Friday, August 11, 2017

SPONSORED: How to Stay Healthy on a Vegan Diet

Hello, beautiful! In case you haven't heard, I've now been fully vegan for four or five months, after going part-time vegan at the beginning of spring semester.

As a vegan, it can sometimes be challenging to fit in all the nutrition you need on a day-to-day basis - especially if you're eating to fuel a powerful workout or an extremely active lifestyle. Like me, you might find yourself frequently eating snacks and small meals throughout the day just to stay full, and constantly tracking your nutrition to make sure you're getting enough vitamins, minerals, carbs, proteins and fats from the moment you wake up until the time you go to bed.

Needless to say, the side effects of missing out on vital nutrients frankly, well, suck! Without proper nutrition, you might find yourself burning out before noon and running out of energy before you ever get the chance to set foot in the gym. Without the boost of energy that all those carbs, nutrients and proteins give you, you might not have the motivation or the drive to fuel your healthy, fit lifestyle in the first place - which is obviously a huge bummer :(

Thankfully, I teamed up with the kind folks at Go Macro to tell you all about how you can follow a vegan diet without sacrificing vital nutrition! These are tips I practice in my own life, and I can honestly say they've helped me so much on my journey to becoming a full-time vegan.

However, before we begin talking about how to get the right nutrition your body needs, let's talk about exactly what those nutrients are!

Macro and Micronutrients: A Breakdown

First thing's first: what nutrients does your body need to fuel that AM workout, afternoon run or nighttime sweat sesh? There's lots of controversial talk out there about whether carbs are good or bad, how much protein your body really needs (hint: most Americans are actually eating too much protein!) and how essential certain vitamins and minerals actually are. So, let's dispel some of the myths and get down to business talking about what nutrients you really need.

Nutrients generally fall into two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients. As their names might suggest, macronutrients are the larger building blocks of nutrition, while micronutrients are the smaller pieces that perform more specialized functions. Macronutrients include things like protein, carbohydrates and fat, while micronutrients consist of things like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Regardless of what's what, however, it's important to note that your body needs both to function properly!

Before you even think about either type of nutrient, it's necessary to calculate how many calories you need on a given day - that way, you can easily figure out how much protein, fat and carbs you need to eat every day to stay healthy and strong. Thankfully, it's pretty easy to find out how many calories you need with tools like this online calorie calculator, which will calculate how many calories you need and what percent should come from carbs, protein and fat. 

As a general rule, nutritionists say you should get 45-65% of your daily calories from carbs, 20-35% of your calories from fat and just 10-35% of your calories from protein. It's important to note that these numbers are just guidelines, and will probably vary from day to day, so don't get too hung up on calculating your calorie breakdown! 

When it comes to micronutrients, there are crazy tons of different types of vitamins and minerals your body needs to feel its best. (If you want to read more about them, I suggest visiting this website!) Unless you're studying to become a dietician, you probably won't need to memorize them all - the best guideline is just to eat the whole rainbow of fruits and veggies to make sure you're getting the widest variety of nutrients possible! (And, of course, stay away from empty calories to maximize your nutritional potential.)

Nutrition for Vegans

Studies have proven that vegans have lower BMIs, get cancer less frequently and generally lead healthier lives than non-vegans - but believe it or not, going vegan can actually pose a significant risk to your health if you don't go about it properly! 

For starters, certain micronutrients do not occur naturally in a vegan diet, and must be supplemented with a multivitamin or other vegan source. Some examples are vitamin B12, which is only found in animal products, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are typically derived from fish oil (thankfully, you can take it as a vegan DHA capsule!). 

When it comes to your macros, many vegans also worry about getting enough protein, since they aren't eating meat or dairy on a regular basis. Obviously, beans, legumes, whole grains and soy products are all great vegan sources of protein, but another great tip is to supplement with clean, plant-based protein products like powders or nutrition bars. 

Go Macro was kind enough to send me a sampler pack of their nutrition bars, which came with a huge variety of different flavors and types! As you can see, I've eaten most of them already, which is why you only see a couple pictured below...they're just so darn good ;)

Go Macro's nutrition bars are one of the only protein bars on the market that's vegan, gluten-free and organic. Not only are they great for your body, but they also taste incredible. My personal favorite flavors? The Protein Pleasure Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip bar, which contains Go Macro's newest plant-based protein blend, and the Everlasting Joy Coconut, Almond Butter and Chocolate Chip bar with organic and fair-trade chocolate. (To order a sampler pack like mine and discover your own favorite flavors, visit this link!) 

Go Macro's products fit perfectly into my lifestyle as an ethical and eco-conscious vegan. I also love how affordable and accessible their products are - after sampling their products, I discovered that some of my favorite flavors are now available at Target and Trader Joes for around just $1.99 a bar. Trust me when I say that these bars will definitely make my grocery list next time I'm at good ol' Tarjay - I'm officially hooked!

So, let's give a huge thank you to Go Macro and their delicious nutrition bars again for sponsoring this blog post and bringing this awesome content straight to your computer or smartphone! :) Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming...

Tips for Maximizing Nutrition on a Vegan Diet

After I went vegan, I started to wonder if I was getting all the nutrition I needed to fuel my workouts and stay healthy and fit while away at college. So, like usual, I did as much research as I could (I'm such a nerd) on YouTube and Google and found out a couple of tips and tricks that work for me.

So much of nutrition is personal, so these tips might not integrate seamlessly into your lifestyle; however, these are the things that have worked for me to make sure I'm getting everything I need as a growing vegan girl ;) Try some of them out for yourself and see how they work with your own life as a busy college vegan! 

  • Meal prep. Planning and prepping your meals a few days ahead of time can save you time and money on deciding what to eat - plus, it lets you put some serious thought and consideration into what you're putting into your body, rather than picking up a last-minute frozen meal loaded with sugar and salt. Some of my favorite meals to prep in advance are this sweet potato and chickpea Buddha bowl, this creamy vegan pasta and some healthy vegan chocolate chip muffins like these. 
  • Pre- and post- workout snacks. What you eat before and after a workout can make a big difference in your nutrition and energy levels throughout the rest of your day. I'm often guilty of skipping meals before I workout (especially if I work out before breakfast), but the best thing to do is to have a combo of protein and carbs or protein and fat - such as a banana and almond butter, or a sweet potato and coconut butter - before a meal. Afterwards, protein is essential to restore your aching muscles, so I love to finish off a workout with a tasty green smoothie. Try blending 1 scoop of your favorite plant-based protein powder (I like Tone It Up's Vanilla Perfect Fit Protein, which you can now buy at Target for $22.99), 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk, 1 cup of raw spinach, a frozen banana and some mango chunks for a tropical take on everyone's favorite green smoothie! 
  • Small meals. Rather than eat three big meals, I prefer to graze throughout the day on three or four small meals with snacks. I'm a person who loves to snack, so this is simply the arrangement I find most satisfying - plus, by choosing whole fruits and veggies as my snacks (for example, some juicy watermelon chunks or sweet, colorful peppers and hummus), I find that I get a lot more of the micronutrients I need by eating this way! 

What are your thoughts on a vegan diet? Let me know @haleymarieblog or in the comments below!

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