There’s little arguing the ethical and environmental benefits of a vegan diet, and many people choose to live this way for exactly those reasons. However, a lot of people also come into problems with the lifestyle because they don’t fully understand how to cook nutritious, wholesome meals that make up for the deficiencies in the diet. Luckily this article is going to give you what might just be the ultimate vegan meal.
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But first things first …
What is it that vegan meals often lack? ??
Protein – Probably the most obvious, but also one of the most important deficiencies in many vegan diets is an adequate amount of protein. This mainly occurs because people take the meat or fish out of a meal without replacing it with an equally valid source of protein.
Vitamin B12 – This is found naturally only in animal products. A lack of vitamin B12 can lead to blindness and anaemia. Deficiency can also cause weakness, tingling, and numbness in your muscles.
Calcium – Most easily found in milk, absorbable calcium is crucial to protect against osteoporosis (aka thinning bones.)
Iron – Red meat and eggs are both rich in this, and it is crucial for the prevention of iron-deficiency anaemia.
Zinc – Red meat and Poultry are sources of zinc, which is necessary for your skin health, digestion and central nervous system. It is also needed for your and skeletal, reproductive and immune systems.
Riboflavin – Riboflavin or Vitamin B2 is important in energy metabolism. It assists your body in utilising the other B-vitamins that help your body get energy from food. Some studies show it may also protect cells from oxidative damage.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids – There are 3 types of these, ALA, EPE and DHA. Since these are often obtained through oily fish, vegetarians and vegans tend to obtain less omega-3s than meat eaters.
So, how do we get these things??
Protein: Options like tofu or Quorn are great meat substitutes. Then there’s beans, legumes and nuts. It can also help to use higher protein and carbohydrate sources like quinoa and amaranth.
Iron: Fortified whole wheat bread and cereal are easy options, as well as nuts, legumes, seeds, beans, soy-based foods and dried prunes and apricots.
Calcium: You can get this in tofu, edamame (boiled green soybeans), almonds, calcium-fortified orange juice, calcium-fortified soy or almond milk plus those good old dark green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and bok choy.
Zinc: This is often found is vegan meat substitutes as well as in soybeans, soy milk, vegan eggs (yep they exist – how cool is that) fortified breakfast cereals, various seeds and nuts plus mushrooms, lentils, black-eyed peas and split peas.
Vitamin B12: Since this is only naturally found in meat products you’ll have to buy fortified products such as vegan meat substitutes as well as fortified soy drinks and cereals.
Riboflavin: Almonds, mushrooms, fortified cereals and soy milk are riboflavin-rich foods.
Omega-3’s: Some good sources include ground flaxseeds, canola and flaxseed oil, walnut oil, walnuts and soybeans.
Now for an awesome recipe: Amaranth and Tofu Stir Fry ??
- 250g Amaranth – High in protein, iron and calcium
- 400g Tofu – High in protein and calcium
- 200g Canned* Soy Beans or Mixed beans – High in protein, iron and a good source of dietary fibre
*I recommend the canned beans because they’re super cheap and only take 5 minutes to prepare instead of the multiple hours of soaking and boiling you’d have to do with regular bagged beans.
- 1 handful mushrooms, chopped – High in calcium and riboflavin
- 1 handful kale or bok choy, chopped – High in Zinc
- 25g finely chopped walnuts – High in Omega 3’s and Iron
- 25g pumpkin seeds – High in Zinc
- 2 tbsp olive oil (for the frying pan/wok)
- 1 glass of Vitamin B12 Fortified Soy Milk – To drink alongside your meal!
Since this is just the base dish, you can add a huge variety of different sources for flavour. I’ve tried sweet and sour, honey and chilli, a light lemon drizzle and even a splash of American BBQ.
Step by Step:
Step 1: Since it takes the longest you’ll want to get your Amaranth going first. You cook it exactly like you’d cook rice or pasta in boiling water. The process usually takes 15-20 minutes.
Step 2: Heat up the olive oil in your frying pan or wok.
Step 3: Add the tofu and cook until golden brown. This usually takes about 3-5 minutes per side.
Step 4: Add the mushrooms, kale/bok choy and soybeans. Fry for another 3-5 minutes.
Step 5: (Optional) add any source you wish for flavourStep 6: Drain and serve up the amaranth then pour the contents of your frying pan over the top.
Step 6: Drain and serve up the amaranth then pour the contents of your frying pan over the top.
Step 7: Sprinkle your chopped walnuts and pumpkin seeds over the top.
Step 8: Enjoy!
There you have it, the ultimate vegan meal – super rich in nutrition and fulfilling the dietary needs of both vegans and vegetarians. With meals like this, there’s absolutely no need to sacrifice your health, fitness or wellbeing in order to pursue ethical and environmental goals. Now you can have both; eat well and do your part to change the world. I hope this meal gives you a great starting point for a healthy vegetarian diet. Much more, though, I hope this article helps you to understand how to overcome the deficiencies of the vegan diet and gives you a sort of process or checklist that you can follow when putting together your own recipes and meals.