Planning Animal-free Diets

Learn How To Plan Animal-Free Diets To Make It Sustainable And Healthy.

1. What Is An Animal-Free Diet? 


An animal free diet is devoid of animal products; it’s another term for a vegan diet.  

People adopt animal-free diets for a variety of reasons (religious, ethical, environmental, health).   

I focus my energy on the question of how to plan animal-free diets for optimal health and function. This partly involves facing potential challenges associated with plant-based diets and identifying solutions. 

There is an idea circulating in the vegan community that if one consumes enough calories from a variety of plant-based foods everything will fall into place. Unfortunately, this idea is out of step with reality. I strongly suspect poor planning often causes people to abandon vegan diets; as this can result in nutrient imbalances, lethargy, reduced function etc.  

On the other hand, well-planned animal-free diets can meet all our nutrition needs and help us to thrive.  

2. The Importance Of Protein

Proteins are important molecules which have structural and functional roles in the body.  

Some claim that eating enough calories from plant-based foods will automatically mean that one’s protein needs are taken care of. Sadly, this is untrue. It’s possible to design an animal-free eucaloric diet that fails to meet the RDA for protein (which is set at 0.8g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day).  
More to the point, I do not think that 0.8g/d/kg/day is optimal for health. Eating above the RDA (especially when combined with resistance training) can help to: 

⦾ Build muscle.  
⦾Protect lean mass when in energy deficit.  
⦾ Protect lean mass in older adults.  
⦾Improve bone health.  

I recommend consuming between 1.2-1.6g/kg/day for those on an animal-free diet. 
In order to eat sufficient protein, it’s important to make protein rich foods the centerpiece of meals. Please see my tips/summary how to create nutrient sufficient, tasty diet.
A more detailed article on protein can be found here

3.Whole Plant Foods

While it’s key to include high protein foods in every meal, the rest of your plate should be loaded with whole plant foods – fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds and avocados.

Whole plant foods are associated with good (or neutral) health outcomes in prospective cohort studies with remarkably consistency. We can derive a reliable rule of thumb from the available science: whole (unrefined or minimally refined) plant foods are associated with a lower risk of cardiometabolic diseases, in comparison to animal-based foods and some refined plant-based foods.

Because of the impeccable track record of whole plant foods, well-planned whole-food plant-based diets are health promoting. However, it can be difficult to meet nutrient targets when one relies exclusively on relatively unprocessed plants. For instance, those with low appetites may benefit from added oils; while others may find it impractical to eat enough protein from whole plant sources alone.

But whatever kind of animal-free diet you choose, it’s important to eat generous amounts of unrefined plant foods. 

4.Nutrients Of Focus

Nutrients of focus fall into 3 categories:  
1) Nutrients which are absent (or virtually absent) in plant foods (e.g., DHA/EPA, vitamin B12, preformed vitamin A).  
 2) Nutrients which are present in unreliable and/or low quantities (e.g., iodine, selenium).  
3) Nutrients in plants which are low in bioavailability (e.g., zinc, iron)*.  

*Technically, most nutrients from plants are lower in bioavailability compared to animal-based foods. But oftentimes, this doesn’t present a cause for concern.  

Here you will find all of the nutrients of concern and learn about how to overcome potential deficiencies.  

At times supplementation may be more convenient or appropriate. But please run this by your doctor first – especially if you take medication – as they may interact.

5.How To Plan A Healthy Animal-Free Diet

All diets need to be well-planned and animal-free diets are no exception

Here are 9 tips to help you to design a healthy animal-free eating.

1. Center your meals around protein-rich foods. 

2. Consume a variety of whole plant foods (fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, avocados etc.) 

3. High-carb, low-carb (and medium-carb) animal-free diets are viable. But I would recommend that you consume some fat-rich foods (e.g., avocados, nuts, vegetable oils) to improve the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (namely D,E and K as well as beta-carotene). 

4. Favour unrefined carbohydrates such as wholegrains, legumes, wholemeal bread/pasta. But eating refined versions occasionally is nothing to worry about in my opinion.

5. Do not eat more than 1 teaspoon (6g) of salt per day.  

6. Don’t forget nutrients of focus. Include specific foods regularly or supplement to ensure that you get enough of these nutrients. 

The easiest way of doing this (that I can think of) is to include a daily protein shake (ideally with added ground flax) and a daily multivitamins and minerals supplement.  

7. Initially a nutrient tracking app (e.g., cronometer or myfitnesspal may be helpful).

8. Don’t overdo vegan junk food. It’s fine to have a treat now and then, but we all know that convenience foods that are high in calories, sugar, salt and saturated fat are not health-promoting in high quantities.

9. Do not ignore other aspects of a healthy lifestyle: resistance training, cardiovascular exercise, sleep hygiene, stress management, minimisation of harmful substances.  

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