As a vegan, the questions you tend to hear from omnivores — “Don’t you get hungry?” “What about protein?” — can get tiresome. But what if, secretly, your own gnawing hunger and flagging energy are starting to make you doubt your diet? If your commitment to veganism is purely philosophical, this can be a truly tricky position to find yourself in. But before you force yourself down the slippery slope of “just a little dairy or fish here and there,” try getting to the root of the problem with these tips.
Eat more veggies!
“Just because you’re a vegan doesn’t mean you’re on a healthy diet — or even that you’re eating a lot of vegetables,” Joel Fuhrman, MD, family physician, vegan nutrition expert and author of “Eat to Live” tells Yahoo Health. For vitality and energy, he stresses eating a daily dose of the most nutrient-packed vegetables such as kale, chard, arugula, carrots and broccoli.
Scale back on processed foods
“Make sure you’re not wasting calories on processed foods,” Fuhrman notes. That’s because items like pasta, white rice, tofu dogs and other fake meats, are stripped of their natural fibers and vitamins and infused with sodium, sugar, processed flours and unhealthy vegetable oils, all of which can lead to issues with digestion, clarity, fatigue and weight gain.
Submit to analysis
“I’ve seen vegans develop depression, dementia and memory loss,” says Fuhrman, “all of which are easily preventable.” A dietary supplement could help. To find out whether you need one, take a blood test, specifically one that checks levels of zinc, omega-3 DHA-EPA, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. It’s pretty easy to find vegan versions of all — even Omega-3, which, Fuhrman says, “is biochemically the same” as that derived from fish oil. And while B12, found only in animal-derived foods, is particularly important for regenerating healthy cells and staving off anemia, Fuhrman advises against popular B12 shots, as the injections are packed with preservatives and oral doses are now so easy to find.
Switch it up
“You could feel fatigued but it’s not necessary physiological,” Ruscigno tells Yahoo Health. So committing to something as simple as making one new dish from a cookbook each week can be exciting, and can help you stay on track. Also, instead of relying on the same sources of healthy fats and proteins every day (tofu, tofu and more tofu), try an assortment — nuts (almonds, cashews), seeds (sunflower, hemp, sesame), beans, and avocado will provide big boosts of energy on a daily basis, Fuhrman notes.
Don’t deprive yourself
Finally, don’t drive yourself crazy with rules. “A commonality with most ex-vegans is that they get over-restricted,” says Ruscigno. In other words, becoming obsessed with details such as organics, non-GMOs, gluten and soy, that remaining vegan becomes a struggle. So yes, eat more fruits and vegetables, but don’t get too fixated on whether they’re the “right” ones. “They don’t have to be super-foods,” he says. “If cherries are cheap and in season, eat cherries. It doesn’t have to be Goji berries.” And try to stick to a diet that’s mostly whole foods and whole grains, “but if you want to eat a soy burger sometimes? Go ahead,” he says. “Do not worry about those little things.”