Dietitian Gone Vegan – Nutrient Analysis

When I began this experiment I knew I wanted to track my diet to get an idea of how eating vegan impacted my nutrient intake.  As mentioned in my first post veganism has a few potential dietary concerns including low protein and calcium intakes.  To analyze my diet I used the My Fitness Pal app.  Whenever possible I scanned the barcodes of foods to get the most accurate information possible.

Here’s what I found:

Protein

Over the week I averaged 65 grams of protein per day or roughly 10% of my total daily calories.  This might sound low, and while it’s probably less than the typical meat-eater, this actually exceeds my daily requirements.  Protein requirements for healthy adults are 0.8 g/kg body weight.  At the moment I am about 65 kg, so that means the minimum amount of protein I should be getting is 52 grams, which I easily reached.

I will say that I while I didn’t plan my menu with a specific protein intake in mind, I did make an effort to include several higher protein foods (nuts, seeds, chick peas, lentils, tofu, etc..) into my diet each day.  For those who are considering going vegan themselves, I would strongly recommend the doing the same.  If you’re having a difficult time incorporating enough of them, a soy-based protein powder could also help and be added to smoothies, soups, etc.

Calcium

Most people’s biggest source of dietary calcium is dairy, but since these foods are obviously not allowed many vegans have a difficult time getting enough.  Calcium requirements for adults are 1000 mg/day.  This is a little less than that for teens (1300mg) or women 50 yrs+ (1200mg).  Some vegan-friendly foods that are a decent source of calcium are leafy green vegetables like kale and broccoli, almonds and tofu.

I was a little surprised to see that I nearly met my requirements.  According to my analysis I got 97% of my daily calcium needs during the week.  A big contributor to this was the glass of calcium-fortified orange juice that I drank with breakfast most mornings.  If I didn’t drink this I would’ve only been at 50%, which is significant.  I will admit that I consumed very few leafy green vegetables this week, so that probably didn’t help.  My advice for others would be to also drink calcium-fortified beverages regularly (non-dairy milks or juices) to make sure you’re getting enough calcium in your diet.  If you’re unable to do this a multivitamin may be warranted.

Other

  • I averaged 2270 calories/day.  This is right around my daily requirements for my age, gender and activity level.
  • In terms of macronutrients, I got 62% of my calories from carbohydrates, 28% from fat and 10% from protein. This is a perfectly reasonable macronutrient distribution for a healthy diet.  Many people will often argue for one specific macronutrient percentages over another, however as long as you are meeting the minimum requirements overall diet quality is probably much more important than a particular macronutrient distribution.
  • My sodium intake was 1930 mg/day, which is almost certainly lower than it is most days when I’m not eating vegan.  For reference, we should all be aiming for a maximum daily sodium intake of 2300 mg/day.
  • Iron intake was one of the few micronutrients that my dietary analysis software measured.  Despite meat being a major source of iron in most people’s diets, I was still able to consume 129% of my daily requirements, which is good.

As mentioned in my last post, I don’t think I’ll be going vegan anytime soon.  But frankly, that has a more to do with the fact that I enjoy eating meats, dairy, etc., than any nutrition concerns that I have with veganism. My diet analysis clearly demonstrated that I was able to meet all of my requirements, which I obviously knew was possible, but was unsure if I would given the fact that I didn’t spend a lot of time planning in advance.

I hope this little experiment has been enlightening and that now you have a better idea of what it’s like to go vegan, even if it’s just through my eyes.  Happy eating!

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Dietitian Gone Vegan – Part 3

Day 6

Today was the day that I started fantasizing about the foods I want to eat after I’m finished my little experiment.  To this point I haven’t thought too much about this sort of thing, but for whatever reason it really hit me today.  The funny thing is that it isn’t so much the meat I miss, it’s the dairy (yogurt and cheese mostly).

Breakfast was more of the same (oatmeal & fruit) and I basically skipped lunch in favour of snacks throughout the late morning/afternoon.

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For dinner my wife made a variation on a staple meal in our home.  The original recipe is from Jamie Oliver for Moroccan Lamb with Couscous, however we substituted tofu for the meat and skipped the yogurt.  The tofu wasn’t bad in this recipe (although it could’ve used more seasoning that we gave it), but the dish certainly wasn’t as good as the original.

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Day 7

My wife did something special for me for breakfast today and made me an awesome meal of vegan blueberry pancakes with maple syrup and fresh fruit.  This is another of the few recipes I could see doing again (provided we actually have almond/soy milk in the house!).

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Again, breakfast was late so I didn’t really eat again until dinner.  For my final vegan meal I went back to Jamie Oliver for a Sweet Potato, Spinach and Chickpea Curry.  It sounded pretty fantastic and looked great, but unfortunately just didn’t do it for me.  It could’ve been because it was quite similar to dinner from the previous night but it was probably my least favorite meal of the week.  It was pretty bland and the absence of meat in this dish was really apparent.  Overall, very blah.

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Recipe – Sweet Potato, Chickpea & Spinach Curry

Overall impressions

I think it’s safe to say I won’t be going vegan again anytime soon, but that’s not to say that there aren’t benefits for doing so.  A few notable pros that I experienced were the lower cost of food and abundance of fresh fruit/vegetables and legumes in my diet.  One of my bigger concerns going into this experiment was that I would feel hungry all the time and aside from a few exceptions that wasn’t really the case.  I also felt no ill effects as I continued my regular workout schedule.

The biggest thing I felt upon completion of the week was a sense of relief.   I’m definitely glad I did it, but I’m happy it’s over.  I have a great deal of respect for people who choose to live this way but a vegan lifestyle just isn’t for me. For me, veganism is just too restrictive. I’m someone who really enjoys good food and I found it difficult to be forced to rely on subpar alternatives to meat, dairy and eggs.   Another drawback I found was the time consuming nature of menu planning, shopping and cooking (although I readily admit this would lessen as I got more accustomed to the diet).

In my opinion if you’re considering going vegan, you need to examine the reasons why you’re doing so.  If it’s related to an opposition of the exploitation of animals, than by all means go for it.  It can be a perfectly healthy way to eat while still satisfying that goal.  That said, I would probably suggest a more gradual transition than what I did.  Perhaps just start by eliminating meat for a few weeks, then move on towards limiting dairy, eggs, etc.

However, if health or the environment is your primary motivation, veganism probably wouldn’t be the first option I would recommend.  After all, it is certainly possible to eat healthy and sustainably while still including animal products in your diet.  I’m a big believer in the notion that long-term lifestyle changes are best done in small increments and for most people veganism is anything but a small change from their current lifestyle.

Finally, I did keep a complete diet record for the week.  In my next post I will highlight and interpret some of my results.

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Dietitian Gone Vegan – Part 2

Okay, so I feel like I’m getting into the swing of things now.

Day 3

Breakfast was more of the same today – oatmeal with fruit and juice.  Lunch was leftover stir fry from the night before, but this time I added toasted slivered almonds – wow, what a difference that made.  The extra crunch gave some additional texture this dish was missing from the night before.  I also had some bananas that were going bad so I made an blackberry almond milk smoothie to go with lunch.

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Dinner was easily our best one yet.  I made a Lentil and Coconut soup.  It took a couple of hours to prepare and cook, but it was delicious.  I especially liked the habenero gemolata that went with it.  Even after this week is done we’ll be doing this one again.

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Recipe – Lentil and Coconut Soup with Cilantro-Habanero Gremolata Recipe

Day 4

Breakfast was oatmeal, etc again today and leftover soup from night before.  Might seem to be getting a little boring, but it’s how I roll.  Truthfully though it’s a real time saver to be able to simply re-heat leftovers for lunch.

One issue I was having was a lack of snacking options in the house.  A recipe happened to pop up in my Facebook feed the day before for Chocolate Orange Protein Balls (I think they could’ve workshopped that name a bit more!) that seemed to fit the bill so I decided to make these today.  They were actually pretty good and should last me for the rest of the week.

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Recipe – Chocolate Orange Protein Balls

My original plan for tonight’s dinner was BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Tacos but since I couldn’t
find canned Jackfruit I resorted to a more traditional taco using a soy-based “ground round”.  Nutritionally these veggie “meats” are a great way to get extra protein into your diet when eating vegan.  They actually taste surprisingly close to what real meat tastes like, so if you’re a former omnivore whose missing the taste of meat, they can really fit the bill.

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Day 5

Nothing to see here – oatmeal again for breakfast and leftover soup for lunch.

Dinner tonight was a meal exported from our home for the past three years – Koshary.  Koshary is Egypt’s national dish.  It consists of pasta, rice, lentils, chickpeas covered in a tomato sauce and fried onions.  No doubt it’s heavy on the carbs, but the lentils and chickpeas add a decent amount of protein and fibre too.  My version isn’t quite the same as what you’ll find in Egypt but it’s close enough.

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Recipe – Koshary

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