Going plant-based for most of us means a huge change from our traditional eating habits. We also live in an age when diets, calorie counting, portion control and points are the norm. Often, that means that when we go plant-based, we go into it with our standard approach and restrict ourselves too much. I’m not saying: eat Oreos (they are vegan!) all day and don’t worry about it. But I’m saying, be mindful that when you go plant-based, you will probably need to consider whether you’re eating enough.
You should most definitely stick to whole, minimally processed foods 90% of the time (and Oreos 10% of the time). If you eat that way though, you will need to eat more food overall because plants are less calorie dense. If you are super active and ride your bike everywhere, workout multiple times a day, and are always training for the next race or competition, then eating enough food is even more important!
Not eating enough can cause slow metabolism, moodiness, sluggishness, excessive hunger and thirst, loss of muscle tone, and a host of other issues. In the long run, you can even experience low bone density, loss of menstruation, and impaired immunity. Even if you’re drinking green juice and turmeric shots like it’s your job, your overall immune system will suffer if you’re not eating enough calories–and you’ll get sick often. Here are some tips on how you can make sure you’re eating enough and the right things when you are super active:
Add whole sources of fat to everything
Fat is essential for your body to make sure your brain functions well and you absorb all the amazing nutrients that the plant world has to offer you. But fat is also higher in calories than protein and carbohydrates, which makes it perfect if you are looking to eat more calories overall. It’s easy to add some healthy, non-processed sources of fat to your daily meals: for example, add some peanut butter to your smoothie in the morning, eat a hand full of nuts as a snack, have an avocado with lunch and add some tahini to your dinner stir fry. If you are active, your body will thank you for some extra fat. Avoid processed sources of fat like any oils, or nuts and seeds that are roasted in oils. Just go for the whole food!
Vegan High-Protein Tahini Date Smoothie is basically made for an active life with healthy fat, protein, and natural sugar.
Beans for the win
Another plant food category that will help you add some more calories to your diet are beans. Beans have a great mix of carbohydrates and protein and will provide your active lifestyle with a lasting source of energy. Beans can be easily included in dishes and meals where you wouldn’t expect them. For example, make your green smoothie with a cup of cannellini beans added to it. Bake some brownies and use black beans or chickpeas as a base. Or load up on some hummus as a snack in between meals.
GF Vegan Black Bean Brownies, anyone?
Eat more often
While I am a big believer in having your own rhythm when it comes to eating–some people love 2 or 3 big meals, some people are big snackers–an easy way to get more calories into your diet is to eat more food. Make sure to pack highly nutritious snacks and add a little break in the morning and in the afternoon. Maybe, instead of just having a coffee at 10am or 4pm (you shouldn’t drink coffee that late anyway) bring some homemade granola or snack on some fresh fruit. It will keep your energy levels up and help you get in some additional calories.
4. Add some pre-workout snacks
If you work out a lot, meaning at least 60 minutes, 5 time per week, then you should definitely think about the extra calories that you are burning during and after your workouts. While you need 2,000-2,500 calories a day on average without major workouts, any added physical activity might bring you into the negative which can lead you to feel tired, depleted and exhausted over time. Make sure to include some healthy plant-powered pre workout snacks. I love to snack on a sweet potato or some nuts before a long run or weight workout. You can also make a smoothie with bananas, nut butter, and some oat milk if you are looking for something that doesn’t require chewing.
Do you have any questions about eating enough while plant-based?