When you’re looking to best manage your vegetarian and vegan diet, a healthy, well-balanced diet is the first thing you examine. You want to be sure you’re getting adequate protein, focusing on whole grains and choosing fat sources that will be most beneficial for you.
Learn how to use plant-based lifestyles to achieve your health and wellness goals.
Why Fat is Important for Vegetarians / Vegans
Fat is an important factor in your diet because it causes satiety during a meal, helps your body digest the foods slowly (so you feel fuller for a longer period) and can be very beneficial for heart health. We recommend a wide variety of fat sources and help our clients focus on mono and polyunsaturated fats instead of saturated and trans fat.
Focus on Unsaturated Fats
Good news- most vegan and vegetarian food sources are low in saturated fats. Saturated and trans fat are mainly found in animal products, but can sneak into your diet if you eat baked goods or fried foods. Limiting added fats is important due to the lack of nutrient density and it leaving you unsatisfied at the end of a meal. The mono- and polyunsaturated fats we recommend (also known as heart healthy fats) are abundant in foods such nuts, seeds and plant-based oils.
Foods We Love with Healthy Fats
Avocados are an excellent fat source for vegans and vegetarians. One fat serving is 1/4 of an avocado, but this fat will provide you with both of your heart healthy fats. Avocados are also high in many fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K. Here is our Avocado Corn Recipe that is great as a main course or to pair as a side with any meal.
Nuts and Seeds are another great source of healthy fat for vegans and vegetarians. nuts and seeds are also beneficial because they provide lots of protein. If you eat ½ cup of nuts, you will also be getting about ½ serving of protein. We encourage eating nuts as a snack, and to pair with a fruit to help get a sweet and salty fix…but also to satisfy you until your next meal. Nuts and seeds are high in poly and mono-unsaturated fats, and also provide you with a great source of fiber. Check out this Coco- Nutty Trail mix to boost the variety in your nuts and seeds intake.
Include Fatty Acids
Another component of healthy fat intake is Omega-3 or Omega-6 fatty acids. When following a plant-based diet, you will eat an abundance of omega-6 fats, while Omega-3 fatty acids will take more careful planning. Foods that help balance your intake of both omega-3 and omega 6 fatty acids include olives, chia seeds and flax seeds. Here is our Almond Butter Snack Bite recipe. We love it as a great afternoon pick me up to keep you energized until your next meal.
How to Make Lasting Improvements
If you are trying to determine exactly how much fat you need to include in your diet or how to balance your intakes of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated or your omega-fatty acids, your dietitian can help you understand how much fat is appropriate for your goals.
When you are reviewing recipes or exploring how to improve your fat-sources, you can easily replace oil with water or vegetable broth when sautéing or reduce/omit the oil in recipes. The more whole foods you choose, the better.
Try to include one healthy fat in each meal or snack. If you do have a meal or snack and you’re still hungry afterward, add a healthy fat to make it more filling and satisfying. Good luck!
Morgan Fereck is a Registered Dietitian at OnPoint Nutrition. Her work focuses on helping clients create healthier habits by teaching a step by step approach to improving their nutrition and lifestyle. Morgan is a vegetarian and loves finding new, healthy, and creative recipes to keep things interesting!