The Vegan Diet

Eating a vegan diet is not as restrictive as you might think.

By FamilyTime


Most of us know someone who follows a vegan diet—we may follow one ourselves. Many of us understand what it means…but, well, unless you are a vegan yourself…there is a good chance you don’t really get it.

Vegans are vegetarians who also exclude meat, eggs, dairy products, and all other animal-derived ingredients, such as gelatin. Vegans avoid wearing or using anything made with leather, fur, or feathers, too.

Why Go Vegan?

Vegans care deeply about their own well being and the well being of other living things. Dairy products and eggs may not require the cow, sheep, goat or chicken to be killed, but demand for them does mean more of these animals are bred. Once a dairy cow or chicken outlives her usefulness, vegans argue, she becomes dog food.

Vegans believe they are helping to preserve the life of the planet. They also believe they are doing their own biological systems a tremendous favor by eating a strict diet.

What Vegans Eat

Vegans eat all vegetables, legumes, fruits, and grains. They rely heavily on soy products such as tofu and tempeh and other legumes for protein.

Vegans try to consume only organic or sustainably raised food, including beans, nuts, and oils. They eat whole-grain cereals, bread, and tortillas. They eat brown rice and whole-wheat pasta.

Beyond rice, other grains figure largely in a vegan’s diet, including barley, spelt, millet, steel-cut oats, and amaranth. They also rely on organically grown potatoes and sweet potatoes.

Dark, leafy greens are very important to a vegan diet, too. They provide fiber, calcium, protein, and iron and as such are a cornerstone for the discipline.

When it comes to beverages, most vegans consist on purified water, decaffeinated green tea, and the occasional glass of organic wine. They also drink rice and soy milk, often fortified with vitamin D, and some natural juices.

Vegans with a sweet tooth turn to fruit and simple desserts sweetened with cane juice, maple syrup, agave nectar, and raw sugar. Soy ice cream, sugarless and egg-free cookies, and similar sweets also have a place in the vegan diet.

Enough Protein?

Vegans constantly are asked about their protein needs. Truth is they get plenty of protein, as long as they eat a balanced vegan diet.

We don’t need as much protein as was once thought and scientists today say one in every ten calories should come from protein. With enough legumes (particularly soy products) and vegetables, vegans can get plenty of protein.

And What about Calcium?

Again, if they follow a balanced, varied, and sensible diet, vegans get ample calcium, which is found in dark, green vegetables. Vegans eat tofu made with calcium sulfate, as well as calcium-fortified soy milk and orange juice. Some vegans take calcium supplements, as well.

A Typical Vegan Diet

Vegans eat pretty much the way most of us eat—with obvious exclusions. They depend on stir-fried vegetables, peanut butter, whole-wheat breads, legumes (black beans, lentils, chickpeas), vegetarian chili and lasagna, oatmeal and whole-grain cereal.

Brown rice and whole-grain pasta form the base for many meals.

Treats include frozen fruit desserts, fruit smoothies, popcorn, guacamole, and tofu ice cream.

Being a vegan means veering away from what has come to be thought of as a “typical American diet,” but in the end, it’s not so very different from being a vegetarian. It demands thought and restraint, but the diet is rich and varied—and ultimately satisfying for those who eat it.