Nutrition

15 Questions On Going Vegan With A Holistic Nutritionist

Plant-based nutrition a.k.a veganism is no piece of cake. While being vegan is easier today, it can still be challenging to find the right alternatives and eating options. Holistic nutritionist Vinita Contractor walks you through some FAQs on vegan diet, benefits and maintaining a vegan lifestyle.

By URLife Team
21 Jun 2022

I am Vinita Contractor, a holistic nutritionist and a lifestyle coach. I work with plant based nutrition and I have been a vegan for the last 7 years. Today, veganism is very easily recognised, people understand what it is, it is easy to find food options, to buy vegan food, vegan dairy alternatives. Everything is so much more convenient today than it was a few years ago. It’s great for the environment, the planet, the animals, as well as our own personal health.

 

Related story: Going Vegan With Vinita


These are some questions from a Live session with Vinita Contractor and URLife.

 

Q1: Advice on nutrition to reduce weight in a vegan diet.

A:  So more than products, I would say eat real foods. If you’re eating a lot of food-like substances, which are highly-processed, packaged or refined, limit them. Instead, eating legumes, dals, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds at the right quantity at the right time can lead to reduction in weight or reaching your optimal weight. Most of us can never overeat, for example, carrots. But it is easy to overeat farsan, chakna, or desserts, brownies, ice-cream, that’s the kind of stuff that can make us gain weight. And I wanted to share that I work with clients on a one on one basis, to work towards their health goals, whether it is weight loss, whether it is reversing lifestyle conditions such as, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes or hormonal issues or other conditions such as, PCOS, thyroid, auto-imune conditions—all through a plant based diet which is essentially a vegan diet. It is one of the most sustainable and most diverse diets. It doesn’t restrict you as one might think it does.

 

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Q2. How did you (Vinita Contractor) get into veganism?

A: I was born a non-vegetarian into a non-vegetarian family but I used to eat it about once a week and about 14 years ago, when I was pregnant with my second son, I chose to turn vegetarian and about 7 years ago, when we realised what our food choices were doing to the environment, I decided that I wanted to turn vegan and that’s where I got into vegan food. Till then, I had no idea as such and I realised when I turned vegan that most of our Indian food is incidentally vegan, if you just ask the dairy element to not be added, the ghee or the curd and paneer you are pretty much eating vegan food in any case.

 

Q3. How did turning vegan benefit the quality of health?

A: So, personally my reasons to be vegan were more like I said to do with the environment but the benefits that I got was, I lost weight which I was trying to lose for a long time. I had some hormonal-related acne around my jawline that got cleared up. And I found overall a lot more energy, overall a better sense of well-being. I did not have any major health issues to begin with. So, I don’t have a huge before and after but I would definitely say the quality of my health improved.

 

Related story: 6 Ingredients For Fibre-Rich Smoothies

 

Q4. As a vegan, can you suggest any detox drinks for another vegan?

A: I think one of the best things you could have is vegetable juice, if you could have it 2-3 times a week if not everyday. It would be great for detoxing. Try having it on an empty stomach in the morning or if it works for you, you can even have it before lunch, after you have enough gap between breakfast and lunch.

 

Q5. How can vegan diets help with thyroid?

A: There are a lot of steps one needs to take to reduce thyroid levels. You need to get blood work done, after that you need to see what are the endocrine disrupters that you maybe exposed to in your lifestyle and your food.

 

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Q6. Should we inculcate taking plant based protein in our day to day life?

A: It really depends on what your lifestyle is. What your activity level is and how old you are. Because there is no standard answer for this. I think legumes, sprouts, beans and tofu are great protein sources and if you are somebody who is very active who works out everyday, is vegetarian turning vegan and someone who is still at a relatively young age, then maybe you might need to consider plant based protein. But otherwise, you could, with a well planned vegan diet you don’t necessarily have to take plant protein.

 

Q7. How to control our digestive system from gastric problems when there is no proper timing to eat?

A: If you are not able to prioritise your food you will have digestive issues, so, unfortunately eating on time is something that needs to be somehow incorporated and cutting down on acidic foods, cutting down on things with added colour, preservatives, and packaged food is a must. Eating more homemade food at a fixed time definitely helps.

 

Related story: How To Build A Healthy Plate

 

Q8. How hard is it to make a vegan dessert? How about vegan baking?

A: So of course, our traditional Indian sweets, all the baking, also largely contain milk or milk products or eggs. It’s honestly not hard to bake at all in that sense. I have been baking, in fact that is one of the first things I started switching to. So, instead of eggs you use chia seeds or flax seeds, instead of butter, you use coconut butter or cashew butter, instead of milk, you use coconut milk, soya milk, any oat milk is also great for baking. And if you need dahi, you can just curdle the milk, and use buttermilk for baking. So it’s really not that difficult. There are very many portals and websites where you can get vegan recipes. And you can even use recipes which can go gluten-free or refined sugar free, and get great results baking.

 

Q9. What is your advice to a person who always feels hungry during the beginning stages of practising veganism?

A: If you are feeling hungry all the time you are not eating enough protein, you are not eating enough fibre. You are probably eating refined carbs and you are not eating sufficiently or at regular intervals, because, yes, when you have been used to eating animal foods, animal-based foods and you turn to a vegan diet, you feel that you need to eat more often in the beginning, but if you plan, prioritising protein in each meal, you will find that your hunger will be satisfied.

If you want more information there are a lot of FAQs on my website. There are many plant-based proteins in India, it is just booming. Just look for something that does not have any artificial sweeteners, just pea protein, pea brown rice protein, soy protein, all of those are great options.

 

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Q 10. Can a vegan diet help with migraine issues?

A: Then yes. It will definitely help. There are lots of triggers for migraine but other than diet it’s lifestyle changes that can help with migraine.

 

Q11. Can eating more plant based help in PCOS?

A: For sure, I have worked with many PCOS clients and they’ve been able to regularise their periods, been able to drop weight and get better insulin levels. So for sure that would look for a more positive side/effect of turning vegan.

 

Q12. I always feel guilty when I eat unhealthy food. Help!

A: Eating unhealthy: firstly we need to understand that everyone feels like eating unhealthy sometimes. But it's important to recognise what makes you feel like that, so whenever you are next feeling like that, you can go related. Is it because you are bored or PMSing? Are you just so hungry and you have not eaten all day, so you’re willing to eat anything that comes in front of you. So all of those things you need to look at, but after it's done, the best thing you can do instead of feeling guilty is to eat regular balanced meals from the next meal onward. Try and include some salads and some fruits in the rest of the day, so that whatever unhealthy food is eaten, your micronutrients will still get through the vegetables and fruits.

 

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Q13. What do vegan meals look like at your home?

A: We don’t eat out much. We tend to eat homemade food and what we do is on weekends since I have two boys, one is 16 and one is 14. We make healthy versions of junk food. So we will have homemade pizza with plant-based cheese but with loads of vegetables or we’ll have tofu scrambled with baked beans and toast as dinner because it’s great, the kids love it, it’s high in protein. We have a salad along with it. We make falafels at home with hummus and the salad with the homemade pita bread and there is always fruits at least once or twice in a day. And, one meal would be Indian like a regular Indian roti sabzi, or sometimes to make it fun, we make like palak tofu with dal tadka, my kids love that as a meal. Or sometimes ragda patties with a salad we have, so that’s what meals in my home look like on weekends.

 

Q14. What is my go to food as a vegan, and why?

A: I love my smoothies in the morning. That is something that gives me a lot of comfort. It is a green smoothie, if you want to check out the recipe, go to my youtube channel. Type Vineeta Contractor green smoothie. So that’s one comfort food. The second thing I like is a good quality sourdough wholewheat bread and I love having homemade sandwiches with loads of different toppings and making it like a complete meal and I top it with sauerkraut, and that’s my comfort food. I have always liked bread, but as I grew up I realised what we were eating was pretty low on quality so ever since last few years, I have been eating sourdough, that is something I love.

If going vegan is on your mind, make sure that you are going to do your bit for the environment, your body is going to be happy that you have made that change and you will be saving a lot of animal lives.

 

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Q15. With not much help for Vitamin B and D from vegan foods, what advice do you offer for it?

A: Vitamin B or B12 is not found in plant-based foods. Vitamin D, the best source in the plant-based worlds, is sunlight. So please, take in sunlight everyday as much as possible for at least 20 minutes if possible and additionally consider supplementation for Vitamin D. For b12, fermented foods, plant-based yoghurt, nutritional yeast are options but the amount of b12 we require, you may not get enough from all that so again supplements are needed. Clean your diet up if you are having gastric issues, reduce your tea and coffee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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