Young author of 'Clara Cakes' offers smart tips for vegan foodies

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Clara Polito just turned 20, but she's spent her teen years animal-free, food wise, which can mean a lot of pasta, burritos and cheese pizza if you aren't careful.

"I think its limiting...if you get lazy with cooking," said Polito.

Most teens fall into that category, but not Polito. She just catered a pop-up Italian dinner in Detroit and recently released "Clara Cakes," a vegan dessert cookbook.

A typical lunch for her might be a Bruchetta sandwich of sorts with olive oil, nut-cheese, tomatoes, balsamic drizzle, basil and a smattering of olives.

Her homemade cheese is made from soaked then pureed slivered almonds and cashews to utilize as sweet or savory spread.

"It's kind of how you would put on cream cheese. I like a lot, actually," Polito shared.

Along with various nutrients, protein can be a problem if you don't know where to look.

Beyond the obvious veggie burger, there are all kinds of plant foods that have a nice protein profile.

Without meat or dairy, iron, Vitamin B-12 and zinc can be an issue. Keep in mind plants offer a wide variety of nutrients, so the more diverse the diet, the better. Incorporating beans, legumes, whole grains and dark, leafy greens are helpful with protein and nutrients.

Flax, hemp, and chia products with walnuts will help add omega-3 fatty acids one might normally get from seafood. Calcium can be found in broccoli, Bok choy and dark greens in lieu of dairy.

"I also brought some nutritional yeast, which I like to use in place of parmesan. It's also a good source of your B-vitamins and some extra protein," Polito added.

Polito recommends those headed in the vegan direction, to get interested in the kitchen.

"I didn't feel limited once I started experimenting with substitutes like homemade vegan cheese or working with more vegetables and more spices, so everything is just as delicious," Polito added.
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