January is a time for new experiences, and thousands of people are trying out totally plant-based eating. As well as being cruelty-free, vegan food can provide great nutritional value for money. If you’re getting active this month, you can thrive on a vegan diet, and if you’re looking to tackle winter weight gain, fibre-rich plant foods can help to make slimming a more satisfying experience.
Watching the pennies
Going vegan doesn’t mean that you have to buy fancy food. If you’re smart about getting the most nutritional bang for your buck, it might actually reduce your shopping bill. In particular, legumes (beans, lentils and peas) are money-saving superstars. Large bags of red split lentils are widely available and can be used to make soup, pasta sauce and curry. If you’re organized, soaking and cooking dried beans and chickpeas can work out really cheap. If time is limited, don’t shy away from legumes canned in water and frozen options like soya beans, broad beans and garden peas. They’re both convenient and nutritious.
If you’re pushing your physical limits this January, you can get all the nutrients you need from a vegan diet. You don’t need lots of protein from meat and dairy to thrive as an athletic person. Plants can provide all the essential protein building blocks that we call amino acids. The best sources of plant protein contain good amounts of the amino acid lysine, including legumes, soya products, peanuts, quinoa, cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground linseed (flaxseed), hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds. Active vegans can hit their protein targets by eating regular meals containing protein-rich foods, including a bedtime snack. Fortified soya milk is useful because the soya variety contains much more protein than other plant milks and the quality of soya protein is similar to meat and dairy protein. Vegan Quorn is another high quality source of protein.
Although people talk a lot about protein, most of our fuel should come from carbohydrates found in plant-based foods like oats, potato, pasta and fruit. If you don’t fuel up around training, it can have a negative effect on both performance and recovery.
Your energy balance may tip towards weight gain during winter due to changes in your food and activity routines. One of the challenges about managing weight is staying positive. If you think that you’re being deprived, it can be difficult to establish healthier habits. One of the advantages of eating plenty of minimally processed plant foods is that they are rich in fibre, whereas animal products like meat are fibre-free. Basing dishes on legumes, choosing wholegrain options and adding plenty of vegetables can help to make your meals bulky and satisfying whilst keeping the calories down.
Far from a fad
Sometimes, vegan diets are mentioned in the context of fad diets, which is unfair because they’re not inherently unbalanced and impractical. Furthermore, the decision to lead a vegan lifestyle is motivated by a commitment to avoid animal use as much as possible, affecting decisions around clothing, toiletries, entertainment and any other area where it’s possible to choose an animal-free alternative.
You can eat a totally plant-based diet that supports excellent health, whilst helping animals and protecting the planet. Surely, widening your circle of compassion can never be considered a fad.
If you’d like to learn more about totally plant-based nutrition, check out the resources at vegansociety.com/nutrition, including the free VNutrition app, and if you’re interested in going vegan, download our free VeGuide app.
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