Most kids grew up with the food pyramid being the standard for healthy eating. However, times have changed – and it is a welcome transition! The earliest form of the food pyramid was rather misleading as there was too much focus on breads, rice, and cereals.
Later models weren’t any better. Although they revised the nutritional focus, there was no denying that this pyramid was confusing. Few people bothered using it to follow healthy eating habits. Well, pyramids are now a thing of the past.
The latest introduction is the food plate. This is an easier way of determining how much from each food group you should be consuming with every meal. Since you can visualize how much veggies, grains, protein, and so on you should be putting on your plate, it is simpler to have a balanced meal.
As a vegan, balanced meals are of the utmost importance. Now, you can get virtually all the necessary nutrients from a plant-based diet. However, you will have to eat a wider variety of fruits, vegetables, and other vegan foods.
If this is something you have struggled with in the past, here is how you can use the food plate to have a healthier diet:
The Lowdown on Vegetables
According to the plate structure, half of your plate should be covered by vegetables and fruits. This means that at least one-fourth of this segment should be dedicated to veggies. This includes dark green vegetables, red and orange veggies, peas and beans, and starchy vegetables.
On average women should be eating:
Women between the ages of 19 and 50 should be eating 2½ cups of veggies each day.
Those above 50 should still be getting 2 cups of vegetables daily.
On average men should be eating:
Men between 19 and 50 will need to eat around 3 cups a day, while those over the age of 50 should consume 2½ cups.
It is important to remember that each vegetable has its specific nutrient value. Thus, you should try to eat as many different kinds of vegetables as possible. Most experts will recommend eating the rainbow as it is a simple way of ensuring that you get the vitamins and minerals you need.
Adding Fruits to Your Diet
Fruits are pretty important too – this is why they should have a notable place on your plate. Women should aim for about 1½ to 2 cups a day, while men should eat 2 cups. In addition to vitamins and minerals, fruits are a great source of fiber as well.
However, you should focus on eating whole fruit over fruit juices. Fruit juices aren’t as nutritious and may be higher in calories. If you can’t get fresh fruit, frozen fruit works just as well. Once again, variety is key here.
Now, some people worry that fruit can cause a spike in blood sugar. This is unlikely to happen, though. Whole fruit tends to be rather filling which means that you will automatically limit how much you consume. Not to mention, experts have found that fruits don’t affect blood sugar levels all that much.
Your Daily Protein Consumption
One reason the plate approach is better for modern audiences is that it takes different diets into consideration. This includes plant-based diets. Thus, it doesn’t just give you suggestions for meat-based protein, but plant sources as well. Around 20 percent of your plate should be dedicated to protein.
According to the model, women between 19 and 30 should be eating 5½ ounces of protein each day. Older women should be eating 5 ounces daily. Men between 19 and 13 must eat 6½ ounces and those older than this should eat between 5½ and 6 ounces.
So, what does this look like for you? Well, a single ounce of protein is equivalent to the following food quantities:
- ¼ cup of cooked beans (black, kidney, pinto, or white beans)
- 1 oz. cooked tempeh
- ¼ cup of cooked peas (chickpeas, cowpeas, lentils, or split peas)
- ¼ cup of baked beans or refried beans
- 1 falafel patty
- ¼ cup of tofu
- ¼ cup of roasted soybeans
- 2 tablespoons hummus
Adding Whole Grains to Your Diet
As you may be aware, grains can be divided into whole grains and refined grains. Refined grains are milled which removes several nutrients in the process. Whole grains, on the other hand, are high in B vitamins, iron, and dietary fiber.
Needless to say, you need to focus on eating whole grains over refined grains. At the very least, make sure that half the amount of grains you eat are made up of whole grains. Most women need between 5 and 6 ounces of grains. Younger men require up to 8 ounces of grains while older men can eat between 6 and 7 ounces. Thus, around thirty percent of your plate should be grains.
Meeting Your Calcium Requirements
Now, in the traditional plate structure, there is a section for dairy – although it isn’t a part of the main plate. Instead, it is a side dish, but equally important. Despite this section being labeled as dairy, what they are referring to is calcium. Most people need between 1000 and 1200mg of calcium each day.
Now, some of the vegetables you eat will contain calcium. Nevertheless, you still need to supplement your diet with other foods. Non-vegans can drink milk or consume dairy-based foods to get this calcium content. Vegans, though, will need to consume calcium-fortified foods and drinks instead. This includes cereals, soymilk, orange juice, and more.
As you can see, being a healthy vegan doesn’t have to be complicated. Using a plate as a reference, you will now have a clearer idea of how much you should be eating every day. Needless to say, this information will come in handy when you’re trying to figure out how to plan your meals.
Thus, if you want to improve your health or simply eat a more balanced diet, make sure to follow these guidelines. You will be able to lead a better vegan lifestyle.
If you like this blog post on “Are You Getting The Necessary Nutrients On A Vegan Diet?“, make sure to check out our other post on our blog. We also have recipes as well over on our Food & Recipe tab!
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