The Nutrition Diva's vegan diet tips
The start of the new year typically means motivation to improve your diet. We talked with Monica Reinagel, MS, LN, CNS, also known as the Nutrition Diva, about the best ways to improve on the vegan diet. Here's what the diet expert had to say.The start of the new year typically means motivation to improve your diet. We talked with Monica Reinagel, MS, LN, CNS, also known as the Nutrition Diva, about the best ways to improve on the vegan diet. Here's what the diet expert had to say.
Meet Monica Reinagel -- the Nutrition Diva
Monica Reinagel is a board-certified, licensed nutritionist and a professionally trained chef. Her #1-ranked Nutrition Diva podcast on the Quick and Dirty Tips network and her Nutrition Over Easy blog have helped millions to eat and feel better. Her expert advice is regularly featured on countless media outlets (including NBC, ABC, FOX News, NPR, WebMD, Washington Post, AOL Health, and Huffington Post). Monica is also the creator of the IF Rating system, a scientific method of estimating the inflammatory and anti-inflammatory potential of foods, and the author of four previous books, including The Inflammation-Free Diet Plan and Nutrition Diva’s Secrets for a Healthy Diet: What to Eat, What to Avoid, and What to Stop Worrying About. Reinagel is also the author of two e-books that launched this week: How To Win At Losing: 10 Diet Myths That Keep You From Succeedingand Nutrition Zombies: 10 Nutrition Myths That Refuse To Diet And How To Keep Them From Sabotaging Your Diet.
5 Tips to improve your vegan diet
Here are the Nutrition Diva's five tips to better your diet for the new year.
1. Go easy on the soy.
Soy is a great vegan source of protein and incredibly versatile. With a vast array of soy-based products that stand in for dairy products, eggs, and meat. vegans can end up eating a lot of soy. But a very high soy intake poses concerns of its own, everything from hormonal interactions to thyroid dysfunction. To avoid over-doing it, try to incorporate some non-soy alternatives, as well. Choose dairy alternatives made from almonds, rice, or coconut. Take advantage of other beans, grains, and nuts as sources of protein.
2. Have a reliable source of vitamin B12.
A vitamin B12 deficiency is the biggest nutritional risk for vegans. Although it doesn't take much (just 2.4 mcg per day), you do need a steady intake. Contrary to what you may have heard, fermented soy products and sea vegetables are not a reliable source of B12. Look for soymilk or breakfast cereals that have been fortified with B12. If you're counting on nutritional yeast as your B12 source, be sure to look for the Red Star brand. Not all nutritional yeast is a good source of the vitamin.
3. Beware of vegan junk food.
Twenty years ago, the typical vegan diet included a lot less packaged and processed foods--because there just weren't many vegan options out there. But the more mainstream meat-free eating gets, the less healthy it seems to become. Today, you can fill your cart with vegan frozen pizzas, burritos, and waffles; fake bacon, sausage, and hot dogs; cookies, cakes, and doughnuts; chips, dips, crackers and fake cheese; and breakfast cereals that make Cap’n Crunch look virtuous. Obviously, a diet of vegan junk food isn’t any healthier than a diet of regular junk food. Eat fresh and limit your processed food consumption.
4. Get your omega-3s.
Oily fish are the richest source of these fatty acids, important for healthy hearts and brains. Vegans should seek out vegetarian sources of omega-3 like flax, chia, and walnuts. These vegetarian sources of omega-3 are primarily ALA and not the more potent forms found in fish (EPA and DHA). But you can enhance your body's conversion of ALA into EPA and DHA by limiting your intake of omega-6 oils, found in corn and soybean oil.
5. Branch out.
Becoming a vegan means eliminating a lot of common foods from your diet. But going vegan doesn't have to mean narrowing your dietary horizons. For every food you have chosen to exclude, there are 10 or 20 more new foods waiting to be discovered. Instead of getting into a rut with the same handful of "safe" dishes, challenge yourself to try new grains, vegetables, spices, cuisines, and recipes. Experiment, explore, and enjoy!
More vegan lifestyle tips!