By Natalie Allen, VRG Intern
Eating Vegan as a Teen Runner
By Natalie Allen
After deciding to become vegan for the animals, planet, and to benefit my personal health, I have learned how to fully sustain myself as a healthy teenager on a vegan diet. Also, I am a runner which makes what I eat that much more important. When running up to eight miles every day or running an intense speed workout during the cross country and track seasons, I have felt the effort I put into eating a whole plant based diet has drastically changed my running for the better. However, when my team goes on team bonding trips, to far away meets, or hosts team potlucks it can sometimes be a bit of a hassle to find things that a vegan can eat. Here is some advice I rely on as a vegan runner. I find that it helps to explain to my coach that I am vegan. When my coach or coaches have known that I am vegan, they have been more accommodating when it comes to things like setting aside a meatless spaghetti for me at the team potluck or making sure that there is always a vegan snack taken to meets. Overall, a sustainable and nourishing food plan as a vegan runner for me looks something like this (I am also a girl so male runners take this into consideration):
Breakfast- For breakfast I have a high-calorie meal that fills me up and fuels my day, I never skip breakfast! : Smoothie- up to five bananas, cup of frozen fruit, and supplements as desired such as ground flax, chia, or vegan protein powder. I may also add a vegetable such as spinach or kale.
Oatmeal with fruit, nuts, and almond milk.
Snack- I usually have a snack that will satisfy a mild hunger. I choose snacks that satisfy a craving : Trail mix- almonds, dark chocolate chunks, cashews, raisins, etc.; snack bar- LARABAR, Clif Bar, Nature’s Bakery Fig Bar, etc.; fruit; popcorn.
Lunch- I usually make a lunch that incorporates a fat, protein, and carbohydrate. Considering this is the only meal that I eat before practice, I make sure to eat a good amount: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread; up to three fruits; vegetable- carrots, cherry tomatoes, celery, etc.; another snack.
A vegetable soup. Dr. McDougal makes great on the go soups that are delicious and vegan (oftentimes I ask a teacher to heat up my soup in his or her classroom’s microwave); up to three fruits; another snack.
Salad with chickpeas and dressing- I usually make my own dressing by mixing tahini, lemon, water, and seasonings or I combine apple cider vinegar and agave syrup for a quick vinaigrette; up to three fruits; another snack.
Post-workout fuel- I make sure that this meal is high in protein and carbohydrates considering this is what will help my body to recover after my workout and grow stronger: Smoothie- banana, frozen fruit, protein powder, other supplements as desired; whole wheat toast with peanut butter; trail mix; snack bar; etc. .
Dinner- At dinner I eat something that is carbohydrate and protein rich: Meatless spaghetti with tomato sauce and whole wheat or gluten free noodles with tofu as meat substitute.
Vegetable and tofu stir fry with jasmine rice and soy sauce.
Around three baked potatoes with toppings like beans, vegan cheese, green onions, etc.
Snack- This snack is typically had as dessert or eaten as a late night snack, so I make sure it fills me up and is satisfying: Dark chocolate, vegan ice cream, cereal, etc.
I also take a multivitamin, to make sure that I am getting all of the vitamins I need. I take a supplement that contains iron and B12. Women runners are sometimes low in iron and I want to make sure that I’m getting enough.
In the end, this is just a small look into what I eat as a teen vegan runner during the cross country and track seasons. I also find many meal ideas on the internet, specifically Pinterest. Vegan cooking should be fun and exciting, which is why I am always getting creative and having fun in the kitchen!
As for traveling long distance with my team, I have learned to always bring more snacks than I think I will need. Also, if I visit a restaurant or camp with my team, talking to the waiter or waitress, makes them happily willing to attend to my needs as a vegan. For example, my coach has taken our team on a bonding trip at the beginning of the season for the past two years. We venture up to Lake Davis in California and spend a few days at a summer camp turned cross country camp with Sierra Nevada Journeys. Food is supplied and the kitchen staff was happy to make me food that served my needs. Yet, I still brought a number of other snacks to fuel my workouts during the periods between breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This also goes for far away meets. Some of my meets during the season require a bus ride that can be over an hour long. I am constantly eating Clif Bars. They are my go to energy bar during the season! The Clif bar company is an environmentally friendly company and makes an array of bars that are easy to find, vegan-friendly, and taste good! Overall, by being a vegan runner and traveling with my team I have learned a lot. By eating the right foods and enough of them, I feel any teen can be successful as a runner and beyond. Good luck out there.
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