5 Essentials for a Plant-Based Lifestyle

1. Embrace the Variety of All the Foods You Can Eat!
Consuming an assortment of foods will help to ensure that all of your nutrient needs are being met. The options are almost endless, there are so many amazing and nutritious plant-based foods available. Many people go wrong when attempting to create a sustainable plant-based diet because they do not eat enough food to sustain everyday function. Some important things to consider:

  • Create the foundation with: whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, legumes, nuts, seeds, avocados, and coconut, and plant-based oils such as olive oil, avocado oil, and grapeseed oil.

  • Experiment with different foods such as quinoa, tofu, tempeh, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, seaweed, and fermented vegetables to create more intriguing meals in both flavor and texture!

  • Take it slowly. When switching to a plant-based diet, do it gradually so that your stomach can adjust to your new diet's increased fiber intake.

  • It is important to work with a registered dietitian when switching over to a plant-based diet to meet energy requirements.

2. Read the Food Label!
The food label found on the back of packages will tell you whether or not a food product is plant-based. Tips for identifying plant-based food items:

  • At the bottom of the ingredients, there is a "contains:" section. This section serves as a short-cut for determining whether or not the product is plant-based. Still, it is always a good idea to double-check the ingredient list as well!

  • Look for the "certified vegan" symbol, which is another time-saver for determining if there are any animal products or animal bi-products within that packaged food.

  • If the ingredients listed contain any dairy, egg, or meat-derived ingredients - then it is not considered entirely "plant-based."

3. Prep in Advance.
Being prepared is critical because you'll never know what kind of options you will have at restaurants or convenience stores. One way to help ensure that you will consume enough food on a plant-based diet is to prepare meals ahead of time, always to have access to food when you get hungry!

  • Pick 1-2 days of the week to research interesting plant-based recipes, shop for ingredients, and cook the food for the week.

  • Investing in a spacious cooler bag or lunch box is also a great way to stay prepared. This way, you can pack your food to take with you when you are at work, school, etc.

4. Connect with Other Plant-Based People!
Community is such a crucial aspect of our lives. A support system of people who understand your reasonings for eating plant-based is a game-changer for success. There are many ways to connect with other plant-based people, such as:

  • Joining a plant-based Facebook group

  • Meet up with people in your area at a local restaurant that specializes in plant-based dining

  • Start your own plant-based community! The simple act of creating a safe space to ask questions or express opinions and share common interests will be invaluable on your journey.

5. Don't Deprive Yourself.
There are so many plant-based "fun foods" out there now. You no longer have to compromise or miss out on your favorite foods that you may have grown up eating. There are now delicious plant-based ice creams, pizzas, burgers, candies, and more to try! These "fun foods" should be consumed in moderation but can be a great comfort, especially for newly plant-based individuals. There are also fantastic plant-based cookbooks that have re-created many traditionally non-plant-based recipes into (often even better tasting) plant-based versions!

Featured Recipe
Black Bean Street Tacos with Tropical Fruit Salsa

Makes 4 servings

  • 2 teaspoons cooking oil of choice

  • ¼ cup diced red onion

  • 1 15-ounce can black beans

  • 1 teaspoon cumin

  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon tamari or soy sauce

  • 2 cloves pressed garlic

  • ⅓ cup diced pineapple

  • ⅓ cup diced mango

  • ¼ cup diced red bell pepper

  • ¼ cup diced tomato

  • ½ lime, zest and juice

  • 1 minced jalapeno pepper, removed seeds and membranes if less heat preferred

  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • Salt

  • 6 - 12 corn tortillas

Heat oil in a small saucepan. Add onion, beans, cumin, chili powder, soy sauce, and garlic. Cook over medium heat until hot, about 6-8 minutes.

Combine diced pineapple, mango, bell pepper, tomato, lime, jalapeno, cilantro, and salt in a medium sized mixing bowl; set aside.

Warm tortillas if desired and then lay flat for taco assembly. Use two tortillas per taco if desired. Top each tortilla with broccoli slaw, black beans, and fruit salsa, and enjoy immediately after assembly.

Source: Grateful Grazer from pulses.org

Be Inspired
“Life is too short to make others shorter.”
- Chris Hannah (Propagandhi)
Supplements to Consider for the Plant-Based Athlete

  • Iron: Athletes are at risk of developing iron deficiency due to a combination of factors including increased requirements (training stimulates production of red blood cells) and growth increases (the demand for iron to produce new tissues and blood cells). Iron helps to transport oxygen throughout the body, so supplementation for athletes (especially females due to loss of iron through menstrual cycles) should be considered.

  • Vitamin D: This vitamin is needed to absorb calcium and other minerals along with promoting bone growth! Vitamin D is not found in many plant foods in significant amounts unless the food is fortified with it; however, it can be obtained when our skin is exposed to the sun, so getting 10-15 minutes of direct sun exposure per day may also be beneficial. If these options are difficult for you to achieve a vitamin D supplement may be necessary.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These fatty acids have been shown to reduce muscle soreness and swelling, as well as increase range of motion after damaging exercise. Omega-3 is also extremely important for brain function and skin health. Consider a plant-based omega-3 supplement made from algae, hemp, or other omega-3 rich plant-based foods.

  • Vitamin B12: A necessary supplement for anyone following a plant-based diet. Some research suggests that athletes with poor or marginal nutritional status for vitamin B12 may have decreased ability to perform high intensity exercise. B12 is important for nerve function, brain function, and formation of red blood cells. There are many vegan B12 supplements availalbe which can be taken orally or via shot.

There are a variety of factors that will influence your need to take additional supplements, always consult your physician and registered dietitian before starting any supplements.
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