As more and more documentaries come out in support of veganism, vegan diets have become extremely popular. Whether it's because of ethical, environmental or health reasons, vegans do not consume any animal products. Therefore all essential nutrients which are easily been obtained from consuming animal products, must be acquired from plant sources (1).
Plant-based food have a lower calorie density than animal products. They are also digested faster than animal material in our intestines. This means that vegans will often feel hungry more often or may suffer from low energy. The key to solving this problem is to eat small meals more frequently (2). In order to keep up with energy demands, the right high energy vegan snacks are necessary.
Despite the reason for choosing to follow a vegan diet, all vegans are in a similar situation. They have to make up for the nutrients that they are missing from the animal products which they do not consume. Vegans need to eat more often, including more snacks in their diet because plant material contains fewer calories than animal material.
Energy Boosting Nutrients
In order to choose the right foods to snack on, it's important to understand which nutrients are advantageous to our health.
Antioxidants are small chemical molecules that are present in most fruits and vegetables. Their job in the body is to scavenge out free radicals that build up as a result of normal metabolism. If free radicals are left to build up, they cause damage to cell membranes which causes chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation stimulates the immune system to deal with damaged tissues. An immune reaction is, however, very energy expensive and chronic inflammation can end up causing chronic fatigue. By taking in enough antioxidants, you avoid the processes that can cause chronic fatigue (3).
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are generally important for heart health and brain health, but they also reduce chronic inflammation. Many vegans are severely lacking in omega-3 fatty acids because the main source of them is fatty fish. The good news is that there are vegan friendly sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These include flaxseed, walnuts, tofu, olive oil and tomato sauce/paste (4).
- Natural sugars and carbohydrates
The main source of energy in the body comes from the breakdown of glucose. Carbohydrates are the main source of glucose from a person's diet. However, carbohydrates that are in the form of simple sugars such as sucrose, are absorbed by the body very quickly and cause an energy slump. Better options include whole grain carbohydrates such as pasta and bread. Other plant sources of starchy carbohydrates include sweet and regular potatoes. These lower glycemic carbohydrates are high in fiber and release energy more consistently, resulting in a maintained energy level.
- Iron and vitamin B12
Many vegans might think that they are unlikely to have a deficiency in vitamins and minerals because of the fruits and vegetables that they eat. However, there are certain vitamins and minerals that are acquired mostly from animal products in non-vegan diets. The two most important of these are iron and vitamin B12 (5). Heme in red meat is a major source of iron and major sources of vitamin B12 include eggs, milk, meat, fish and shellfish. As a result, many vegans develop either iron deficiency anemia or megaloblastic anemia which can lead to fatigue. Some vegan sources of iron include dried apricots, spinach and quinoa (6). Examples of vegan sources of vitamin B12 include cereals, nutritional yeast and non-dairy fortified milk (7).
Some of the energy boosting nutrients are present in high amounts in vegan diets. But there are others that vegans are at risk of developing a deficiency of. Vegans should pay special attention to including the correct amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, iron and vitamin B12 in their diet.
5 Tasty Vegan Snack Ideas
The following snack ideas require little effort to make, fit in a lunch box, and contain the energy-rich nutrients mentioned above. In addition, they are truly delicious.
- Smoothies - Easy to make and mouth-watering, smoothies are so versatile. Personalize your smoothie with the foods you like best. Choose fortified soy milk or rice milk for vitamin B12. Add fruits such as bananas, mangoes, kiwi, strawberries, etc. Or try vegetable smoothies with carrots, spinach and kale. Another addition can include ground up nuts or seeds for protein and iron (8).
- Homemade crackers - Vegan crackers contain many of healthy nuts and seeds as well as nutrient-rich vegetables. Mixing a variety of seeds with garlic, onion and water and then baking them at 325°F for 60 minutes can make tasty, energy-packed crackers. Enjoy them with a delicious vegan spread such as a guacamole (9).
- Energy bars - There are a variety of retailers selling energy bars specifically for vegans but it is also possible to make your own. Some of them require as little as 3 ingredients and don't even need any baking. For example, you can combine chopped dates (1 and a half cups), nuts (1 cup) and chocolate chips (half a cup) in a blender and grind until they form a paste. The mixture can then be rolled out into a dough and cut into neat rectangles. After refrigerating for just 30 minutes, they are ready to be eaten or placed into a lunch box (10).
- Hummus and baby carrots - When you're stuck without food, this is an easy snack you can purchase from almost any grocery store. Hummus is made from chickpeas which are a good source of iron. Experiment with different hummus flavors to keep snacking interesting.
- Apples and almond butter - Here's another snack idea which you can buy on the go. Apples contain a small amount of Omega-3 and almonds are a good source of iron.
Vegan snack ideas are easy to make and taste good too. Try recipes like homemade energy bars or grab something easy like store-bought hummus and carrot sticks.
Sticking to a vegan diet requires advance planning but is not hard to do. Once you get in the routine of preparing snacks at the beginning of the day, it will easily become part of your day. In addition, you will feel energized and have a general sense of well-being thanks to all the essential vitamins and minerals you will be eating.