The Vegan Plate
A great food guide will help you ensure that you meet your needs for all nutrients on a vegan diet. The Vegan Plate is practically foolproof. By following this guide adequate intakes of both macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) will be ensured. Intakes of protective compounds such as antioxidants and phytochemicals will also be maximized. For detailed information on designing an optimal vegan diet, purchase a copy of Becoming Vegan: Express Edition (Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, 2013). If you are a person who wants references and details, opt for the lengthier volume, Becoming Vegan: Comprehensive Edition (Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, 2014).
For Omega 3 fatty acids.
Include at least one of the following:
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of ground flaxseeds or chia seeds
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) of hempseeds
- 1/3 cup (85 ml) of walnuts
- 1/ 2 tablespoon (7 ml) of flaxseed oil
- 1-1/ 2 tablespoon (22 ml) of hempseed oil
- 2-1/ 2 tablespoons (37 ml) of canola oil
These amounts provide enough ALA for the average man (3.2 g ALA) and will provide more than enough for the average woman who needs only about 2/3 this much. A vegan DHA supplement of 200 to 300 mg DHA 2 to 3 times a week is optional and may be beneficial for some individuals (such as during pregnancy or for those with diabetes). A supplement that combines DHA with EPA can also be used.
For Vitamin B12
Be sure to include one of the following:
- A daily supplement that provides at least 25 micrograms of vitamin B12.
- Twice a week, a supplement that provides at least 1,000 micrograms of vitamin B12.
- 3 servings over the course of a day of vitamin B12-fortified foods (such as nondairy milks, veggie meats, or breakfast cereals that are fortified with a total of 4 mcg (micrograms) of vitamin B12 or 100 percent of the DV. Check the label. Two teaspoons (10 ml or 3 grams) of Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula nutritional yeast flakes can qualify as one of these servings.
For Vitamin D
Get your vitamin D from sunlight, fortified foods, a supplement or a combination of these:
Sunlight. Exposure of the face and forearms to warm sunlight (10 am to 2 pm) without sunscreen, on a day that is not cloudy and not in winter can provide your days supply of vitamin D. The amount of time required is 15 minutes daily for light-skinned people; 20 minutes for dark-skinned people, and 30 minutes for the elderly.
Fortified foods or supplements. Use vitamin D supplements or fortified foods if your sun exposure is insufficient. The recommended vitamin D intake for adults is 15 micrograms (600 IUs) to age 70 and 20 micrograms (800 IUs) above the age of 70 years. Amounts of vitamin D as high as 25 mcg (1000 IU) of vitamin D, and 50 mcg (2000 IU) above the age of 70 years also are considered suitable and safe.
We can get our day’s recommended intake of 150 mcg of iodine or from a supplement or from about 3/8 teaspoon (2 ml) of iodized salt. Sea vegetables such as kelp also contain iodine though amounts vary greatly. Without sources such as these, iodine intake from a vegan diet can be insufficient or vary considerably as it will depend on the amounts of iodine in the soil where plant foods were grown.
These practical pointers will help you plan an excellent diet using The Vegan Plate.
- Eat a wide variety of foods from each food group. Variety helps to ensure sufficient nutrients, phytochemicals, and fiber. It also makes your meals a whole lot more interesting!
- Fill at least half of your plate vegetables and fruits.
- Be moderate in your intake of concentrated fats, oils and added sugars, if used. These foods are generally rich in calories, but poor sources of nutrients. Excessive intakes of fat and sugar will crowd out foods that offer valuable nutrients. It is better to use whole foods such as seeds, nuts, avocados, and fruits as your sources of fat and sugar, rather than extracted oils and sugars.
- Watch your sodium. Using ready-to-eat processed foods can make life easier but regular reliance on canned, frozen, and other processed foods can result in excessively high sodium intakes. Balance your diet with plenty of fresh, unprocessed items.
- Aim for an hour of physical activity each day. Activity is central to energy balance and to overall health. It helps to maintain muscle strength, bone density, physical balance, and mental well being.
- Drink enough water to stay hydrated. Fluids such as water, herbal teas, and vegetable juices can help to maintain good health and avoid kidney stones and urinary tract infections; let thirst be your guide.