Q+A: I’m Interested in Adopting a Vegan Diet. Where Do I Begin?

Plant-based diets, like the vegan diet, can be great for your body, the planet, and local farmers.

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Q. What are the main benefits of going vegan?

A. A plant-based vegan diet can be one of the healthiest ways to eat if you do it right. It can also be great for the planet and for local farmers.

Q. What are some common mistakes that vegans make?

A. From my personal experience working as a health coach with vegans, they skimp on veggies and fall into two camps — the wrong carb trap and or the processed food kick. Loading up on highly processed vegan-style breads, crackers, and chips provides little in the way of nutrition and packs on empty calories.

Q. So what SHOULD I eat?

A. Swap highly processed carbs for minimally processed grains like whole grain pasta, quinoa flakes and plain old-fashioned oats that are high in fiber and low in preservatives. Add in whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, or faro. Keep your grain portion to around 3 to 4 cups a day, depending on how active you are.

In terms of other packaged foods marked vegan, there are good quality ones out there, but choose wisely. If they are carb-heavy (more than 10 grams per serving), factor them into your 3 to 4 cups a day so you have plenty of room for the fresh stuff. Going fresh means loading up on superfood veggies like kale, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, sweet potato, carrots, and many more. They will provide you with vitamins like A, B, C, K, and loads of essential minerals like iron, manganese, and magnesium, plus some protein and lots of fiber. More than 50 percent of what you eat each day should be fresh — aim for 5 to 7 cups of veggies a day.

Vegans should also make sure they pack in iron-rich foods, like beans, kale, and spinach, whenever possible. For even more energy, nosh on nuts and seeds for healthy fats and to get your dose of trace minerals like copper and selenium.

Jennifer Iserloh, aka the “Skinny Chef,” is a leader in promoting healthy, vibrant lifestyles though a diet of delicious and nutritious easy-to-prepare meals. A classically trained chef, certified yoga teacher, and a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Iserloh is the best-selling author of 50 Shades of Kale and Healthy Cheats, among other books.