Following a vegan diet can be difficult at first. Usually, many beginners struggle to create a meal plan that meets all their nutritional needs.
The good news is that it’s possible to go vegan easily and healthfully, you just need to learn a few things first…
That’s why we’ve created this vegan guide for beginners!
In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about plant-based diets, from the benefits of being vegan to the potential negative side effects of veganism.
But don’t worry, we’ll also teach you how to be a healthy vegan and reduce these risks!
Not sure what you should include or avoid in your diet? Keep reading to find a full food list for beginners and a few meal ideas.
According to the Vegan Society, a vegan diet is a plant-based plan that excludes all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
While vegetarians choose not to eat animals, vegans go one step further and avoid eating eggs, dairy, and honey as well.
But that’s not all, they even avoid many other animal-based ingredients, like carmine, gelatine, and casein.
For that reason, those who follow the diet must carefully check food labels to avoid animal-derived ingredients.
That’s why this plant-based diet can be so difficult to follow for beginners, although it’s not impossible.
You’re probably thinking that eating a vegan diet may be limiting.
Yet, vegans can eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, and many other foods mentioned below.
Plus, there are many plant-based alternatives nowadays.
And you could also try some tasty, healthy vegan recipes, like the ones you’ll find later in this article!
Veganism for Beginners: Other Aspects You Should Know
Besides following a plant-based diet, many beginners decide to avoid all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty in all aspects of their lives as well, such as the use of animals for entertainment, clothing, product testing, or any other purpose.
This is a philosophy and way of living known as “veganism”.
Some people follow this diet to get all the health benefits of veganism, while many others go for ethical, religious, or environmental reasons.
What Is The Differences Between Vegan and Vegetarian Diets?
Some of them prefer to have a plant-based diet, or vegetarian diet while others opt for a vegan diet to completely remove these products from their diet.
According to the Vegetarian Society, a vegetarian diet doesn’t include products or by-products of animal slaughter, like meat, poultry, insects, rennet, gelatine, fish, shellfish, and stock or fat from animals.
So, what do vegetarians eat?
A vegetarian diet includes a range of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, grains, and pulses. But that’s not all.
Although vegetarians remove some animal foods from their diet, they can still eat eggs, honey, and dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.
For that reason, people who eat a vegetarian diet are also known as “lacto-ovo-vegetarians”.
That said, there are different types of vegetarian diets:
For example, some people (lacto-vegetarians) include dairy products but not eggs in their vegetarian diet.
On the other hand, “ovo-vegetarians” eat eggs but remove dairy products from their diet.
As the name suggests, a plant-based diet is a type of diet plan that either entirely or mostly consists of plant foods, like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, plant-based oils, nuts, and seeds.
The interesting part about this way of eating is that it’s not restrictive.
Usually, people who stick to a plant-based diet can still choose to eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy foods, and other animal products in small portions and less often.
They’re also known as “flexitarians” or “semi-vegetarians”.
In short, meat is more of a side dish, while plant foods become the main dish.
If you start a plant-based diet, you can decide whether or not you’d like to eat certain animal-derived products.
As a result, you can personalise your plant-based diet and choose what works best for you.
Just remember that you should have a colourful plate in front of you!
Whole Foods, Plant-based Diet
Some people focus on eating whole foods when following a plant-based diet.
So, they stay away from processed foods, refined grains, conventional snacks, and sugar-sweetened beverages. Instead, they prefer to eat plant foods that are raw or minimally processed.
Vegan, Vegetarian, and Plant-based Diets: Key Differences
As you’ve probably noticed, there are some similarities and differences between vegan or vegetarian diets and plant-based diets.
But let’s recapitulate their key differences:
- A healthy vegan diet often involves making other lifestyle choices, but that’s not the case with vegetarian and plant-based diets.
- A vegan diet eliminates all animal products, while a vegetarian diet includes dairy products, eggs, honey, and other by-products that do not involve killing animals. A plant-based diet, on the other hand, focuses on reducing the consumption of animal products, but it doesn’t necessarily eliminate them.
- While vegans remove all animal products from their diet to avoid animal cruelty and exploitation, vegetarians see eggs, honey, and dairy products as harmless to animals. In contrast, those who eat a plant-based diet commonly do it for health or environmental reasons.
- Those who follow a whole-food, plant-based diet avoid processed foods, while vegans and vegetarians can include processed plant-based foods in their diet.
Benefits You Could Get
People have been studying the health benefits of veganism for a long time.
When done right, a vegan diet can lower the risk of developing certain diseases and keep you healthy.
And that’s because this diet is usually rich in nutrients, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and fibre while being low in saturated fats.
Let’s check some health benefits of a balanced diet:
- Lose excess weight
- Prevent heart disease
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Improve metabolic health
- Reduce the risk of diabetes
Animal products contain more fat and calories than plant-based alternatives.
So, beginner vegans might lose some weight when they start to remove meat and other animal-based foods from their diet.
Vegans also have a higher dietary fibre intake, which makes them feel fuller for longer.
Other Benefits of a Vegan Lifestyle
If you’re a beginner vegan, there are many other benefits of veganism you should know and which may help you stay motivated:
- Fights climate change and global warming
- Reduces your carbon footprint
- Prevents species extinction
- Helps stop animal cruelty
- Prevents deforestation
- Conserves water
- Protects the soil
A vegan diet can reduce your environmental impact.
Raising and feeding animals destroy natural resources, generate too many greenhouse emissions, and contribute to global warming.
Likewise, a vegan lifestyle can help reduce animal exploitation and animal cruelty!
Just like other dietary choices, being vegan has some pros and cons.
For that reason, beginner vegans need to know the disadvantages of veganism and create a healthy diet plan to prevent these risks.
Poorly planned diets can lead to nutrient deficiencies and this might affect your health sooner or later.
For women who are pregnant or nursing, these deficiencies might be even more problematic.
Common Nutrient Deficiencies to be Aware of:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
These nutritional deficiencies can potentially cause negative side effects, like weakness, anaemia, disruptions in hormone production, and even depression.
But there’s no need to worry, we’ll explain how to be a healthy vegan and prevent these nutritional deficiencies in a moment.
Another thing to keep in mind is that while some people experience weight loss, others end up gaining more weight.
That’s because some beginner vegans tend to eat too much vegan junk food, which is high in fat and calories.
How to Be a Healthy Vegan and Minimise Risks
Whether you’re a long-term or beginner vegan, it’s important to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs.
Now that you know the potentially serious health risks of veganism, pay special attention to these nutrients and foods so that you can create a vegan diet plan:
- Protein: You need to get enough protein to maintain muscle mass and strong bones, so make sure to include beans, lentils, soy milk, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, nuts, and seeds in your plant-based diet.
- Calcium: To prevent calcium deficiency, you should include enough legumes and dark, leafy vegetables in your diets, such as kale, collard greens, and turnip leaves. You could also drink plant-based milk, like soy or almond milk.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Long-term and beginner vegans need to eat foods high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of fat that can be converted into essential omega-3 fats (DHA and EPA) in your body. These are some foods high in ALA: hemp seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, and soybeans.
- Iron: To get enough iron from your diet, you should eat a variety of iron-rich, plant foods, like whole grains, lentils, leafy greens, and beans. Plus, you could eat foods rich in vitamin C or try fermenting, sprouting, and cooking foods to enhance your iron absorption.
- Zinc: Whole grains, beans, fortified cereals, tofu, and legumes are great sources of zinc. A good idea to increase zinc intake is to soak or sprout grains and beans before cooking.
- Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient to prevent anaemia, but it’s primarily found in animal foods. To get vitamin B12, you’ll need to include fortified plant milk, fortified cereals, and nutritional yeast.
- Vitamin D: If you want to have healthy bones, you need calcium and vitamin D. Fortified foods and mushrooms might be good options to get this vitamin. You can also get vitamin D from sunlight.
- Iodine: Beginner vegans often forget to include sources of iodine, like iodized salt or sea vegetables. Bear in mind that sea salt and kosher salt are generally not iodized.
Foods and Ingredients to Avoid
As you might already know, vegans avoid all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
But as a beginner vegan, it might be difficult to identify foods containing ingredients that come from animals.
So, if you’d like to start a vegan diet, make sure to avoid these foods and ingredients:
- Meat and poultry: chicken, beef, lamb, pork, horse, goat, duck, turkey, goose, etc.
- Fish and seafood: salmon, tuna, crab, shrimp, lobster, squid, anchovies, scallops, calamari, etc.
- Dairy: milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, sour cream, ice cream, etc.
- Eggs: From chickens, quails, ostriches, fish, etc. Also, avoid egg-based products, like mayo.
- Bee products: honey, bee pollen, royal jelly, etc.
- Animal-based ingredients: cochineal or carmine, gelatine, isinglass, castoreum, fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids, tallow, pepsin, shellac, animal-derived vitamin D3, whey, casein, lactose.
Vegan Food List for Beginners: What Can You Eat?
Following a vegan diet might be frustrating at the beginning.
Many people think that going vegan may be limiting, but the truth is that you can find many plant-based alternatives nowadays.
Don’t know where to start?
Check this easy vegan food list for beginners:
- Vegan protein sources: Tofu, tempeh, seitan, vegan protein powder…
- Fruits: Apples, avocados, bananas, berries, oranges, peaches…
- Vegetables: Broccoli, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, peppers…
- Green leafy vegetables: Spinach, kale, collard greens, lettuce…
- Beans and legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, peas, kidney beans…
- Whole grains: Whole grain bread, oats, quinoa, brown rice…
- Nuts: Walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, natural nut butter…
- Seeds: Hemp seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds…
- Sauces and sweeteners: Maple syrup, agave, mustard, soy sauce…
- Plant-based milks and dairy products: Opt for varieties fortified with calcium, vitamin B12, and D whenever possible.
- Nutritional yeast: Choose vitamin B12-fortified varieties whenever possible.
Ready to start your diet? Keep reading to discover some healthy vegan snacks and meal ideas you can try this week!
Easy and Delicious Vegan Meal Ideas
If you’re a beginner vegan, you might be wondering what meals you can prepare.
To help you plan a diet, we’ve put together some simple and delicious meal ideas you can try:
- Overnight oats made with fruit, fortified plant-based milk, and chia seeds
- Vegan Waffles
- Whole grain toast with peanut butter and banana
- Vegan pancakes with fruit & Nuts
When planning your meals, remember to include different veggies and sources of protein in your diet to meet all your nutritional needs.
Don’t forget that eating a varied diet is an important factor to stay healthy!
Simple and Healthy Vegan Snacks for Beginners
Even though a vegan diet limits the selection of snacks you can eat, it doesn’t mean you’ll have to eat flavourless and boring snacks!
Fortunately, there’s a wide variety of vegan snacks and tasty recipes you can try.
Include these healthy, delicious snacks:
- Trail Mix
- Nut and Fruit Bars
- Roasted Chickpeas
- Homemade Muffins
- Vegan Banana Bread
- Quinoa and Chia Granola Bars
- Homemade Vegan Ice Cream
- Apple Slices with Natural Peanut Butter
- Chia Pudding with Fresh Fruit and Chopped Nuts
- Homemade Vegan Inspired Ferrero Rocher Chocolates
Final Tips for Beginners: Planning a Vegan Diet
You already know the health benefits of veganism, the potential negative effects of going vegan, and what you can eat.
Now, let’s mention some useful tips that most beginner vegans tend to forget when starting their vegan diet:
- To make your transition to a vegan diet easier, you could start by slowly reducing your consumption of animal products and incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet. For instance, a vegetarian or plant-based diet might be a good start for beginners like you.
- If you’re not consuming fortified foods regularly, you could take daily supplements to prevent nutrient deficiencies.
- Focus on eating nutrient-dense plant foods and limit the amount of processed vegan foods you eat.
- Talk to your doctor or dietitian about your vegan diet plan to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs.
When you’re a beginner, it’s natural to think that it will be difficult to follow a vegan diet.
But luckily, there are plenty of plant-based alternatives and recipes you can try in your vegan diet.
As a beginner vegan, you might need a little planning and research, but it’s worth the effort!