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Updated: Oct 3, 2021

A vegan diet consists of only foods made from plants such as fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds.


Research has shown that a vegan diet can provide us with all the nutrients we need for a well-balanced diet at any stage of life. As with any diet however, understanding and planning is key.


Are you thinking about transitioning to a vegan diet but not sure how to start? or perhaps you are already vegan and want to ensure that you are getting the balance right? Read on to find out more about how to eat for optimum health on a vegan diet…


vegan nutritionist surrey

Think about your protein options


Protein is an important macronutrient for tissue growth and repair. It is also involved in transporting oxygen around our bodies and fighting infections. Furthermore, protein can help to regulate our blood sugar control and keep us feeling fuller for longer making it an important macronutrient in the prevention of obesity.


As most of us are aware animal products such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy products are rich sources of protein. A common mistake on a vegan diet is to forget about substituting these for plant-based protein alternatives. Not having enough protein can lead to lethargy, increased hunger, reduced immune function, dry skin, brittle nails and hair loss. Good plant-based sources of protein include beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts, seeds, and soy products such as tofu and tempeh.


Tip: As a starting point aim to include a plant-based protein source in at least 2 meals per day.



Eat a variety of different fruit and vegetables


Fruit and vegetables are an exceptionally good source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are also high in fibre which helps to keep our digestive systems healthy, and low in calories which helps with maintaining a healthy weight. We should all aim to eat at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables per day. Variety is also important as different fruit and vegetables contain different vitamins and minerals. Click here to learn more about what counts as a portion of fruit and vegetables.


Tip: Aim to eat a rainbow of different coloured fruits and vegetables.


vegan nutritionist surrey


Base your meals on starchy carbohydrate


Carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source. Starch is broken down into glucose which is then used by the body as fuel. Consequently, without them you would find yourself feeling quite lethargic and potentially very hungry.


Starchy foods should make up about a third of all the food we eat. Aim to base your meals on a source of starchy carbohydrate such as potato, rice, pasta, or bread.


Think about your fats


The good news is that a vegan diet is typically rich in heart healthy unsaturated fats which can help to lower your cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart attack and strokes. Omega 3 fatty acids are particularly important. On a non-vegan diet these are primarily found in oily fish. On a vegan diet the best sources include rapeseed oil, flaxseed, avocado, soy-based products, such as tofu and walnuts.


Although plant-based fats are an important part of the diet, be careful with portion control, especially if you are trying to lose weight. As with any type of fat, plant-based fats are high in calories so consuming too many of them will make it harder to lose weight or lead to unwanted weight gain.



vegan nutritionist surrey

Include dairy substitutes


Dairy products are a rich source of calcium, B12 and iodine, all of which are important components of a healthy diet. Not substituting your dairy products is likely to lead to insufficient calcium intake which may lead to poor bone health. A lack of B12 can lead to anaemia, and Iodine deficiency is associated with poor thyroid function. The good news is that most plant-based dairy substitutes are fortified with calcium and sometimes B12 and iodine. If you are trying to increase your protein intake, then opt for soya or pea based dairy substitutes.


Tip: Choose dairy substitutes that are fortified with calcium, iodine and B12. Suitable options include Oatly original oat drink, Alpro Soya drink or Mighty pea original milk.



Consider whether you are getting enough selenium


Selenium is an important antioxidant involved in the normal function of the immune system and sperm production. On a non-vegan diet rich sources include fish, meats (especially organ meats) and dairy products. Vegan sources include Brazil nuts, whole oats, and wholegrains options such as brown bread, rice or pasta.


Tips: 1. You can achieve your daily selenium requirement by eating just 5 Brazil nuts per day 2. Choose wholegrain starch options when possible.



vegan nutritionist surrey


Do vegans need to take supplements?


Vitamin D - Regardless of whether you are following a vegan diet or not I recommend that you take a daily vitamin D supplement containing at least 10mcg or 400IU of vitamin D. It is very difficult to consume enough vitamin D through diet alone. Vitamin D is produced in the body when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Unfortunately, in the UK most of us don’t get enough sunlight exposure. Vitamin D is especially important for helping the body to absorb calcium and optimise bone health. A vitamin D deficiency can also lead to tiredness and general aches and pains.

Vitamin B12 - For most people following a vegan diet I recommend supplementing with vitamin B12. Unless you are consuming B12 fortified products such as cereals, milks, nutritional yeast, marmite or vegan spreads at least twice a day, it is very difficult to achieve enough. Make sure your B12 supplement contains at least 10mcg.


Iodine - If you are unlikely to be able to consume at least 2 portions (~400ml) of iodine fortified dairy substitutes per day, then I recommend taking a 140mcg daily supplement.


Selenium – If you don’t like Brazil nuts, and you struggle with wholegrains then you are unlikely to be able to get enough selenium in your diet. If this is the case, then a daily supplement of 65mcg for women and 70mcg for men is recommended.


Tip: If you need to supplement with all the above then The Vegan Society markets a supplement providing reliable intakes of vitamins D, B12, iodine and selenium.


Thanks for reading 😊 For further information and personalised advice, consider booking my plant-based diet package.


Sources:


1. EFSA. EU Register on Nutrition and Health Claims [Internet]. 2016 [cited 9/9/2021]. Available from: http://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/labelling_nutrition/claims/register/public/?event=search


2. Dietary Reference Values for Food Energy and Nutrients for the United Kingdom: Report of the Panel on Dietary Reference Values of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy, Volume 41 of Department of Health Report on Health and Social Subjects, Issue 41 of Reports on health and social subjects, ISSN 0300-8045

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Updated: Oct 3, 2021

Diet culture has caused many of us to associate losing weight with restriction and a focus on all the things we think we cannot eat or need to cut down on. Of course, restriction usually leads to reducing our calorie intake which in the short-term leads to weight loss, but is this sustainable long term? Read on for a more positive perspective on weight loss to help you with making more sustainable changes that may lead to a happier and healthier you!



Weight loss nutritionist surrey

 

Think about what you can add to your diet


Instead of focussing on what you need to cut out of your diet, think about what you can add in to improve the overall balance. Adding extra vegetables and lean sources of protein to your meals can really help with adding bulk, keep you feeling full, and satisfied that you have had a substantial meal. Consuming a variety of different foods, will also help to ensure that you are getting a range of different nutrients which will help to optimise your energy levels and your overall health.


Move in a way that makes you feel good


Doing some form of exercise is a great way to burn extra calories and speed up your weight loss but doing something you enjoy is key to keeping it up. If running is not your thing, or if you are not the sporty type then think of other ways you can move, as after all, any type of movement is exercise. Try taking up a new hobby, exercising with a friend or gradually increasing your step count. Do not set yourself unrealistic expectations, start slowly initially and see how you go.


Avoid categorising foods


When you are trying to lose weight, avoid categorising food as “good” and “bad” foods. There is a place for all food in our diet. If I were to tell you that your diet could only consist of chocolate, then of course this would not be a healthy way of eating but equally it would not be healthy to only eat broccoli - it is all about getting the balance right!


Weight loss nutritionist surrey

 

Make choices based on long-term success


Being overly restrictive when trying to lose weight is not the key to long-term success. If you are eating too few calories or feeling deprived, then eventually you will come off track. Research has shown that excessive restriction causes obsessing about food, especially “banned” foods which will more than likely lead to overeating or binge eating and regaining any weight that has been lost. Yes, in the short-term if you are very restrictive you will probably lose weight more rapidly, but in the long-term this way of eating is not sustainable, and you will not achieve lasting weight loss. Ask yourself; “Would I be happy to continue eating in this way long-term?”. If the answer is no, then think about how you can make some changes.


Avoid feeling guilty


Relapses are a completely normal part of everyone’s weight loss journey. The worst thing you can do is make yourself feel guilty with negative self-talk. So often, clients tell me that they have had one “bad day” and completely “blown” their whole weight loss journey. This is simply not the case! In the grand scheme of things, one “bad day” is not going to make much difference. The best thing to do is accept that we will all have “good” and “bad” days. Try to learn from what went wrong and move on as quickly as possible.



Weight loss nutritionist surrey

 

Eat food you enjoy


This one may seem obvious but time and time again I hear clients telling me that they are eating something because they think they should or because they think it is healthy. Sometimes people will go as far as eating or drinking something they dislike the taste of! If you are eating in a way that is not enjoyable, the chances are you will eventually come of track. Instead, try experimenting with new foods and recipes you have not tried to further increase your enjoyment of eating.


Ditch the “all or nothing” attitude


If you would describe yourself as someone with an “all or nothing” attitude towards most things in life, then think again before applying this to your weight loss journey. Even if you were to put in 80% effort rather than 100% effort you would still achieve surprisingly good results. Putting in 80% effort allows for some flexibility such as eating out with friends and family and enjoying more of your favourite foods. Remember that the best type of weight loss plan is one that is consistent and sustainable. I think most of us would agree that putting in 100% effort all the time is not sustainable.

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Updated: Oct 3, 2021

The 5 a day campaign is based on research from the World Health Organisation which showed that consuming at least 400g of fruit and vegetables can significantly reduce the risk of developing serious health conditions including heart disease and certain cancers.


Fruit and vegetables are a rich source of vitamins and minerals and fibre and contribute towards a well-balanced diet, but do you know what counts as a portion?


Weight loss nutritionist surrey

Fruit portions


A portion of fruit is roughly equivalent to:


1 apple, 1 small banana, 1 pear, 120g of grapes, 150g strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries, 2 plums, satsumas or similar sized fruit.


What about dried fruit?


Dried fruit is very concentrated in sugar because the water has been removed from the fruit. If you want to include dried fruit as one of your portions, then be careful with portion size as too much sugar can cause fluctuations in your blood sugar levels leading to fatigue and over-eating at other times in the day. 20g of dried fruit counts as a portion.


Do fruit juices and smoothies count?


Similarly to dried fruit, fruit juice can also be high in sugar because the fibrous part of the fruit has been removed. A 150ml glass of fruit juice counts as a portion. However, only 1 glass a day will count, if you have additional glasses then these will not count. Smoothies however might count as more than 1 portion. For example, if your smoothie contains 2 fruit portions or 1 portion of fruit and 1 portion of fruit juice then this would count as 2 portions.


 

Vegetable portions


A portion of vegetables (80g) is roughly equivalent to:


2-3 heaped tablespoons of any vegetable, 1 dessert bowl of salad, 200ml bowl of vegetable soup.

Weight loss nutritionist surrey

Do potatoes count?


Although potatoes are vegetables, they do not count towards your 5 a day because their main component is starch. Sweet potato and other root vegetables such as parsnips, swede and turnips however do count.


Are frozen vegetables okay?


Yes. Vegetables or fruit do not need to be fresh. Frozen, canned or tinned will all count.


Is it okay to eat 5 portions of the same fruit or vegetable?


To get a variety of different nutrients in your diet then you should try to eat a variety of different fruits and vegetables. Try to eat a rainbow of different coloured fruit and vegetables to get maximum benefits.

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