Changing Health lifestyle coach and resident vegan Jadine answers your questions on how to live a healthy, happy lifestyle, free from animal products.
So, what do vegans eat?
Vegans don’t eat any kind of produce that comes from an animal. That includes the obvious ones: meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs and honey – and the not so obvious ones: gelatine, milk powder (found in some pizza bases), gummy sweets, some kinds of crisps and vegetable stock contain animal products too.
Instead, vegans live on a plant-based diet, made up of grains (like bread and pasta) pulses (like beans and chickpeas), vegetables, fruit, and nuts. Vegans eat the same kinds of meals as everyone else – from curries and chillis to pizza and pasta – but with a few substitutions in the ingredients.
What kind of benefits will I see?
- Weight loss, which decreases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure or fatty-liver disease too.
- Better glycaemic control or in other words, maintaining normal blood sugar levels for more of the time.
- Being more aware of what you’re eating – If you’re working towards cutting out animal products, you usually need to plan ahead, or take a closer look at what’s in your food. This is a really important skill to have when you’re making lifestyle changes.
So far, so good. But I have Type 2 diabetes. Is it suitable for me?
Yes! In fact, it might even help you manage your diabetes better than any other approach. Clinical trials have shown a low-fat, plant-based diet keeps your blood glucose more balanced than any other diet usually recommended for people with Type 2 diabetes(1).
There’s also evidence that compared to meat eaters, vegans have a lower BMI and less fat on the body and around internal organs; they’re all factors that help your body regulate its blood glucose properly(2).
Can I eat what I want, as long as it’s plant-based?
Like any lifestyle choice, it’s important to follow a balanced vegan diet. Just being vegan doesn’t necessarily mean you’re living healthily; some ‘accidentally vegan’ foods aren’t healthy at all. Foods like:
- Classic Oreos (and lots of other biscuit brands)
- Certain flavours of Doritos and other crisps
- Most breads
- Gelatine free gummy sweets
And remember: being vegan means avoiding animal products as far it’s practical to do so. Your health comes first. So never skip meals!
Instead, plan ahead. When you already know what you’ll be eating in the week ahead – and with so many places on the high street offering tasty, plant-based meals these days, being avoiding animal products is easy as (plant-based) pie.
Where should I start?
Here’s one of my favourite vegan recipes – it’s healthy, budget-friendly and packed with good stuff.
Mexican bean soup with tortilla chips and avocados
- Fry some onion & garlic until it’s tender and golden
- Add chilli, smoked paprika, 400g canned tomatoes, black beans and coriander
- Cook for 1 minute, then add vegetable stock
- Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes
- Season with salt and pepper, then blend until smooth
- Serve into bowls, top with avocado & tortilla chips, chilli and coriander – et voila!