If you’ve been wondering about the vegan diet and asking yourself what is a vegan diet then today we will uncover this mystery that has stumped scholars and philosophers for centuries… nay millennia.
I’ve written extensively about veganism on this blog. That should be no surprise! If you’d like to know more about what is a vegan you can check out my blog post that answers that question. It is a long one.
If you just want to know what is a vegan diet then this is the place to be. It will be shorter because diet is just a small part of vegansim. An important part and perhaps the most powerful part of the vegan ethic, but just one part of the overall vegan philosophy.
For a great guide and resource for the beginning vegan as well as seasoned vegans, you could do worse than reading Becoming Vegan by a couple of excellent dietitians.
But let’s not dilly dally, let’s dig right in.
What is a vegan diet?
The vegan diet can be thought of as either one of two things. The first is related to what are the foods that vegans eat or perhaps more importantly what are the foods vegans don’t eat. So in this instance, the vegan diet is basically the nutritional make up of the foods and nutritional supplements that vegans eat.
The other thing that a vegan diet can be thought of is perhaps a vegan weight loss diet. In this instance when we are asking about a vegan diet we are thinking more along the lines of weight loss and calorie restriction.
I’ve written extensively about how to lose weight on a vegan diet and I urge you to read those articles if you are interested in that interpretation of the vegan diet.
But for the purpose of today’s article we’ll be looking at the bigger picture of what exactly is in a vegan diet. That is to say, what do vegans normally eat. And perhaps to understand the vegan diet better we will look at what foods vegans don’t eat, as this is a smaller list.
What do vegans eat?
Starting off with the question of what foods do vegans eat is perhaps courageous in the sense that it would take a book to literally discuss and name all the foods and manufactured food products that vegans can eat. So today we’ll look at general principles of the vegan diet.
If we take a look at the current recommended food guide (MyPlate) from the USDA we can see that they classify food into 5 categories or groups. These 5 groups are Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Protein Foods and Dairy.
The vegan diet includes food from 4 of the 5 groups of food. The one food group that vegans exclude from their diet is Dairy.
However, vegans also exclude many types of foods from the Protein Foods group as identified in the MyPlate category.
If you take a look at the foods available in the Protein Foods group by clicking here you’ll see that they are made up of sub-categories of protein foods identified as “Meats”, “Poultry”, “Eggs”, “Beans and Peas”, “Processed Soy Products”, “Nuts and Seeds” and “Seafood”.
The ONLY Protein Foods sub-categories that vegans eat from are “Beans and Peas”, “Processed Soy Products” and “Nuts and Seeds”.
So, in a nutshell, vegans eat ALL “Fruits”, ALL “Vegetables”, ALL “Grains” and ONLY SOME of the “Protein Foods” i.e. “Nuts and Seeds”, “Beans and Peas” and “Processed Soy Products”.
What don’t vegans eat?
Perhaps to put it another way, it can be helpful to identify the foods that vegans DO NOT eat.
As mentioned above, vegans exclude all Dairy products. So vegans don’t eat cow’s milk, goat’s milk or any type of animal milk or the products made from animal’s milk. So NO ice cream, cheese, yogurt etc.
Vegans also DO NOT eat any eggs from any animals/birds whether chicken eggs, duck eggs or others or products made with eggs like some baked goods, meringues etc.
Vegans also DO NOT eat any animal foods or animal flesh. So NO meat, seafood or poultry.
It is important to see that a vegan diet is expansive rather than restrictive. So even though it might look to an outsider that vegans are restricting one quarter or more of the foods available from the USDA’s MyPlate, in fact there are many foods that vegans enjoy.
Except for eggs, practically any other type of animal product is available to vegans as a vegan substitute. There is soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, almond milk, soy ice creams, soy cheeses, veggie burgers, veggie hot dogs, veggie chicken breasts, veggie seafood substitutes, veggie “ribs” etc, etc.
Once you’ve investigated the vegan diet further and stepped away from thinking about what is not available to vegans you start to see a whole new world opening up.