As a dietitian, I believe it is important to practice what I preach, and preach information that comes from the most evidenced based source available. The Australian Dietary Guidelines. are based on the best available scientific evidence on the types and amounts of foods, food groups and dietary patterns that aim to:
promote health and wellbeing
reduce the risk of diet-related conditions
reduce the risk of chronic disease.
As a vegan, the Australian Dietary Guidelines may be harder to comprehend, however all your nutritional needs can be met by following a well planned vegan diet. If you're struggling to know what food you should be eating and how much for you age, gender and fitness level, book an consultation today with PLANT's Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist Kiah Paetz.
Vegetables, legumes and beans, are an important source of vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and many hundreds of phytonutrients (nutrients naturally present in plants). Most vegetables, legumes/beans are low in energy (kilojoules) relative to many other foods, and may help ‘fill us up’ to avoid excessive weight gain too.
Aim to choose vegetables with lots of variety in colour and type as these protect the body in different ways:
White – cauliflower, potato, swedes
Orange/Red – red & yellow capsicum, carrot, sweet potato, tomato, pumpkin
Purple – eggplant, purple sweet potato, purple carrots
Green – spinach, bok choy, broccoli, cucumber, green capsicum, kale, asparagus, peas
Legumes – kidney beans, blackbeans, chickpeas, lentils
Similar to vegetables, fruit is also a rich source of vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytonutrients. Although fruit juice is also a suitable food from this food group, whole fruit it self is preferential as it contains more nutrients and most importantly fibre (that thing that helps us get our bowel moving) than the juice alone.
Canned fruits and vegetables can also be a suitable alternative, it is important to read ingredients labels and choose varieties without added salt and ensure that canned fruit is in natural juice, not syrup.
Why not try a fruit salad with a whole range of fruit , here are some fruity ideas- starfruit, watermelon, banana, strawberries, blueberries, orange, pineapple, dragonfruit, pomegranate, passionfruit, guava, rockmelon, mandarins, persimmons, grapes
The” grains” food group includes foods derived from wheat, oats, rice, rye, barley, millet, quinoa and corn. Wholegrains and wholemeal varieties are grains that have not been refined and still contain their outer bran layer known as the “germ” removed. These foods are preferential as they contain more dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals than refined grain products (think white breads, biscuits, white flour). Examples of wholegrain foods include wholegrain pastas, quinoa, rolled oats, brown rice, barley and bulgar.
Dairy Alternatives (Plant Based Milks)
This food group has conventionally been known as foods and drink products derived from cows. However, fortified plant milks including soy, rice and almond milk are now also a suitable alternative for dairy free, lactose intolerant or vegan individuals. Ensure to check the label on the milk to ensure it has been fortified with added calcium and vitamin B12. Although plant milks have been through a “processing” method to achieve fortification, they provide a nutritionally adequate alternative to cows milk and allows individuals to achieve all essential nutrients without the use of supplementation. However, if failing to achieve the recommended serves of plant milks daily, ensure to source other foods or supplements containing adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin B12.
Meat Alternatives (Legumes, Nuts and Tofu)
It is vital to eat a variety of foods from this food group, especially for those following a vegan or vegetarian diet to ensure that all micronutrients are met. The “Meat and Meat alternatives” food group provides a variety of important nutrients including protein, iron, zinc, vitamin’s in the B group, vitamin B12, omega 3 fats as well as other vitamin and minerals. You can find more about the importance of supplementing vitamin B12 here. This group includes soy proteins such as textured vegetable protein (TVP), tempeh and tofu as well as legumes such as kidney beans, black beans, baked beans, chickpeas and lentils – which all are rich in proteins and fibre (especially important for gut health). Nuts and seeds in small quantities (30 grams = 1 serve) can also be a suitable alternative to meat products and can be consumed whole, ground or in paste form. Some suitable alternatives include peanuts, cashews, almonds as well as seeds such as flaxseeds and chia seeds which are a rich source of omega 3s and essential fatty acids.
For more information about the five food groups – find the Australian Dietary Guidelines here