The health benefits of a vegan diet are well established today. While studies and research show that a vegan diet can prevent chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes better than any other eating style or diet, good health is not guaranteed by eating vegan foods alone. These are some of the pitfalls that people tend to fall in when first adopting a vegan diet:
- The mistake of not adopting a fully healthy lifestyle. While a vegan diet or plant-based diet is a very healthy choice, they are just one part of an overall plan for optimal health. All vegans need to incorporate healthy eating, exercise, proper sleep, stress reduction, smoking cessation, social support and love.
- The mistake of making the wrong food choices. New vegans and those motivated by ethics may choose a lot of processed foods high in oils, trans fats, sugars, and added salt. This is because suddenly, it is harder to find as readily available foods and snacks as before begining with a vegan lifestyle. It is important to understand that something labeled ‘vegan’ may not necessarily be healthy. For instance, Oreos are technically ‘vegan’ but are they healthy? Certainly not! As with making any food choice, it is important to read the label for ingredients, sodium, fat, and sugar content. Best of all? Purchase and eat foods with no label! This leaves your options to fresh, whole food produce.
- The mistake of not supplementing properly. Vegans are often low in B12, vitamin D, omega-3, iodine, vitamin K2, and taurine due to their diet. These are vital nutrients that everyone could be consuming on a daily basis. Look for a good quality vitamin B12 and vitamin D supplement to incorporate into your diet. In addition, omega-3 can be addressed simply by 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed daily with greens, walnuts, and chia seeds (all perfect to add into a smoothie!). Iodine sources include sea vegetables like kelp, nori, and dried seaweed. Wild-caught cod, free-range eggs, tuna, lima and navy beans. Adequate iron can be an issue for vegans, but spinach, tofu, beans, lentils, and sunflower seeds are all quite good sources.
- Thinking “lactose-free” is the same as “dairy-free.” Some brands make it very difficult to tell the difference — like Veggie Slices, a lactose-free cheese that is soy and dairy-based. Casein/modified milk ingredients can still be found in plenty of foods labelled “lactose-free.” Fortunately, there are a lot of dairy-free alternatives found in conventional grocery stores these days, so look for the actual words “dairy-free” and always read the nutrition labels!
Remember, going vegan doesn’t have to be complicated. Just stick to the basics and aim to eat foods in their most natural state. If you can find a local farmer’s market and a grocery store with a good bulk foods section (for beans, nuts & seeds), and a good vegan meal delivery service, it will be a walk in the park! Check out Fresh ‘N Lean, a health, vegan delivery service that is dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and low sodium. For those days when you just don’t know that to eat or where to go – you will simply have to open your refrigerator and find a selection of tasteful vegan dishes!