Thinking of going vegan? Let's talk nutrition.
A well-balanced vegan diet includes a wide variety of whole-grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. But that doesn't mean you can't still enjoy your favourite foods with a vegan twist!
Throughout this page you will find resources to help you understand what to expect when switching to a vegan plant-based lifestyle and what you need to incorporate into your diet.
Grains: 6+ servings
6 or more servings per day (a serving is ½ cup cooked or ½ cup dry cereal/grain, 1 slice of wholemeal bread). Includes: wheat, oats, buckwheat, rice, corn, quinoa, cereals, wholemeal bread. Choose whole grains as refined grains have lost valuable nutrients. Whole grains are high in fibre and provide protein, minerals and B vitamins.
Legumes 3 – 4 servings
3 to 4 servings per day (a serving is a ½ cup of cooked legumes or 1 cup soy milk). Includes: beans, peas, and lentils. Legumes are the most protein-rich of all plant foods and provide 7 to 8 grams of protein per serve and even higher for soy foods (tofu, tempeh, soymilk). While it is easy to get enough protein on a well-balanced vegan diet, legumes are a rich source of the essential amino acid lysine which is limited in other food groups.
Back in the day we would have gotten enough B12 from plant based sources (like the residue of soil on our vegetables) but today there are no reliable plant-based food sources of vitamin B12. Vegans must get vitamin B12 from fortified foods (such as soy milk, marmite and nutritional yeast – check the labels) or a supplement. Vitamin B12 is critical for nervous system, mental and red blood cell health. Recommended dose 50mcg a day or 2000 a week.
Iron is critical for helping to transport oxygen to every cell in the body to produce energy so each cell can perform its vital function. Good food sources of iron include legumes (peanuts, beans, lentils, peas), nuts and seeds (cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds), dried apricots, raisins, and rolled oats.
A source of Omega-3 oil is essential and should be included in the diet every day. Omega-3 oils are important for decreasing inflammation in the body, maintaining healthy cell membranes and healthy brain function. Top sources of Omega-3 oils are flax seed oil, walnuts, chia seeds and hemp seed oil. Pour oils on top of food or add to smoothies. Include nuts on cereal, in salads or on top of meals.
Vitamin D is important for mental health, preventing depression, bone health and a strong immune system. The best source of Vitamin D is exposure to sunlight. There are no reliable plant-based food sources of Vitamin D. If you are unable to get enough sunlight then there are some great vegan Vitamin D supplements available.
Two Zesty Bananas – Founded by New Zealand doctors and whole plant-based food enthusiasts Dr Luke Wilson and Dr Mathew Hobbs. Recipes and nutritional advice.
Nutritional Facts – Find out what the latest science is saying about plant-based nutrition. Watch free videos on more than 2000 health and nutrition topics.
Eating Out Tips – There are so many more vegan options available around New Zealand these days. Here are some handy tips put together by The Vegan Society of Aotearoa regarding eating out.
Vegan and Plant Based Living Magazine – The Vegan Society’s quarterly magazine, New Zealand Vegan and Plant-Based Living, is packed with interesting and informative articles about being Vegan in Aotearoa. It includes features about vegan New Zealanders, recipes, lifestyle tips, cool new vegan products, info about upcoming events and much more!
A Guide to Vegan – A New Zealand based Facebook page for vegans and people interested in eating more vegan kai in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
Vegan Starter Kit – Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine have an excellent online starter kit providing nutritional information for all life stages including pregnancy & childhood.
Plant-Based Milk Guide – If you’re new to Veganism, choosing a plant-based milk can be overwhelming. This guide offers a great explanation of the most popular vegan milks in the supermarkets.