If you’re curious about trying a vegan or more plant-based diet but worried about how to cut down on meat and dairy without missing out on certain nutrients you’re not alone. Luckily, Harley Street nutritionist and author of Re-Nourish Rhiannon Lambert has now created an e-book all about the subject: A Simple Way to Eat Plant-Based.
We asked her for her tips on going plant based the healthy way.
Why is veganism or plant-based eating suddenly so popular?
Between 2014 and 2018, the number of vegans in the UK quadrupled. This impressive rise has resulted in an explosion of new foods and ready meals becoming available. It’s never been easier to start eating a more plant-based diet. Removing all animal-derived products from your diet does bring with it some nutritional challenges, but these can easily be overcome with a little awareness and forward planning. Plant-based eating doesn’t necessarily mean vegan, it simply means adding more plants to your diet and adopting more plant-based meals throughout the week, this can be done for environmental reasons, ethical reasons, animal welfare and even health.
What are the most common mistakes people make when making the transition to veganism?
The most common mistake is focusing too much on protein and not being aware of the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and where to find them. That coupled with an unbalanced plate with surprisingly not enough vegetables and purchasing products that are not actually plant based and still contain animal produce, it can be very confusing if you don’t know what to look for when reading labels.
Are there particular nutrients it’s easy to miss out on when you give up meat and dairy? How can this be remedied?
In the past, vegans and vegetarians have often struggled to get enough protein in their diets but times have changed as people are becoming more aware of the issue.
Requirements for protein vary with age, gender and activity levels, but the Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) for protein is 0.75g per kilogram body weight per day in adults.
- READ: the best natural protein sources for vegans
This equates to approximately 56g/day for men and 45g/day for women aged 19–50 years in a person of healthy weight. However, data shows that most adults actually eat more protein than they require (87g for men and 67g for women). The key nutrients to be aware of are calcium, iron, iodine, B12, Vitamin D, Zinc, Selenium and Omega-3, which is a pretty long list! This is why its so important to read up on where to get your nutrition or from supplementation, I go into depth on this in my new ebook A Simple Way To Eat Plant-Based.
Is it safe for children to eat a vegan diet?
No, a vegan diet is not dangerous for children. However, bear in mind that their energy requirements (in comparison to their size) are much higher than an adult’s.
A vegan diet tends to be very high in fibre, which can fill us up quickly, meaning that we might not get as many calories in. This is certainly the case with children, since
their stomachs are smaller. You need to keep the energy density of their food high and the fibre content lower where possible. It is also important to ensure their diet meets all micronutrient requirements especially the key nutrition discussed previously such as iodine, calcium and vitamin B12.
Watch Rhiannon’s TEDX talk on how to have a healthy relationship with food:
Many people assume that going plant-based involves sacrifice, especially when it comes to taste. Do you have any tips?
I don’t believe plant-based diets result in everyone giving up meat and dairy completely, I am encouraging a reduction. I think this is an easier mindset when first trying to make some changes to your diet and lifestyle. The best place to start is with simple tasty swaps such as sausages to vegan sausages, they’re often just as tasty with a very similar texture, and you can even get the most exciting flavours. I have just launched a new vegan range with Heck foods with flavours including Sweet Thai, Bollywood Bangers, Super Greens and The Beet Goes On.
Veggie burgers are also very tasty with lots of protein and fibre rich bean burgers now available on the market!
If you stock your kitchen with spices and vegan-friendly sauces your meals don’t change to drastically and you don’t lose the taste.
Is it possible to follow a vegan diet without spending lots on alternative ingredients?
Absolutely, It’s hard to make a definitive comparison since there is such variation in the cost and quality of the foods we eat. However, generally, a plant-based diet will be less expensive than a omnivorous diet.
What are your favourite plant-based recipes?
Funnily enough, some of my favourite meals have always been plant-based, my morning porridge with almond milk and tofu stir fry but I have the most amazing tasty nut roast in my new ebook which are as delicious as they nutritious. However, my ultimate favourite dish at the moment has to be my meatless aubergine balls, the texture is incredible and I would highly recommend trying these first. Quinoa is an excellent meatless source of protein and this clever, nutritious grain works fantastically here in these tasty little‘meatballs’. I serve these with the tomato sauce and some pasta for a filling main course, but you can also serve them on their own with the sauce for a brilliant starter at dinner party!