10 Vegan Foods for Athletes

One major trend as we head into 2018 is Plant Based Eating. You can definitely expect to see even more vegan and vegetarian options in grocery stores and restaurants.

Can plant based eating be good for athletes? If it is well planned to meet nutrient needs, it can be possible. Keep in mind, completely switching to vegan and vegetarian will require some extra guidance from a dietitian, as you’ll want to carefully plan your diet to ensure you are meeting your nutrient need for protein, Omega 3, calcium and Vitamin D, B12, essential amino acids, and iron. Supplementation of some nutrients will be needed.

Even if you don’t intend to completely give up animal products, reducing your intake of meat and increasing your intake of plant based foods can offer a number of benefits. It offers you more antioxidants and fibre, and less saturated fats.

Below I have listed my 10 vegan foods for athletes. If you are looking to incorporate more plant based eating into your diet, try out some of these foods! I have broken down the list into the key nutrients that these foods provide including, protein & essential amino acids, Omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, Vitamin D, B12 and iron & why these nutrients are important.

Protein and Essential Amino Acids

Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth, synthesizing enzymes and hormones and it provides the building blocks of muscle, bones, hair and skin. While some plant based protein sources are short on all of the essential amino acids, the following vegan protein sources contain them all. Essential amino acids, in particular leucine, is needed post workout to maximize muscle growth & recovery.

  1. Tempeh (fermented soy based food which is also a source of probiotics. Try this recipe for Maple Balsamic Tempeh)
  2. Edamame (these are young soybeans and are excellent added to a stifryor or salad or even eaten on their own as a snack).
  3. Hemp seeds (also a source of omega 3 fatty acids, these seeds offer 10g protein in 3 tbsp. Add to cereal, oatmeal, energy bites, smoothies, salads and more!)

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

This healthy fat is important for heart and brain health, as well as managing inflammation. Heavy training can cause inflammation, leading to muscle soreness and fatigue. One way to reduce chronic inflammation and recover better from training is to include the healthy fat omega 3 fatty acids in the diet.

  1. Walnuts (Out of all the nuts, walnuts contain the most omega 3. Pair these with some fruit or cheese for a balanced snack). Hemp seeds, chia seeds and ground flax seeds are also sources of Omega 3.

Calcium

Calcium is an mineral important in bone health and muscle contraction. Some vegan friendly foods contain calcium but may not be as well absorbed as other sources.

  1. Sesame seeds and tahini (tahini is made from ground sesame seeds and used in hummus, but you can use it for dressings too)

Vitamin D

“The Sunshine Vitamin” is found mainly in salmon, egg yolks and milk. A supplement is most often required to meet your needs, however see below for a vegan food source. It is important for bone health, managing inflammation and may play a role in performance.

  1. Mushrooms (While not a very high source of Vitamin D, mushrooms are the only plant food that naturally contain Vitamin D). Plant based milks like soy and almond milk will be fortified and contain more.

Vitamin B12

Both B12 and iron (below) are involved in red blood cell formation. Low levels of either can result in fatigue. B12 supplements are usually necessary in vegan diets, and iron may be as well.

  1. Nutritional Yeast (With its cheesy flavour, this can be used to make sauces, dips, dressings and more. Or, simply sprinkle it on salads and stirfrys)

Iron

  1. Apricots (Also a great source of quick carbs before or after a workout, add apricots to energy bites and trail mix. Try these Turmeric and Ginger Apricot Energy Bars).
  2. Pumpkin Seeds (Don’t forget about these mighty seeds packed with nutrition! Add to oatmeal, trail mix, and salads or try these No Added Sugar Energy Bites)
  3. Lentils (Protein, fibre and iron. This recipe for Vegan Moroccan Chickpea Stew contains both lentils and chickpeas)

Keep in mind this is just a short list of the many plant based foods you can include in your diet, but this is a good place to start to get those nutrients listed above.

If you would like some support transitioning to a plant based diet or just learn how to include more plant based meals into your diet while maintaining performance, contact me at andreadocherty.rd@gmail.com

Andrea Docherty, RD

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Peanut Thai Tofu Bowls

Peanut Thai Tofu Bowls

This is by far one of my favourite recipes and when we made this during a cooking class, it was a hit with everyone. The smell of the tofu cooking peanut sauce is enough to make you steal a taste before assembling the bowls.

If you are new to cooking with tofu, this recipe will be a great place to start.

If you’re an athlete, this is a well-balanced meal that is great to consume about 4 hours before exercise (this will allow enough time to digest). The brown rice provides the fuel you need during exercise. Because it’s a whole grain, it provides long lasting energy, instead of a quick burst. The protein from the tofu and peanut butter will help slow down digestion and keep you feeling satisfied. Lastly, the beets contain nitrates which are converted to nitric oxide which can have a positive effect on exercise performance.

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Peanut Thai Tofu Bowls

Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 16 oz extra firm tofu
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 2 large beets shredded
  • 1 cup carrots shredded
  • 2 cups Broccoli florets
  • 0.5 tsp olive oil
  • 1-2 cups baby spinach or spring mix salad

Peanut Sauce

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce low sodium
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • ¼ cup natural peanut butter smooth or crunchy
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp chili garlic sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with tin foil and grease the foil or use a large pyrex dish and grease the bottom.
  2. Drain the tofu and remove from the package. Gently squeeze out some of the water.

  3. Line a cutting board with a tea towel or paper towels, then place the tofu on the towel. Fold the towel(s) over the cubed tofu, then place something heavy on top (like another cutting board, topped with a cast iron pan or large cans of tomatoes) to help the tofu drain. Let the tofu rest for at least 10 minutes and then chop into cubes.
  4. Transfer the pressed tofu to a medium mixing bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss to combine.
  5. Transfer the tofu to the baking sheet or pyrex and arrange in one even layer.
  6. In a bowl, toss the broccoli florets with a tsp of olive oil. Place on the other half of the baking sheet.

  7. Bake the broccoli for 15-20 minutes (remove when tender and set aside) and bake the tofu for 20 minutes, tossing halfway or until the tofu is deeply golden on the edges.
  8. Meanwhile, as you are cooking the tofu & broccoli, prepare the sauce. Whisk all the ingredients (soy sauce, maple syrup, peanut butter, sesame oil, chili garlic sauce and ginger) until smooth.
  9. Once tofu has cooked for 20 minutes, remove baking sheet from the oven. Pour half the peanut sauce over the tofu and mix so that all pieces are covered in sauce. Place back in the oven for 10 minutes.
  10. To assemble the bowls, divide all the ingredients evenly. For one serving, in a bowl add 1/4 cup brown rice, ¼ the tofu, ¼ cup shredded carrots, ¼ of the broccoli, ¼ shredded beet and a handful of spinach or spring mix. Top with ¼ of the reserved peanut sauce.

 

Maple Balsamic Roasted Tempeh

Maple Balsamic Roasted Tempeh

Have you tried Tempeh yet? I find most clients that come to me have heard of tofu, but not tempeh!

Like tofu, tempeh is also made from soybeans but they are fermented. While tofu is smooth and one consistency, tempeh is more dry, firmer and somewhat chewy. It has a nutty flavour and not quite as flavourless as tofu. Like tofu, tempeh can be marinated and take on other flavours in the dish.

Tempeh and tofu are both substitutes for meat, so they will add protein to a dish. For a 3oz serving, you will get 16g of protein and 7g of fibre, plus 10% of your iron requirements. Tempeh also provides probiotics (since its fermented).

In case you haven’t seen tempeh before in the grocery store, here is a link to one that I use often – Light Life Tempeh. It can be found at Zehrs, Loblaws and the Superstore in the Natural Value section.

Often times I cube up tempeh without cooking it and throw it in salads. I have tried some marinades in the past (including a peanut thai marinade I need to share with you!) but recently I made this Maple Balsamic Tempeh which is absolutely delicious! I mixed it with some roasted Brussels sprouts and quinoa but would also work great on salads and in wraps.

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Maple Balsamic Roasted Tempeh

Course Main Course

Ingredients

  • 1 227g package of tempeh
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp minced ginger

Instructions

  1. Slice tempeh into triangles. Cut the block of tempeh in the middle lengthwise. Cut into 4 pieces width wise so that you end up with 8 smaller rectangle pieces. Cut those rectangles in half to make triangles. 

  2. Place in a small casserole or pyrex dish. 

  3. Mix all of the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Pour over the tempeh and mix so all pieces are covered. Let marinade for 3-24 hours covered in the fridge. Stir throughout the time it is marinating. 

  4. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 375F. Roast in the oven for about 30-40 minutes until the marinade is soaked up by the tempeh. 

  5. Serve with quinoa or rice and veggies or on a wrap. If you like, you can make extras of the sauce to pour over your rice/quinoa bowl. 

Fudgey Double Chocolate Avocado Cookies

Fudgey Double Chocolate Avocado Cookies

What do you do when you have a bunch of ripe avocados and bananas?

Bake!

I adapted a recipe I have made in the past just like this by adding some flour to it. This helped the cookies to thicken up better. I used chickpea flour because I had been on a kick trying to make pizza crust (Gluten Free Vegan Pizza Crust) from it. I used Bob’s Red Mill chickpea flour, and you can also find this at the Bulk Barn if you don’t want to purchase a large amount. I think coconut flour or whole wheat flour could work well here too. If you use chickpea or coconut flour this recipe will be gluten-free.

To make this vegan:

To make this recipe vegan, use dairy free chocolate chips and  replace the egg with a flax egg. To make a flax egg, mix 1 tbsp of ground flax seed with 3 tbsp of water and let sit for about 10-15 minutes to thicken up.

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Fudgey Double Chocolate Avocado Cookies

Not your typical cookies but delicious nonetheless. Warm and fresh out of the oven they have a soft gooey texture. Eaten cold after being in the fridge gives them a brownie or fudge like consistency.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 ripe medium avocados
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/4-1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 egg (or use 1 flax egg)
  • 2-3 tbsp honey (or slightly more depending how sweet you would like it)
  • 1/4 cup chickpea flour (or can try coconut flour, this may make it more dense)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Toppings: More chocolate chips, hemp seeds, dried strawberries or banana

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line 2 baking sheets with greased tin foil. 

  2. In a bowl, use a potato masher to mash the avocado and banana. Remove all clumps. Add egg and honey and mix. 

  3. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt). Fold this into the wet ingredients. 

  4. Add in the chocolate chips and mix. If the batter is too runny, add more flour 1 tbsp at a time. 

  5. Drop dough (about 2-3 tbsp per cookie) onto the baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Add toppings if desired. Makes about 12-15 cookies. 

  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until a tooth pick stuck in the centre comes out clean. They will still be pretty soft. 

  7. Let cool slightly before transferring to a plate or cooling rack. Store in the fridge. 

– Andrea Docherty, RD

Vegan Moroccan Chickpea Stew

Vegan Moroccan Chickpea Stew

Well, its that time of year now where I’m going to be using my crockpot much more frequently! With the cooler weather coming, I’m craving stews, chilli and soup.

This recipe is very quick to throw together and will leave your house smelling amazing! You can use the vegetables listed in the recipe, but feel free to make some substitutions based on your preference or whatever you have in your house! I had a lot of veggies to use up before they went bad, and decided a stew would be a great way to use them.

Plant Based Protein

Even though this is vegan, its got both chickpeas and red lentils. 1/2 cup chickpeas or lentils provides about 10g of protein and also about 10g of fibre.

High Fibre

Between the beans and tons of veggies in this recipe, it will surely help you reach your fibre goals for the day! Fibre contains a number of benefits:

  • Helps to keep us feeling full
  • Helps with digestion and keeping us regular
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Improves gut health (acts as food for good bacteria aka probiotics)
  • Keeps blood sugar levels stable

Manage Inflammation

Spices contain anti-inflammatory compounds. The beans and vegetables also contain lots of antioxidants which can help to manage inflammation.

This is a great recipe for you weekend batch cooking!

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Vegan Moroccan Chickpea Stew

Healthy comfort food recipe made in the crockpot. 

Course Main Course

Ingredients

  • 1 small cauliflower, chopped into florets
  • 1 carrot peeled and sliced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 medium sweet potato, diced
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic (or more if you love garlic)
  • 1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup dry, uncooked red lentils
  • 3-4 cups vegetable broth (no salt added if watching salt intake)
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2-1 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Add vegetables into the crockpot and turn on high. 

  2. Add the can of diced tomatoes, vegetable broth, chickpeas and uncooked lentils and stir. Add the spices and mix well to combine. You can need to add more vegetable broth, keep an eye on it as it is cooking and add more at about 1/2 cup at a time. 

  3. Cook on high for 5 hours, or on low for longer (if you would like this to cook all day). Stir every hour or so if you are able to. Add more liquid if needed, but the consistency should be thick, not like a broth soup. 

  4. Adjust the amount of seasonings to taste. Remove bay leaves before serving. 

Enjoy!

-Andrea Docherty, RD

Mexican Quinoa Meal Prep Salad

Mexican Quinoa Meal Prep Salad

Bean salads are a staple in my meal prep! You can use brown rice in place of the quinoa or another type of whole grain if you prefer. This dish is vegan but still a great source of protein coming from the quinoa, black beans and hemp seeds (if you choose to add these).

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Mexican Quinoa Meal Prep Salad

Quick, easy recipe that makes a great lunch or side dish. Make it ahead of time and enjoy this all week long. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa, dry & uncooked
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 mango, diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 can corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup hemp seeds (optional)

Instructions

  1. Cook quinoa: Bring 1 cup dry quinoa and 2 cups of water to boil in a pot. Then turn down to a simmer and cover with a lid. Cook about 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed

  2. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Add quinoa once its cooked. Serve cold.