Dark leafy greensOlivier Tabary /Shutterstock
You probably know the many health benefits of starting a vegan diet. But when you take dairy off the menu, you need to find other sources of calcium—and dark leafy greens check that box off and should definitely be found on your vegan shopping list. Felicia Spence, RD at Hilton Head Health, recommends choosing one dark leafy green a day, such as kale, collards, spinach, or Swiss chard, and eating lots of it. “The darker the green the better,” she says, suggesting adding greens to smoothies, salads, or as part of a hot meal. But don’t ignore other colors of vegetables. “Eat a wide variety of different colors,” suggests Wendy Cohen, RD. Orange vegetables such carrots and bell peppers contain beta-carotene, which converts into vitamin A in the body and is necessary for good vision and eye health, a strong immune system, and healthy skin and mucous membranes.
Frozen fruitscasanisa /Shutterstock
The easiest way to add a wide range of fruits to your vegan diet is to buy frozen. “Frozen produce is picked at the peak of freshness and flash frozen,” explains Spence. “Frozen fruit is great in smoothies or thawed and used as a topping to oatmeal or a smoothie.” All berries, especially wild blueberries, are packed with antioxidants and vitamin C, which we need to keep our immune systems strong. Cohen advises buying organic whenever possible because berries are high on the pesticides list. (These are some of the healthiest fruits you can eat.) Dried fruit is another great addition to a plant-based diet, but look for brands that have no added sugar. Spence recommends dates, which are naturally sweet and contain iron, fiber, and magnesium.