The first step is to learn how much of certain food groups you should be eating each day to get what your body needs. This information can easily be found online in the form of the Vegan Food Pyramid (see below).
The easiest way to include the right amount of foods in your diet is to cook different types of meals as much as possible, using different ingredients of varying colours. It can also be helpful to visit small food retailers like Asian or Vegan supermarkets such as The Radical Grocery to seek out ingredients that can be hard to find in main stream supermarkets. However, if you don’t have this luxury, most large Coles stores stock a good range of vegetarian ingredients such as tofu, vegie-meats, tahini etc - which are located in the cold food and health food sections.
The vitamins and minerals that vegetarians need to be conscious of in order to make sure they get the right amount from their diet are – Protein, the minerals Zinc, Iron and Calcium, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D
Here is a list of essential vitamins and minerals and the vegetarian foods in which they can be found:
Vitamin B12 – B12 is essential. It is naturally found in animal products and yeast however, on a plant based diet it can be obtained from fortified soy milk (Sanitarium and Vita Soy) and savoury yeast flakes and supplements. *It is important not to become low in B12 as once low, your body finds it harder to absorb.
Omega 3– Ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil (*whole flaxseeds cannot be absorbed and must be ground first), sunflower seeds/oiland chia seeds (chia and ground flaxseed can easily be sprinkled over cereals and salads)
Iron – Whole grains, legumes (ie. beans & lentils), dark green vegetables such as kale, spinach and broccoli, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, fortified vegetarian ‘meats’ such as vegie sausages/hamburgers. *The best way to absorb iron into the body is eat lots of Vitamin C (found in many fruits).
Zinc – Whole grains and fortified cereals such as Weet Bix, fortified vegetarian ‘meats’ such as vegie sausages, nuts, tofu and wheat germ.
Calcium – Dark/leafy green vegetables, almonds & brazil nuts, fortified soymilk, fortified cereals and juices, legumes, tahini and some tofu brands.
Vitamin D – Fortified soymilk and cereals and sun exposure. *Many vegans and non vegans are low in Vitamin D because of the lack of sun exposure to prevent skin cancer.
Protein – Nuts & seeds, legumes/beans, tofu & tempeh, soymilk, whole grains