6 Nutrients to Know for Plant-Based Eating


When you’re eating a plant-based diet, it’s important to pay attention to certain nutrients in your meals.

Our core food philosophy is to eat a plant-centric diet, which to us, means focusing on whole foods and mostly (you guessed it!) plants. It’s important to choose the foods you enjoy eating and that fuel your body for a happy, healthy life. If that means going completely animal product-free, that’s great — it’s really a matter of what works best for your body and eating in a way that’s smart, nourishes you, and covers all your nutrient needs.

When switching to a plant-based lifestyle (or even if you’ve been following it for awhile), you’ll want to pay extra attention to a few key nutrients you could potentially miss and ones that I see most often lacking in my clients’ diets. Here, I explain what those nutrients are, why they’re important, and where you can get them.

Must-Have Nutrients for Plant-Based Eating

1. Protein In Plant-based Diets

You need protein for everyday living — it helps maintain bone, skin, and muscles. It’s also especially important for people looking to build muscle or plant-based eaters who are also very active. While you don’t need meat to get enough protein since there are great sources of plant-based proteins available to you, you do have to make sure you’re aiming for quality sources and enough of them.

There used to be a push toward combining foods to make sure you get all the essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) in one meal, but research has shown us that’s old news and it’s more important to eat a variety of foods with different amino acids which our body will use. Just keep in mind to eat a diverse range of protein-rich (and still plant-based) foods. If you do that, you’ll likely meet your needs. (1)

Some of the top and most popular protein foods include beans, lentils, seeds, and nuts. Check out a full list of the top 10 plant-based protein sources, and just make sure you mix it up. You can also find protein-rich recipes here and here.

2. Iron In Plant-based Diets

We all need iron, regardless if you eat a plant-based diet or not! Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the body. The tricky thing about this nutrient in plant-based eating is that it’s sometimes hard to absorb, and some foods can actually block your body’s absorption. These foods include polyphenols tannin, found in coffee or tea, and phytates, which are found in whole grains and legumes.

The trick is to eat iron-rich foods — like whole grains, nuts, seeds, fortified foods, and green veggies — along with some vitamin C, found in things like red bell peppers, oranges, or grapefruit. Because of the possibility for malabsorption, it’s best to get lots of iron from many sources and do not take any calcium supplements around the time of an iron-rich meal, calcium competes with iron and may hinder its absorption.

For example, a cup of cooked spinach yields 245 milligrams of calcium and about six milligrams of iron. Try it in a dish like this one bowl skillet meal and add a cup of cooked black beans to add another nearly four milligrams of iron to the dish, with a squeeze of fresh lemon (hello vitamin C), and even better if you sprinkle some nutritional yeast on it which is loaded with B vitamins and protein!

For your daily goal, aim for a total of 14 milligrams of iron if you’re a male and 33 milligrams if you’re a female, as women are at higher risk for low iron levels (1). Of course, these are just general recommendations, my clients sometimes have higher or lower needs depending on their unique body and health goals — always chat with your dietitian about what you need!

3. Zinc In Plant-based Diets

Zinc helps your cells grow and repair, plays a role in thyroid health, skin health, and aids in protein metabolism, so basically you need it for everyday function. It also helps with immune function, wound healing, and DNA synthesis (6). Like iron, the body can have trouble absorbing zinc, particularly in a plant-based diet or if you have unique digestive issues that make it more difficult for your body to absorb zinc. This is especially true when eating certain legumes and whole grains, which contain phytates that block absorption.

When going fully plant-based, try to get about 17 milligrams of zinc for males and 12 milligrams for females (1) — as you need more when you’re not eating meat. The highest plant sources include (6):

  • baked beans (2.9 milligrams per serving)
  • cashews (1.6 milligrams per serving)
  • chickpeas (1.3 milligrams per serving)
  • oatmeal (1.1 milligrams per serving)
  • hemp seeds (3 milligrams per serving)
  • pumpkin seeds (2 milligrams per serving)

I personally love adding hemp seeds to cereal and smoothies, as well as soups or dips. A few cooking techniques will help improve the absorption of zinc, including soaking beans in water for a few hours and letting them sit until sprouts form. Also, if pairing with grains, opt for leavened ones, like whole grain bread rather than something like crackers (6).

4. Vitamin D In Plant-based Diets

You need vitamin D to absorb calcium and therefore, promote bone health. It also plays a role in intestinal, immune, and cardiovascular systems, as well as the health of the pancreas, muscles, brain, and cell cycles (3).

About 50% of the population has a vitamin D deficiency (3), so it’s crucial to pay attention to how much you’re getting. Spending plenty of time in the great outdoors will likely help you get your fill of vitamin D. Research says to aim for about 10 to 20 minutes in the spring and summer, but in the winter you’d need about two hours (4). That can be difficult to get, which means turning to foods or a supplement is necessary. If the sunshine isn’t working in your favor, add vitamin D to your meals. Most vitamin D sources come from animals (namely, fish), but you can also find it in fortified cereals and plant-based milk.

Talk to your dietitian or doctor if you think you might lack vitamin D, as many people do require a supplement during the winter seasons or throughout the year. The recommended daily dosage is 600 IU for people ages 1 to 70, with people over that age requiring 800 and younger, 400 (5).

5. Calcium In Plant-based Diets

You might already know that calcium helps protect your bones, but it also helps with nerve and cell signaling, the dilation of blood vessels, and muscle function (7). Adults need 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams per day, in general.

You probably also remember hearing that you need to drink your (dairy) milk to protect your bones, which is partially true. However, you can still get calcium from veggie-forward foods — you just need some vitamin D for your body to absorb it, as I mentioned above. That’s why you’ll sometimes find low levels in people that eat mostly plants and get limited sun exposure.

Keep in mind many veggies come high in calcium, including collard greens, bok choy, and kale. In other words: make sure you are incorporating greens into your meals. One of my favorite kale recipes is this caesar nori wrap. Another good calcium-rich source is tofu (when made with calcium sulfate, it can contain up to 253 milligrams of calcium in one serving). Try this tofu scramble to get your fill.

6. Vitamin B12 In Plant-based Diets

Vitamin B12 is important for producing DNA, and is essential for red blood cell formation and cell metabolism. However, this can be a tricky micronutrient to consume on an animal-free diet. In fact, one study found that about half of vegans are B12 deficient (2). That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get enough of the nutrient, though. The goal intake amount for adults: 2.4 micrograms (8).

You can still get B12 from fortified foods — in fact, the National Institutes for Health recommend having fortified cereal to hit the right dosage — but one of my favorite ingredients featuring calcium is nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast has a powder or flake-like consistency, a cheesy flavor, and contains 40 milligrams of calcium in a 1/4 cup. I love sprinkling it on top of salads or beans. Check out this cashew cheese recipe that also features the ingredient.

Also, most almond milk or non-dairy food items like milk, yogurt, cereal, etc. are fortified to include vitamin B12. Most of the time when I have a client who is practicing a vegan lifestyle, I recommend a dedicated B12 supplement to ensure maintenance and high-quality source, since it’s difficult to get enough being fully vegan. It is important to check your B12 levels and ask your doctor if you need a supplement because so many people are deficient. A simple blood test will tell you if you need more.

Let’s Chat!

Do you follow a plant-based diet? What are your favorite things to eat? I’d love to keep the conversation going on your go-to meals, especially ones with these nutrients, so share below. You can also post on social using #nutritionstripped.

  1. David Rogerson. (2017.) Vegan diets: practical advice for athletes and exercisers.
  2. Gilsing AM, Crowe FL, Lloyd-Wright Z, Sanders TA, Appleby PN, Allen NE, Key TJ. (2010, September.) Serum concentrations of vitamin B12 and folate in British male omnivores, vegetarians and vegans: results from a cross-sectional analysis of the EPIC-Oxford cohort study.
  3. Nair, R., & Maseeh, A. (2012). Vitamin d: the sunshine vitamin.
  4. Maria-Antonia Serrano, Javier Cañada, Juan Carlos Moreno, Gonzalo Gurrea. (2017, March.) Solar ultraviolet doses and vitamin D in a northern mid-latitude.
  5. Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health.
  6. Zinc Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health.
  7. Calcium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health.
  8. Vitamin B12 Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health.

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This Super-Popular Protein Bar Is Included in Today’s Amazon Prime Day Sale


Here's some exciting news for anyone who basically lives on RX Bars (which includes us, by the way): A few select flavors of the popular protein bars are on sale for Prime Day today.

Not familiar with RX Bars? The bestselling brand has developed a cult following, thanks in part to their super-short ingredient lists. Each flavor of these bars lists out the ingredients on the front of the package, so you'll know exactly what you're eating without having to scan any fine print. Most flavors include some combination of nuts, egg whites, and dates, making it a great protein-packed choice for vegetarians–or anyone who wants a boost of protein and filling fiber without the long list of difficult-to-pronounce ingredients.

To buy: $14 for 12 (regularly $20 for 12);

The three flavors on sale for Prime Day are Chocolate Sea Salt, Peanut Butter, and Blueberry (a few of the best, in our opinion). They originally ring in for about $20 for 12 bars, but you can nab all three varieties for 30% off today only. This deal will end in a few hours, though, so act fast!

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Crumbled Tofu Peanut Slaw


What do you get when you mix peanut slaw with crumbled tofu? A delicious protein-packed salad and meal for lunch or dinner!

I created this recipe on a whim when I was in the mood for my routine “pad thai” recipe yet didn’t want anything hot since it’s the middle of summer in Nashville — enter in, slaw.

Cabbage and Peanut Sauce, A Delicious Combo

Cabbage is one antioxidant-rich ingredient we always have stocked in the fridge, mainly because it’s so versatile to use and gives any dish a fresh flavor, crunchy texture, and a boost of the health benefits cruciferous vegetables have. From polyphenols that help reduce inflammation in the body and protect the body against free radical damage to the fiber content for promoting healthy digestion, it’s a win!

Peanut butter is another star in this recipe with it’s slightly sweet, roasted, and nutty flavor, you can make this sauce and use it on anything! I recommend getting organic peanut butter to make this recipe with,

Peanuts are rich in B vitamins, copper, manganese, phosphorus, molybdenum, vitamin E, and of course healthy fats and protein. Peanuts are also on the list of the top food allergens so if peanuts don’t fit your lifestyle you can use cashew butter or sunflower seed butter for that same texture and nutty flavor. To read more about the health benefits of peanuts, check out this guide to make nut butter and tips on how to buy peanuts.

What Is Tofu?

Tofu is an incredibly versatile food and a complete protein that contains all amino acids. Like other soy products such as tempeh or edamame, tofu contains fiber, healthy fats, and is a great source of plant-based protein. One serving of tofu can offer up to 20g of protein depending on the source!

It’s versatile in that it easily soaks up surrounding flavors in dishes, which makes it perfect for this slaw recipe and the peanut sauce. Tofu can be found at most local grocery stores and health food stores — if you have the option for organic, I recommend opting for that when you can, and also sprouted if you can find it.

Like most of the recipes I create for you guys, it’s all about leftovers or making larger amounts of recipes so that you can make healthy meal prep work for you! There’s nothing better than having a nutritious meal ready to go for a quick lunch or dinner that tastes delicious even 3 days after you’ve made it. Just store it in an airtight glass container and enjoy it with fresh garnished like lime, cilantro, and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes for some heat.

Healthy Crumbled Tofu Peanut Slaw | Nutrition Stripped

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I Ate Like Supermodel Kate Upton for Three Days—and It Wasn’t That Hard


What It Is: Kate Upton x Urban Remedy Meal Plan

Who Tried It: Grace Gavilanes, associate editor

Level of Difficulty: 4/10

When I think Kate Upton, three things come to mind: Her laugh-out-loud role in The Other Woman, her picture-perfect relationship with husband Justin Verlander and her totally enviable physique (and body-positive attitude to boot!). Upton’s a supermodel whose hectic schedule keeps her on the go, but she makes sure to eat clean, nourishing meals throughout the day no matter what.

In late June, Upton announced on Instagram that she partnered up with Urban Remedy and its founder, Neka Pasquale, to create an exclusive Kate-Upton-approved meal plan that promotes an organic diet.

The three-day meal plan ($189; features salads, a veggie burger, a black rice bowl and several shots of juice for fitness fans to take before, during and after their workouts. As’s self-proclaimed guinea pig, I was immediately intrigued and knew I had to try it out. But this isn’t just another celebrity who has no personal attachment to the product she’s endorsing. Upton tells PEOPLE she’s long been a fan of the company and its delicious and healthy offerings.

So, what advice did she have for me before I kicked off my living-like-a-supermodel adventure? She recommended I pay extra-close attention to subtle and noticeable changes I’d be experiencing in those three days. “I always can tell when I’m eating clean because I sleep better, my skin clears up, and I have significantly more energy,” Upton tells PEOPLE of her own experience with the service. “It truly makes a huge difference.”

And with that heads-up, I was off:

Day One

Tell Me About Your Day: I don’t even know how to describe what I felt on my first day. Surprise? Total satisfaction? I was just happy, and yes, most definitely surprised. I kicked off my three-day journey on a Wednesday, which in theory sounded perfect. I’d end this meal plan right before the weekend so if I’m miserable I can just treat myself to cheese fries on Saturday, I thought. But here’s the thing: The meals were really, really good — even the smoothies, which I was skeptical about at first. I usually start my day off with a big ol’ cup of oatmeal and a banana, but the Green Berry smoothie was first on the meal plan’s Day 1 list. I don’t have an ongoing relationship with smoothies so I was curious about my very first beverage on the plan. The drink was sweet and thick, but not in an overwhelming way. I was immediately satisfied and much to my surprise, felt satiated. A much lighter green juice (Slender Greens) came next for “mid-morning.” Clearly unexperienced, I kind of forced myself to drink Slender Greens 1.5 hours after the Green Berry, despite still feeling quite full. Lunch called for Thai Veggie Noodles and Chicken. The noodles were made from zucchini, and the dish was delicious. It even came with a spicy ginger lime dressing! And because Kate Upton knows every sane person needs an afternoon snack to get them through the mid-day slump, she included Sour Cream & Chive Zucchini Chips (1/2 bag) in the plan. I was extra cautious about not eating the entire bag. At around 5 p.m. I ate dinner, a Vegan Caesar Salad that came with parmesan seed cheese made from hemp, sesame and sunflower. I did feel hungry a few hours later, though, so I ate an RX Bar after coming across a “plan tip” written at the top of the meal plan schedule card that read, “Listen to your body and eat when hungry.” I took it as a sign to enjoy the chocolate sea salt bar, which I do end up doing while also vowing to not force-drink the mid-morning juice so soon after my breakfast. 

How’s Your Skin? I’ve always been prone to breakouts so I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t expecting an overnight miracle. Regardless, I did keep an extra-close eye on a bump I saw forming on my right cheek that morning.

How’d You Sleep? Like a baby. But I think it had less to do with the meal plan and more to do with my A/C being on the whole night.

How About Your Energy Levels? I will say, I did feel healthier since I was being encouraged to focus on portion controls, and not just eating cupcakes or cookies whenever I needed a break from work.

Day Two 

Tell Me About Your Day: I felt like a contestant on the early-aughts reality show Temptation Island, but instead of hunky guys, my temptation came in the form of a catered company lunch and DIY sundae bar. I must persevere! And I did. Somehow. In the morning, I happily gulped my breakfast — a Mint Cacao Chip smoothie — which almost made me cry because it tasted like a cheat meal but is so, so good for you because of the vitamin-loaded spinach, banana, cashews, mint and cacao in it. Lunch and dinner were comprised of Rainbow Salad + Chicken and Ensalada Bowl salads. The afternoon snack, a Cacao Chip Protein Bar, was exactly what I needed after being tempted with goodies. Oh, I also downed almost two liters of water throughout the day … which I mindlessly end with an RX Bar while reading a few articles on my phone. What can I say? I’m a creature of habit.

How’s Your Skin? The bump on my cheek got bigger. Again, not your fault, Kate Upton. I blame that one night earlier in the week when I didn’t deep-clean my face for this soon-to-be volcano-sized zit on my face.

How’d You Sleep? Not very well but it’s entirely my fault. I stayed up late to watch a re-run of Southern Charm. I am too invested in the Thomas-Ashley-Kathryn drama to feel guilty.

How About Your Energy Levels? I definitely started feeling more confident on Thursday, mostly because I coolly rejected the free sandwiches and ice cream being served at work. I did, however, stand within feet of the free food just to see/smell it but found myself back at my desk minutes later (hair flip).

Day Three

Tell Me About Your Day: My morning started off with a 7 a.m. boxing class at Shadowbox, which meant I was finally able to try out the plan’s pre-, mid- and post-workout shots. Since I’m only really used to chugging water while exercising and making a protein shake right after, the shots — made with ingredients like beet root (pre), cucumber (mid) and ginger (post) — were a nice little departure. The post-workout shot, in particular, was a nice kick thanks to the ginger and turmeric. It claims to reduce inflammation and officially woke me up. After that, I made my way to work, had a Green Berry smoothie and a Happy Belly juice hours later, when my body was finally ready. In terms of food, Day 3 of the plan is the best one yet. Lunch and dinner were comprised of an umami plant Veggie Burger — which I had to stop myself from eating so fast because it is that good — and a Black Rice Umeboshi Bowl that came with salmon. Salmon! I was thrilled because as much as I love salads, I do appreciate a variety in my protein (i.e. something other than chicken). The afternoon snack called for the last half of the Sour Cream & Chive Zucchini Chips bag, which ended up being more than half because I was so paranoid about eating the entire thing on Day 1. I was very satisfied throughout the day, mostly because I finally got the hang of drinking my mid-morning juice when I felt less-than-uncomfortably-stuffed. That evening was a little trickier. My good friend was treating me and four of her other bridesmaids to a nice dinner a week before her wedding. It took me a very long time to order because I a.) wasn’t that hungry at all and b.) wanted to make Kate Upton proud! In the end, I chose roasted chicken with veggies for my entrée … and a little slice of peach cobbler with blackberry ice cream for dessert. (Sorry, Kate!!) It sounded too delicious to pass up.

How’s Your Skin? The little bump on my right cheek grew into a full-fledged whitehead, which — spoiler alert! — eventually disappeared almost a week later. 

How’d You Sleep? Pretty good! Waking up early for a fitness class before work usually catches up with me at the end of the day.

How About Your Energy Levels? I felt pretty good at work. Not tired one bit.


The meals were delicious and very easy to prep since all I really had to do was mix in the dressing, chicken and salmon. No microwave needed! It was a much-needed reboot to my system, which up until starting the meal plan, only recognized the chocolate chip waffles and chicken nuggets I continuously ate during a weekend binge. The only downside is that the meal plan does have a hefty price tag, which makes sense considering every meal is fresh and packed with nutrients your body needs. That being said, I would definitely still treat myself to the Veggie Burger and a few Mint Cacao Chip smoothies in the near future. The best news? You can buy any item individually.

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