Introducing more plant-based foods into your diet can come with a few adjustments. Maybe you’re trying to figure out how to get enough protein. Or, if you’re cutting back on dairy, you might be wondering about calcium instead. Adding allergens into the mix only brings up more questions of what to eat and what to skip. Well, we hear you—no matter who you are, food, and choosing the right food at that, is important. Consider this your ultimate vegan diet guide.
Before we get started, let’s answer a few of the most common questions up front. You can get enough protein, plants have calcium, and they contain iron, too. In fact, it’s entirely possible to be healthy on a plant-based diet. But as with any major dietary change, consult with a nutritionist or dietician to ensure that your body is getting everything you need.
The ultimate vegan diet guide, even if you have allergies
Now, let’s talk about allergies. While kids are more likely to have food allergies, they can develop at any age, even to foods that you regularly eat. If you suspect that you may have a food allergy or sensitivity, then consider reaching out to an allergist who can evaluate your symptoms.
There are a few plant-based diets that you might follow, like raw vegan or whole foods, plant-based. We’ve got guides to them all. And we’ve also taken allergens into consideration, like nuts, gluten, and soy. Read below for our ultimate vegan diet guide:
Even if you’re not following a specific plant-based diet, you’re probably wondering how you can eat healthy. Like, how do you get enough protein, calcium, and iron? Thankfully, you can get what you need on a plant-based diet and treat yourself to plenty of delicious food, from vegan chicken nuggets to dairy-free cheese-stuffed burgers and more.
If you’re following a gluten-free vegan diet, then a lot less is off the table than you’d think. Gluten may be in a lot of things—bread, pasta, and a whole bunch of the grains of different wheat species—but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have bread or pasta or grains. You just need to choose the gluten-free options. Carbs are still plentiful on a gluten-free vegan diet; you can still dine on pizza and cookies (see #3 on this list). And, plenty of plant-based meats, like the Impossible Burger and LikeMeat, are gluten-free. Just always be sure to check the label to ensure that a product was made at a dedicated gluten-free facility if you have a severe allergy.
While a lot of products contain nuts—almond milk, cashew cheese, nut butters, and more—you still have a lot of food to choose from if you need to follow a nut-free vegan diet. Instead of almond milk, choose oats. If you’re looking for cheese, look for an option that uses nut-free ingredients, like hemp seeds. And instead of nut butters, go for sunflower butter or tahini. And, of course, you still have pasta, lentils and beans, fruits, vegetables, and mushrooms at your disposal.
Soy milk, tofu, tempeh, and so, so many plant-based meats contain soy. Being soy-free and vegan sounds like a feat. But that’s not the case. Even if eating soy is out of the question, you can still have various types of plant-based milk, like oat, almond or coconut, vegan cheese made from nuts or seeds, dairy-free ice cream of the soy-free variety, legumes, and plant-based meats like the Beyond Burger. There is even tofu made from pumpkin seeds and from chickpeas.
Following a raw vegan diet means that none of the food you eat has been heated above 118 degrees Fahrenheit. So, that leaves out grains, pasta, bread, and cooked beans and legumes. You can, however, have sprouted grains and sprouted legumes, which are whole foods that have begun to grow, but have not yet flowered. As for the rest, you can eat nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, tofu, fermented foods, plant-based milks, and raw nut and seed butters. And, you can make decadent desserts like this raw vegan avocado cake.
The core of a whole foods, plant-based diet is minimally processed, minimally refined ingredients. This means completely avoiding or limiting bleached flour, white sugar, white pasta, and oils. But, the foods you can eat are still varied: think plates full of whole grains and roasted vegetables paired with bean chili or a creamy dhal. You can also enjoy whole grain bread and pasta in moderation. This black bean and quinoa bowl, sans the vegan mayo-based dressing, is a good example of what you can eat on a whole foods, plant-based diet. But, you could even add the dressing, if you want; the diet is not as strict as one dictated by allergies. On a whole foods plant-based diet, the idea is to limit, but not always completely restrict certain foods.
The paleo diet, which refers to the Paleolithic era that occurred 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago, is inspired by what our prehistoric ancestors ate. This was primarily food that could be hunted, gathered, or foraged. It has a reputation for being meat-heavy but actually, there are some foods that are considered both paleo and plant-based. Which, you ask? Check out our guide to find out.