Going Vegan? Pay Attention to These Nutrients

Did you know we’ve been celebrating World Vegan month? November is an entire month dedicated to meat-free, kind-to-animals cooking and eating! Perfect for shining a spotlight on this unique but environmentally conscious diet. So, what is a vegan, you ask?

Veganism differs from vegetarianism in a few ways. In particular vegans abstain from eating or using any animal products — including not eating any meat, dairy, eggs or honey. They may also choose not to use cosmetics tested on animals or wear leather, wool, down or fur clothing. No animal products whatsoever.

While great for animal wellbeing, the environment and your health, following a strict vegan diet can make getting all the daily required vitamins and minerals a bit tricky. But with education, awareness and careful planning, veganism can be a perfectly healthy way of life.

Watch out for these nutrients and make sure you consume adequate amounts of them in your diet. Look for alternative sources or consider taking a daily supplement.

  • Vitamin B12 — This water soluble vitamin is important for the formation of hemoglobin and the function of your nervous system. It’s typically found in animal products like meat, eggs or dairy. You can also find daily supplements to replace it or find fortified foods like nutritional yeast that will help meet your daily goal.
  • Calcium – A mineral important to bone health and muscle contraction, calcium is generally found in dairy foods like cheese, yogurt or milk. However, it’s also found in a variety of plant-based foods such as fortified soy milk or orange juice, dark greens like kale or collard greens, almonds, broccoli and even beans.
  • Protein – A macronutrient that’s incredibly important, protein helps build tissues, creates immune cells, aids in the regeneration of skin, and it’s the main component of your hair and nails. Luckily plants also contain adequate amounts of protein. Vegans who eat a variety of lentils, beans, nuts, whole grains, soy and peas can easily meet their daily protein goals.

If you’re interested in veganism, try it out for a meal or two a day. Plan out your foods and then find alternative sources of nutrients like calcium or B12 to ensure you’re consuming a well-balanced diet.

Need a vegan recipe to get started? Try this delicious Creamy Pasta With Peas — the perfect vegan comfort food!


Creamy Herb Pasta with Peas

Recipe developed by Maria Tadic, RD

Ingredients
½ lb. of short cut pasta
1 cup plain walnuts
1 garlic clove
1 cup packed basil, tarragon and fresh oregano (equal amounts of each)
½ teaspoon each salt and pepper
Lemon juice from ½ a lemon
½-¾ cup very hot water
1 cup peas

Directions

  1. In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta according to directions. Save about a cup of the starchy pasta cooking water.
  2. In a food processor add in the walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, herbs, salt and pepper. Process until nuts  are very finely chopped — almost bread crumb consistency.
  3. Turn on food processor and with machine running, slowly add in the hot water until mixture has your desired consistency of alfredo sauce. The sauce should start to become thick and creamy white. Stop every now again to check the consistency and scrape down the sides of the bowl. You may not need all of the water — it depends on how thick you like your alfredo sauce.
  4. Toss sauce, peas and cooked pasta together, stirring to combine. If sauce is too thick add a little bit of the reserved starchy cooking water until you reach your desired consistency.
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Maria Tadic, RD
Maria Tadic, RD, is a registered dietitian currently working in the field of Bariatric Surgery and Nutrition. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband. She's a foodie, runner, blogger and self proclaimed home chef! Read more from Maria on her blog, Bean A Foodie, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.