So how can you be a healthy vegan? It's simple. Stick with predominantly whole foods, fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains such as quinoa, nuts, seeds and healthy fats.
Ditch the Fake Meats
I am not a big supporter of processed "faux meats" like Tofurkey which are made with "natural vegetarian flavors," canola oil and vital wheat gluten. Just call it "FauxTurkey" already! There are better choices such as tempeh (fermented soy beans), or even organic tofu which I would get plain and flavor with real spices at home. I would suggest if you eat tofu, to have it occasionally but not daily due to high amounts of soy allergies today, as well as the possible hormonal effects of eating too many soy products.
The bottom line is Tofurkey looks like a beige football, doesn't smell like turkey (not in my memories of Thanksgiving anyhow!) or taste like turkey! Although vegetarians who clearly have never eaten a real turkey insist "it tastes just like turkey!" Clearly it's a processed food as it certainly didn't come from a tree or from the ground, unless I've somehow missed the Tofurkey tree in my travels.
Finding the ProteinAs an athlete, protein is important for supporting your immune system, hemoglobin, enzymes, muscle tissue, muscle recovery, hair, skin, nails and many important aspects of general health. How does a vegan get enough protein if they are not going to use faux meat products? In my experience of building plans for athletes, getting enough protein as a vegan takes planning, but is very doable. Once you have created your detailed plan with attention to detail, you will have a nice backbone to work from and will be getting enough iron and B12 in your diet.
But do be careful and pay close attention to your protein intake as it is certainly easy to end up on a low protein diet which that is detrimental to your health and performance. I use TrainingPeaks software to build plans and to look at the details.
Sample MealsLet's take a look at a few vegan meals that will offer you enough protein throughout the day and are mainly composed of whole foods (with a few exceptions of soy or coconut yogurts/milk alternatives). With these meals you will be getting good nutrient density, which ranks number one on my description of a good plan. They are also mixed with a nice ratio of carbs/protein/fats/and fiber for an endurance athlete. So let's take a look at some simple vegan meals to get you off on the right foot.
Breakfast: Vegan Oatmeal
Nutritional Info: 560 calories, 85g of carbohydrates, 18g of protein, 15g fat, 15g fiber
- Vegan oatmeal 1 ? cup dry (Stoked Oats carries one vegan option of oatmeal)
- Fresh berries ? cup
- Hemp hearts 1 tablespoon (these are a great source of protein and healthy fats!)
- Almond Breeze plain 1 cup
- Add some fresh grated ginger to this for a nice zing!
(Note: for those choosing to have soy, you can use 100 g of soy yogurt in place of the almond milk, in which case the stats on macro nutrients would be 560 calories; 90g carbohydrates, 21g protein, 16g fat, 14g fiber). Other alternatives are Coyo coconut yogurt and soymilk.