It’s Veganuary! This month encourages people worldwide to try a vegan diet for the month of January and beyond. We could all do with including more plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, vegetable oils, soy, nuts, and seeds) into our diets, which in turn has benefits on our health, protects animals, and supports the fight against climate change. The vegan diet is not for everyone, it can be very unsafe if not balanced. I want to focus on how to safely follow a vegan diet. (fortified = added in).
- Include a source of protein at every meal: beans, peas, peanuts, quinoa, soya protein, & buckwheat.
- Eat starchy carbohydrates at mealtimes with a focus on wholegrain varieties.
- 5-a day of Fruits and Vegetables; include daily dark leafy green vegetables, for Vitamin K & Vitamin A; sweet potato, butternut squash, spinach, carrots, melon.
- 2 portions of Calcium foods a day; tofu, milk alternative, yogurt alternative, dark leafy greens, beans, and soya and linseed bread that is fortified.
- Oils and Spreads should be used in small amounts, include fortified spreads.
- Supplements (Vitamin D, B12, Selenium and Iodine)
- Choose walnuts, linseeds, leafy greens, flaxseeds, and algae-based supplements for omega 3 fats.
- Have a source of vitamin C (e.g red pepper, kiwi, oranges) with your leafy greens and dried fruits to increase absorption of iron.
Current scientific evidence shows that eating a plant-based diet, along with other lifestyle and behaviour changes, can protect against cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, strokes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. There are different forms of plant-based eating patterns from vegetarian to flexitarian-type diets, all have their benefits. As a summary, if you are going to be incorporating a plant-based diet into your lifestyle, please utilise the resources from credited sources and speak to a registered healthcare professional.
Ditch the diets
If you are expecting a ‘how to lose weight post-Christmas’ article, you have come to the wrong place. I am here to tell you; diets do not work. I know it sounds scary to stop pursuing weight loss – but, whose goal is it? Who is telling you that your main purpose is to lose weight? Losing weight is sold to us as a cure for happiness and health. It is not. Diet culture is rich in society; it is everywhere you go. It suggests that the size of your body determines your worth, which quite frankly, is a form of oppression and bias.
I want to talk about fat phobia. It is an irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against obesity or people with obesity. It is internalised in society and can present itself in many ways. Those who are living in larger bodies do not deserve less than those in thin bodies. My challenge for you, is to question this belief. I want you to remove the view that health = thinness. There may be a link between larger bodies and some health conditions, this often comes from other lifestyle factors that impact disease. Evidence suggests that focusing on health focused behaviour changes, is better in the long term than a weight-focused approach in chronic dieters.
Practice body respect and self-kindness; do something for you that you want to do. We have all learnt in 2020 the importance of self-care, continue this on in 2021. Honour your health with listening to your mind and body. Give yourself permission to eat foods that you enjoy. Most importantly, give yourself time. It takes time to change your habits, reform your thinking and learn new behaviours.
Francesca Vuolo is an associate registered nutritionist, with a BSc Hons Nutrition. Nutrition science is an exciting passion in which she is expanding her knowledge. Currently Fran is studying an MSc in Nutrition and Behaviour. She provides evidence based nutrition information, food inspiration and more on her Instagram @flourishwithfran.