Nutritional Yeast: Nutrition Facts and How to us it
What I seem to hear the most from people interested in starting a plant based diet is, “What is Nutritional Yeast, and how do I use it?” The name makes it sound daunting and not very tasty but it’s delicious and can be added to a variety of recipes or used to top things like popcorn and pasta. Nutritional Yeast has a beautiful cheesy-like flavor while also being extremely rich in vitamins, especially B- vitamins. Most people begin adding this to their meals for the nutritional aspect but then keep it around for the flavor.
In this article I will breakdown what exactly nutritional yeast is, the nutritional benefits, where to find it and how to incorporate it into your meals.
What is Nutritional Yeast?:
Nutritional yeast is deactivated yeast, it’s sold as small thin yellow flakes or in powdered form, it has the taste and texture similar to Parmesan cheese with some added nuttiness. You may also hear people referring to it as “Nooch” or “Hippie Dust”.
Nutritional Yeast is naturally gluten- free and is known for its B-vitamins. Most B-vitamins are found together in food sources as they often need each other to preform best in the body. Some nutritional yeast brands are fortified with extra B12. It also contains protein, potassium and iron.
What that means for our health? Well B-vitamins are essential to our well being, important to note is that they are water-soluble meaning they do not store well in the body and should be consumed daily. B-vitamins are important for normal functioning of the nervous system and play an important role in energy function. B-vitamins have tons of benefits including improving stress, fatigue, anxiety, and can also help with skin issues.
If you believe you may be low in B-vitamins ensure to get your levels tested by your doctor.
Where to find Nutritional Yeast:
Nutritional Yeast is not hard to find. It’s a very common health food item and can be found in most health food aisles in common grocery stores, health food shops and stores that sell bulk food. You can also easily order nutritional yeast online. Some recognizable brands are Bob’s Red Mill and Bragg.
How to incorporate it into meals:
As previously mentioned Nutritional Yeast is commonly used as a cheese substitute. It works well as a replacement for Parmesan cheese to top pastas, popcorn, nachos and salads. I also like to sprinkle it on top of vegan Lasagna and Shepard’s Pie. Nutritional yeast also gives cheesy flavors used directly in creamy pasta sauces such as Vegan Cheesy Spaghetti , it can also be added into tomato based sauces and soups to give it that nutritional boost. Don’t be shy, try adding it to your favorite dishes and you will be surprised at how easy it is to incorporate this amazing ingredient!
Have your own favorite ways to use Nutritional Yeast? Share it in the comments section below!
Source: Elson M. Haas, MD. Staying Healthy with Nutrition, 21st- Century Edition. 2006
Vegan Meal Prep 101
I went from convenience foods 2-3 times a week to preparing complete healthy meals for the entire work week. I have learned many tricks over the years that I am going to share with you. This will make meal time less hectic, healthier and help you save some dough in the process.
Sounds good? Let’s get to it!
Stock up on Containers:
Containers are key. Stock up on some BPA-free containers of various sizes and ones that have separate sections. This will help keep your food fresh and is essential when you take a meal to go.
Schedule, schedule, schedule:
Its time to take scheduling seriously, it helps tremendously! It may seem daunting but it’s the key to success. The solution to making a schedule is to SCHEDULE A TIME TO MAKE THAT SCHEDULE. All it takes is a half our once a week. Your schedule should include:
- What your meals will be, including a grocery list
- Date and time for your grocery shopping
- Date(s) and time for meal prep
Prepare Whole Grains:
Whole grains such as brown rice, and quinoa are a fantastic base and are nutritious but sometimes they can take a while to cook. Cook them ahead of time, they store wonderfully in the fridge and can easily be re-heated to pair with meals such as curried vegetables, fried rice or a veggie stir-fry.
Frozen or prepared Vegetables:
No one wants to come home a cut up a ton of vegetables. Pre-cut veggies and store in containers to save time, alternatively, keep frozen vegetables on hand.
Wash and prepare fresh leafy vegetables immediately after bringing them home from the store, leafy vegetables can wilt quickly, by prepping them immediately you not only have them ready to consume immediately but you reduce the risk of food waste.
Make Breakfast a Breeze:
Trying to come up with a nutritious yet quick breakfast can be difficult. Here are 4 quick options:
- High fiber, low sugar cereal paired with a fruit
- Smoothie: Pre-portion some frozen fruits and vegetables to throw in the blender with some nut milk.
- Overnight Oats- Take 5 mins the night before to grab a mason jar and make some overnight oats, there are many different combinations that are all delicious and nutritious. Use 1/2 cup of oats as a base, combine with ingredients such as berries, peanut butter, maple syrup, cocoa powder and finish it with nut milk. Stir it all together, put the lid on and pop it in the fridge. In the morning top with some nuts, seeds, vegan yogurt, coconut flakes etc.
- Oatmeal- instead of the quick oat packs at the store that are loaded with sugar and other unnecessary ingredients you can make your own at home in 5 mins. Add 1/2 cup of quick oats to a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, add to a bowl and top with ingredients such as bananas, berries, nuts, seeds, cinnamon and a sweetener such as a maple syrup and you have yourself a quick nutritious breakfast.
Mason Jar Salads:
You can easily make 4 or 5 days worth of mason jar salads for your lunches, they keep well and can be customized.
What to include:
- Salad dressing: tahini and avocado-based dressings are always a good healthy option, avoid too many oil-based dressings.
- Grains and protein such as quinoa, tofu, chickpeas, black/brown beans, and edamame.
- Other vegetables such as shredded carrots, cabbage, bells peppers, avocado cubes, asparagus and sprouts.
Keep in mind some fruits and vegetables keep better than others, for example, avocado turns brown quite quickly and is best kept separate, or when used in a dressing add lemon to preserve freshness. Always make your leafy greens the last item in the mason jar to avoid wilting or sogginess- always place dressing at the bottom of the jar or store in a separate small container to add afterwards.
Always have snacks on hand. Snacks help to curb cravings and ensure you are getting enough energy and nutrients throughout the day.
Low hassle snacks include fruits such as grapes, berries, apples, bananas, and pears. Nuts and seeds, crackers/vegetable sticks with hummus, pre-steamed edamame beans in the shell with a dash of salt and these easy Nut Butter Energy Bites.
Lastly, you can plan a couple of your weekday meals as leftover meals. You should only make your meals a maximum of 4 days in advance as most meals don’t keep well much longer than that. For example, if your meal planning is Monday- Friday you can pre-make meals from Monday- Thursday but make Thursday nights dinner in a large batch so that meals for Friday can be leftovers. Alternately you can make a large batch dinner on Sundays and Wednesdays for your lunches throughout the week. Large batch meals that keep well include lasagna and pasta dishes, stir-fries, potato dishes, Shepards pie, bean salads, stews, soups, chili etc.
Learning how to stay on track with meal planning differs from person to person based on lifestyle, do not to give up or be hard on yourself if you do not master it right away. Take it slow, try different things and most importantly- make it fun!
Common Nutrition Questions
The question that us Plant- Based-ers (yes that’s a new word I created) get is- ” well where do you get your calcium, iron, and the best one PROTEIN!”
You can get everything you need from a plant-based lifestyle and your body will thank you for it. This article will go over some of the most common questions I get asked regarding nutrients!
Let us start with the most common question of them all.
“Where do you get your protein?”
Ill start by saying that as quoted from many plant-based documentaries “rarely has anyone ever been admitted to the hospital and told to go home and get some more protein” That being said YES protein is important and you can get plenty from a plant-based lifestyle. Proteins are found in many plant-based foods but here are some with a higher protein content:
Legumes such as chickpeas, peas, soy and black beans- to name a few are great sources of protein. These can be prepared in many ways including topping your salads, in burritos, made into dips such as hummus, tofu, you can even get pea protein powder if you would prefer to have it in a shake!
Nuts and Seeds:
Nuts and seeds are also great sources and make for an easy go-to snack during the day. Nuts and seeds also contain many other nutrients such as Omegas. You can grab a handful of nuts on the go and you can also add flax, chia and hemp seeds to sauces, in smoothies or baked into some muffins. Make sure to keep nuts and seeds as a staple in your plant-based lifestyle.
Grains are also a great staple for protein, many Plant-Based-ers include a lot of grains in their diet because it also makes for some easy meals. Some examples are quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta and breads.
Now lets move onto calcium… I get this one a lot, especially from relatives who think that I will literally crumble in front of them because I do not drink cows milk. Plants have PLENTY of calcium and it’s a fantastic healthy source too that does not contain all the harmful things that come from animal milk. Here are a few:
Dark Leafy Greens:
Dark leafy greens are very healthy and also contain a good amount of calcium, they are also incredible easy to incorporate into your plant based life by having them as a side salad, or cooked with your veggies stir-frys. Some examples are- kale, collard greens and spinach.
Some plant milks such as soy milk and cashew milk are also good sources of calcium and easily added to your morning coffee and cereal and incorporated into recipes such as creamy curry dishes. They are also quite tasty on their own.
Fortified Food and Drinks:
Some drinks and food such as orange juice, cereal and even some plant-milks are fortified with calcium if you want that extra boost.
Iron sources are easy to find and absorb nicely when you are getting enough vitamin C, so make sure you are getting both!
Who doesn’t love oats? Oatmeal cookies, porridge, overnight oats, make your own vegan burgers with oats incorporated! So many possibilities, they are also high in fiber and gluten free for people who have a gluten intolerance.
Other sources include ones we have already talked about such as legumes, grains, nuts and seeds and a variety of vegetables. And my favorite- Dark Chocolate.
Essentially if you are eating a variety of whole foods in a whole food plant-based diet you will consume plenty of Iron.
It is important for everyone not just Plant-Based-ers to get regular blood work and check ups because sometimes even if you are consuming plenty of nutrient sources some people have issues absorbing them. Everyone should also be taking a B12 supplement because in this day and age there is barely any B12 in both plant and animal foods and many people are deficient. Vitamin D is also very important if you are not one to get out in the sun often. Vitamin D isn’t always plant-based so ensure your picking out the plant derived supplements.
Cooking with Tahini
Are you one of those people who bought a jar of Tahini for that one recipe and now have a full jar in the fridge and don’t know what the heck to do with it???
Most people know Tahini is derived from sesame seeds and has the texture of a creamy nut butter. Tahini also has some great health benefits such as antioxidants and has several important vitamins and minerals on top of being fairly low in calories.
Here are 5 ways to use it:
As a dip for your veggies or dressing for your salad: Adding cold water and a dash of lemon, garlic and some of your favorite herbs can make for an amazing salad dressing or a healthy dip for your vegetable sticks!
On your Falafel: If your a falafel lover, you know tahini is perfect to drizzle on top alongside roasted garlic potatoes!
On Toast and inside wraps: Tahini can act as an alternative to hummus or mayo, spread it on toast with fried tomatoes, avocado and greens or inside the wrap you bring for lunch.
Baking: Tahini can also be a great addition to baking such as breads and cookies for that nutty flavor. It also adds that moisture that makes brownies so good.
In your Mains: Looking for more ways to add some creaminess to your stir-fry, pasta or curry-like dishes. Add a tablespoon or two and you’re good to go!
Make Tahini a staple in your Plant-Based cupboard, it is so versatile and can add creativity to many dishes. Once you start using it you will wonder how you ever lived without it.
Keep an eye out for some new recipes to come where I will be incorporating this amazing ingredient!