So, What Does It Mean to Be Vegan?
In addition to not eating meat, poultry or fish like vegetarians, vegans also avoid other animal products and by-products like eggs, dairy products and honey and foods that contain these products.
What’s the benefit? A plant-based diet is so good for you. Vegans typically consume less saturated fat and cholesterol and more fiber and phytochemicals than standard diet followers. Add positive links between veg-based diets and lower levels of diabetes, obesity and more, and you’ve got a way of eating worth cheering for.
Shopping for Vegan Foods
The key to a nutritionally sound vegan diet is variety. A healthy and balanced vegan diet includes fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. Below are some tips to help you navigate shopping and meal planning.
- Protein. Protein needs can be met by eating a variety of plant-based foods like some legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains, plus soy products and meat substitutes.
- Calcium. Vegetarians and vegans are likely to have calcium levels lower than the general population, so be sure to shop for dark green vegetables like broccoli, kale, collards and okra, plus calcium-enriched and fortified products such as juices, cereals, soymilk, soy yogurt and tofu.
- Iron. The Recommended Daily Allowance of iron for vegetarians and vegans is higher than for meat eaters. To meet your needs, load your shopping cart with dried beans and peas, lentils, enriched cereals, whole grain products, dark leafy green vegetables and dried fruits such as apricots, prunes and raisins.
- Zinc. Because plant foods tend to be lower in zinc than animal foods, get the zinc your body needs with plant sources like whole grains, soy products, legumes, nuts and wheat germ.
- Vitamin B12. It can be challenging to maintain adequate levels of vitamin B12 on a plant-based diet, so you may need to take a b12 supplement or eat foods that have been fortified with vitamin B12 like breakfast cereals, soymilk and veggie burgers.
- Vitamin D. For vegans who spend a lot of time indoors or live in a northern climate, fortified soy beverages and cereals are reliable sources of vitamin D, though you may also need a (plant-derived) supplement.
Reputable sources for detailed information on a complete vegan diet include The Vegetarian Resource Group, Mayo Clinic and Oldways Vegetarian and Vegan Food Pyramid. Be sure to check in with your health-care provider before starting any new diet.
A Vegan-Friendly Shopping ListA nourishing vegan diet starts with fresh produce, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. You can find a lot of what you need for a nutritious vegan diet in our produce aisle, frozen section, grocery aisles and bulk bin section. Discover a detailed shopping list and must-try products in The Full Helping’s vegan grocery game plan.
- Rainbow of fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Beans and legumes
- Nondairy nut beverages
- Soy products such as tempeh and tofu and other non-soy meat substitutes
- Extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil and other nut oils
- Nutritional yeast
Sure you know to avoid animal products, but sometimes, foods you wouldn’t normally associate with animals contain their by-products. Watch for:
- Gelatin — Usually derived from by-products of the meat and leather industry, gelatin is often found in gummy bears, marshmallows, soups, sauces and gel caps (see Vegan Supplements below).
- Some sugar — Sugar is often filtered through charred animal bones during the bleaching process. Look for unbleached sugar products or ones that are labeled “vegan.”
- Many soups — Many soups use chicken stock or broth as a base. Even miso soup often has a dashi broth, which is made with bonito (a type of fish) flakes.
In addition to food products, cosmetics and soaps can also be derived from animal products. Check labels carefully.
Animal-derived ingredients are commonly found in supplements, so look for capsule and softgel products that say “vegi-caps” or highlight plant-derived sources on the label. Or ask a Whole Body team member for help. Here are some things to watch for:
- Gelatin, derived from cattle and pigs, is the most pervasive animal product in nutritional supplements. Beware of capsule and softgel products that do not have “vegi-caps” or plant-derived sources on the label.
- Beta-carotene, though vegetarian sourced, is often coated in gelatin for stabilization purposes.
- L-tyrosine is typically derived from poultry feathers.
- Glucosamine sulfate is usually derived from shellfish, although a new vegetarian source is now being tested for efficacy and stability.
- Chondroitin sulfate is derived from cattle.
- Vitamin D3 (as cholecalciferol) is usually derived from lanolin (sheep’s wool), animal hides or fish oil. D2, a synthetic version, is not as bioavailable as D3.
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an essential omega-3 fatty acid, is derived from seaweed but normally packaged in gelatin softgels.
More Products for Your Vegan Shopping List
In addition to the foods listed above, these products can make vegan cooking and eating easier:
- Engine 2® Plant-Strong® products
- Kite Hill Products (cheese, yogurt, ravioli and more!)
- Annie’s Vegan Shells/Elbows & Creamy Sauce
- Vega products