Vegan Living

Welcome to a brief history of my vegan journey. When I was 19, I read a book called “Diet for a New America” and it caused me to rethink my food choices. It explained about the lack of care for animals that is practiced in the U.S. and the effects on our health when we eat too many animal-based foods. I became a vegetarian. Many books and articles later, when I was about 32 I read “The China Study” and became mostly vegan. This book talked a lot about cancer and made enough good sense to me to inspire more changes. (Movie version of that book is called Forks Over Knives.)

I’d like to make a note here that I don’t actually believe it’s wrong to eat animals entirely, but I do believe that the way we do it in this country is lacking balance and compassion. I just chose to opt out.

I also feel it important to share that I never feel left out of being able to eat “normal food.” People at parties sometimes feel sorry for me or maybe think I’m nuts when I pass on most of the foods there, but I have to tell you that I loooooove the food I eat. My husband laughs at me often because I sometimes actually dance in my chair while I’m eating some of my favorites. I’ll include some recipes here. (Not sure which of these are dance worthy.) Some of them I made up and some of them I put together from different recipes I found online. There may be one that I swiped from some book somewhere and made minor changes to. Don’t tell. 🙂

Being a healthy vegan

So here’s what I’ve come to understand about eating a plant-based verses animal-based diet. I’m not a nutrition expert but I have been a vegetarian since I was 19 and a “mostly vegan” since I was about 32 (I occasionally chomp some happy eggs). You’ll of course want to do your own research but this is what I go by…


I aim for 50 grams of protein per day… although I don’t actually count my protein anymore because when I follow this system, I know that the numbers land where they should. I recommend that with each meal a vegan eats, they plan for a “protein, grain, and fruit/vegetable” (actually, everybody should probably do this). This brings a full and well-rounded meal to your plate, and for a vegan, will generally give you close to 12 grams of protein per meal. This isn’t a lot in the animal-based world but it is enough IF you eat three full meals (or snack on high protein options throughout the day and learn what your normal protein totals add up to.) Remember that proteins are the building blocks of all of your cells (skin, hair, nails, bones, organs, tissue). Also keep in mind that by eating well-balanced meals, you’ll be getting all sorts of other important nutrients.

Here’s a simple breakdown…

Plant-based info:
-3 full meals per day at 12-ish grams of protein each = 36-ish grams per day (think beans, nuts, whole grains)
-1 glass of soy milk = 8 grams (same as cow’s milk)
So far, the totals from above come to about 44 grams per day so getting up to 50 is easy to do with a few other snacks. (Don’t overdo the soy.)

Animal-based info:
-1 slice of cheese = 7 grams
-1 egg = 6 grams
-1 serving of chicken = 38 grams

According to the studies I learned from, keeping animal protein at 10% or less seems to be okay for healthy living (especially keeping cancer and heart disease in check). That translates to approximately one slice of cheese per day OR one egg per day OR one serving of chicken per week. 

Here’s the math for that statement:

50 grams per day = 350 grams per week
10% of that total daily means 5 grams or less of animal protein daily (e.g. one piece of cheese or one egg)
10% of that total weekly means 35 grams or less of animal protein weekly (e.g. one serving of chicken) 


Protein needs will vary from person to person regarding activity level, age, etc… but in general, I recommend aiming for approximately 50 grams of protein per day, combining proteins to make them complete. (You don’t have to make each day perfect for complete proteins, just aim for different plant-based protein sources over the course of a couple of days. See below)

Soy is a complete protein on its own.
One glass of soymilk is 8 grams
¼ container of tofu is about 9 grams
Quinoa is a complete protein on its own.
One cup of cooked quinoa is 8 grams
Animal proteins are complete proteins on their own

According to my best understanding, in order to make the rest of your proteins complete (since you can’t drink 6 cups of soymilk or eat 6 cups of quinoa every day), aim to get the rest of what you need somewhat split between each section of the lists below… (for example, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a perfect meal to bring both lists together into a complete protein. Eight grams from the peanut butter and 8 grams from the 2 slices of bread gives you a 16 gram lunch). Keep in mind that my lists below are limited, so you should of course add foods that you enjoy to the right lists.

Peanut butter 1 big spoon – 8 grams
Peas ½ cup – about 4 grams
Pinto Beans 1/3 cup – 4 grams
Black Beans 1/3 cup – 5 grams
Kidney Beans 1/3 cup – 5 grams
Chickpeas 1/3 cup – 5 grams
¼ cup Hummus – 4 grams
Black Bean Burger (Don Lee Farms brand) – 11 grams
½ cup Cooked Lentils – 9 grams

Nuts / Seeds / Whole Grains
Cashews ¼ cup – 6 grams
Almonds ¼ cup – 6 grams
Pistachios ¼ cups – 6 grams
Slice of whole grain bread – 4ish grams
Bagel – 10 grams
Tortilla – 5 grams
White rice 1 cup cooked – 4 grams
Brown rice 1 cup cooked – 5 grams

Important info on vitamins and nutrients!

Here’s a list of vitamins that are hard to get from a vegan diet and will likely need to be supplemented. Not all vitamins are created equal. Do your research for which brands absorb well. (The Deva Multiple with iron that I take has plenty of all of the following vitamins but you should be aware of each one as being important).

-B-vitamins… especially B12 as a vegan but all B vitamins are important.
-Zinc (possible to get too much of this, not to exceed 100mg daily total from all sources.)
-Iron (possible to get too much of this via supplements but hard to get enough iron naturally from a vegan diet. You will of course get some, but I like to be on the safe side and just take a little extra in a multiple. See below for recommended totals)
-(Zinc and Iron do not absorb well together so if you take zinc and iron outside of a multiple, take them at different times. Yes, there is iron and zinc together in the multiple but I think they do something to make them okay together.)
-Vitamin A (Possible to get too much of this but that number is pretty high)
-Vitamin E (Possible to get too much of this but that number is pretty high)

In addition to the multiple I take, the following vitamins are also hard to get as a vegan so this is what my routine looks like:

-Multiple with iron three times per week. (The particular multis I take are so packed with vitamins that I actually only take one half at a time and it seems like enough for my needs.)
-Vitamin C (500 mg) with flavonoids three times per week (This one isn’t so hard to get but I like extra, especially in the winter)
-L-Lysine (500 mg) three times per week (healthy for several reasons but also helps fend off cold sores)
-Calcium daily if you are not drinking some kind of milk.
-Vitamin D in the winter (AND in the summer if you don’t get out in the midday sun every day for 15 minutes). The vegan vitamin D drops are expensive but the bottle lasts a really long time. Possible to get too much of this vitamin but that number is REALLY high. 

Eat healthy foods that have natural vitamins and nutrients in them as well! And don’t forget about those leafy greens! 🙂 Try to drink a half-gallon of water every day too. (That’s a 32 oz water bottle filled up twice 🙂 )

Iron needs:

This is the recommended intake for iron that I found online. I don’t actually take iron daily because my body rejects iron supplements if I take them too frequently. So instead, as you may have noticed above, I spread my supplements out throughout the week.

9-13 years8 mg8 mg
14-18 years11 mg15 mg
19-50 years8 mg18 mg
51+ years8 mg8 mg