Going Vegan: Nutrients to Consider

By Bectoria Crandall

A true smartypants is always looking for ways to improve ones personal and family health. One way we at 4smartypants are doing this is by changing to a vegan diet. When talking this over with Mac and Stephanie, I had two concerns. First, nutrients and then budget. This post is about the former.

SAHM’s are always struggling to weed through the barrage of information that is constantly being published about the foods available in our market. Yes, we in this country are the lucky ones to have the luxury of being so choosey about the foods that we eat. Since we do have a choice, true smartypants would make every effort to provide a well balanced, nutrient rich diet in their homes. For me, going vegan provides its own set of challenges. If I am going to cut out a large portion of my family’s diet, what foods do I need to introduce that would provide the nutrients my growing family needs? “If we aren’t drinking milk any longer, how will my family get the calcium and Vitamin D we need?” was one of my questions during our last 4smartypants admin meeting.

Now I love these two ladies to death, but let’s face it, Stephanie, Mac and I get the majority of our information by reading reports published by the experts in the field. Instead of relying on what they have or have not yet read, I decided to go to the experts myself. To get my answers about all things nutritiony I went to my fav nturition experts Denver Wellness and Nutrition www.denverwellnessandnutrition.com. Instead of muddying up their answer, I’ll just quote what they had to say about transitioning a family to a vegan diet…

“If you’re a family that normally eats meat, then the safest way would be to ease your family into it. Start by trying out meatless Monday’s if your family is a little on the fence about it. Then ease into a full vegetarian lifestyle, and once you’re all used to that, start cutting out eggs/dairy/honey/other animal related products.
Some things to make sure you’re getting in are:
Protein – Soybean products (tofu, tempeh), chickpeas, lentils, nuts and seeds
Vitamin B12 – Fortified nutritional yeast, soy and rice milk.  Make sure to read the nutrition information to know how much you’re getting in!
Vitamin D –During the warmer months, you can get your fix of this nutrient just by basking in the sunlight, awesome right? But for the colder months, try getting things that are fortified with vitamin D such as some nondairy milk and juices.
Omega 3 fatty acids – Flax seeds, walnuts, and canola oil
Calcium – Collard greens, kale, broccoli, beans and almonds
Iron – Black-eyed peas, lentils, oatmeal, nuts, sunflower seeds, quinoa and millet
Zinc – Grains, legumes and nuts
If you’re eating a wide variety of foods, you shouldn’t have any problems getting these into your diet.  But if you still feel that you are deficient, then these can be met with: introducing a multivitamin (if you aren’t already on one), sometimes a B-complex (if your vitamin B levels are low even after the multivitamin) and get in omega 3’s from flax seed  or vegan DHA capsules from algae (otherwise you’d be eating fish!).
You don’t want to shock your system, or that of your family. Anytime you want to make a lifestyle change, remember to ease into it.”
Armed with this new knowledge of nutrients to consider, I feel better able to make the right dietary decisions for my family. Now I can begin to investigate an answer to my latter concern… Budget. How much is this all going to cost me? I’ll keep you posted!
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