When talking about what a vegan can eat (answer: a lot of things), it's probably better to first talk about what they can't – or choose not to – eat. Without getting into the various moral or health reasons that people choose to eat vegan, here's some basic information on what vegans do and do not eat to help you if you're debating whether to meatless or not:
What vegans avoid
Basically, vegans do not eat any animal products, including products derived from animals. Most obviously, this means that vegans avoid eating beef, chicken, pork, fish and everything in between, as well as dairy products and eggs. However, many other foods contain animal products, though we often don't realize it. Here are some other items that people who are vegan often attempt to avoid and why:
- Honey: Bees are living things and they make it.
- White sugar: PETA asserts that it is made with bone char.
- Marshmallows and gummy bears: These sweets are made with gelatin that is derived from animals.
- Breads and baked goods made with butter, eggs, white sugar or whey – a dairy product.
- Beer: Believe it or not, some beers are filtered using egg whites, seashells or gelatin from fish bladders.
- Salad dressing: Many dressings use lecithin, a product from animals, to keep vinegar and oil from separating in the dressing.
- Additionally, many vegans avoid other animal products, including leather, wool, cosmetics and certain types of soap.
Though vegan diets are often low in cholesterol and fat and high in nutrients, it's good to keep in mind that not all certified vegan products, like certain junk foods, are healthy for you. Here is an idea of what vegans often eat to get important nutrients:
- Protein: lentils, peas, chickpeas, soy milk, almond milk, nuts and nut butter, whole grains, tofu
- Calcium: dark green vegetables, soy milk and orange juice fortified with calcium, tofu made with calcium sulfate
- Iron: dark green leafy vegetables, black and kidney beans, bulghur wheat, lentils, beet greens, black-eyed peas
- Vitamin B12: nutritional yeast
- Zinc: legumes, nuts and grains
- Vitamin D: fortified rice milk and soy milk
Though vegans are able to find some good sources for important nutrients, it takes a lot of time and effort to plan a well-rounded meal. Many vegans make sure they get enough B12 and calcium – two important ingredients that are often lacking in their diet – by finding a supplementary method like the VeganSmart All-In-One Nutritional Shake, which is gluten, dairy and soy-free and provides 20 grams of non-GMO protein per serving.