Whether you want to improve your health or are concerned about animals and your environmental footprint, when it comes to diet, more and more people are ditching animal products and embracing the vegan way. However, whether ethically or health driven, meat and dairy-free living doesn’t quite work for everyone. So should vegans put meat back onto their plates?
“I don’t see any reason why a vegan should or would want to start including meat in their diets again,” Culinary Nutritionist and Eating Psychology Coach Caroline Trickey said.
“A well-planned vegan intake can provide all the macro and micronutrients required for good health – apart from Vitamin B12, but many plant-based milks and other foods are now fortified with it.”
Ethical reasons aside, there are exceptions. Trickey has encountered vegans who have not managed their dietary intake too well and have ended up with anaemia. Other former vegans have claimed myriad health issues and low energy levels for the reasons they have put meat back onto their plates.
Trickey said that a completely meat-free diet is not necessary for good health or for the environment. “The main issue with meat is that many people in Australia and other industrialised countries eat far too much of it.”
In recent years, someone with a sense of humour decided to combine the best diet principles of the paleo diet and the vegan diet to come up with the pegan diet – touted as a sustainable way of eating and a way to combat health issues that may arise from meat-free living. Guidelines of the diet suggest 75 per cent of a follower’s daily food intake should be vegetables and fruit, and the other 25 per cent should be lean proteins and healthy monounsaturated fats.
So what are the benefits? There is a huge emphasis on whole, nutrient-dense and minimally processed foods and sugar-free meals. “On the outside it looks great, as it encourages a high vegetable and fruit intake, lean protein and healthy fats – all fabulously healthy food,” Trickey said.
However, experts cannot agree with avoiding whole food groups such as dairy. Ditching dairy increases the risk of inadequate intake of key nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, magnesium and phosphorus, as well as the loss of an extra source of protein and probiotics.
“It restricts many healthy foods, like starchy vegetables and beans,” Trickey explained.
Restrictions such as these, including whole grains, decrease fibre intake and other important nutrients such as phytochemicals.
Are you ready to go pegan?
“A healthy balanced intake suggests that plants need to be the main focus of your meals, and meat needs to be used more like a condiment,” Trickey said. “Perhaps reserved just for one meal, usually the main meal of the day”.
Trickey outlined some meal ideas for a mostly plant-based intake that includes small serves of meat, chicken and fish.
- Porridge made from whole rolled oats with non-dairy milk, maple syrup and topped with cinnamon, ground linseeds, whole linseeds or chia seeds.
- Nutty granola served with non-dairy milk and fresh fruit.
- Vegetable salad tossed with oil and vinegar, topped with a poached or hard-boiled egg.
- Spinach salad with legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas) and a tin of tuna.
- Chicken, barley and vegetable soup or Mexican-style chicken soup.
- Pumpkin and red lentil soup with toast and avocado.
- Barley and chickpea salad with roasted beetroot carrot and tahini dressing.
- Chilli con carne, which includes legumes, veggies and a serving size of meat around 85g per person, which is roughly 1/3 of what the average person eats.
- Turkey (50-60g), brown rice and miso salad with roasted broccoli and carrots.
- Salmon and cannellini bean patties with salad or veggies.
If you had meat at lunch, have beans and legumes as your protein source at dinner for a balanced day.