Updated: Jun 2, 2022
“I decided to pick the diet that I thought would maximize my chances of long-term survival” – Al Gore
In Australia, if I go out for a meal, I have to look for a ‘V’ beside an option on a menu, and count myself lucky if; there is one, there is more than one, or any of the three options are not entirely made of dairy products. I’ve been asked if I’d like to add cheese to a vegan pizza, served a bowl of sludgy risotto rice with a lone, un-identifiable green garish on top, and at a party been told the only thing available for me to eat is ‘the grass on the back lawn’. If I’m not yet humiliated enough by the dining experience, my family or friends sometimes politely inquire, “But what do you actually eat?”
The ambiguity of the general population about what vegans eat is really fascinating to me. The graph above puts it very simply; if it comes from an animal – it’s not included in a vegan diet.
There is a lot of hype around what portion of each macro-nutrient should make up your daily energy requirement. The Atkins Diet says low carbohydrate is best for weight loss (I believe Dr Atkins is the man to blame for the demonisation of the humble carbohydrate!) The Paleo’s say high animal protein, to keep you feeling ‘full’, so does the CSIRO Diet. Then there’s also the Liver Cleansing Diet, the Gluten-Free Diet, FODMAP Diet, the Sugar Free Diet, the list goes on, and on, and on. S
So what’s the magic ratio?
I believe its best practice to try to be balanced in all three macro-nutrients, but as a vegan diet is primarily fruit and vegetables, it is naturally high in carbohydrates. I recently learnt of a large study that found that a low-carbohydrate diet based on animal sources (read, the Atkins Diet, Paleo, CSIRO Diet and co) was associated with higher all-cause mortality in both men and women whereas a vegetable-based low carbohydrate diet was associated with lower all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality rates (see Nutritionfacts.org video in resources). Therefore, it appears as long as what you eat grew in the ground, even if that’s primarily fat-based avocado and protein-packed soy-based products, you can’t really go wrong.
One of the most influential things I took from Forks Over Knives was the caloric density of food types, regardless of their macro-nutrient make up. As you can see below, plant-based diets enable you to eat until you’re full but still consume fewer and higher quality calories than if your calories had come from an animal-based source.
So what does this look like on a plate?
I have oats, bread, noddles, rice, pasta, quinoa, barley, buckwheat or a big sweet potato as the foundation of any meal and I try to eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables everyday. A typical day lately includes; granola and berries for breakfast; banana and soy latte for morning tea; tomato and avocado on seedy toast for lunch; an orange and handful of almonds for afternoon tea; and a sweet potato stuffed with red cabbage, kidney beans, corn, coriander for dinner. Coriander is kinda my thing – it makes anything taste fresh and look beautiful! I do not comprehend the slug-flavour argument!
A bad day looks something like this; vegemite on four rounds of toast and an Earl Grey cuppa; a vegan pie for lunch at a local vegan-friendly café with my boy; a take away pizza for dinner (eggplant, onion, garlic, capsicum, add mushrooms – hold the mozzarella) and half a bottle of Shiraz to wash it down. Yes, I can and do eat a lot, and though I love cooking, I permit myself to be lazy occasionally. Food is for nutrition yes, but also about comfort and pleasure.
Thanks for reading,
Plant-based Atkins Diet; http://nutritionfacts.org/video/plant-based-atkins-diet/