These Food Groups will Help You Go Vegan
So you want to go vegan, but you don’t know where to start.
When I first became interested in changing my diet four years ago, I read a book that changed the way I looked at how to look for food. “Main Street Vegan” by Victoria Moran gives beginners an entire run down to start out as a vegan. However, you don’t have to go through the entire book to start.
I found that learning the five vegan basic food groups helped me determine which foods I needed include in my own vegan diet.
Rice, wheat, quinoa, oats, rye, millet, and corn are just a few examples of grains. There is an abundance of different grains that provide different nutritional benefits. Generally, grains are a major source of carbohydrates, fiber, and natural minerals, making it nutritious and hearty. Many human cultures throughout history have sustained entire civilizations on some type of grain: Rice in Asia, bread in Europe, and Corn in North America.
It is best to stay away from processed grains, opting for brown rice and sprouted wheat instead of white rice and bread. Processed grains have been stripped of the fibers and protein that give them their well-rounded nutrient profile. Unprocessed grains are also lower on the glycemic index, making it a better choice for patients with blood sugar sensitivities.
Nuts & Seeds
Almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and pretty much any seed that can be toasted and eaten can be considered part of this food group. This area for vegans supplies us with high amounts of healthy fats and minerals. Healthy fats are essential in feeling satiated after a meal and can lower bad cholesterol.
These foods are incredibly nutrient dense, meaning a handful of nuts would be considered a good serving size. I like to pack a small zip-lock bag full of a different type of nut every week into the lunch I take to work as a small, mid-afternoon snack in between major meals.
Apples, pears, avocados, berries, melons, grapes, and an assortment of other foods from every color of the rainbow make up this wonderful food group. These beautiful foods offer tons of fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins, and the nutrient lot (can you tell how much I love fruits?). A diet well-rounded in a variety of fruits can supply anyone from a librarian to a professional athlete with enough energy to out perform their expectations.
I like to carry fruits as snacks anytime I’m craving something sweet. Since I work in an office, I’ve developed the habit of going to the groceries every money to stock up on a bundle of bananas or a bushel of apples to keep my brain fueled while writing pages for clients.
This group is made up of kale, lettuce, beets, chard, peppers, herbs, spices, and a wide range of leafy plants that supply vegans with a healthy amount of phytochemicals, vitamins, and nutrients not found anywhere else on the planet. So when your bodybuilding neighbor is eating a diet solely made up of white rice and chicken, it can be difficult not to think that they may be deficient in many nutrients.
A good way to get vegetables into the diet without having to eat a plate full of salad every day—although that is a great habit—would be to get into the habit of having a morning glowing green smoothie (GGS) after your morning oatmeal. Many health and beauty gurus across the internet swear by their morning GGS. Even I’ve drunk the kool-aid and started waking up an extra five minutes earlier to prepare a large smoothie to start my day. My morning GGS isn’t entirely green, but it’s a start. My GGS contains kale, bananas, a handful one type of berry, a handful of a second type of berry, and coconut water. Basic, but it gets the job done. I also freeze my fruits and veggies in ziplock bags for quick access and to avoid using.
Beans, lentils, some “nuts,” and peas are the most common legumes. These foods are packed with protein, carbohydrates, and insoluble fibers that aid in digestion and the body’s recovery. These foods are generally low in fats (except the “nuts” in this group) and while remaining to be one of the heartiest foods to supplement any diet. Beans come in a variety of types, such as black beans, pinto, and kidney beans, and make up a great portion of a vegan’s diet.
Beans and legumes are extremely cheap when buying in bulk, making this a great option for broke college students that want to go vegan but may think it’s too expensive. Paired with rice, beans provide individuals with a complete protein profile, that is, enough of a diversity of proteins to build and maintain strong muscles.
Create Your Own Vegan Diet
While a vegan diet can be daunting at first, knowing the five basic vegan food groups can help start you down a path of choosing the right foods and avoiding animal products. When I first started, I didn’t turn into a vegan overnight. It took me years to even consider it, but I found that knowing where I can go for healthy foods whenever I needed something to eat helped me to transition from a diet predominantly made up of meat and processed goods to a high-energy, plant-based diet that’s sensitive to living creatures and our planet.