Beginning your journey to veganism may seem hard at first. To help you start, I have listed seven key foods that are versatile and loaded with nutrients. You would find all of these foods in my kitchen and even some in my bag when I’m travelling. Consider these foods as your base diet as they provide plenty of opportunities for you to get creative and explore.
Key food 1: whole grains
Get your whole grains in with oatmeal! Oatmeal is high in both types of fibre, soluble and insoluble, helping you stay fuller for longer and keeping your cholesterol levels low. Try overnight oats as there are hundreds of recipes online – my favourite recipe includes instant coffee, soy milk, and chocolate chips, see the full recipe at the end!
Key food 2: fortified plant milk
Drinking plant milk is an easy way to make sure you reach your vitamin D and vitamin B12 requirements. Ease your mind by including fortified plant milk in your diet and know you’ve got these important vitamins covered.
Key food 3: berries
These are the best way to add flavour and protective phytochemicals to your diet. Phytochemicals are naturally occurring bioactive compounds found in plant foods and berries have lots of them! Phytochemicals have various protective effects within our bodies such as acting as antioxidants, regulating energy metabolism, and improving gut health.
Key food 4: Pulses
Lentils, peas, and beans. Half a cup of cooked lentils gives you about 18 percent of your iron (3.3mg), 32 percent (8 grams) of your daily fibre, and 9 grams of protein. Start by adding them to soups or salads, or let your creativity run wild by using them in Shepherd’s pie, cabbage rolls, and stuffed peppers – just replace the ground meat with brown lentils.
Key food 5: Nuts
Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and beyond! Add to your oatmeal in the morning, sprinkle on salad, pack them as a snack or find ways to incorporate these into your meals. A handful of nuts per day has been shown to have many health benefits including the prevention of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Key food 6: Seeds
Flax, chia, hemp, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Ground flaxseeds are my staple as they are a great and affordable source of fish-free omega-3 fat, with 1 tbsp of ground flaxseeds containing 2.43 grams of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is an essential omega-3 fat which is important for good health so including ground flax within your diet is an easy way reach the recommended amount of 1.6 grams for men and 1.1 grams for women. Flaxseeds are also very functional: try using a “flax egg” as a substitute for eggs in baking.
Key food 7: Dark leafy greens
I know we’ve all heard this a million times, but I can’t “leaf” these out. Seriously, make vegetables the star on your plate – a great meal does not have to center on meat. My favourite is sautéed bok choy with garlic and soy sauce.
If you’re just starting out on your journey to veganism, try adding one of these foods at a time into your usual diet. Or, if you want to go head on, take this list as your stable foods that you should try and eat every day. Want more details? We have a Vegan Starter Kit that provides all the tips and tricks you need to try vegan.
For further nutritional advice and to download a helpful checklist of some of these healthiest foods, I also recommend Dr Greger’s Daily Dozen.
Coffee chocolate chip overnight oats
½ cup rolled oats
1 cup lightly sweetened soy milk
1 tsp of instant coffee
1 tbsp of dark chocolate chips
1 tsp chia seeds
Handful of walnuts
Pinch of salt
Make the night before, stir, and enjoy the next morning!
Meaghan has a Master’s degree in Human Health and Nutritional Sciences from the University of Guelph. She currently works with researchers at the University of Toronto exploring the health benefits of plant-based diets. She believes that a healthier diet is also a kinder, more sustainable one.