Going vegan is derived only from plant based foods. Vegans do not use or consume any animals or animal products including flesh (land or sea animals), milk, eggs, or honey.
Eating vegan doesn’t require breaking the bank or moving to a big city. The most nutritious and inexpensive vegan foods which can be found in any supermarket, are fresh produce, grains, legumes and nuts/seeds. These should make up the bulk of the diet for optimum health. Vegan processed foods in the form of soy hot dogs, vegan &”cheeses,” desserts, etc are best eaten only on occasion. The following information will help you ease into going vegan with so much more confidence.
Isn’t vegan food boring?
A popular myth is that vegans subsist only on soybeans and salad. In reality, vegans eat everything non-vegans eat, but without the animal products and likely with more variety from special foods.
Common vegan dishes include stir fry, pasta, rice and beans, chana masala, cucumber-avocado sushi, pad thai, quinoa, pizza, pancakes, French toast, waffles, veggie burgers, chili, soups, tacos, burritos, casseroles, stew, sandwiches, cookies, non-dairy ice-cream and other delicious frozen vegan confectionaries, cakes, pies, etc.
Nutrition & Health
Nutritional deficiencies are a concern for everyone. While vegans statistically enjoy longer life spans than the average human being, we are not exempt from this reality. First and foremost, you should ensure you are receiving enough Vitamin B-12, Omega-3, and Vitamin D. See below for more detailed information on vegan nutrition.
Protein: Because animal-based foods are high in protein, it’s a common misconception that vegans don’t get enough of it. In fact, the real problem is nonvegans getting too much protein. Vegans can get all the protein they need from lentils, tempeh, tofu, beans, nuts, seeds, and even vegetables.
We highly recommend the book, Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina. M.S., R.D for more detailed information pertaining to ones age and individual needs. They provide sample menu plans and nutrition recommendations for children, teenagers, pregnancy, and athletes as well as a wealth of information on proper nutrition. Also, be sure to check out The Boston Vegan Association’s Nutritional Pamphlet
Calcium: (Approximately 1000 milligrams per day, 1200 milligrams for women over 51 and men over 70.) Leafy green vegetables-kale, collards, broccoli, okra, figs, oranges, almonds, pistachio nuts, hazelnuts, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, soybeans, chickpeas, navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, lentils, tempeh, tofu*, fortified non-dairy yogurt, fortified non-dairy milks, fortified soy products, fortified breakfast cereals, and fortified orange juice. Note: Spinach, beet greens, and chard are healthy foods but not good sources of calcium.
When purchasing tofu, look for the calcium-set tofu with “calcium sulphate” in the ingredients.
Iron: Chickpeas (hummus), lentils, navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, soybeans, quinoa, tofu, raisins, goji berries, fortified veggie burgers and other soy products, pumpkin seeds, cashews, figs, sunflower seeds, sesame tahini, prunes, whole wheat, parsley, and pine nuts.
Vitamin-C rich foods help with iron absorption. Try eating these foods in the same meal. Use cast-iron cookware. If your iron status is low, avoid consuming foods high in zinc at the same meal.
B12: (2000 micrograms once a week or 10-100 micrograms a day.) Produced by bacteria and found in soil, water, etc, it is necessary for vegans to supplement their diet since most vegetables are cleaned very well. Vegans supplement their diets with B12 by eating nutritional yeast or fortified foods. Most non-dairy milks and cereals are fortified with B12. Consume at least three servings of vitamin B12-fortified food per day (each supplying at least 20% of the Daily Value on the label), Or, vegan B12 tablets, or slow release B12 patches are also available today. Very often nonvegans suffer from B12 deficiency – deficiencies can affect anyone who follows a poor diet following only processes fast foods etc. (One 2000 mcg tablet (ideally chewed or dissolved under your tongue) once a week; or at least 10-100 mcg once a day.)Buy Nutritional Yeast Buy Vitamin B12 Tablets
Omega-3: Two tablespoons of ground flax seeds every day or two teaspoons daily of flax seed oil. And/or, an omega 3 DHA supplement in the form of algae.
Vitamin D: Light skin-about 10-15 minutes of sunshine. Dark skin: about 30 minutes of sunshine daily depending on the time of year, etc. Buy vegan Vitamin D3 Note: Vitamin D3 found in many fortified orange juices comes from the wool of sheep and is not vegan.
The information here is intended as a helpful overview but cannot cover all vegan nutrition topics. To make sure that your diet is meeting all the nutrients that your body and mind need, please consult a nutrition professional with expertise in vegan diets should you feel the need, preferably consult a vegan physician – one who has extensive knowledge on healthy vegan foods. Also it is preferable to obtain nutrients from a healthy well balanced vegan diet to those of pills where possible. When going vegan it is very likely that your health will improve whilst doing it correctly.
Spend some time with a vegan and you may be surprised to learn a vegan’s diet is not just the standard diet minus animal products. There are several kinds of foods which have gained recognition as vegan staples.
Tempeh (“tem-pea” or “tem-pay”) is like tofu, but fermented and pressed to be thick and savoury. An easy way to prepare tempeh is to fry or grill with blended seasonings meant for grilling. Check your ingredients, of course, but surprisingly many are vegan.
Tofu is a solid food made from pressed soybean curd. It’s one of the most unusual vegan staples in that it can be used to make a breakfast dish like scrambled tofu, a dinner dish like pan fried tofu, or even a chocolate mousse dessert. Tofu gets a bad wrap in popular culture as a tasteless food, but tofu isn’t meant to be a flavour agent. It works best at soaking up flavours and giving them a texture and consistency.
Seitan is a chewy and naturally brown substance made from wheat gluten, an isolated protein found in wheat. Seitan is usually cut into strips and baked or fried to provide some protein and chewiness to a dish.
Like tempeh, seitan is very easy to prepare and needs little to no seasoning.
Nutritional yeast is very different from the yeast used in bread. Nutritional yeast, which comes powdered or in flakes, is most often used to provide a cheesy consistency. Unlike cheese, nutritional yeast also lasts far longer and has no cholesterol. Sprinkle in soup, on popcorn, or add water to make cheesy sauces.
Red Star Nutritional Yeast
The number of nonvegan ingredients found in food and products is too numerous to mention here, but we’ve included some of the most common below.
Common Nonvegan Ingredients
Casein is a protein from milk. Surprisingly, can often found in soy cheeses – so beware!
- Carmine/Carminic Acid
Also known as Crimson Lake, Cochineal, Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470, or E120, carmine is made from crushed cochineal insects with bright red shells. Often used as a red food coloring.
Beeswax, as the name implies comes from honeybees. Why isn’t honey/beeswax vegan?
Gelatin is a substance produced from the collagen found in animal bones and hoofs. This is often used for marshmallows, Jello®, and as a preservative.
- Vitamin D3
Often found in fortified orange juice, vitamin D3 comes from Lanolin, a sheep product. D2, however, is vegan.
Whey is a milk protein often used as a protein boost in some commercial foods.
Here are some quick tips for using vegan ingredients to replace the animal products in your favourite recipes
- Apple Sauce
Applesauce will give off a gas while being cooked, making your baked goods fluffy. It’s also doesn’t require adding as much liquid as powdered replacers. 1/4 cup applesauce = 1 egg
- Ground Flax Seed
When ground to a powder and liquified with water, ground flax seed creates a gooey texture great for binding. It’s also full of protein and omega-3s. 1 tbsp ground flax + 3 tbsp water = 1 egg.
Like applesauce, bananas are naturally sweet. They also have strong binding properties when used baked goods. 1/2 banana = 1 egg
- Baking soda/powder
When you really need your dish fluffy without extra flavor, simple baking soda or baking powder does wonders. 1 tsp baking powder + 1 1/2 tbs water + 1 1/2 tbs oil or 1 tbs vinegar + 1 tsp baking soda = 1 egg.
- Soy/Oat/Hemp/Almond/etc. milk
By now, you’ve probably heard of the increasingly popular nut- and bean-derived milk products making their way into grocery stores. While soymilk is probably the most prevalent, some prefer rice milk for its naturally light and sweet flavour and almond milk for a boost of Vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, dietary fiber, and B vitamins.
More about milk replacements here (milk replacements)
- Vegetable Oil
The only difference between a fat and an oil is that a fat is a solid at room temperature. Often when milk is used in foods like mashed potatoes, it’s the fat that makes it creamy. Substituting this for vegetable or olive oil is equally as satisfying and much healthier.
Check out some ideas for a healthy vegan pantry here (vegan pantry to help get you started)
The New American Vegan by Vincent J. Guihan
Weaving together personal stories with 120 appetizing recipes, this friendly cookbook delivers authentically American and vegan cuisine that has to be tasted to be believed. Midwestern-inspired recipes range from very basic to the modestly complicated, but always with an eye on creating something beautiful and delicious in its simplicity.
Clear text provides step-by-step instructions and helps new cooks find their feet in a vegan kitchen, with a whole chapter devoted to terms, tools, and techniques. With an eye towards improvisation, the cookbook provides a detailed basic recipe that is good as-is, while providing additional notes that explain how to take each recipe further—to increase flavor, to add drama to the presentation, or just to add extra flourish.”
Vegan Yum Yum by Lauren Ulm
“When Lauren Ulm went vegan, she faced the typical onslaught of questions from acquaintances and more than the occasional wince from unsuspecting dinner guests. Vowing to prove that vegan food can be decadent and delicious—and not a bland stand-in for ‘normal’ food—she created a blog, veganyumyum.com. What began as a hobby became an obsession….
Here in her debut cookbook, Lauren shows that vegan food is anything but dull, with her creative and quirky twists on everything from crowd-pleasing appetizers to indulgent desserts, from easy weekend breakfasts to speedy weeknight dinners, plus holiday- and company-worthy fare you can serve with pride.”
The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
“A celebration of plant-based cuisine, The Vegan Table offers recipes and menus for every occasion and season, including romantic meals, traditional tea parties, formal dinners, casual gatherings, children’s parties, and holiday feasts.
Packed with invaluable tips, expert advice, fascinating lore, delicious recipes, and gorgeous full-color photographs, The Vegan Table is the ultimate guide, whether you are hosting an intimate gathering of close friends or a large party with an open guest list.
Organized by themed menus, the eclectic mix of recipes features cuisines from around the world, including Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Asian, Indian, and African. Follow the menus provided, or create your own using the array of appetizers, soups, stews, salads, main dishes, and desserts.”
Let them Eat Vegan by Dreena Burton
“Vegan food has come a long way in the past decade. The once ubiquitous dry, packaged veggie burger is no longer the poster child for an animal-free diet.
It has evolved into a creative, sophisticated cuisine touted by the likes of Food & Wine magazine. Long at the fore of vegan blogging and cooking, Dreena Burton has been known for making healthy taste delicious. Let Them Eat Vegan! distills more than fifteen years of recipe development that emphasize unrefined, less-processed ingredients–no white flour or white sugar, but instead whole-grain flours, natural sweeteners, raw foods, and plenty of beans ’n greens.
There’s no relying on meat analogues here, either–just hearty, healthy food that looks and tastes great. As the mother of three young girls, Burton always keeps their nutrition–and taste buds–in mind. From the simplest comfort foods like Warm ‘Vegveeta’ Cheese Sauce to the more sophisticated Anise-and Coriander-Infused Orange Lentil Soup, these recipes will delight and inspire even the pickiest eaters and provide lifelong vegans with the innovative, wholesome recipes they’ve always wanted.”
The 30 Minute Vegan by Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray
“Busy vegans, rejoice! award-winning husband and wife chefs/authors Reinfeld and Murray present 150 delicious, easy-to prepare recipes for everyday vegan cooking—all dishes that can be prepared in a half-hour.
Sections include The Lighter Side of Life: Smoothies & Satiating Beverages; Snacks, Pick Me Ups & Kids’ Favorites; Lunches: Wraps, Rolls, Bowls, and More; Extraordinary Salads; Sumptuous Soups; Small Plates: Appetizers, Side Dishes, Light Dinners; Wholesome Suppers; Guilt-Free Comfort Food: Healthy Translations of Old Stand-bys; and Divine Desserts.
The 30-Minute Vegan also provides at-a-glance cooking charts, kids’ favorite dishes, and exciting menu suggestions for every occasion—making this an essential cookbook for busy vegans who want to enjoy delicious, healthful, whole-foods vegan fare every day.”
The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
“A seasoned cooking instructor and self-described “joyful vegan,” author Colleen Patrick-Goudreau puts to rest the myth that vegan baking is an inferior alternative to non-vegan baking, putting it in its rightful place as a legitimate contender in the baking arena.
More than just a collection of recipes, this informative cookbook is a valuable resource for any baker — novice or seasoned. Learn just how easy it is to enjoy your favorite homespun goodies without compromising your health or values.”
Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
The hosts of the vegan cooking show The Post Punk Kitchen are back with a vengeance — and this time, dessert.
A companion volume to Vegan with a Vengeance, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World is a sweet and sassy guide to baking everyone’s favorite treat without using any animal products. This unique cookbook contains over 50 recipes for cupcakes and frostings — some innovative, some classics — with beautiful full color photographs. Isa and Terry offer delicious, cheap, dairy-free, egg-free and vegan-friendly recipes like Classic Vanilla Cupcakes (with chocolate frosting), Crimson Velveteen Cupcakes (red velvet with creamy white frosting), Linzer Torte Cupcakes (hazelnut with raspberry and chocolate ganache), Chai Latte Cupcakes (with powdered sugar) and Banana Split Cupcakes (banana-chocolate chip-pineapple with fluffy frosting). Included also are gluten-free recipes, decorating tips, baking guidelines, vegan shopping advice, and Isa’s true cupcake anecdotes from the trenches.
When Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, no dessert lover can resist.
Restaurants Near You
Even if you don’t live in a big city with fully vegan restaurants, there is a surprisingly large number of vegan options for eating out almost anywhere in the world. Check out two of the most popular resources below to find options near you. Please be advised, while these can be excellent resources for finding vegan options, the unfortunately also label options which are devoid of flesh, but still very nonvegan.
With a fresh design and tons of listings all over the world, VFIE is our number one recommendation for finding vegan and vegan-friendly establishments.
HappyCow is one of the oldest resources for finding vegan restaurants near you.
VegGuide is similar to HappyCow, but with a more streamlined, minimalist interface making it fast and easy to search.
Here are a few places to get vegan products delivered to you
- Vegan Essentials
VE, as the name implies, is all vegan with a wide selection of foods for humans and nonhumans as well as clothing and other specialty items.
While not an exclusively vegan storefront, Amazon actually has a large directory of vegan foods available in bulk in their grocery department.
Pangea, also known as TheVeganStore.com is an all vegan storefront much like Vegan Essentials.
Veganism is not just a diet, but a moral obligation if we wish to strike at the roots of speciesism in all its forms. Veganism is a moral imperative if we wish to bring an end to an injustice to all animals. Veganism is the very least that we owe to the thinking, feeling creatures with whom we share the Earth.