Vegan Diet

What is Vegan Diet?

Vegetarians don’t eat meat, fish and poultry, and neither do vegans. But vegans go further, excluding all animal products from their diets – even dairy and eggs. If you’re adhering to a vegan diet, that means no refried beans with lard, margarine made with whey and anything with gelatin, which comes from animal bones and hooves. Fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes will be your staples.

Plant-based diets are becoming more popular in the United States. A 2017 report found that 6% of people in the U.S. now identify as vegan, compared with just 1% in 2014. That’s good news for finding more vegan options for a variety of products in the grocery store – and when dining out. Precisely how you shape your vegan diet each day is up to you, but you’ll typically aim for six servings of grains; five servings of legumes, nuts and other types of protein, such as peanut butter, chickpeas, tofu, potatoes and a plant-based milk; and four daily servings of veggies, two servings of fruit and two servings of healthy fats such as sesame oil, avocado and coconut, according to an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics guide. There’s also no need to give up dessert: Vegans can choose from one of the many vegan ice cream options or eat baked goods (cupcakes and cobbler, for example) made without butter or eggs.

Pros & Cons

  • Filling – it’s rich in high-fiber foods
  • Health and environmental benefits
  • Can fall short in important nutrients
  • Can be lots of work

How does Vegan Diet work?

To get started on the vegan diet, you can turn to the internet, which is full of good information and countless books that offer structured vegan meal plans and recipes. For people new to veganism, a good starting book is “The Forks Over Knives Plan.” It includes recipes, meal plans, shopping lists, tips on how to stock your refrigerator, how to eat and snack healthily on the go and even how to combat cravings. Often referred to as “the encyclopedia” of vegan nutrition, “Becoming Vegan” provides everything you need to know about staying healthy on a vegan diet. Answering many common questions surrounding nutrients, athleticism and even vegan pregnancy, it draws on many studies to back up its info in a clear way. And the “Skinny Bitch” series – which includes the cookbook “Skinny Bitch in the Kitch” – offers nutrition tips and recipes.

Here are some tips for getting started on the vegan diet:

  • You don’t have to go cold turkey. You could start by preparing a couple meat-free dishes each week and gradually make more substitutions – tofu in stir-fry instead of chicken, say, or veggie burgers instead of beef.
  • If your aim is also weight loss, amp up your exercise routine and eat fewer calories than your daily recommended max.
  • Feature vegetables in your meals. Loading up your plate with veggies will give you plenty of vitamins and fiber, which can help you feel satisfied.

Another book written by registered dietitian Sharon Palmer is “The Plant-Powered Diet.” And if you’re looking to go vegan as a family, you might consider “Plant-Powered Families” by Dreena Burton, which offers over 100 family-friendly recipes, including many veganized versions of kid-friendly comfort foods.

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