Since I began this journey, right after people ask me where I’m “getting my protein and calcium from” they typically ask “well, if you don’t eat meat or dairy or eggs what do you eat?” Below you’ll find some information that The Boston Vegan Association had on their website about what vegans should be eating everyday. If I were you I would take careful note of which food group contains what (protein, fiber etc) so that you’ll be better armed to answer all of those questions that are sure to be asked of you. And read the pamphlet– it’s interesting! The Vegan Society also provides some great reading material on nutrition topic I suggest you check out.
What is a healthful vegan diet?
A balanced vegan diet is made up of these four food groups: 1) legumes, nuts, and seeds; 2) grains; 3) vegetables; and 4) fruits. Because individual nutrient needs and energy requirements vary due to age, activity level, and one’s state of health, this guide should only be considered a broad blueprint for a balanced vegan diet. Consult a dietitian familiar with vegan nutrition for a personalized set of recommendations.
LEGUMES, NUTS, AND SEEDS (4+ servings per day)
The legume-nut-seed group includes beans, split peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, and soy products. These nutrient-dense foods are packed with protein, fiber, minerals, B vitamins, protective antioxidants, and essential fatty acids(1). Sample serving sizes from this group include: ½ cup cooked beans, 4 ounces of tofu or tempeh, 1 cup soy milk, 1 ounce of nuts or seeds, or 2 tablespoons of nut or seed butter.
GRAINS (4-6+ servings per day)
Whole grains provide B vitamins, fiber, minerals, protein, and antioxidants. They are preferable to refined grains because the refining process removes the healthiest nutrients. Also, intact whole grains–such as brown rice, oats, wheat berries, millet, and quinoa–are nutritionally superior to whole grain flours and puffed or flaked whole grains(2). A serving is one slice of bread, ½ cup cooked grain, or 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal. This group is fairly flexible with regard to servings per day. Vary your intake based on your individual energy needs.
VEGETABLES (4+ servings per day)
Eating a wide variety of colorful vegetables every day will ensure that you’re getting an assortment of protective nutrients in your diet(3). A vegetable serving is ½ cup cooked, 1 cup raw, or ½ cup vegetable juice. For most vegetables, particularly calcium-rich leafy greens, it’s nearly impossible to eat “too much.”
FRUITS (2+ servings per day)
Most fruits, especially citrus fruits and berries, are a great source of vitamin C; all fruits provide antioxidants and fiber. Choose whole fruits over fruit juices to get the most benefit, particularly from dietary fiber. A serving size is one medium piece, 1 cup sliced fruit, ¼ cup dried, or ½ cup of juice.
A few words about fats
Concentrated fats, such as oils and oil-based spreads, do not fall under a food group. They are not required for optimal health, as essential fats are found naturally in whole foods like avocados, olives, nuts, and seeds, and for that reason there is no serving recommendation. However, a small amount of these fats–a serving is 1 teaspoon–may be included in a healthful vegan diet. Choose oils and spreads that are minimally processed and limit your intake.