Julieanna Hever, RD, a Los Angeles–based registered dietitian and the author of?Plant-Based Nutrition (Idiot's Guides), says vegan diets have exploded in popularity lately. “We not only can survive without eating animals, we appear to thrive by avoiding them,” she says.
What Is Veganism?
Common Questions & Answers
Types of Vegan Diets
Hever says there are several subtypes of the vegan diet, including:
- Raw?You eat only foods that haven’t been cooked beyond a certain temperature, usually 118 degrees F, Hever says. “Raw foodists typically rely on dehydrated and sprouted foods to bulk up their caloric intake,” she says. Nuts, seeds, and oils are also compliant.
- Raw till 4?You adhere to the?raw vegan diet?until 4 p.m.
- HCLF (high carb, low fat)?You eat carbs in the form of fruit, grains, and veggies and consume low amounts of fat, minimizing nuts, seeds,?avocados, oils, and other high-fat plant foods, Hever says.
- 80/10/10?A raw HCLF vegan diet; 80 percent of calories come from carbs (mostly fruit), 10 percent from protein, and 10 percent from fat.
“Although there isn’t much data on most of these, it all boils down to the advantages of simply including plenty of whole plant foods in the diet as well as the advantage of [replacing] animal products and highly?processed foods?with those healthful foods,” Hever says.
How Going Vegan Works
A vegan diet is straightforward: Consume plant-based foods and drinks and avoid anything that comes from an animal. That sounds simple enough, but sticking to a vegan diet can be tough, because animal by-products like cheese and butter are found in more foods than you probably realize — especially when you’re eating at a restaurant.
Some people consider their veganism a full-fledged lifestyle rather than just a way of eating. They’ll avoid animal products in all aspects of their life, steering clear of leather and fur clothing as well as beauty products and medications that have been tested on animals.
A Vegan Diet Food List: What to Eat and Avoid
Here’s a look at the foods you’ll want to prioritize — and the foods to avoid — when following this approach.
Foods to Eat on the Vegan Diet
- Nut butters
- Tofu, tempeh, and seitan
- Plant-based milk, such as almond milk or coconut milk
- Plant-based oils
- Grains, including bread,?quinoa, farro, and?rice
- Legumes, including lentils and chickpeas
To follow the healthiest vegan diet possible, keep in mind that eating whole, minimally processed foods is the goal. That said, there are also several mock-meat options and dairy-free cheeses available. Just check the nutrition labels of these products, as they’re sometimes packed with sodium and preservatives. Hever says some of these products can be as unhealthy as animal products.
Foods to Avoid on the Vegan Diet
- All meat and poultry products
- Sweets made with eggs and dairy products
- Foods that include lard and fish oil
There are also some surprising foods that don’t qualify as vegan, such as bread made with eggs, and marshmallows and gummy bears made with gelatin.
A 7-Day Vegan Sample Menu for Plant-Based Meal Ideas
Curious about what you’ll eat every day as a vegan? Here’s a week's worth of ideas.
Lunch?Buddha bowl with sweet potatoes and chickpeas
Snack?Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
Dinner?Vegan mac and cheese
Dessert?Coconut yogurt with mixed?berries
Lunch?Butternut squash soup
Snack?Apple with peanut butter
Dinner?Roasted broccoli and tofu
Breakfast?Kale?smoothie with vegan protein powder
Lunch?Roasted vegetables and rice
Snack?Chips and guacamole
Dinner?Stuffed sweet potatoes
Dessert?Nondairy ice cream
Breakfast?Peanut butter and banana toast
Lunch?Kale salad with tofu, tomatoes, and carrots
Dinner?Spiralized vegan ramen soup with zucchini noodles
Breakfast?Homemade vegan granola bar
Lunch?Veggie and hummus sandwich on vegan bread
Snack?Rice cake with peanut butter
Dinner?Pita with falafel and a side salad
Breakfast?Breakfast burrito with tofu
Snack?Carrots and hummus
Dinner?Grilled cauliflower steaks
Dessert?Vegan pumpkin pie with chocolate sauce and coconut whipped cream
Breakfast?Vegan granola with almond milk and berries
Dinner?Tofu sloppy joes
Dessert?Chocolate avocado pudding
Vegan Diet Health Benefits
Clearing your diet of animal products sounds hard, but people who do it and stick with it swear it makes a difference in how healthy they feel. And there’s more than just anecdotal evidence to back them up. Tons of research supports the health benefits associated with this way of eating, many of which overlap with the benefits of a vegetarian diet.
Potential Weight Loss Effects of a Vegan Diet
Going vegan isn’t a guaranteed way to slim down — that depends on the type of diet you’re following before you start. If you’re subbing out greasy burgers for fresh green salads and healthy fats, you likely will notice a difference quickly. But if you already eat a healthy diet, the changes won’t be quite as significant.
Possible Drawbacks of a Vegan Diet
Supplements Vegans May Need
“No diet is perfect nutritionally, and that includes a vegan diet,” Hever says. She explains it’s important for vegans to be aware that they may need to supplement their diet.
Here are a few supplements vegans should consider.
Vitamin B12?is one supplement vegans may consider, as it appears naturally only in animal products.
You’ll also find zinc in beans, whole grains, and nuts.
Common Challenges on a Vegan Diet
When you commit to veganism, you may experience some pushback from family and friends. Even though veganism is growing in popularity, it’s still far from the norm, and people may be skeptical about your new way of eating. “One of the biggest challenges of being vegan is the social pressure from friends and family,” Hever says. She suggests you avoid drawing attention to the diet, though you should arm yourself with objective information from reputable resources so you can speak to the benefits of this way of eating if pressed.
Eating out may be a challenge, but it’s much easier now to find vegan items at the grocery store and even entire restaurants dedicated to serving up vegan grub. Keep in mind that these vegan foods can be much pricier than their meat and dairy counterparts. In general, know that cooking your own vegan foods at home, from scratch, will save you money.
Beginner’s Tips for Following a Vegan Diet
Your vegan meals don’t have to be boring. You just have to approach veggies with enthusiasm and a willingness to get creative. Think: portobello?mushrooms instead of burgers, coconut milk lattes instead of the dairy-filled kind, and cashewgurt instead of yogurt.
Hever suggests using apps like HappyCow and Yelp to find vegan-friendly restaurants. “Often, international cuisine — including Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Indian, and Ethiopian — is ideal for plant-based staples,” she says. These cuisines are naturally more plant-forward. Set yourself up for success by taking a look at the menu ahead of time so you can plot your order. Salads and vegetable sides are a good bet, though always ask your server if the dish you’re interested in has been cooked with butter.
Be sure to load up on nutritious vegetables rather than high-calorie sweets and processed foods. That’s the key to keeping this way of eating in the healthy zone.
Resources We Love
The Vegan Starter Kit from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a 24-page booklet that will educate you on all things vegan. You’ll find info on the benefits of eating this way, ideas for what to order when dining out, answers to frequently asked questions, and recipes and meal ideas. We especially love the meal swap page, which offers a vegan alternative to common foods and makes embracing a vegan diet a little less intimidating.
Meal kits make it easy to put dinner on the table, but not all cater to a vegan diet. That’s why we love the meal kit service Purple Carrot. You can sign up for weekly deliveries and get vegan meals delivered right to your door. Inside, you’ll find all the ingredients you need to prepare your meals.
There’s no shame in needing some inspiration to jazz up your go-to meals every now and then. Luckily, @iamtabithabrown has you covered. Visit the vegan influencer’s TikTok page, where she has nearly five million followers and serves up quick how-to recipes. You’ll get hooked on the meal ideas — and her personality. Some videos have nothing to do with food and are purely motivational pep talks, and that’s what sets her apart from other food-related TikTokers. Because who doesn’t need a little pump-up every now and then?
Want to stay in the know about plant-based news and all things vegan? Bookmark VegNews. You’ll find vegan recipes, ethical fashion, and advice on living the vegan lifestyle — not just the diet. The magazine has been around for more than two decades, and it’s the most comprehensive source for vegan news.
There’s definitely a learning curve when you adopt a vegan diet. Don’t feel paralyzed when you’re getting warmed up. Turn to Oh She Glows, a blog by Angela Liddon that’s been running for more than a decade, for healthy plant-based recipes. She doesn’t post frequently anymore, but the recipe database is extensive, so you’re bound to find loads of inspiration. And if you like what you see, you can purchase one of her cookbooks for satisfying recipes and gorgeous photos.
The vegan diet has been shown to have an overall positive impact on one’s health. You should be aware of a few potential nutritional?deficiencies, though, and challenges you’ll likely face once you adopt a vegan lifestyle.
Michelle Jaelin, a registered dietitian in Hamilton, Ontario, who owns NutritionArtist.com, says that everyone would benefit from eating more plant-based foods. Ask yourself: Are you someone who likes to prepare food and cook? Are you willing to learn how to properly balance foods to ensure you get all the nutrients you need to be healthy? Are you doing it because you truly believe in eating vegan for yourself??She says the answers to these questions can help you determine if this way of eating is right for you.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Vegetarian Diets.?American Heart Association. September 26, 2016.
- 34 Foods and Ingredients to Avoid on a Vegan Diet.?Vegan Food & Living. October 3, 2016.
- Is It OK to Eat Eggs From Chickens I’ve Raised in My Backyard??PETA.
- Solway J, McBride M, Haq F, et al. Diet and Dermatology: The Role of a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet in Preventing and Reversing Skin Aging — a Review. Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. May 2020.
- Turner-McGrievy GM, Davidson CR, Wingard EE, et al. Comparative Effectiveness of Plant-Based Diets for Weight Loss: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Five Different Diets.?Nutrition.?February 2015.
- Food Sources of Vitamin D.?U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines 2015–2020.
- Vitamin D.?National Institutes of Health. August 17, 2021.
- Vegetarian Diet: How to Get the Best Nutrition.?Mayo Clinic. August 20, 2020.
- Shifts Need to Align With Healthy Eating Patterns.?U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines 2015–2020.
- Vitamin D.?The Vegan Society.
- Share of Consumers Who Consider Themselves Vegan or Vegetarian in the United States as of June 2018, by Age Group. Statista. January 27, 2022.
- The Vegan Diet. NHS. August 2, 2021.
- Why Going Vegan Should Be Your New Year’s Resolution. PETA.
- Zinc. National Institutes of Health. December 8, 2021.
- Jatoi S, Hafeez A, Riaz S, et al. Low Vitamin B12 Levels: An Underestimated Cause of Minimal Cognitive Impairment and Dementia. Cureus. February 13, 2020.
- How Plant-Based Food Helps Fight Cancer. Mayo Clinic. October 30, 2019.
- Iron. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
- Ten Things You Might Not Know About Lichens, but Wish You Did. Arizona State University Biodiversity Knowledge Integration Center.
- Omega-3 Supplements: In Depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.