I’ve been fielding a lot more questions lately about getting enough protein and iron on a vegan plant-based diet while intuitively eating. I also tend to follow a lot of ayurvedic principles, but that will be for another post. In general, I listen to my body and if I’m hungry I eat what sounds most the most delish, nourishing, and satisfying in that moment. That in and of itself is a practice. Which again, could be a whole ‘nother post! For this I just wanted to illustrate that eating a nourished plant-based diet is not only achievable and affordable. You don’t have to deprive yourself or depend on supplements or even a lot of processed (and more expensive) mock meats if you don’t want to.
I’m only tracking the nutrients of concern on a plant-based diet including iron, vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D. I think people can get a little number crazy (with the calorie number) and honestly, the main things I look at on the nutrition label are fiber and protein (sugar too with processed foods).
Because here’s the thing, when you choose more whole plant based foods, they will have more fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fewer “less desirable ingredients/additives.” As radical as it sounds, stick to simple, whole foods as much as possible.
Few notes: all the percentages are based off of the RDA for most adults and individual needs may vary.
2 thin slices of Dave’s Good Seed Killer Bread – 1 with peanut butter and homemade berry awesome chia jam and the other with avocado and Trader Joes’ Everything Bagel Seasoning, coffee with fortified unsweetened soy milk
- Breakfast Total: Protein: 16 grams, Fiber: 14 grams, Iron: 15%, Vitamin B12: 10%, Calcium: 23%, Vitamin D: 10%
½ a medium sized apple and 1 cup BoomChickaPop Sweet and Salty Corn
- Snack Total: Protein: 1 gram, Fiber: 3 grams, Iron: 3%, Vitamin B12: 0%, Calcium: 0%, Vitamin D: 0%
1/2 block of grilled tempeh (leftover), 1 Arnold’s 100% whole wheat sandwich bun, 1/3 of an avocado, 1 cup of romaine leaves, ½ cup Bush’s Vegetarian Baked Beans, ½ oz Tostitos round tortilla chips, 1 homemade energy ball (oats, peanut butter, honey, chia seeds, hemp seeds, chocolate chips), coffee with fortified unsweetened soy milk
- Lunch Total: Protein: 37 grams, Fiber: 26 grams, Iron: 38%, Vitamin B12: 5%, Calcium: 36%, Vitamin D: 10%
1 cup of cherries and another cup of BoomChickaPop Sweet and Salty Corn with 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- Snack Total: Protein: 2 grams, Fiber: 4 grams, Iron 5%, Vitamin B12: 130% Calcium: 0%, Vitamin D: 0%
1 cup cooked Dreamfields elbow macaroni (just type of pasta my mother-in-law had on hand), 1/4 cup vegan cheese sauce (red bell pepper, onion, mushroom, potato, garlic, nutritional yeast, salt, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and hemp seeds), 1/2 cup broccoli
- Dinner Total: Protein: 17 grams, Fiber: 12 grams, Iron: 23%, Vitamin B12: 130%, Calcium: 8%, Vitamin D: 6%
Snack (yep, again):
1 piece of homemade banana oat walnut bread with melted 1 tablespoon chocolate chips and 1 more cup of cherries (loving them right now!)
- Snack Total: Protein: 4 grams, Fiber: 4 grams, Iron: 21%, Vitamin B12: 0%, Calcium: 7%, Vitamin D: 4%
Total nutrition: Protein: 77 grams, Fiber: 63 grams, Iron: 105%, Vitamin B12: 275%, Calcium: 74%, Vitamin D: 30%
Breaking it down a bit:
- More protein than I actually need
- I get that this is a lot more fiber than what most people eat, but my body is used to this way of eating and yours would get used to it too, I promise.
- Iron for the day was found in beans, whole grains, chia seeds, and believe it or not considerable amounts in the cherries, avocado, and broccoli. A lot of times when eating plant-based iron, I aim to eat a source of Vitamin C with it. So for example, the vegan cheese sauce had lemon juice with Vitamin C to help absorb iron from the pasta, broccoli, and sauce.
- I consume nutritional yeast daily because I love the taste and I know it’s the largest source of Vitamin B12 in my diet.
- Calcium is in SO many vegetables and it adds up quickly. There’s a lot of research that points to plant-based eaters needing less calcium than meat eating counterparts because the calcium is leached easier in an acidic environment (a diet high in dairy, meat, processed foods.
- Vitamin D deficiency is real for more Americans than we even know (because there are often no symptoms other than perhaps fatigue). It is found in mushrooms, fortified soy milk, fortified cereals, and tofu – all of which I didn’t consume this day. With that being said, I do take a multivitamin a couple times a week (basically when I remember) that has 100% of the RDA for Vitamin D. Most people brush off sun exposure as enough (20-30 minutes of face and arms), but not everyone converts the UVB rays the same especially if you have darker pigmentation or as we age.
That was actually a much longer post than I expected but I hope you found it helpful. If so, comment or send me a message and I’ll know to continue including these peeks “into the life of a Dietitian.” 😉 Also, if you’re curious about supplements on a plant-based diet, check out my post here.
Again, this was just a glimpse into one day and each day is different because while it’s important to make sure we are consuming adequate nutrients, it’s also important to enjoy eating and listen to our bodies.