Here at Nature’s Ideal, we believe in a simpler, healthier, more natural lifestyle. When it comes to diet, this can look a little different for each person. Some do best on a low sugar, low carb diet high in animal proteins while others choose to eliminate animal products altogether for their health.
If you fall more into the second category, this article will cover some basics of what you need to know when eating vegan—mainly, what do vegans eat? And how can you do so healthfully?
What is Vegan, and How Does It Work?
A vegan diet is devoid of animal products and byproducts. That means eliminating:
- All meats, including beef, chicken, and fish
- Dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and dairy milk
- Any baked, cooked, or processed products with any of the above
Many vegans also forgo buying products that were tested on animals—with the goal of reducing animal suffering.
Now, let’s look at a nutritious vegan food list.
What Do Vegans Eat? Vegan Food List for a Healthy Diet
Anyone can be considered “vegan” simply by eliminating the food groups mentioned above. However, being vegan alone doesn’t make you healthy.
As with any way of eating, it’s vital to consume plenty of nutrient-rich whole foods if you want to feel your best. So, here are some food groups to emphasize when considering “what do vegans eat—if they want to be healthy?”
Produce: Fruits and Vegetables
Vegetables and many fruits contain crucial vitamins and minerals the body needs to thrive. Healthy vegans, just like all of us, need plenty of fresh produce in their diets. That includes vegetables like:
- Leafy greens like kale, spinach, collard greens, broccoli, and Swiss chard
- Bell peppers
- Sweet potatoes
- Berries: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
- And more
Vegetables are especially good sources of micronutrients that we can’t get as readily from other food sources. They’re also hydrating and provide fiber for good digestion and gut health.
Aim for 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, prioritizing veggies first.
Proteins: Beans, Lentils, Nuts, Soy, and More
This is probably the biggest concern you’ve heard raised about vegan diets and nutrition. But vegans can certainly get enough protein from plant-based sources, including
- Beans and legumes, including lentils and peas, dried or canned (1 serving = ½ cup)
- Tempeh or tofu (1 serving = ½ cup)
- Organic soy milk (1 serving = 1 cup)
- Veggie meats (1 serving = 2-3 ounces)
- Peanut butter (1 serving = 2 tbsp)
- Peanuts (1 serving = ¼ cup)
- Vegan protein powder (1 serving = 1 scoop)
According to the Vegan RD, to get enough protein, vegans should:
- Get enough calories
- Consume a variety of whole, plant-based foods and get at least three servings of legumes per day (4-5 servings of legumes if you’re over 60 or reducing calories)
Fats: Nuts, Seeds, and Oils
Don’t forget your healthy fats! Vegans need sufficient ALA, an essential fatty acid. You can get it from:
Other good plant fats include:
- Almonds and almond butter
- Sesame seeds and tahini
- Coconut and coconut oil
- Other nuts like cashews, macadamia nuts, pecans, and pistachios
- Other seeds like chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds
Good Carbs: Whole Grains and More
All grains are vegan, but a healthy vegan diet should emphasize whole grains over refined grains. Those include:
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat bread
- Whole grain pastas (bean pastas, like chickpea pastas, are even better)
- Whole wheat crackers
Whole grain products provide healthy carbs/starches, fiber, and nutrients. And sprouted grains are even better.
Don’t Forget B12 and Other Nutrients
There are a few main nutrients of concern that can be lower on a vegan diet without proper planning. Here they are plus good vegan sources of them:
- Vitamin B12: Best taken as a B12 supplement, as no vegan food is a reliable source of it. You can also get B12 from some fortified foods like plant milks, veggie meats, and breakfast cereals.
- Iron: Dark, leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collard greens, winter squashes, dried apricots, nuts, beans and legumes.
- Calcium: Kale, broccoli, mustard greens, turnip greens, calcium-set tofu, tempeh, fortified plant milks or yogurts, tahini, almonds.
- Zinc: Veggie meats, soy milk, nuts and seeds, lentils, mushrooms, split peas, black-eyed peas
- Vitamin D: Mushrooms, fortified plant milks, sunshine (but still limit your exposure to reduce the risk of skin cancer)
- DHA/EPA: DHA and EPA are types of omega-3 fatty acids. Your body can convert ALA into DHA/EPA, but not efficiently. Vegan DHA/EPA supplements provide a healthy dose from microalgae instead of fish.
Note: Some supplements will contain gelatin and other animal byproducts. Look for vegan supplements that don’t contain these.
If you’re concerned about getting all your nutrition, track your food intake for a few days and see if there are any deficiencies. (There are several phone apps that will help you do this.) A good vegan multivitamin can also help fill in the blanks.
As with any diet, proper planning is key for optimal nutrition. That way, you can feel great and forgo animal products each day.
At Nature’s Ideal, we love our vegan/vegetarian customers—as well as those who just want to eat less animal products. View all of our vegan products here, from vegan chips and snacks to cruelty-free hand and body lotions.