Veganism can be a balanced choice for children and adults if well-planned. It's probably less suited to fussy eaters or those on already restrictive diets such as Keto, FODMAP, nut or gluten free. Those with gluten, soya or certain fruit/vegetable intolerances may find some vegan foods exacerbate intolerances and therefore restrict diet further. You need to enjoy a range of fruit and vegetables and grains to get your nutritional requirements; these form a bulk of the diet. Recent evidence from the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends we should be eating more fibre to help with a healthy weight and prevent disease. So, a good reason to try and incorporate vegan-like or plant-based eating into to your diet. If Veganisim is a choice too far; then consider a plant-based or flexitarian diet for one or two days of the week or for a meal. Vegan food is not boring. Explore Vegan cook books for tasty ideas and take a look at the yummy offerings appearing in restaurants and cafes. In my local area, Sevenoaks; I found Vegan/plant-based cook books at the Sevenoaks Bookshop and that Bills, Zizzi, The Sennockian (not online) and Wagamamas all have a dedicated vegan menu. Eat N Mess also have an extensive offering. Not forgetting the smaller cafe independents; they too have two-three Vegan options that look tempting. I'm looking forward to trying a sandwich, crumpets and salad in Delicious Deli; chitotle at the Hollybush; pistachio loaf, mushroom and cashew pastie and peanut brownie in Malabar; and the Vegan breakfast with sourdough spread with Vegan butter, granola bowl and brownie in Otto's. They also have a selection of plant milks. Yum!
Often there is confusion between Vegan, Vegetarian and Plant-Based or Felxitarian eating. The difference between Vegan and Vegetarian is that Vegetarians may eat animal products, so long as the animal is not part of a living or dead animal. Therefore, a vegetarian may opt to include animal milk and milk products such a cheese and yogurt; eggs or honey. Pescatarians choose to eat fish, shellfish or molluscs and so are not Vegetarian. In Plant-based eating, like Vegans and Vegetarians, the bulk of the diet is fruits, vegetables and grains but animal products may be consumed.
WHAT IS VEGANISM?
The plate pictures below show balanced eating; a Vegan plate guided by the Vegan Society and the Eatwell plate widely accepted as balanced eating by (public) health professionals, myself included. It does not resemble a typical meal plate because it considers all the foods eaten in balance over seven days and then averaged out on a plate. So, it is informing what kind of proportions we should be eating of these foods. Eating in this way gives our bodies all the nutrients it needs. Individual portions of these will vary according to individuals size, gender, activity level, disease and whether pregnant. But the proportion of balance should remain the same. To help you work out your portions; the British Nutrition Foundation has developed a guide.
In a balanced diet:
The Vegan Plate is more restrictive than the Eatwell plate but that's not a problem if you substitute with equivalent alternative sources. Animal milk is an important source of calcium, B12 vitamins and Iodine. Eggs and fish are both important sources of protein and oily fish; for long chain omega 3 fatty acids (LCFAs). If following the Vegan Plate, then it is not difficult to include alternative protein sources such as tofu, soya, legumes, nuts and seeds. Protein is important for everyday repair and maintenance of the body's organs. There are many alternatives to animal milk such as soy, almond, oat and coconut; try to choose the ones that have been fortified with Calcium and Vitamins B12 and D. Watch out for organic; these often are not fortified. Please see the BDA Calcium food fact sheet to check how you can meet your requirements. Plant milks are not usually supplemented with iodine and Vegans are at risk of iodine deficiency. Iodine is important for thyroid function, metabolism and brain development. Iodine in supplements should be in the form of “potassium iodide” or “potassium iodate” and should not exceed the daily adult requirement of 150 mcg. Do not be tempted to use seaweed or kelp supplements as an iodine source. Please see the BDA Iodine food fact sheet for more information. LCFA vegan supplements are available and important for (foetus) brain development, heart, and mental wellbeing. A Vegan Plate includes short chain fatty acids but they are not easily converted to LCFA and so likely need to be supplemented if insufficient amounts of nuts and seeds and their oils are consumed on a daily basis. The Vegan Society suggest you would need to eat about a tablespoon of chia seeds or ground linseed, two tablespoons of hemp seeds or six walnut halves daily. Please see the BDA Omega food facts sheet for more information.
Changing diet can feel overwhelming but you can do it.
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Thank you Sevenoaks providers for taking the time to discuss Vegan with me. I would love to see patron food pictures and other providers post on social media. Sorry if I missed you. I was encouraged; although not individually mentioned, most Sevenoaks coffee shops and restaurants have a Vegan dish.