What is plant-based?
A plant-based or plant-forward eating pattern focuses on foods primarily from plants.
Choosing more plant-based foods can be good for your body and the planet! Many plant-based foods such as legumes, nuts & seeds, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are nutrient dense and high in fibre. These foods are often environmentally sustainable, and many are can even be budget friendly choices!
What nutrients should I focus on in a plant-based diet?
Looking for a plant-based source of some of the most common nutrients we typically get from animal sources can be challenging. Here are 5 important nutrients to focus on, and some tips for getting them through plant sources.
Traditionally meat, fish, dairy and eggs have been considered ‘protein’ sources but there is a lot of protein to be found in a variety of plant foods such as:
- Soy and soy products: tofu, edamame (green soybeans), fortified soy beverages
- Legumes: lentils, dried peas and beans
- Whole grains: pasta, rice, quinoa, buckwheat
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, pepitas, sesame seeds, flax seedsext.
Omega-3 fats are important for brain and eye health. The kind of omega-3 we get from plants is called ALA and the kind we get from animal sources is EPA/DHA. While our bodies can convert some ALA into EPA and DHA, this process isn’t always the most efficient. If you are choosing a vegan or vegetarian eating pattern and are concerned about getting enough Omega-3, speak to your healthcare professional.
Sources of Omega-3 include:
- Canola, flax seed, and walnut oils
- Soybeans and tofu
- Ground flax seed, chia seed, and walnuts
- Omega-3 fortified foods (some soy beverages, orange juice, breads)
Iron is an important nutrient for our muscles and for carrying oxygen through the body. Similar to Omega-3, the kind of iron in plant foods is different from that in animal foods. We don’t absorb the iron in plant foods as well as the iron in animal foods, so it’s important to make sure we eat a variety of iron rich plant sources. Some plant-based sources of iron include:
- Legumes (kidney beans, black eyed peas, red lentils)
- Fortified pasta and cereals
- Dried fruit (prunes, raisins and apricots)
- Dark green vegetables
Tip: To help your body absorb iron, eat iron-rich foods with a source of vitamin C. Examples of vitamin C-rich foods are strawberries, broccoli and oranges.
Calcium plays an important role in our bone, muscle and heart health. Contrary to popular belief there are many ways to get calcium without drinking milk.
- Fortified beverages (soy, rice or almond)
- Calcium-set tofu
- Legumes (kidney beans, navy beans)
- Almonds, almond butter
- Dark green vegetables
Vitamin B12 is important for our nervous system and is traditionally found in animal-based foods. Plant based B12 is found only fortified foods, so it can be challenging to get enough on a vegan or vegetarian eating plan. If you are concerned about getting enough B-12, speak to your healthcare professional.
- Fortified beverages such as soy, almond, or rice (check the label!)
- Red Star nutritional yeast
- Fortified meat alternatives: TVP, veggie burgers (check the label!)
In this guide, we offer you more information and a sample of a one-week plant-based grocery list & menu!
Plant-based eating on campus
We are proud to offer you tons of plant-based options on campus! Every location offers a variety of plant-based protein options to ensure you can have your meal how you want it!
A few examples:
- Beyond Burgers at Chef & The Farmer and ML Diner
- At least one plant-based main course option at Hot Dish stations in residence
- Tofu & tempeh at DC Bytes
- Plant-based protein options at all of our build-your-own stations (Creation Station, Upper Crust and Burrito Bar)
- Tons of options at our franchises too!
- Dairy and cheese alternatives at every location
Have questions or want to learn more? Reach out to us and we are happy to help!