Sure. Naturally we like to think that eating vegan and eating healthy go hand in hand, and while they certainly can, that’s not necessarily always the case. Vegan eating doesn’t automatically equate to healthy eating, especially if your plate ends up lacking color, or even consistently plays the same colors on repeat.
While most of us can enjoy an overflowing plate of faux macaroni and cheese from time to time, this shouldn’t necessarily serve as an everyday staple. Like any proper well-balanced diet, a vegan diet needs routine attention to make sure it’s staying diverse and living up to its full potential.
So then, what does the perfect healthy vegan diet look like?
Although there’s no such thing as a perfect vegan pantry, refrigerator, or plate for that matter, all vegan foods certainly aren’t created equal. After all, even the deliciously addictive Oreos are vegan. Still, rather than picking on and pointing fingers toward things that don’t belong in the healthiest of healthy vegan diets, instead, let’s focus on some things that do belong.
Focussing on what does equate to a healthy vegan diet leaves little room for processed fake-outs. Plus, it allows you to have naturally vitamin-rich, nutrient-dense foods at your disposal, everyday of your life.
Straight up Veggies
Yes, “v” is for vegan, and it is also for, you guessed it — vegetables. Although this may seem simple and blatantly obvious, with the amount of substitutes available in today’s marketplace, it can be easy to grab a convenient, packaged, plant-based food item and forget that the greatest fuel can be found in whole form. The healthiest vegan diet is one that is centered on whole vegetables (plus fruits, nuts, legumes and seeds). A good rule of thumb is the fewer ingredients, the more complete and healthy the food you are putting into your body (with one ingredient being the ideal). It can be as simple as choosing a giant mushroom to bite into, instead of a frozen veggie burger. And it all goes back to the idea of clean eating. Here’s a look at how you can eat clean with ease.
Greens & Beans
Whether it’s spinach or kale that is ready to be blended into a green smoothie, or a mixed bed of greens resting atop a plate, salad style, when it comes to getting your fill of greens, healthy vegan diets incorporate a hefty amount of cruciferous vegetables into the majority of meals. Examples of some of the more common cruciferous delights include kale, collard greens, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, and cabbage.
If you are ready to go green but aren’t sure where to start, here are 35 delicious ways to eat more greens. If you are already a green queen (or king) here are 11 awesome recipes with cruciferous vegetables.
And then there are beans. Yes the childhood rhyme was true. They do make you gassy. But, on the upside, they are packed with protein, fiber, and more, making them quintessential staples in healthy herbivore diets. Although beans are delightful enough on their own, here are high-protein bean recipes worth cooking up.
Nuts, Berries, & Nibs
When it comes to nuts, not only are nuts like almonds and walnuts repeatedly recognized for being heart healthy, nuts as a food group are cited for being protein powerhouses. Nuts are also a chief component in dairy alternatives, both store-bought and homemade, ranging from almond milk to cashew cheese.
While super berries such as blueberries have been given praise for years for their health benefits, others are more recent standouts. As well as being fun words to say, both goji and acai berries have been given superfood and superfruit status. Read more about their health benefits and versatility in this food face-off.
And one can’t forget nibs. That’s right. If you’re looking to nibble, cacao nibs (roasted cacao beans) are becoming increasingly nibbled upon. For an added boost, snack on a handful of nibs for breakfast or a snack, or consider baking them up into cocoa peanut butter balls. Nibs are packed with magnesium along with other vitamins and minerals.
As if they aren’t great enough on their own, together nuts, berries, and nibs can dazzle your tastebuds in the morning in a bowl of oatmeal, blend up seamlessly in an anytime smoothie, be baked into energizing muffins, or even be sprinkled together on a hearty salad.
Seeds & Oils
Standout super seeds flax and chia have established themselves as prime seedy supplements, whether you’re blending up a smoothie, baking a batch of muffins, or perhaps even some sweeter treats. And then there’s quinoa, the grain-like wonder seed that fits its way into dishes just as gracefully, if not more so, than rice or pasta.
Seeds aside, no dietary equation is complete without a healthy selection of oils. And leave it to nuts to once again rise up a winner in the oil department. Coconut oil receives never-ending attention for its role in cooking, its healing properties, its topical uses, and its everyday household uses. Still, it’s not the only oil worth keeping around your kitchen. Here are a few additional tips on selecting healthy fats in the form of oils.
Although this list isn’t the end of all healthy vegan eating, it offers food for thought, and plenty to chew on. For more tips on healthy vegan eating, check out these 7 habits of healthy vegans.