It's easy to plan vegan diets that easily meet nutrient needs. Grains, beans, and vegetables are rich in protein and iron. Green leafy vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts, and dried fruits are excellent sources of calcium. Vitamin D is normally made in the body when sun shines on the skin. Those who have regular sun exposure do not normally need to get vitamin D in foods. The only foods that contain significant amounts of vitamin D are those that are fortified with it, such as commercial breakfast cereals, supplemental dairy products or soymilk, and multivitamins. Vitamin B12 is plentiful in some traditional Asian foods such as miso and tempeh. However, in the world of modern processing, the vitamin is not found in plant foods to any reliable extent. Although vitamin B12 deficiency is uncommon, strict vegans should be sure to include a source of this vitamin in their diet. Many commercial cereals are fortified with vitamin B12, as are many soy products, including some brands of soymilk. Multivitamins are also a good option.
The switch to a vegan diet is easier than you might think. Most people, whether vegans or meat-eaters, typically use a limited variety of recipes; the average family eats only eight or nine different dinners repeatedly. You can use a simple, three-step method to come up with nine vegan dinner menus that you enjoy and can prepare easily.
First, think of three vegan meals that you already enjoy. Common ones are vegetable stir-fry, vegetable soup, or pasta primavera. Second, think of three recipes that you prepare regularly that can easily be adapted to a vegan dish. For example, a favorite chili recipe can be made with all of the same ingredients; just replace the meat with beans or texturized vegetable protein. Substitute bean burritos (using canned refried beans) instead of beef burritos. Many soups, stews, and casseroles also can be made into vegan dishes with a few simple changes. Finally, check out some vegan cookbooks from the library and experiment with the recipes for a week or so until you find three that are delicious and easy to make. Just like that, with minimal changes to your menus, you will have nine vegan dinners.
After that, coming up with vegan options for breakfast and lunch is easy. Try muffins with fruit spread, cholesterol-free French toast, or cereal for breakfasts. Sandwiches, with spreads like hummus or white bean pate with lemon and garlic, pasta salads, or even dinner leftovers make great lunches.
- Convenience foods cut cooking time. Natural foods stores stock a huge array of instant soups and main-dish convenience items. Regular supermarkets also carry many fast vegan foods. Many canned soups, such as minestrone or black bean, are vegan. Flavored rice mixes, like curried rice or Rice-a-Roni, can be stretched into an entre with a can of beans. Or try baked beans, refried beans, sloppy joe sauce, and meatless spaghetti sauce.
Ask for it! Even restaurants that don't offer vegan entrees can usually whip up a meatless pasta or vegetable plate if you ask. If attending a catered affair, catch the waiter before you are served and ask him or her to remove the chicken breast from your plate and slip on an extra baked potato. Airlines offer vegan meals if you ask in advance; ask your travel agent to order you one, or call the airline reservations number.
Order your next pizza without cheese but with a mountain of vegetable toppings.
Find vegan cookbooks at your local library or bookstore and have fun experimenting with new foods and recipes.
The best bets for finding vegan food when dining out are international restaurants. Italian, Chinese, Mexican, and Indian restaurants all offer a wide variety of vegan dishes.
Texturized vegetable protein (TVP) is fat-free, has a texture like ground beef, and is wonderful in tacos, chili, and sloppy joes. Look for it in natural foods stores.
Summer barbecues are healthy and fun with meatless hot dogs and burgers. Or, for a real change of pace, grill thick slices of marinated vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, or tomatoes.
Check out ethnic groceries for special vegan foods. Middle-Eastern delis offer stuffed grape leaves, falafel, and eggplant spreads. Italian markets are a wonderful place to find hearty homemade breads, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh pasta. Indian and Asian markets offer many vegan delicacies, also.
The simplest dishes are often the most satisfying. Brown rice, gently seasoned with herbs and lemon and sprinkled with chopped nuts or sunflower seeds, is a perfect dish.
Add variety to your diet with ease by preparing familiar foods in interesting new ways. Cook rice in a mixture of water and apple juice. Toss broccoli with raisins, sprinkle sunflower seeds or chopped almonds on vegetables. Simmer carrots, turnips, cabbage, or parsnips in orange juice.
When traveling, pack plenty of vegan snacks like instant soups, fresh fruit, raw vegetables, trail mix, granola bars, and homemade oatmeal cookies. Fill a cooler with sandwiches and individual containers of juice and soymilk.