How do I get 100% targets on a vegan diet (with meal plans please)?

I’m a new vegan 14 year old, and have realized I’m not getting 100% targets, but only 50%. I take two supplements (one for Vitamin D and Calcium, the other has 60% Iron, 8% Calcium, close to 100 or more of Vitamin A, C, B12, and Folate, other vitamins too, 100% Zinc, Selenium, Manganese, and a little bit of copper). However, I’m having trouble getting protein (I eat very little protein), and some other minerals. I want to get a good amount of protein, but I don’t want to eat tofu too much because I’m afraid of having really big breasts even though I’m a girl lol. Sorry for the rant, but I need help.

Answers

  • Beans and pulses are the usual sources of protein to substitute for all animal products. Chick peas and kidney beans are used in a lot of recipes.

    (I'm not vegan and don't have any vegan meal plans, but thought that my answer would break the silence here.)

  • Cronometer seems to have extremely high "requirements" for protein. I recommend Googling how many grams of protein you really need. If you're looking for suggestions on what to eat, try beans, quinoa, spirulina, hemp seeds, nuts (soak them for a while before eating them for better absorbtion" or even protein powder added to a smoothie. Tempeh is surprisingly high in protein.

  • @Vegan568

    I'm a vegan dietitian (12 years vegan, 8 years RD) and can reassure you that soy products will not cause breast tissue growth, or any other issues for that matter.

    Given your age, it might be worthwhile to work with a healthcare professional to ensure you are getting everything you need. I'm in Canada and work remotely but you can also search for vegan dietitians near you to see if any are close.

    At breakfast, good protein sources include:

    • chickpea omelet
    • tofu scramble
    • protein pancakes
    • high protein bread (Silver Hill's)
    • peanut butter
    • quinoa oatmeal

    At lunch and supper, you should be including at least 1 cup of either beans/lentils, tofu/tempeh, seitan.

    I would also try to include at least 2 cups of plant milk/fortified plant yogurt per day (smoothies, drinks, oatmeal, etc.).

    Also, check out the following blogs for more information:

    https://cronometer.com/blog/everything-you-need-to-know-about-eating-plant-based-part-1/

    https://cronometer.com/blog/everything-you-need-to-know-about-eating-plant-based-part-2/

    Let me know if you have any follow-up questions!

    Susan Macfarlane, MScA, RD
    Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
    cronometer.com
    As always, any and all postings here are covered by our T&Cs:
    https://forums.cronometer.com/discussion/27/governing-terms-and-disclaimer

  • @Vegan568

    If you're vegan for ethical reasons, I would highly recommend tweaking your ethics to accommodate at least some animal foods. If your approach is going to be nutritional, and less supplement oriented there are some nutrients you simply cannot get from plant foods, beyond vitamin D and B12. Actually, some of them aren't found as supplements either. Some of these nutrients are well studied, some aren't. But, I take the attitude that it is better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them. So I eat a mix that is usually 50/50 plant foods and animal foods by calories. 50% carbs, 20% fat, and 30% protein usually.


    Honestly, the DRI for protein is probably too low. Protein is costly, so it was assessed with a slightly different attitude when the DRI was formulated. For fat and carbs, the attitude was centered around what we could get away with having, because fat and carbs are cheap. Protein is expensive, so the attitude was centered around assessing the bare minimum. Personally I eat at least 2.4g of protein per kg of lean mass. For me that ends up being about 150g of protein per day. I often exceed 180g of protein because I also incorporate collagen. So far as I can tell from the literature, this level of protein intake is optimal for nitrogen balance.


    Honestly, I have not encountered a single vegan whose ethics would actually warrant strict abstinence from animal foods. Once they distill down their core principles, there are always some animal foods they can incorporate. For example, I have not heard a single persuasive ethical argument against eating bivalves. If you're worried about getting zinc or B12, bivalves are great. If you ate them a couple times a week you'd be more resistant to deficiency than you are now. The only difference is you wouldn't be able to call yourself a vegan. So, if you refuse on the basis that bivalves aren't vegan, you'd have to ask yourself if your diet had more to do with adequate nutrition or more to do with pride or prestige.

  • Waffles, I'm curious to hear your rationale for that much protein. Do you have a link to a study or anything? Regarding vitamins, a b-12 supplement is cheap and easy. And regarding zinc I've actually been really thankful to Cronometer for showing me that I'm getting plenty in my diet (99% vegan) without supplementation. Iron too.

  • I think the better question is, can you point to any literature suggesting that less protein (<1g/kg LBM) as opposed to more protein (>2g/kg LBM) is optimal for muscle anabolism and nitrogen balance? To my knowledge there is none. Pretty much universally in clinical trials more protein is favourable to less protein. Virtually without exception (seriously, type "protein intake LBM anabolic randomized" into PubMed and try to find a study wherein the lower protein group did better). Personally, I know I don't make gains well on <100g per day. Closer to 200g per day, and bulking becomes pretty effortless.


    I'd be curious to know what your sources of zinc and iron are. To my knowledge the vegan foods most abundant in zinc and iron are legumes and seeds. But according to the literature, depending on the legume or seed, bioavailability can be as low as 1% in the case of iron in black beans, and as high as 18% in the case of chickpeas. Similar story for zinc. But 18% bioavailability at a dose delivering, like, 10% of the RDA would have me worried, personally. In my opinion those minerals are best delivered through animal foods because the bioavailability is nearly 100% for both and only limited by absorption caps set by your body. Personally I'd rather not have to worry about phytate, oxalates, or other chelating compounds when I can just eat a steak and a chunk of cheese.

  • edited May 8

    I think we need to be careful to not get too bogged down in the details of nutrition literature. Remember, just because something is published (and peer-reviewed), doesn't mean the research is any good. Nutrition is by far the most difficult topic to study and I highly recommend sticking to studies that are systematic reviews or meta-analyses of RCT trials. Ideally, the journal should also have an impact factor of at least 6.0 and the GRADE approach and a risk of bias should be mentioned as part of the study. And remember, even the BEST studies will still have limitations and confounders that limit the generalizabiliy of findings.

    Considering what I've said, it doesn't appear that vegans who follow well-balanced diets are at an increased risk of overt nutrient deficiencies. We also really don't know how much of the DRIs apply to vegans given that they weren't included in any analysis (only vegetarians) and we have evidence that the body is able to adjust absorptive capacities to changes in nutrient availability.

    One of my side hustles :smiley: is reviewing and integrating vegan nutrition research so I will definitely be the first to let you know if following a vegan diet requires any additional supplementation or is harmful for our health. In general, I do encourage the following:

    • Protein at 1.2 g per kg of healthy body weight (more for athletes)
    • Zinc RDA x 1.5
    • Iron RDA x 1.5-1.8 (really comes down to losses)
    • Supplemental B12: 1000 mcg 2-3x per week
    • Vitamin D : 1000 IU per day
    • Source of iodine (supplement or iodized salt)
    • DHA: 500 mg per day (algae)

    While you can argue that some of these foods can be met by adding in small amounts of animal protein, I think it comes down to individual choice since for many people, the addition of this animal protein may displace other, healthier foods. And just because you have to supplement, doesn't mean your diet is any less healthy.

    Kind regards,

    Susan Macfarlane, MScA, RD
    Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
    cronometer.com
    As always, any and all postings here are covered by our T&Cs:
    https://forums.cronometer.com/discussion/27/governing-terms-and-disclaimer

  • Don't you find it a little odd that vegan diets must be supplemented and certain RDAs inflated to compensate for mineral-chelating compounds in plants? Doesn't that in fact mean that the vegan diet itself is actually displacing healthier choices in the form of animal foods? If you didn't have access to supplements, you'd have to admit that an omnivorous diet is healthier, because it would provide those missing or more difficult-to-get nutrients.

    Unless you're in effect suggesting that animal foods are in fact nutritious, but are so uniquely risky and/or damaging for other reasons that they aren't worth the nutrition they provide. In which case we'd just have to agree to disagree. I am firmly of the opinion that a plate of beef liver and bacon is nutritionally superior per gram or calorie to a plate of mixed fruit.

  • I just want to preface this by saying this is my personal opinion (as I try to answer questions as objectively as possible).

    I think where we might agree to disagree is on our view of supplements; I can acknowledge that a vegan diet does not meet 100% of all RDAs, while simultaneously recognizing that those RDAs may not be relevant to vegans (which means approaching them as conservatively as possible). From a population standpoint, we should be promoting a diet that does the most good for the greatest number of people and has the lowest impact on global warming. With regard to the latter, it's difficult to dispute that any other diet, other than plant-based, is the solution.

    With regard to nutrition, I tend to look at foods and diets as net positives vs. net negatives. For example, a plant-based diet can lower the risk of many chronic diseases, and provided it's unprocessed, tends to be protective against obesity and cancer. Yet, it needs to be supplemented. In this view, I feel like the benefits outweigh the negatives.

    With more animal-centric diets, I tend to consider if those animal products displace other, more nutritious foods and if there are any negative (measurable) effects of such a diet (which includes a consideration of the environmental impact of our food choices - all dietitians should be considering this IMO). While I do think small amounts of animal products have negligible impacts, we tend to struggle with moderation as a society. So my opinion on omnivore diets and the overall healthfullness and environmental benefit comes down to the specific type of diet that is followed.

    All this to say, I think there are many ways that humans can eat and be healthy but based on research (most recently the EAT Lancet report), I do think a more plant-centric diet has the greatest positive impact on both human and environmental health.

    Kind regards,

    Susan Macfarlane, MScA, RD
    Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
    cronometer.com
    As always, any and all postings here are covered by our T&Cs:
    https://forums.cronometer.com/discussion/27/governing-terms-and-disclaimer

  • "I think where we might agree to disagree is on our view of supplements; I can acknowledge that a vegan diet does not meet 100% of all RDAs, while simultaneously recognizing that those RDAs may not be relevant to vegans (which means approaching them as conservatively as possible)"

    That would be a BOLD assumption, and so far there is no evidence upon which to make it. In fact, some of the most robust prospective data on veganism consistently reveal poorer status of several nutrients, in addition to poorer health endpoints for women. As of yet, there is virtually no reason to believe that a vegan diet modulates the needs for different nutrients. Especially nutrients most likely to be problematic on a vegan diet: B12, vitamin D, zinc, iron, etc. I realize that you prefaced your statement by saying it was just an opinion. But, personally I'm actually shocked that an RD would even hold such an opinion. No offense.

    "With regard to nutrition, I tend to look at foods and diets as net positives vs. net negatives. For example, a plant-based diet can lower the risk of many chronic diseases, and provided it's unprocessed, tends to be protective against obesity and cancer. Yet, it needs to be supplemented. In this view, I feel like the benefits outweigh the negatives."

    Yes, a supplemented whole foods vegan diet is more nutritionally robust and more likely to be hypo- or eucaloric than the standard American diet. I agree. But a whole foods omnivorous diet is still superior to that by nearly every metric that is relevant. I don't particularly care about nutritional epidemiology or prospective cohort data. I mean, sure we MIGHT have to reckon with it, and if it is robust enough we have to integrate it. But the data suggesting animal foods are bad for health are consistently shaky and often equally powered, contradictory data can be found. These sorts of studies are used to inform hypotheses about nutrition and health. They're not in and of themselves answers, and it's incorrect to treat them like answers or imply they act as stand-ins for the truth in the absence of experimental data. We have plenty of natural experiments demonstrating that animal foods pose no obvious health risk in many traditional cultures around the world, even when eaten in abundance or even to the exclusion of most plant foods.

    "All this to say, I think there are many ways that humans can eat and be healthy but based on research (most recently the EAT Lancet report), I do think a more plant-centric diet has the greatest positive impact on both human and environmental health."

    As far as environmental considerations go, I don't see changes in consumer behaviour as a durable strategy to preventing environmental catastrophe. Personally, I'm fully persuaded that simply having fewer children is the least destructive path forward. Is eating meat bad for the planet? It depends on whether you're trying to feed 9 billion people or 1 billion people. Where you might choose veganism to meet your goals, I simply choose to not reproduce. Statistically, a vegan with solar panels on his roof and an electric car in his garage would have a greater carbon footprint than me if he had one child and I had none. Even if I ate an omnivorous diet, drove a normal car, and got my electricity from a hydroelectric dam.

  • But, I'm curious to know more about how you determine whether or not a dietary pattern is a net negative or a net positive, if not by measuring the nutrition the diet or foods provide. If an animal food is providing more nutrition than the plant food it may be displacing, how could that be a net negative nutritionally? If you can weigh the net positive vs net negative impact of different foods or dietary patterns reliably, perhaps you could tell me whether or not my diet is a net positive or net negative to my health. Here's a diary entry from a typical day for me. Just how much damage are these animal foods doing?


  • Very good post by BBWaffles.

    On the point about environmentalism, you should bear in mind that it depends on exactly where you live. When the UN make recommendations, they are general principles for the whole world, but they don't apply in every single place. If you live on a Scottish island, eating the fish caught off the coast has a lower carbon footprint than eating beans and pulses from thousands of miles away. When the UN says that land used for animal agriculture could be put to better use with plant-based food, they are not talking about 100% of animal-grazing land in the world. The most obvious examples here are desert areas where animals can be grazed but nothing can be grown. A very different example would be cold hilly areas. Even here in Britain, there are upland areas used for sheep grazing where the land could not be used for much else.

  • Hi @BRBWaffles

    We actually do have pretty good evidence to show that the body's ability to absorb iron improves on a plant-based diet. And you also bring up some good points:

    1. We can't make assumptions about diets unless we have rigorous and conclusive evidence to support our hypotheses. As such, we don't know how vegans adapt to absorbing nutrients since the trials don't exist or are small/short-lived. Just to reiterate, I'm not saying that vegans do absorb nutrients differently, rather that it's possible and we don't know yet.

    2. Research studies are always flawed (or biased. As a tangent, when I went to do my MSc, I couldn't find a research project that interested me AND wasn't supported by industry!). When it comes to any diet, we need to know a lot more details about the types of foods that are consumed. Nowadays, it's a lot more important to distinguish "whole-foods, plant-based" from "vegan" as there is a lot of processed food that has become the mainstay of vegan diets over the past 10 years; a processed diet is a processed diet at the end of the day. Similarly, when looking at omnivorous diets, we need to know the quality of food that was consumed. Doing this adds in a whole bunch of confounders that can often limit findings.

      From a nutritional standpoint, I don't believe in one superior diet (although, I do like to look to the Blue Zones for guidance). Even when someone is eating the "perfect" diet, there are other factors that influence health outcomes, such as mental health and loneliness. I also sometimes see people's pursuit of the perfect diet have a negative impact on social and emotional functioning.

    In terms of net positive vs. negative of nutrition, I tend to look beyond just measurable nutrients to things like inflammatory status, carbiometabolic profile and fitness, mental and emotional well-being, etc. The best research to date demonstrates that eating a predominantly plant-based and unprocessed diet can meet these outcomes. This doesn't necessarily mean that someone needs to eat vegan...but neither it suggest that vegans are suffering as a result. Of course, with better research, this can change.

    And I agree with the comment above; a local diet is also important for the environment.

    P.S. Do I get extra points for eating plant-based AND not having kids? LOL ;). But you are right, kids are adorable but our growing population is a problem.

    Kind regards,

    Susan Macfarlane, MScA, RD
    Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
    cronometer.com
    As always, any and all postings here are covered by our T&Cs:
    https://forums.cronometer.com/discussion/27/governing-terms-and-disclaimer

Sign In or Register to comment.