With Veganuary in full swing, veganism and cutting out animal-based foods has never been more popular. Balanced healthy vegan eating can be achieved by all age groups, but it does need a little thought and planning to ensure key nutrients from major food groups being avoided are not compromised e.g., iron, vitamin B12 and iodine.
How health professionals can feel confident when consumers adopt plant-based eating
It is now well established that a diet that is predominantly based on healthy plant foods – not necessarily devoid of animal foods – is significantly superior for both human and planetary health and current eating habits have to shift.
The degree to which an individual embraces plant-based eating varies significantly, with some opting to reduce animal produce whilst others opt for a 100% plant-based eating pattern. And this will impact on the nutrient value of the diet.
Healthy plant foods with key nutrients should be prioritised
When planning a more plant-based way of eating, whether it’s reduction in red meat and dairy or complete omission, key factors have to be considered to ensure the dietary pattern is of any benefit to either human or planetary health. Healthful plant foods, which are high in beneficial nutrients and lower in unhealthy nutrients is key:
- Wholegrains in place of refined grains
- Achieving at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily
- Plant -based drinks and alternatives to yogurt that are fortified with vitamins B12 & D and the minerals calcium and iodine
- WATCH OUT! Coconut desserts should be discouraged due to their high saturated fat levels, one pot often providing more than the daily recommended intakes for an adult
- WATCH OUT! for plant-based cheese and butter alternatives. These are often high in coconut, palm or shea fats which are exceptionally high in saturated fat – often more than their dairy equivalent
- Healthful plant protein foods
- Beans, pulses, lentils
- Peanuts and other nuts
- Meat replacements e.g., soya, tofu, tempeh, QuornTM
- WATCH OUT! High fat and salt meat-alternative products and ready-meals
- Plant oils and fats such as rapeseed and olive oils
- WATCH OUT! Coconut and palm oils
Key nutrients to focus on
- Calcium: fortified plant-based drinks, alternatives to yogurts and tofu, pak choi, nuts e.g., almonds
- Iron: fortified breakfast cereals, wheatgerm bread, beans and lentils, kale, and peas
- Iodine: Iodine fortified plant-based drinks, seaweed. May need to consider an iodine supplement of no more than 150mcg/day if no dairy or fish is being consumed
- Selenium: rice and pasta, green and brown lentils, Brazil nuts, cashews, and pecans
- Zinc: QuornTM, tofu, wheatgerm and wholegrain breads, lentils and beans, nuts, nutritional yeast flakes, peanut butter, tahini
- Vitamin B12: yeast extract, nutritional yeast flakes, breakfast cereals and plant-based drinks and alternatives to yogurt. For those opting for a vegan plant-based diet, a supplement should be considered
- Vitamin D: oil-rich fish is rich dietary source and some vitamin D is present in eggs and meat. Unfortunately, few Brits (omnivore and flexitarians) consume any significant amounts of fish, thus the government recommends a daily 10mcg vitamin D supplement for all individuals during winter and autumn months and throughout the year for at risk groups. Additionally, plant-based fortified drinks and alternatives to yogurt are also vitamin D fortified.
Free on-demand 1-hour CPD webinar
Azmina Govindji, award winning dietitian & Health Russell from the Vegan Society present How to be vegan savvy: a practical guide
Top tips for children on a plant-based diet
Sustainable plant-based eating for children - the nutritional considerations
What does a healthy plant-based sustainable diet mean for children and adolescents whose nutritional needs are heightened at this life stage of critical growth and development?
Published 27th July 2020 & endorsed the British Dietetic Association: this 12-page fully referenced fact sheet presents the findings of our expert authors' scientific investigation and practical implications for ensuring sustainable plant-based diets do not compromise the nutritional status of children and adolescents.