My cousin Tamara is at a really awesome (I was going to say beautiful but I’m on my second glass of wine and I questioned whether I would use that word if I was on my second glass of water…I digress…) phase of her food journey. (Sorry for the second tangent within a bracket but aren’t we all at some part of our food journey? It’s beautiful…HA I did it!)
Anyways, she’s looking to broaden her vegan/vegetarian experience and she sent me a message on Facebook that turned into a full blown conversation. It made me think that these questions and answers would be interesting to many more of you. Therefore I’ve tried to make an abridged version with less spelling mistakes to share with you!
Tamara: Hey Lindsay, It was so great to see you too! I was thinking I have some questions for you.
On Saturday, I go through both vegan and vegetarian cook books and plan out my week.I have at least 2 or 3 meat days because I can easily put a meal together with meat even though it is getting easier to cut it out because I have grown quite the repertoire of veg meals due to planning ahead but I still lean back on meat.
My biggest problem is fitting iron into my diet, I have had a few times where I ended up at the doctor and my iron is low (mainly when I was preggos) but I had one time this spring where I was exhausted and just took iron pills and felt better. I can tell the feeling. So when you prep vegan dishes what do you think about that? I know dark greens and legumes are good in iron but I want tasty things to add that would give a good iron boost.
Me: Hey Cousin! All excellent questions! I’ve actually never had a problem with iron which is great meaning it isn’t hard to get what you need. When you eat leafy greens are you having some sort of fruit with it?
It’s actually hard to absorb iron from foods like spinach that are packed with iron without vitamin C!
Not sure if you already know this and are like ummm YEAH! But I bet it would be confounding to go to the doctors and have low iron when you’re eating lots of it! So pair orange juice or a citrus with your salad and you’ll have better luck with the iron. If you’re totally sick of the leafy greens (ummm I get it) there are other options.
Almonds, nuts and beans are great for iron, I love bean fajitas, almond milk, almond butter, etc. Soy has iron in it as well, I know some vegans are trying to get away from so much soy because it seemed like our saviour for so long and I think we over did it and it can be quite processed so everything in moderation! But that means soybeans, soy milk, tofu, and tempeh are great for iron.
Finally look for fortified foods like cereals, whole wheat breads, and certain milks will have extra iron added to them.
Annnnnnnnnd because I know you love your tea…. tea and coffee can work against your (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO) iron absorption!
Ok and finally some super iron-rich dishes you can make that won’t make your family gag are:
Pizza with lots of greens on it! Even better don’t use a tomato sauce base- use a pesto! Pesto is so easy to make and you can make it from a million things like spinach (duh), kale, arugular, yams, sweet potatoes, beets, on and on.
- Pasta with the pesto mention above.
- Fajitas or burritos or tacos! Add mangos….yummy yummy.
- Broccoli soup, almond soup, or pistachio soup.
- Stir fry rice (omg I love it so much, stir fry your veggies, add rice and then add fruit like pineapple or nuts!)
- Fried tofu over mashed potatoes and veggies.
Keep the questions coming!
Tamara: That is crazy! I didn’t know about the citrus with the greens but that is an easy fix! Thank you! I have actually been making carrot, spinach and orange blended juices to get greens in Blake. And I LOVE them!! I also feel really good after drinking it! That is awesome! Oh and the tea…yes, I did know that…sadly, I have been working through actually cutting out tea altogether. It doesn’t bother me so much now because I haven’t found a good tea that I like. The only tea that has worked was one a students parent brought for me from china…a green tea so good!
Ok, more questions when you have time: now nuts, is this all nuts- like cashews, peanuts. Are some better than others? We have almond milk and I have figured out how to make my own almond milk, I have everything for it, that is my next project!
So for the fajitas, burritos or tacos with beans- do you buy re-fried beans or canned or dried and soak them? AND when adding the mangoes- is that because of the iron absorption with a fruit?
Me: Haha! Ok, loving it.
I’m not sure if one nut is better than the other because they have different amounts of different things, pistachios and almonds and pine nuts are all pretty high in iron but my favorite nut is pecans. Hands down. It’s got iron but its sweet and mild taste is fantastic on everything- salads, pizzas, pastas, I even put it on toast with tomatoes. Plus They generally won’t break the bank.
If you’re ok with spending a bit more money you can get chia seeds or hemp oil, both great with iron and other things and easy to replace olive oil with. I use a Vega oil with Omega in it because it replaces my eggs quite nicely.
I haven’t made any nut milk yet! Mostly because our blender isn ‘t great and I’m planning on getting a new one when we move. So many things to make! So little time!
Pesto is SO EASY! Basically throw your base (spinach, kale, cooked yams…whatever) with a nut, oil, bit of lemon juice, a herb (basil, thyme are good), and garlic. Sometimes I throw in some agave nector to sweeten it up. I’ve got some pesto recipes here.
Now for the Mexican dishes, I generally buy canned organic beans but soaked or canned is fantastic and probably better with less sodium. Mangos are just delicious. It’s magical when you add them to something salty like a burger or beans BUT they also have vitamin C!
PLUS one more thing- try pureeing some spinach or whatever to put in the pizza dough! Easy way to add even more nutritional punch to your dish!
Tamara: Oh man, honestly you are blowing my mind with all these ideas! I have a huge paper with ideas here! Thank you so much!