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My daughter has decided to become vegan. What considerations should I take when preparing food for her and how do I ensure she has a balanced and healthy diet? 

Being vegan and meeting all your body’s requirement is a challenge, especially when ethnically you are not from a vegetarian culture. We need to have a checklist of the nutrients required by the human body, which is essentially discovering what you tend to miss when you become a vegetarian and consciously include it more, like for instance proteins, vitamins A, D, E , K, B12 etc, minerals such as calcium, iron, and omega 3. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work most of the time. The body identifies and accepts most nutrients in certain combinations. It’s all about making wholesome balanced choices.

You can include more lentils, legumes, soya beans, nuts such as almonds, walnuts, cashews, and peanuts; seeds such as flaxseed, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds; sprouts, tofu, and more. These are a good source for your proteins, but again combination matters. For instance rice and beans, corn and beans, lentils with bread, or baked potato with beans. These will help you get complete protein. Also try to include wholemeal grains like burgol, millet, and wholewheat in your diet along with proteins.

Make sure you include a portion of dark green vegetables, broccoli, bok choy or kale leaves in your meals to meet your calcium needs. You can also consume mushrooms of different varieties to meet your vitamin D requirements and seaweed for your vitamin B12 requirements. Eat a lot of dark coloured vegetables and fruits such as carrots, red peppers, beetroot, and dark green mangoes to get vitamin A. 

It’s also recommended that you add soya milk, almond milk or coconut milk for your porridges with wholegrains and top it up with nuts and dried fruits to make it wholesome. 

Have healthy snacks such as a bowl of dried apricots, dried figs, dates, raisins, with some nuts and fresh fruits every day. You can also enjoy an avocado smoothie with coconut milk or almond milk, or papaya smoothie topped with nuts.

Another important thing is to ensure that you are exposed to the sunlight at least for ten minutes 3-4 times a week.

Now the real challenge will be to meet vitamin B12 and omega-3 requirements. For that you can go for fortified soya milk or you may have to include supplements.