The vegan diet can be very beneficial to your overall health. It has the power to prevent or reverse diseases and helps reduce inflammation. But there are differences within the vegan diet. On one end there is the junk food vegan. And on the other end, the whole food plant based vegan.
“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.” (source)
The key to reaping the benefits of a plant based diet is to PLAN IT WELL. Today, I would like to talk about the foods healthy vegans should eat every day and how you can incorporate them into your daily eating plan. You can get this meal plan as a printable PDF with shopping list here>>
Foods Healthy Vegans Eat Every Day
You’ll get the most out of your diet when choosing nutrient dense foods. This means foods that contain more nutrients per calorie. The more nutrient dense foods you choose, the more you’ll fill and fuel your body, and the less you will risk developing any deficiency.
On average, vegetables are most nutrient dense, therefore, you should always add a large amount to your meals. Generally, it is suggested to eat 5 servings of veggies per day. One serving is about one cup (raw or 1/2 cup cooked), or the size of a fist. If you add 2 cups each to lunch and dinner, you are very close to your daily goal.
The other serving size could be included in a smoothie or as a snack with your favorite dip. If you are not sure how to incorporate more veggies to your dinners, try my dinner recipes. I like to cook double the amount for dinner and eat the other serving for lunch the next day. This saves me time prepping additional food and ensures adequate nutrient intake. I like this method better than taking sandwiches for lunch. If you can’t warm up your lunch at work or on the go, heat it up in the morning then take it to go in a large food thermos.
#2 Leafy Greens
Leafy greens like baby spinach, kale, or collard greens are high in vitamin K and you should consume at least one cup per day. You can chop them up and add them to your sauces, soups, and more. My favorite way to add them is to make green smoothies. Check out this black forest cake smoothie for an extra load of leafy greens.
You won’t see or taste the spinach 😉
Lentils, chickpeas, all the varieties of beans, and others belong in the legume food group. Beans are rich in B-vitamins, folate, all minerals, and plant based protein. They make a great lean protein source with added vitamins, minerals, and fiber. As this study shows, increasing bean intake by 70 g a day cuts back pre-cancer clusters for colon cancer up to 65 percent.
In his Daily Dozen Challenge, Dr. Greger recommends eating at least 3 servings of beans every day. This would be equal to one can drained and rinsed cooked beans. I typically add two cans per dinner that serves 4, which means I get 1.5 servings per meal and two of the meals would provide the recommended amount. If you do not eat beans yet and you are worried about bloating, start by adding one tablespoon to your usual lunch and dinner, then increase weekly until you reach your goal.
Aside from eating plenty of vegetables, it is important to include a variety of fruits to your diet. Fruits are also high in anti-oxidants, phytochemicals, minerals, fiber, and vitamins. Make sure to pick assorted colors and a variety of fruits. You can add them to your breakfast in an oat bowl, into your smoothie, or as a simple snack. Try to aim for at least 3 servings of fruit per day.
Grains are also important on a vegan diet. They provide fiber and energy to make your meal filling and satiating. There are healthy grains like brown rice, oats, amaranth, quinoa, and more. Leaving out grains could drastically lower your caloric intake and make you feel hungry faster. Sometimes you might even feel dizzy or sluggish. It is recommended to eat (at least) 3 servings of grains a day on a vegan diet. One serving would be 1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta, and so on.
If you are active or trying to gain weight, you can add more servings to your diet plan. The key is to stick to whole foods and not the processed grains like white bread and other processed foods.
#6 Omega 3s
Omega 3 fatty acids make an important part of a healthy vegan diet and should be consumed every day. As you might already know, plants contain omega 3s in the form of AHA, which your body needs to convert into DHA. Some vegans choose to take a DHA supplement made from algae for their anti inflammatory properties and to prevent Alzheimer disease.
Personally, I make sure to add 1 Tablespoon of ground flax seed to my morning oats and then 1 Tablespoon of chia or hemp seed to my daily smoothie.
Soy products like edamame, tofu, soy milk and more contain beneficial substances called phytochemicals. One type of flavonoids is found in soy products that mimic the action of estrogen, therefore, they are called phyto-estrogen. Some people are worried about the use of soy products due to their estrogenic effects. But phyto-estrogens in soy based food actually has anti-cancer effects:
“Estrogen is known to induce breast cancer progression, and interventions, such as dietary modifications, that block or reduce estrogen production are likely to result in favorable prognoses for breast cancer patients. Yamamoto and colleagues demonstrated, in a population-based, prospective study, that frequent isoflavone consumption was inversely associated with the risk of breast cancer” (source)
Read more about hormones and the plant based diet in: Your Body In Balance by Dr. Neal Barnard
Unless you have a soy allergy, you can add soy milk to your oats and smoothies, steam edamame beans as a side, or make tofu meals. I don’t like tofu very much so I puree it into my creamy sauces. Try it out, you won’t taste the tofu: Creamy Tofu Tomato Spaghetti
#8 Brazil Nut
Brazil nuts are high in selenium and one a day covers all your selenium needs. Simply add one Brazil nut to morning oats.
Foods Vegans Should Eat Every Day – MEAL PLAN
For breakfast, make a bowl of oats:
- 1 cup oats
- 1 cup berries
- 1 banana
- 1 Brazil nut
- 1 T flax seed (milled)
- Almond milk (about 1 cup)
This bowl contains 2 servings of grains, 2 servings of fruits, the Brazil nut, and omega 3.
For a snack you can make this Black Forest Cake Smoothie. You can use soy milk instead of almond milk. You’ll get 2 more servings of fruits, 1 serving of leafy greens, another serving of veggies, another serving of omega 3, and soy.
For lunch and dinner you can make one of these meals:
This will give you the additional serving sizes of vegetables, grains, and beans. Get the full PDF below.