Knowing what to eat on a vegan diet shouldn’t be difficult but it does come with some challenges. Here we go through the foods you can eat on a vegan diet along with the foods list!
Strictly speaking on a diet front you need to ask yourself the question of whether you are just eating like a vegan and therefore following a plant-based diet for health reasons, maybe you’ve heard about the benefits of cutting down on meat and want to try some meat-free meals a few days a week. Or are you vegan in its entirety, following the vegan beliefs that you are fully against all use of animal products from testing medicines on an animal to clothing and of course raising animals to be killed and eaten? deciding which you are will ultimately have an impact on how strict you will need to be with your diet as being vegan is a lifestyle.
Getting the right nutrients when on a vegan diet
If you are following a vegan diet for health reasons then you may find you can have some flexibility in your diet. Maybe you want to eat the vegan way most of the time but know that you do need some animal products in your diet now and again to ensure you do not develop any nutrient deficiencies from a lack of calcium, vitamin D, iron, and vitamin B12. Which can be commonplace in a plant-based diet.
Where vegans can get calcium and vitamins d
Another challenge you might have following a plant-based diet is a lack of vitamin D, since a lot of vitamin d is usually consumed through eating animal products such as eggs, shellfish, and salmon.
Vitamin D an important nutrient in your diet, in fact, is essential as it helps your body absorb calcium which of course is also a nutrient that is difficult to get enough of through a plant-based diet.
Calcium helps to maintain strong healthy bones, as well as playing an important role in muscle function. If you are female and approaching 40 you will naturally have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis so if this is you then it’s even more important for you to watch what you eat to ensure you are getting enough calcium in your diet.
So as you can see it’s extremely important that if you are following a plant-based vegan diet, you need to be careful about what you eat and make sure you eat foods that are rich in calcium and Vitamin D.
Vegan Foods that are rich in Vitamin D
The daily recommended amount you need of vitamin d per day is 600 UI or 10mcg. There are very few vegetables that contain Vitamin D and are pretty much limited to just Mushrooms. Luckily there are a few variations of the fungi out there so you do have some choices. Otherwise, you will be looking at products where calcium has been added. Fortunately, these products are probably already part of your diet such as fortified almonds, rice, or coconut milk.
- Fortified soy milk – 1 cup = 2.9mcg
- Mushrooms – 100g = 1 cup = 1.6mg (try to find mushrooms that are grown in UV light as they have more Vitamin D)
- Fortified orange juice – up to 2.5mcg per 100g
- Fortified almond/ rice milk – 1 cup = 2.6mcg
All stats from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Foods high in calcium for vegan diets
The daily recommended intake for calcium is 1000 mg a day if you are under 50 years and 1200 mg if you are over 50. Children need slightly more at 1300 mg per day as their bones are still maturing (Ref).
Apart from the obvious dairy products that of course are not vegan friendly, calcium is actually easier to find in a plant-based diet such as soy products, beans and legumes, some nuts and seeds, and some green leafy vegetables. Here are some ideas to help you.
- Soy beans – 1 cup = 340mg
- Edame beans – 1 cup =150
- Tofu – 1 cup – 870 mg
- Tempeh – 1 cup 184 mg
- Goa beans (winged bean) – 1 cup
- White beans – 1 cup = 120 mg
- Almonds – 1 cup = 320m mg
- Tahini – 1tbsp = 67 mg
- Broccoli – 1 cup florets = 33 mg
- Okra – 100g = 70 mg
Some fortified foods have added calcium in them so always check your labels.
All stats from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Where vegans can get iron from
Iron is essential for haemoglobin, haemoglobin is the part of your red blood cells that carry oxygen around your body. Low iron levels men’s that the capability for your body to move oxygen around your body is reduced. This can lead to anaemia, if you are anaemic you will likely feel tired, have shortness of breath, feel faint, you may experience headaches often, have paler than normal skin or even heart palpitations. Long term untreated anaemia can ultimately lead to heart failure.
Daily iron needs are around 8 to 14 mg of iron per day. Women will need more than men due to iron loss through menstruation each month.
Foods typically high in iron are; pulses, wholegrain bread, flour and pasta, fortified cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, and nuts.
plant based foods high in Iron
- All stats from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. – 1 cup = 7mg
- Quinoa – 1 cup = 3mg
- Wholegrain pasta – 1 cup cooked = 2.3mg
- Multigrain bread – 1 slice = 0.9mg
- Dark green leaf vegetables such as spinch – 1 cup cooked = 6mg
- Leeks – 1 cup = 2mg
- Apricots – 1 cup = 8mg
- Pumpkin seeds – ¼ cup = 2.7mg
All stats from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Where vegans can get b12 from
For a healthy nervous system, and healthy blood your body also needs adequate Vitamin B12, your daily recommended amount will vary depending on age but roughly 2.4mg a day is widely recommended (Ref).
Most of your daily intake of Vitamin b12 would usually come from animal sources from meat, fish, and dairy. As a vegan, you will find it difficult to get enough Vitamin B12 from your diet and therefore may need to supplement it. Here are some foods that you can get your B12 from.
Fortified products such as cereals and milk substitutes and marmite! Hopefully you love it.
Foods high in protein for vegans
Protein is another nutrient that can be difficult to get enough of by following a plant-based vegan diet so just be aware that if you are going the full hog and you are training and wish to build lean muscle you may need to supplement or be extra careful about where you get your protein from.
Protein is important for forming muscle tissue, healing muscles, and cells around the body including hair, bones, and skin amongst many more positive and important roles in the body. As you age protein becomes even more important to maintain good health.
Protein can also be split into complete and incomplete sources. There are 20 known amino acids that make up the proteins we need in our bodies. 11 of these proteins are produced within the body and are called the nonessential amino acids, so we need to source the remaining 9 for balance and good health, these 9 are called essential amino acids. Essential because we need to consume them. A lack of some of these amino acids can lead to a whole host of issues such as;
- decreased immunity
- digestive issues
- fertility problems
- reduced mental awareness
- slowed growth in children
Different amino acids have different roles in the body. Therefore, it is important that you can consume all of the essential amino acids.
Most animal products would contain all 9 essential amino acids and are termed complete protein, so it’s a little trickier but not at all impossible as a vegan to be sure to get all 9 essential amino acids in.
Some people combine plant-based protein sources and are often termed “protein complementation” where 2 or more sources of protein in a meal, this is particularly popular for bodybuilders and athletes who need a high protein diet.
This isn’t necessary for general health though, as long as you are eating varied sources of protein throughout the day you should be fine and your overall amino acid intake will be fairly balanced.
Great sources of protein that are nearly complete for vegans include quinoa, soy products, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and rice. Protein is present in a lot of plants, as long as you are eating a balanced and varied diet you will be okay.
- Related – 60 + Vegan Recipes For Everyone To Enjoy
Great sources of nonanimal omega 3 fatty acids for vegans
Another important nutrient that should be present in any diet for general health is Omega-3 fatty acids. Important for coronary heath and brain development. Fish is of course high in omega 3 but there are a lot of plant sources to be found.
Vegan sources of omega 3 include nuts and seeds, plant oils, and fortified foods.
What foods can you eat on a vegan diet
Eating a plant-based diet is actually very simple and shouldn’t be too stressful, especially if you are open to eating natural, wholesome foods, and not too many processed products. Generally, if you are following a vegan diet you will only eat products and produce that are from plants only. Anything that has come from a living creature, an animal, if it once breathed, had a heartbeat or flew threw the air and any product that could have come from it, is out of bounds.
Below is a list of foods that you can eat if you are on a vegan plant-based diet and there is also a list of foods that you should avoid if you are on a vegan diet.
You may be surprised by a few. It just means you need to get creative and maybe spend a little extra on some of your creatures comforts to get the plant-based vegan alternative.
Most food packets should let you know if it’s a product suitable for vegans so be sure to check your labels.
vegan foods you can eat list
All fruit is okay on a vegan diet and makes for perfect snacking. Go for apples, oranges, prunes, figs, melons, peaches, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, currents, and any other fruit that may take your fancy.
Again vegetables are all okay to consume on a plant-based diet and will likely become a base for most meals. Go for spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, cucumber, leafy greens, peas, mushrooms, beets, pumpkin, squash, cauliflower, carrots, and more.
Nuts and seeds
Nuits and seeds provide a heap of macronutrients such as proteins carbohydrates and fats. All nuts and seeds are okay to eat on a vegan diet and include, almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios, macadamias, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds.
Probably another staple food of a vegan diet are grains and potatoes that make up your carbohydrate portion of your diet. Popular sources of grains include rice, oats, whole wheat, quinoa, buckwheat, spelt, bulgar wheat, whole grain pasta, wholegrain bread potatoes including, sweet potatoes, baby potatoes and every variety of potatoes you can think of are perfectly fine in a vegan diet.
Every diet needs the supply of healthy fats, as a vegan, you can have all plant-based oils and fats but not anything that is an animal product such as lard or butter. Be careful when buying some spreads as they may contain a combination of dairy and vegetable fats. Vegan-friendly health fats include olive oil, canola oil, rapeseed oil, avocados, olives, and coconut oil.
Some great protein sources for vegans include all beans such as broad beans, soybeans, black beans, edamame, tofu, lentils, and chickpeas. Protein is also present in grains, seeds, and nuts.
Herbs and spices
All herbs and spices are okay to eat in a plant-based diet, such as oregano, Cayan pepper, white pepper, salt, rosemary, garlic, basil, mint, and more.
So yeah, not so hard to become vegan and follow a plant-based diet, right.
What you can’t eat on a vegan diet
You may be surprised to know that all animal products are out of bounds including b products such as dairy products, okay you know this but there are some hidden, not so well know products and ingredients that might be hiding in your foods, some vegans don’t eat honey because technically they are from a living creature, a bee, this could also be said about many fruits where farmers keep bees to help pollinate crops. It’s one of those grey areas, which takes us back to the question earlier when we asked you are you going vegan or are you simply following a plant-based diet for health reasons, if so, you may be okay with keeping honey in your diet.
On to those hidden animal-related products you may not know about. Here’s a list of products and ingredients that you should avoid if you are following a vegan diet;
- Gelatin, as it comes from pigs and cows, it should not be eaten.
- E-numbers derived from animals – E120, E322, E422, E 471, E542, E631, E901 and E904.
- Some red food coloring contains Cochineal or carmine which is crushed up bugs. Gross.
- Isinglass – this is sometimes used in craft ales and beers \nd is the from fish bladders.
- Omega 3 fatty acids – as a supplement they may be used from fish and not plants.
- Whey and Casein protein which are both derived from dairy products.
- Lactose which is of course a sugar found in milk.
Switching to a plant-based diet shouldn’t be too much hassle. to ensure you get al of the nutrients need for health always try to include a variety of foods from each food group. If you need to meal ideas then be sure to check out our 60 Plant-Based Recipes post.