5 things vegans should pay attention to

5 things vegans should pay attention to

My mom calls me a “nerd” a lot. It’s because if you get me started on nutrition, theatre, or my dogs it’s hard to shut me up. Hence why I started blogging about it…to save my poor mom from all my ranting.

Today we get to chat about something equally nerdy and important…nutrients!

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Yaaaay! 

How often have you heard: “I need more protein”, “Where do you get your protein?”, “I heard carbs are bad…” (etc) in general conversation?

Now picture a dinner party and how many of your friends (who don’t have a condition like hypertension) are saying: “My potassium intake is INTENSE” or “My selenium is rather low today. Anyone have any brazil nuts?”

Yeah…not heard a lot. If you’re vegan, you’re a little bit more aware of these micros than someone on a standard American diet (aptly abbreviated to SAD). And if you’re not, don’t worry, you’re not going to die.

There are some micronutrients that you, or the vegan in your life, should be paying attention to regardless of diet.

What’s a micronutrient?

Like a macronutrient, a micronutrient is something our body uses to stay healthy just on a smaller scale. For example, sodium (which is part of NaCl- sodium chloride, table salt) helps our muscles, heart, and nerves fire when we need them to.

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Which ones are the ones vegans need to pay attention to? There’s a lot of micronutrients.

Here are what I consider to be the top 5 micronutrients you should be focusing on:

  • Iron (+Vitamin C) (yes, technically 2 in one…you’ll see)
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium
  • B12
  • Zinc

Iron

Iron is used for a few things in the body:

  • Oxygen transport
  • Keeping blood cells healthy.

If you are an individual who menstruates, you may already be aware that iron is needed more during menstruation since you’re losing a bit of blood.

It also helps in handy little things like energy production, DNA synthesis, and acts like an antioxidant in the body (https://veganhealth.org/iron-part-1/#functions-iron) .

Vitamin C is tagged on there because it helps increase your adsorption of iron. Simply put, it acts like a magnet: it scoops up more iron for your body than your body would get if you didn’t add any vitamin C.

Including vitamin C in an iron-rich meal can look as simple as enjoying an orange after eating some lentil salad (you can even include some spinach, another source of iron).

I’m bad at recipes and cooking (working on it!) so here’s an article on iron sources from No Meat Athlete.

Vitamin D

Necessary for bone health and calcium absorption. If you drink dairy milk, you might have noticed there are dairy products that include vitamin D and it’s because of the link between vitamin D and calcium.

Often, during the sunny months, humans can get vitamin D from the sun. However, during colder months, getting vitamin D can be a challenge (unless you’re one of those people who can wear shorts when it’s freezing…if you’re this person, you scare me with your strength).

There are vegan/vegetarian sources of vitamin D like algae, and vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) supplements.

Calcium

Not exclusive to dairy, calcium can be found in numerous sources like spinach, tofu set in a calcium solution, sesame seeds, and fortified plant milks. You don’t have to have dairy products to get calcium, so vegans rejoice!

Much like Vitamin C + Iron, Calcium + Vitamin D is a dream team of micronutrients. Calcium is needed for bone health (something you might remember from health class) but is also needed for a healthy nervous system.

B12

Even non-vegans need to pay attention to their B12 intake. B12 is not naturally from animal products as some might claim, but rather is found in soil bacteria that we used to get by not washing our produce before we ate it.

By the way…please wash your produce. You can get B12 without eating dirt.

The book Vegan for Life by Jack Norris and Ginny Messina, two vegan RDs, explains that the best way to supplement B12 is with a sublingual supplement.

If you are a vegan, you cannot skip your B12. B12 is necessary for healthy brain function and a B12 deficiency is no laughing matter.

But don’t let that scare you- B12 is easy to come by with these supplements.

If you or your teen want to go vegan, having a varied diet is key to getting these micronutrients in and making sure you’re getting what you need for your lifestyle. Just like paleo, the Mediterranean diet, keto, whatever eating fad crosses your mind, veganism just needs a little bit of time to plan for variety!

These are the top five nutrients I believe people need to pay attention to. What are your top five? Let me know!

And remember: Do your homework, eat a vegetable, and make sure to smile at someone today. Bye!

 

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MyFitnessPal vs Cronometer

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About a month ago I decided I’d start logging my food so I could make sure I was getting enough protein for my goals and keep my sodium in check. If you remember my past blog, I talked a little bit about how a family member is on a sodium-restricted diet and I wanted to see how I do where sodium is concerned.

So I have a long, complicated relationship with MyFitnessPal. It was once my worst enemy, telling me what I could and couldn’t eat, and the glaring red numbers if I went over my targets made me feel shame rather than a sense of ‘that’s interesting!’

Lots of blame, lots of ish, lots of bad headspace eventually built up so I stopped tracking for a while- and I caught myself in this mindset again at camp, so I stopped tracking until now.

After a lot of time to develop a healthy relationship with food, I can say that I use tracking a lot differently than I have in the past. Instead of a scorecard of my worth, it’s a tool for me to make sure I’m getting the micronutrients I need (my friend Emily, who I went to high school with and is now an RD, made an AWESOME comment on my IG post– and I’ll talk more about blood tests next week!) and that I’m paying attention to my nutrition as an athlete.

Not to mention that because of my ADHD, tracking helps me make sure I am actually eating what I need and when I need to rather than forgetting to eat, or over eating and hurting my stomach!

I had heard of Cronometer from Unnatural Vegan and wanted to give it a shot since I knew it tracked lots of trace micronutrients and vitamins/minerals that MyFitnessPal missed. I want to outline the pros and cons for you of both apps, both of which I’ve used, so if you want to check your intake, you can make a choice based on your interests.

I’m covering just the apps, since using it on my phone is much quicker and I often just quick add all my food in the morning and go about my day.

MyFitnessPal

Pros:

This app, to me, is much easier to use. I find the interface to be friendlier for me- and not just because I’ve been using it for a while, but with my executive functioning I’ve found the cleaner an app, the more I use it.

MFP lets you separate your intake by meals and snacks which immediately makes it easy to see what my intake is going to be for the day. It lets me easily see what I need to eat and when so I can just look at it and go.

Ads are kept to banners or you scroll past them on your feed- they don’t pop up while I enter food in, so way less invasive.

Cons:

It does have a social media aspect to it with statuses, feeds, and friending options. While it’s not necessarily a downfall of the app, this could be a negative for some people. I find it to be neutral-leaning-towards-con just because I would rather just use it for tracking and not socializing.

It’s not as in-depth as Cronometer but enough to get the job done. MFP tracks protein, calories, fat, and important micronutrients: potassium, calcium, cholesterol, sodium, vitamins a&c, and iron.

While these are all crucial to keep an eye on, as a vegan, I wish they tracked B vitamins as well.

Cronometer

Pros:

Cronometer is a nutrition nerds dream. It tracks nearly every micronutrient, down to SELENIUM! And is also a little bit more generous with calories than MFP is.

I love that they use the circles to show the percentage you have left in the day, and that the intake of macros is on the home page, so I don’t have to switch back and forth like I do with MFP.

Their database is a bit more accurate than MFP since Cronometer taps into government databases and websites rather than allowing anyone to enter nutrition information and have it show up in the search function. It removes the step of double checking if restaurant items or coffees are correct.

Cons:

Cronometer lists all your food in one big list, so it can be difficult for me to read through when I’m going about my day and need to remember what I’m having for lunch. While for some people this might not be a problem, it can be frustrating as a feature when I need to quickly check the app.

The ads…good Lord, y’all. The ads are pop-up style and often videos that play audio so picture me, half asleep, entering data in at 7am having the fear of God struck into me as a meditation ad starts playing! There will also be times where I’m entering something in and an ad plays directly after, making me forget where I was in my ‘entering my daily foods’ process.

Overall, I’ve decided to use chronometer more as a diagnostic tool than an everyday tracker. After this week I’ll take note of all the micro nutrients I’ve been consistently low on and incorporate more foods high in that nutrient to help get my diet more balanced.

What do you think? Which one do you prefer, or do you prefer not to track at all? Let me know here, on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook!

Nutrition education and teen girls

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For the first time in a long while I had a really week last week.

I had a job interview for a diet clerk job at a hospital some ways away in the morning, I volunteered at my old middle school in the afternoon, and I attended an orientation on human trafficking and how to spot it in the evening.

Not only did I get some good old highway driving in (#suburbiaproblems), but I also biked somewhere for the first time since November. And it wasn’t like my campus biking- this was about 20 minutes of biking through an upper-middle class town while dodging guys in small cars, with darkened windows, wearing HEADPHONES.

Come on, y’all. Please don’t tell me you’re wearing those while you drive. Think of the children.  (And me…please)

That’s why I didn’t write this post on last week- I was out and about for a while. My dogs didn’t like it one bit. Friday was another weird day for me- Grandma came over, and I even went to a theatre performance based off of the stories of male prostitutes in Chicago.

But I did want to address this article, because I was so so happy to see it show up on my Google alerts.

Malnutrition Deeply, an offset of the website News Deeply, published an article the other day titled “Nutrition Community ‘Leaving Adolescent Girls Behind’.”  It’s an interview with Dr. Marie T. Ruel, who is the director of Poverty, Health and Nutrition Division for the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Her main philosophy is that women are often left behind once past what’s called their first 1,000 days, which is the period in which health practitioners work to protect newborns and infants against malnutrition while they grow.

Other points about the interview include agriculture, value chains, and how to urge government intervention. It’s a great read and you should spend some time with it.

Adolescent Nutrition

I think the reason Dr. Ruel discusses nutrition intervention for adolescents designated female at birth/capable of child-bearing because of a few things:

  • Society’s outlook on how teen girls eat
  • The importance of pre-conception nutrition for a healthy pregnancy
  • Nutrition intervention in general towards teens

When talking about this article with people, I noted something my Dad mentioned: when someone mentions they have two teen boys, the joke is ‘How do you keep food in the house’, whereas with girls…you can’t really say that.

Even though all teens are growing at the same rate, it’s only okay for boys to eat to fuel growth spurts. Girls, both through peer and media influence, are already being told they need to eat less and that “fat” is a bad thing.

Using nutrition intervention for teen girls, letting them know it’s OKAY to eat, and that they must eat, already puts us on the right path for helping teenagers have a healthy puberty and adjust to being body positive, intuitively eating adults.

In general, nutrition intervention in teens seems to fall by the wayside compared to adult and child nutrition. Think of the nutrition education you had in school- was it one unit, maybe two in health class? What resources did you have?

Compared to childhood nutrition, where there are a lot of books and resources and TV shows for kids, and adults, who have blogs, dietitians, books geared toward them- teens don’t get much.

And we could save them a lot of stress in adulthood by teaching them now.

What do you guys think? Do you think we need more nutrition education at home, or should the school be more active?

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In Defense of Breakfast

 

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photo credit: jeshoots on PEXELS

It happened again.

Your alarm went off WAY too soon, you’re scrambling to get out the door, and breakfast is nothing but a quick cup of coffee before you get to class.

You’re a little hungry, but you know lunch is coming up soon, and you push through it until your head starts to ache and you get grumpy. As you eat lunch, the symptoms get better, and you tell yourself you won’t do that again until the alarm goes off WAY too soon the next morning…

Breakfast is heralded as “the most important meal of the day”! And despite what you may hear, this still rings true.

Why is that?

Our bodies burn energy even while we sleep, so the food you ate the day before is burned as energy while your body works to repair, rejuvenate, and ready your body for the next day. So when you wake up, your body has been burning energy for a while, even if you haven’t be conscious enough to notice it.

I remember back when I was in high school, it was always advised to drink a tall cold glass of water before even considering the idea you might be hungry. I would eat minimal breakfasts and then wonder why my head ached a few hours later.

Because you were HUNGRY!

Even if it’s just a piece of toast, fruit, and some peanut butter, that kind of energy can go a long way from avoiding that mid class burnout.

Activities that need your attention and brain power, like work and class, can only be hindered by the brain fog that comes on when you start to get hungry. And if you can’t sneak a snack, that can only make it worse.

So eat your breakfast!

Time-Saving Tips

For people like me with ADHD, switching tasks can be difficult. This is, in part, due to executive dysfunction. That difficulty is often due to the overwhelming-ness that comes to moving from one task to another.

A lot of reasons as to why ADHD people have issues switching tasks, here’s an article from Adult ADD Strengths.

How can we apply some of the advice that Pete Quily offers to breakfast?

  • Plan ahead! Make your breakfast ahead of time so you can just grab it the next day
  • Set alarms for when you need to get up, shower, get dressed, so you have an external motivator for staying on task.

Need some ideas?

Feel free to poke around my Pinterest account for some breakfast ideas, and here are a few I rely on when I’m in a jam!

…Get it, jam?

Anyway.

Overnight oats! 1/2c oatmeal, 1/2c milk (or water), and about 1 Tbsp chia seeds.

Combine these into a bowl or mason jar and add any extras you might want (eg, some cinnamon, vanilla extract, cocoa powder) and stick it in the fridge overnight.

It’s better to add stuff like protein powder, peanut butter, and fruit in the morning just so these things don’t get soggy.

Yogurt Parfait: 1c yogurt, frozen or fresh fruit, nuts. Combine all of these in a container and let it sit in the fridge!

Both of these meals are easily transferable to Tupperware to take with you on the go, so if you are running a little late (and let’s face it, we all are sometimes!) it’s a great way to stay healthy on the go!

I’m planning a round up of some other of my favorite recipes I’ve tried and seen around Pinterest, so stay tuned! I’ll include some vegan recipes too!

What are your favorite recipes? Please give me some new ideas!

Til next time, beans!

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