When you make the decision to go vegan, you are cutting out the primary sources of protein and calcium in a standard diet. It takes making some careful choices to ensure that you get all the nutrients you need.
Many new (and old) vegans turn to commercially available meat-free products to make up for this lack of protein. You can buy every kind of veggie “meat” that’s made of soya — from burgers to hot dogs to a whole turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner. Of course, there are also many soya dairy products, such as milk, cheese and ice cream. Besides soya products, there are also many meat-free products made of gluten, such as faux chicken nuggets and strips, burgers and even fish fillets.
Soya and gluten are both common food allergens, and many people have intolerances to them. Even for people who don’t have intolerances to them, they still pose issues: Soya can be a hormonal disruptor and gluten can cause digestive issues, and both are linked to a number of health issues.
You can create a meal that is full of protein, calcium, iron and all the other nutrients you would typically get from animal products without having to resort to soya or gluten substitutes. Here are a few foods you can use to create the perfect gluten-free, soya-free vegan meal:
Rice and Beans
The combination of rice and beans is considered to be the perfect protein. It has plenty of protein, iron, manganese, folate and magnesium. By combining rice and beans with some fresh veggies, you have a nearly perfect meal (if it’s possible for any meal to really be considered “perfect”). Adding some herbs and spices will add flavor, as well as additional nutrients and powerful antioxidants.This is what they typically do at the best schools for culinary arts.
Nutritional yeast is a rich source of B-complex vitamins, including B12, which is hard to find in plant sources. Nutritional yeast has a very strong flavor, which is comparable to cheese. Therefore, you can sprinkle it on dishes the way you would a parmesan cheese. You can even melt it if you sprinkle it on a dish and bake it. Nutritional yeast would make a great addition to your rice and beans or to other dishes like pasta.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are high in protein, but they aren’t exactly a great meat substitute. While some people are successful in creating meatless burgers out of a meal of beans and seeds like sunflower seeds, nuts and seeds are most often used as a replacement for dairy products. In particular, nuts make great milks once they have been soaked, blended and strained. You can also make cheeses by soaking and pulsing them, or you can buy commercially made nut cheeses.
Add some nut milk or nut cheeses to your entree or to enjoy as a side item to add some additional protein, calcium (from almonds and sesame seeds) and healthy fats including omega-3s (from walnuts).
Mushrooms have plenty of protein, as well as B vitamins. They also have a meaty texture that makes them great as meat substitutes. A grilled portabella cap can be eaten like a hamburger or even a steak. Admittedly, it’s not going to taste like a steak, but it will have a hearty, meaty texture that will imitate the experience. You can also buy commercially available meat substitutes that are made with mushroom proteins. Of course, you can also add grilled or sautéed mushrooms to any veggie or rice-based dish.
Coconut milk is rich and creamy and is full of healthy fats and other nutrients. It makes an excellent dairy substitute. You can buy commercially prepared coconut dairy products, including milk, yogurt, ice cream and more. You can use coconut milk in any recipe that you would use regular milk, so you can create a number of great dishes that you otherwise might not have been able to enjoy on a vegan diet. Coconut milk also has a mild flavor, so you don’t have to worry about it making everything taste like coconut.
As a vegan, you have to make careful choices so that you get the protein, calcium, B vitamins and other nutrients that you might otherwise have been getting from animal products. However, you should be careful not to rely on commercial products that are full of soya and gluten, which can be problematic in and of themselves. These ideas can help you create the perfect soya-free, gluten-free vegan meal to get all the nutrients you need and to enjoy tasty dishes.