What Foods You Can and Can't Eat on a Vegan Diet

what foods vegans can and can't eat

One of the more challenging things when you're transitioning to a vegan diet is figuring out what foods you can and can't eat. This guide will help simplify the process for you.

As a general rule of thumb, Vegans do not consume any products that are made by animals. This includes non-food items such as leather and other products put into soaps, fashion, and cosmetics. In this article, we'll tell you exactly what foods you can eat as a vegan.

What You Can't Eat as a Vegan

what you can't eat as a vegan

There are some items that you certainty can't eat as a vegan. This includes any type of meat, chicken, fish, or other food product that can also be described as the "flesh of an animal". Both Vegans and Vegetarians alike don't eat any products that kill another living being.

First things to eliminate as a Vegan or Vegetarian:

  • Chicken
  • Steak
  • Beef burgers
  • Fish
  • Pork
  • Bacon
  • Lamb

The main philosophy revolves around the idea that eating animals for food causes the loss of an innocent life. The area where vegans and vegetarians differ is when it comes to the byproducts of animal as well. Foods that vegans can't eat includes, but are not limited to:

  • Milk
  • Sour Cream
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Anything that contains dairy

The reason for this is because chickens are packed in cages by the tens of thousands to produce eggs at a factory farming level. Mothers have their children ripped away from them at birth only to have the milk pumped from their utters. Vegans do not consume these products as an animal rights issue.

you can't eat eggs as a vegan

In addition to this, there are many food items that contain hidden non-vegan ingredients such as bone char and gelatin. "Natural Flavors" usually consists of ground up beetles that are added to foods as coloring. Any foods containing palm oil are said to contribute to the destruction of animal habitats in other parts of the world. This, by definition, makes them not vegan.

Later in this article, we'll tell you how to avoid those items on your shopping list as well. 

The Definition of Vegan

Veganism is more than just a diet. To be a vegan means that you exclude by the greatest extent possible, the use of all products made my animals. On a vegan diet, you can't consume meats, dairy, eggs, and other animal products. This definition includes not using animal products in non-food items too (leather jackets, handbags, certain soaps, etc.).

Why Vegan's Can't Eat Honey

vegans can't eat honey

While there are many articles that talk about the health benefits of honey, being vegan is an animal-centric approach. Vegans don't consume honey because this takes away a food source from bees. Bees make honey as a way to stockpile their own food supply in the winter months when flowers are less abundant. Honey is very nutritious for them and provides them the energy they need to fly.

honey is not vegan

Foods You Can Eat As a Vegan

foods you can eat as a vegan

Believe it or not, when you make the transition to a vegan diet, the amount of foods you can eat is greatly expansive. There are over 250,000 edible species of plants in this world, and when you remove meat and dairy from the menu, you're opening yourself up to a world of healthy options.

  • Fruits: Mango, Bananas, Star fruit, Custard Apples, Grapes, Figs, Dates
  • Vegetables: Eggplant (yes, it's vegan), Mushrooms, leafy greens, cabbage, potatoes, cauliflower, zucchini, etc.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Cashews, Walnuts, Almonds, Sunflower Seeds, Hemp
  • Grains: Pasta, Rice, Quinoa, Barley, Oats
  • Vegan Versions of Meat and Cheeses: Beyond Burgers, Impossible Whopper, Shredded Vegan Cheese

When shopping for Vegan cheeses, look for the Vegan label and not (Dairy-free) as some dairy-free cheeses are made with a derivative of cow's milk and aren't 100% vegan.

Trust me, there are more vegan foods than not and this opens up your life to making new types of cultural dishes, pastas, and stir fry that you may have never had before.

What You Can Eat On a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet

Whereas veganism is a way of living that excludes the use of animal products, a plant-based diet is also vegan, but with certain foods restricted primarily for health reasons. A Whole Foods Plant-Based (WFPB) diet is one that revolves around foods that come in their more whole and natural form.

Many vegan and non-vegan products are heavily processed. Vegetable oils for example increase the caloric density of foods and strip away some of the essential nutrients. Fake vegan meats are processed and sometime contain added oils, preservatives, and chemicals that enhance the flavor or taste.

olive oil is not whole foods plant based WFPB

If you're going vegan for health reasons, you may want to look more into what constitutes a Whole Foods Plant-Based diet.

  • Quinoa instead of pasta or white rice.
  • Cook with vegetable stock instead of canola or olive oil.
  • Lentils and beans instead of processed vegan burgers

How to Know if Something is Vegan

vegan certification

The very first thing to do is read the label. Anything that contains eggs or milk is usually marked in bold on the label as these items also cause allergies in many people. Things like Wheat, Soy, or Gluten listed on the label are generally considered vegan but are also listed as a precaution because some people have allergies to them.

Some items are tricky. Natural Flavors are a hidden word for crushed up bugs. They put this in here for many reasons including the coloring of pizza sauces.

The second way to know if something is vegan is to look for the Vegan certification label on it. In the below interview, we speak with Carissa Kranz, the Founder of the Vegan Certification firm BeVeg where she talks about her process of certifying products as vegan. This goes as far as inspecting the manufacturing facility the food is produced in. So look for the certified vegan label and read the ingredient list to be 100% sure.

How to Know What to Eat on a Vegan Diet

In the end, if you're struggling to know what you can and can't eat on a vegan diet, I suggest you join a Vegan Facebook group, make friends with other vegans, and ask people who have been vegan for a while as they've went on this journey before you.

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