Today, I want to talk about something I’ve been getting lots of questions about recently, which is veganism. A lot of people are getting into it nowadays for a variety of different reasons, but since it’s so popular, I thought I should talk about it from a trainer’s perspective. I actually don’t have anything against veganism, which is kind of a rare stance in the training world. I think it’s a solid ethical choice for the planet, and it can be really healthy for people, as long as you do it right.
Why’s it a good idea to go vegan? It’s a big thing you can do for the planet, because animals put out more carbon emissions than cars do, which is something i found really surprising when I learned it. It’s also something a lot of people do for their morals because a lot of animal products aren’t made really ethically. Finally, from a nutritional standpoint, and there are exceptions to this, a lot of animal products aren’t great for us.
So, if you want to go vegan, here are the things you need to do to stay healthy and keep up a good diet.
The biggie is to get protein from lots of different plant sources to make up for the fact that you aren’t eating meat or dairy, which is where most of us get our primary protein intake. Lentils are a good source of baseline protein, and so are nuts and kale. Those are all smaller amounts, though, so you’re going to have to find some kind of protein product to use as an alternative primary source. Tempeh and seitan are good block-type proteins that are healthier than soy and have about the same content per weight. I also use this amazing protein powder made by the Garden of Eating company that’s made from ground up raw sprouts.
You also need to find a different source of iron and calcium, which are the big nutrients we get from meat and dairy. I recommend that my clients get some blood work done to see how you’re doing over the first few months, and make sure you adjust based on your levels if anything is deficient. Iron is easy to get from kale or spinach, or if you cook with a cast iron pan. For calcium, you can get special orange juice with it added, but I would really just recommend a supplement.
Those are the big nutritional things to watch out for. As far as other vitamins and minerals, you’ll actually be getting more from a plant-based diet, so I wouldn’t worry too much. Just be sure to juice and make sure you’re getting a good range of different groups, and get a masticating juicer for the best nutrition from your produce. As far as cooking your foods and finding good vegan things to eat, the main advice I’ve heard from vegan friends and clients is don’t try to substitute for animal foods. You’ll always be disappointed. I’m talking about imitation meats and cheeses. Just make something different. Find a good vegan cookbook, like Moosewood, and go from there instead of trying to copy your mother’s turkey dinner with tofu.