Vegan diet for fitness – A Guide

As a vegetarian, you can get all the essential nutrients from food without eating animal products. When planning vegetarian meals, it helps to know about the nutrients in different foods so you can get the most benefit from the food you eat.

This article has guidelines on:

• the important nutrients you need to consider when planning vegetarian meals

• healthy food and drinks

• being active in everyday life

• how to prepare and store food safely.

These guidelines are based on the Ministry of Health’s Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Adults, available at www.health.govt.nz.

What is a vegetarian diet?

Yes, obviously the question many at a time arises in our minds that what can be possibly a vegan diet for fitness. Now, vegetarians choose not to eat red meat, white meat, or fish. Some common reasons are:

• health benefits

• religious beliefs related to food

• commitment to animal rights

• dislike of meat.

There are many types of vegetarian diets but two are most common.

• Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat dairy products and eggs

(“lacto” means dairy and “ovo” means eggs) but don’t eat meat, poultry, or seafood.

• Vegans don’t eat any animal products (including all meats, dairy, eggs, honey and gelatin).

Make healthy choices

Well, we often ask to ourselves that is there really something like vegan diet for fitness?

Yes, but first look after yourself. Your health is important and what you eat and drink affects it. The healthy living recommendations below apply to everyone, not just vegetarians.

• Maintain a healthy body weight by eating well and by being active every day.

• As often as you can, eat meals with your friends, family and whānau – and turn off the TV and your cellphone.

• Lead by example – encourage your friends, family and whānau to make healthy food choices.

• Eat three healthy meals (low in fat, salt and sugar) every day plus healthy snacks between meals. You also need to drink plenty of water.

• If you choose to drink alcohol, limit your intake.

• Think about food safety when you buy, prepare, cook and store food.

• The household budget affects food choices. Planning ahead can help you choose healthy foods when you shop. It can also help you get the most for your money. Always take time to eat a healthy breakfast – so you have energy to start to the day.

Eat many different foods

To be healthy you need to eat many different foods. The four main food groups have a mixture of nutrients – carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals – all of which you need to stay healthy.

Choose a variety of foods from the four food groups every day:

• vegetables and fruit

breads and cereals

• milk, milk products and alternatives

• legumes*, eggs, nuts and seeds


Always take time to eat a healthy breakfast so you have energy to start to the day

Important nutrients

As a vegetarian, you need to make sure you get enough protein, iron, vitamin B12 and calcium from the foods you eat. You can get these essential nutrients from non-meat sources by eating a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, legumes*, soy products, whole grains, nuts and seeds. This section explains why these nutrients are important and gives examples of foods that have them.

Protein

Protein is important for your body’s normal growth and to keep its muscles (which are mostly protein), immune system, heart and lungs working well. Lacto-ovo vegetarians get protein from milk, milk products, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, breads and cereals. Vegans get protein from legumes, nuts, seeds, breads and cereals.

Iron

Iron is important for your blood and brain. Vegetarians can get enough iron by eating plenty of green vegetables, wholegrains, and some beans, peas and nuts. Vitamin C helps the body to take up (absorb) the iron more easily. When you eat foods containing iron, eat foods rich in vitamin C, such as oranges, kiwifruit, tomatoes, peppers, kale and broccoli at the same time. Don’t drink tea with your meals as it stops the iron from being absorbed by your body.

Calcium

Calcium is important for strong bones and teeth. Milk, yoghurt and cheese are good sources of calcium. If you don’t drink cow’s milk, choose a different product (eg, soy milk) with added calcium. Other foods such as wholegrain bread, peanuts, broccoli, spinach, baked beans and tofu also contain calcium, but in smaller amounts than milk and milk products.

Vitamin B12

The human body needs vitamin B12 in very small quantities. Vegetarians, other than vegans, get enough of this vitamin from dairy products. There is no natural non-animal source of vitamin B12. Vegans can get this through supplements or by intramuscular injection. Some soy milks are fortified with vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is very efficiently recycled by the human body, so it often takes a long time for deficiencies to develop in vegans. Vitamin B12 deficiency is a serious condition with non-reversible effects. This is most likely to occur in periods of rapid growth, in pregnancy and when breastfeeding. Vegans are advised to have their vitamin B12 status assessed regularly by their doctor.

Vegetarian children

As with adults, meals for vegetarian children need some planning. Many vegetarian foods are bulky. Children’s stomachs may be too small to hold all the food they need for activity and growth. Serve small meals often. Offer a range of vegetables, fruit, wholegrain breads and cereals, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, milk and milk products. Vegetarian children need food with iron, such as wholegrain cereal and bread, legumes, dried fruits and dark green leafy vegetables. To help them absorb the iron, serve these foods with fruit and vegetables high in vitamin C, such as tomatoes and oranges. If a vegetarian child does not drink milk, give other drinks such as soy milk with added calcium and vitamin B12. If a vegetarian child does not eat dairy products or eggs, ask your doctor or nurse about seeing a dietitian for further advice.

Choose a variety of foods from the four food groups every day.

Vegetables and fruit

Vegetables and fruit provide carbohydrate, fibre, vitamins and minerals and are low in fat. They should be eaten with most meals and are good snack foods.

• Choose fresh, well-washed vegetables and fruit or frozen or canned varieties.

• Eat many different coloured vegetables and fruit; for example, tomato or strawberry, broccoli or kiwifruit, carrot or mandarin, eggplant or plum, potato or pear.

How much do you need?

At least 3 servings of vegetables (with at least one being a leafy green vegetable) and 2 servings of fruit every day.


What is 1 serving?

• 1 medium potato, kūmara, yam, or taro (135 g)

• ½ cup of cooked vegetables, or salad (50–80 g)

• 1 tomato (80 g)

• ½ cup of leafy green vegetables (50–60 g)

• 1 apple, pear, banana, or orange (130 g)

• 2 small apricots or plums (100 g)

• ½ cup of fresh fruit salad (135 g)

• ½ cup of stewed fruit: fresh, canned or frozen (135 g)

Dried fruit and fruit juice are not recommended because they have a lot of sugar. If you choose them, have only one serving of dried fruit (about 2 tablespoons or 25 g) or one serving of juice (1 cup or 250 ml) each day.

Breads and cereals

Breads and cereals give you carbohydrate, which is an important source of energy and fibre. They also provide iron, calcium, protein and folic acid. You need to eat breads and cereals every day.

• These foods include breads and breakfast cereals, rice, noodles and pasta.

• Choose wholegrain breads and cereals (eg, rolled oats, brown rice, bread with whole grains) because they contain the most fibre, vitamins and minerals.


How much do you need?

At least 6 servings every day.


What is 1 serving?

• 1 small wholegrain roll (50 g)

• 1 medium slice of wholemeal bread (26 g)

• 1 cup of cooked pasta or rice (150 g)

• 2 breakfast wheat biscuits (34 g)

• 1 cup of cornflakes (30 g)

• ½ cup of muesli (55 g)

• ½ cup of cooked porridge/rolled oats (130 g)

• 2 plain sweet biscuits (14 g)

• 1 muffin (80 g)

Milk, milk products and alternatives

These foods provide energy, protein and many vitamins and minerals, including
calcium and vitamin B12.

• Choose reduced-fat or low-fat milk, yoghurt and cheese.


How much do you need?

At least 2–3 servings every day. Choose reduced-fat or low-fat options.


What is 1 serving?

• 1 glass (250 ml) of reduced-fat or low-fat milk

• 1 glass (250 ml) of soy milk with added calcium

(and vitamin B12 for vegans)

• 1 pottle of low-fat yoghurt (150 g)

• 2 slices (40 g) or ½ cup of grated of cheese (eg, edam)

Legumes, eggs, nuts and seeds

Legumes include cooked dried beans, peas and lentils

 

These foods all contain protein, fat and many different vitamins and minerals –including iron.


How much do you need?

At least 2 servings every day.


What is 1 serving?

• ¾ cup of cookedbeans – eg, soybeans, kidney beans,

baked beans

• ¾ cup of cooked chickpeas

• ¾ cup of cooked lentils – eg, brown or red

• ¹ ³ cup of nuts or seeds (50 g), – eg, peanuts, cashews,

almonds, pumpkin

• ¾ cup of tofu or tempeh (200 g)

• 1 egg

All the best,

Rounak

6 thoughts on “Vegan diet for fitness – A Guide

  1. Hello Rounak, I absolutely love this article! Not only do I have a better understanding behind the nutritional facts, it’s especially challenging when it comes to working on a diet plan for athletes. Opinions vary greatly however I’ve always believed plant based proteins are just as beneficial and work just fine like animal proteins. Always an arguments in the industry. After reading this I feel much more motivated to start establishing better eating habits based on vegetarian or even vegan diet. Thanks again for your effort on promoting veganism. Cheers

    Laureen

  2. The title says vegan but the content say vegetarian throughout. I wonder if you could clarify what the difference is and how to accommodate vegans on a vegetarian diet. I know vegans can’t eat any by products so things like milk and eggs are out of question. Are there foods or supplements to help get the essential proteins and vitamins needed to go vegan?

    1. Thank you for your comment. Sorry if my article couldn’t clarify your doubt regarding vegan and vegetarian. If required, I’ll do another detailed article on this topic. Yeah, definitely there are some good quality foods and supplements in a vegan diet that provide you with all the essential nutrients. Like for example, lean protein from egg whites which you can get from combining different peas, kidney beans, soy products and nuts. Now, there is also a new product in the market which is a peanut butter, good thing is it provides a high protein to low fat ratio which is indeed surprising. I will do a detailed review on these topic as well in a new article. Regards! 🙂

  3. a lot has been said about vegan diets of late and I have to confess I did personally disregard it. I am a meat eater but not a big one , but at the same time I’m also not big on vegan food. so where does that leave me?  suppose getting the best of both worlds is what I’m doing without even realising it. 

    your website is packed with useful info and is very easy to read and take-in, something which is very important when beginners to this subject first hit up on your website. I could easily spend time on reading and exploring your site as its well laid out and the information provided is useful to ones health. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *