Today we’re going to tackle 8 mistakes new vegans and vegetarians should avoid. I know these kind of info are a bit controversial so I’m going to put a disclaimer. This info is not to bash veganism and not to bash vegetarianism. I am a nutritionist that supports all sorts of diets you have to find a diet that works for you and I myself have predominantly plant-based. I respect people who choose a vegan or vegetarian diet. But the facts are it is a diet which requires a little bit more planning, so let’s get started. What are the eight mistakes to avoid at the vegan or vegetarian?
1. Not Getting Enough Protein
OK, so you know this is far, the most common being vegans and vegetarians get asked about; “Where did you get your protein if you don’t eat meat?”. You can definitely get your protein however if you’re not eating a balanced diet and you’re not eating protein rich foods, It is easy to under eat the protein. So how much protein do you actually need now? This is kind of a debatable number. I like to go by the recommended daily intake as a bare minimum. So the recommended daily intake for women for a sedentary woman is 46 grams per day and for a man is about 56grams per day. This is again sedentary now if you’re a more active person if you’re pregnant if you’re nursing you’re heavier than the average person your needs will be more, so your protein needs really vary there’s no magic number. But in my practice I’ve seen that 45 grams is a minimum is probably the minimum. Most people feel better when they eat more protein. So as a vegan or vegetarian where can you get your protein? if you’re a vegan, you can easily reach your minimum by eating beans, lentils, nuts and seeds, plant-based protein powder, ideally something that’s minimally processed and doesn’t have additives, fermented soy like; tempeh grains, whole grains, I should say and vegetables. Vegetables do provide some protein but it’s usually not enough alone to reach your daily target. If you’re vegetarian you can also add eggs pastured, eggs preferably and dairy to get your protein needs.
2. Not Getting Enough B12
B12 is essential for neurological function and it can also help prevent heart disease. So when you’re very low on B12, you’re going to end up with things like tingling in your extremities and there a bunch of other symptoms. The problem would B12 is it’s typically found in animal products. It’s not readily available in plant sources what can you do as a vegan or vegetarian? Take B12 supplements. If you’re taking any supplements B12 needs to be on that list if you’re in a predominantly plant-based diet. When I was eating meat my B12 levels were really really good. And then when I switched to a predominantly plant-based diet they’re still decent. I’m still in a decent range. They are significantly lower than they used to be. And I worry that they will become too low. So, it’s always a good idea to get enough B12. I also recommend that you get your B12 level tested yearly at your annual physical. Tell your doctor that you’re a vegan or vegetarian and you were worried about your B12 levels. Just get a test because you know sometimes you just go under. Some people no matter how much they supplement cannot absorb B12 properly. So their levels are never the optimal levels. So it’s a good idea to get it checked. Ask your doctor for advice. Sometimes they’ll recommend a B12 injection.
3. Not Getting Enough Calories
So a lot of people have a problem getting too many calories. That happens! But sometimes people get too few calories when they change the one diet the other. That’s because you’re restricting food groups and not necessarily adding other food groups. So a lot of people who start vegan or vegetarian diet may feel tired. That’s probably not necessarily because of a deficiency, especially if it’s early on. It’s probably just that you’re not getting enough calories. So make sure you get enough calories for your body. Now, how you calculate your calories? You can go into My Fitness Pal and put the foods that you eat in there, and it tallying up for you. I don’t recommend calorie counting as a daily thing. It’s not something that fits with my philosophy on food. But I think it is a tool that can be used once in a while, just to kind of gauge are you on the right track. Does your diet even make sense? Are you getting enough nutrients? Just figure out your calories short-term and see if it’s enough. If it’s not enough, start to add more calorie dense foods till you meet your calorie goals.
4. Not Getting Enough Zinc
So zinc is important for immune function, sense of smell and taste and for hair growth and nail growth. So a lot of people who have been vegan or vegetarian for a long time had cause of hair fall. And sometimes it’s because you’re not getting enough nutrients. So if you want to prevent this, make sure you get enough zinc. So what are the sources of zinc one plant-based diet? Cashews, chickpeas, oatmeal, almonds, kidney beans, pumpkinseeds, Ana peas. Now if you don’t eat any of these foods or you don’t like them then maybe you’re not getting enough zinc. So speak to your doctor or healthcare professional to see if you need a supplement.
5. Not getting enough iron
This is not something specific for vegan or vegetarians, although I do see this more in and vegans and vegetarians. You could be a meat eater and also have low iron. I used to be one of those people so getting enough iron is difficult. It requires a balanced diet and it requires knowing how to absorb the iron. Now, how do you know that you have an iron deficiency? Talk to your doctor! Get your levels tested! There’s really no other way. And I do not recommend taking a supplement without speaking to your doctor. So now let’s say you got your levels tested and you’re a little low. Your doctor will recommend a supplement. But a supplements just a supplement. You should also be getting iron from your diet. So how can you get iron from your diet? So iron rich foods and a vegan or vegetarian diet are beans and lentils, quinoa, oatmeal, seeds and nuts, fermented soy, peas and dark chocolate. Now a little tip about iron. When you eat iron on its own and it’s not that well absorb, it’s very difficult to absorb, then you need to have The Iron with some vitamin C. by having it with vitamin C, you were going to boost that absorption rate. So let me give you an example. Let’s say I have beans and rice. The beans have iron but the rice isn’t helping you absorb the iron. But adding salsa which has vitamin C in it from the tomatoes, you will absorb the iron from the beans better. Another example, dark chocolate. now if I’m eating dark chocolate on its own I’m not going to absorb the iron very well and definitely not absorbing if I have it with some coffee or tea. Caffeine blocks iron absorption. So what’s the best choice? Have it with some fruit! fruit that has vitamin C such as berries or oranges will help you absorb the iron from the dark chocolate. So iron and vitamin C is a boost of absorption.
6. Not Getting Enough Omega-3 Fatty Acids
So when we think of omega-3 fatty acids, the first thing we think of as fish. So fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids but it’s not on the menu for vegans and vegetarians. So where can you get your omega-3? You can get your omega-3 from plant-based sources such as flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds. But here’s a problem. These foods are rich in ALA and not an EPA and DHA which what your body uses. Now your body can convert ALA to the most usable forms, but it’s a lot of work and some people don’t do this conversion properly in their bodies. So no matter how much chia seeds, hemp seeds or flax, they eat they’re notional have enough omega-3. So again talk to your doctor about this if you feel like you may need omega-3 supplements. So because you can take a fish oil, you can try algae oil. Algae oil can come with preformed EPA and DHA not ALA. So it’s already in the usable form. It’s expensive but if you have an omega-3deficiency, it’s totally worth it.
7. Eating Too Many Processed Foods
I did this I was vegan for a short stint in my early 20s and during that time I focused primarily on processed food because I didn’t have the time to cook the beans and lentils and the other Foods. The problem with relying on a lot of processed foods when you transition this new diet is that you’re getting all these extra additives and you’re not getting the nutrients that you would get from whole foods. Processed foods typically have fewer nutrients than whole foods. So it’s always a good idea to focus your diet on whole foods, predominantly unprocessed foods and if you need to eat processed foods here and there, it’s okay. But it’s don’t rely on the processed foods for your main calories.
8. Not Getting Enough Calcium
So if you’re vegetarian and you have dairy you’re probably okay, but if you’re a vegan or someone like me, I not begin a predominately plant-based, but I don’t like to have dairy, it can become an issue getting enough calcium. You just need to plan properly, it’s not to say that you won’t get enough calcium it’s all about the proper planning. So where can you get calcium from on a vegan diet? Broccoli, collards, black turtle beans, navy beans, fortified plant milks, tahini and kale. If you’re not eating enough of these foods and if you’re not eating them on a regular basis, consider adding them to your diet! And if you’re still struggling then talk to your doctor. Maybe you will need a calcium supplement.
So there you have it, Eight Mistakes to Avoid at the Vegan or Vegetarian.