By Layla, MISSION’s Health, Wellness and Nutrition Intern
Veganism has been on the upswing in the world of Nutrition. We see vegan recipes, cafes, and food alternatives popping up left and right. What is the hype? To clarify, a vegan is an individual that consumes only plant-based products, excluding anything that comes from an animal. This includes meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, and eggs.
I confidently believe that a vegan diet can be healthy as long as an individual is well-educated, well-planned, and dedicated. The issues that arise with Veganism is when nutrient recommendations are neglected, such as protein, iron, and Vitamin B-12.
As a personal preference, I have slowly lowered my meat consumption over the past 5 years down to a pescatarian (which means only seafood). Along with eggs and dairy products, this has been a set diet for over a year now. There is nothing wrong/unhealthy with a preference towards a omnivore diet as long as it still follows the recommended guidelines of a balanced diet, but some individuals find lowering their intake has added benefits.
Since my diet was already heavily plant-based, I decided to try out being vegan for a week. If someone was interested in transitioning to a vegan diet, I think that is exactly what it should be, a transition. It is hard to go straight from eating meat, dairy, and eggs every day, to completely cutting them out. Slowly cutting out processed meats and red meat is a good place to start, then on to chicken and fish, then dairy and eggs. Patience can ensure a more sustainable lifestyle.
To kick off #VeganWeek, I ran over to Trader Joe’s and picked up a few things to prepare for the rest of the week. I went in with a few recipes in mind and shopped accordingly. These recipes included a Lentil Tomato Sauce over Zucchini Noodles and Crispy Tofu with Quinoa and Mixed Vegetables. These made their way on to my list because lentils, quinoa, and tofu are staples in a vegan diet due to their high protein content.
My other meals consisted of combination of black beans and brown rice because together, this creates a complete protein. The term “complete protein” means that a food contains all 9 of the essential amino acids that are needed daily to carry out important bodily functions. These are the types of proteins that our bodies cannot make and must consume through our diet. All animal products (meat, dairy, eggs) are complete proteins, which is why the concern comes in for vegans. Soy (tofu, tempeh) and quinoa are two stable plant-based proteins that are considered complete proteins. Vitamin B-12 is also only found in animal products, so many vegans should supplement or add fortified foods into their diets.
I have decided to actually continue #VeganWeek for another week because I felt so great this past week. I have found myself having great energy levels, better sleep, and less stress. My skin has even seen some benefits! Everyone is different, with different preferences, but if you have been considering Veganism, I encourage you to try out your own #VeganWeek. An average day during #VeganWeek for me looked something like this:
-1 cup frozen mixed berries
-1 cup spinach
-1 serving of vegan protein (I used Kashi Go Lean Plant Powder Vanilla)
-1 cup unsweetened almond milk
-1 tablespoon flax seed
-2 teaspoon sunflower seeds
-1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
-1 tablespoon maca powder
-1 tablespoon cacao powder
This is a great start to the day because it is filled with antioxidants, plenty of vitamins and minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and plant-based protein. I had this every morning and switched it up by making it into a smoothie bowl some days and taking it on the go other days.
Trader Joe’s Whole Grain Crispbread with Raw Almond Butter and Berries
This a quick, filling snack packed with protein, healthy fats, and fiber. It takes only a few minutes to throw together.
Ezekiel Toast with Mashed Chickpeas and Avocado
Ezekiel bread is a sprouted grain bread that is typically found in the frozen section of your grocery store and offers 8 grams of complete protein per slice. Chickpeas are an awesome way to sneak some protein into your average avocado toast! On the days I was craving more greens, I opted for a packed salad topped with tempeh.
Lentil Tomato Sauce over Zucchini Noodles
One of my favorite creations of this week was this recipe that I definitely will bring along with me beyond this #VeganWeek. This Lentil Tomato Sauce was pretty simple and just required cooking some onion, carrots, red peppers, and spices (basil, oregano, thyme, and cayenne) together, then adding in 1 cup red lentils, 3 cups vegetable broth, 1 can diced tomatoes. I let this cook for about 30-40 minutes, then added in some spinach. This on top of some cooked zucchini noodles and I was set for 3-4 days of prep!
If you are interested in trying out a #VeganWeek, feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com for any additional tips and information!
Content of the blog is opinion and not to be considered scientific fact. All readers should consult a medical professional for questions concerning individual medical and dietary needs.