After 33 years of being vegan, I know what to eat to maintain my health and vibrancy on a daily basis and for many more years to come — and it’s pretty straightforward. I strive to eat these central types of whole plant-based foods every day: fruits; vegetables; whole grains; and beans, nuts, and seeds. Creating my meals from these foods gives me unlimited ways to enjoy healthy, great-tasting dishes that meet all of my nutritional needs.
How much of these core foods should you eat each day? Here’s what that might look like for a moderately active woman (exercising up to 30 minutes daily) eating an average of 2,000 calories a day.
FRUITS – 2 cups daily.
One cup is about the same as a piece of whole fruit, like a banana, orange, apple, grapefruit, or pear. And for fresh or frozen berries, like blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, a serving is about a half cup. For dried fruits, like raisins and dried apricots, it’s about a a quarter cup each day. So strive to eat both whole fruits and berries each day.
VEGETABLES – 3 cups daily.
One cup is about the same as ten broccoli florets, twelve baby carrots, one large sweet potato, 1 cup of sliced beets, 1 cup of chopped zucchini, or 1 cup of sautéed collard greens. And 2 cups of raw, dark leafy greens, like spinach, kale, and dandelion greens, are considered the equivalent of 1 cup of vegetables. So strive to eat 2 cups of dark green leafy vegetables each day; a half cup of cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower; and a half cup of additional veggies, like string beans, peas, okra, and corn.
WHOLE GRAINS – 1½ cups daily.
It’s pretty easy to eat a cup and a half of cooked oatmeal, black rice, quinoa, millet, or whole-grain pasta each day. One slice of whole-grain bread or one whole-grain tortilla is also the equivalent of ½ cup of whole grains. So eating just one sandwich gets you two-thirds of the way to your daily recommended intake.
BEANS, NUTS, AND SEEDS – 1½ cups of beans and ¼ cup of nuts daily.
Eating a cup of and a half of beans each day could include a hot bowl of soup made from lentils, black beans, or split peas. And almonds, walnuts or cashews can be tossed into a morning smoothie.
And of course, I also drink plenty of water – at least 6-8 cups each day.
For a detailed list of the wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds you can choose from, be sure to check out my previous blog post on vegan staples to stock your kitchen.
And if you’re wondering about supplements, stay tuned. I’ll be talking about that in an upcoming post.
So focus on eating these core foods each day, and maintaining a healthy vegan diet will soon become second nature to you, too.