A common pitfall of those practicing veganism is that their diet tends to rely heavily on processed foods, such as those made with soy and vegetable proteins. Supermarket shelves are stocked with convenient MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) that feature “meatless meat” products. These products usually contain high levels of genetically modified ingredients, cellulose, xanthan gum, sugar, and many other additives, often in an attempt to replicate the taste and texture of the real thing. People who consume large of amounts of these over processed foods are called “junk food vegans” for a reason. Just because it is plant-based, doesn’t make it healthy. If you do choose to indulge in a “meat” replacement, look for one made with pea protein which has 15 grams of protein per serving.
For athletes actively trying to build muscle, stuffing yourself with kale salads just won’t work. A healthy vegan diet requires a focus on unprocessed organic whole grains, vegetables, nuts, and fruits. Pre-made processed foods should be kept to a minimum and much meal prep work will have to be done at home. Athletes must be careful to ensure they are including enough protein-rich foods to support tough workouts, adding supplements if necessary.
5 protein powerhouses found in the garden:
- Edamame – 16.9 g per cup (cooked)
- Lentils – 9 g per ½ cup serving
- Peanuts – 7 g per ¼-cup serving
- Wild rice – 6.5 g per 1-cup serving (cooked)
- Almonds – 6 g per ¼-cup serving
You’ll note that a couple of the entries above have specified “(cooked)”. That’s because food preparation does impact nutritional content.
Raw or Cooked: Which is Best?
An easy way to keep your vegan diet as clean as possible is to focus on the preparation of certain dishes to retain their max nutritional value. In most cases, eating your fruits and vegetables “raw” is the best way to retain nutrients. For example, the water soluble nutrients in green leafy vegetables such as Vitamin C, B vitamins, and folate are lost during the boiling process. You can retain maximum nutritional value from these foods by tossing them in a pan fry with a drizzle of olive oil, or steaming them. This prevents the loss of water soluble vitamins and adds a bit of fat that assists with digestion. For root vegetables, a quick turn in the microwave before cooking makes them easier to digest without a significant loss of nutrients.
Check out a few of these meals in the SolidHealth Fitstack app to see how you can incorporate a blend of raw/cooked unprocessed ingredients to make tasty and nutritious vegan-friendly meals:
Open the FitStack app home screen and click on the ‘Meals’ icon.
Type the word ‘vegan’ into the search field and a list of vegan meals will populate with descriptions, and nutritional values such as calories, fat, protein, fiber, and carbs.
Once you select a meal you’d like to try, click on it to open its profile. You’ll see a list of ingredients and preparation tips. To log a meal in your app hit ‘Log’, or add it to your meal planning calendar with the ‘Plan’ button.
Many of the vegan recipes in the FitStack app are made with unprocessed ingredients, so you can follow them with confidence. Bon appetit!