A good comparison for your protein serving, according to my RD, is a deck of cards. (Not the size of a T-bone steak, like we’ve all been told.) Those fruits, veggies and grains should be high-fiber carbs, as much as possible. Shoot for whole-grain pasta and breads, sweet potatoes, corn, berries, avocados, pears, broccoli, oatmeal…look it up if you’re unsure! Flax and chia seeds are another great mix-in for fiber. And think of the spaces in between each portion as the amount of fat. If you saute your veggies in olive oil, that’s your fat. If you sprinkle a few tablespoons of walnuts on your oatmeal, that’s your fat. If you melt “butter” in your mashed potatoes, that’s your fat. You get the idea.

Lastly, here’s your quick guide to replacing eggs when baking, thanks to No Meat Athlete:

eggsubstitutes

*Disclaimer: Katye and I are NOT licensed doctors, registered dietitians, nutritionists or even medical students. (We have friends who are doctors, but we haven’t fully absorbed their knowledge by proximity, yet.) Our tips, suggestions and experiences are NOT intended as medical advice; we are just sharing the guidance we have received, as we have understood it.  For more information from the perspective of a Registered Dietitian, check out The Vegan RD.

The site does not provide medical advice and is not written by a medical or nutrition professional. This web site is for information purposes only. Any medical and/or nutritional information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or nutritional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a nutritional or medical condition.

 

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