Home Health Vegan Nutrition Guide: What to Eat and What Not to Eat

Vegan Nutrition Guide: What to Eat and What Not to Eat

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Veganism is a way of living that seeks to exclude or minimize the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. The vegan diet is an excellent choice for people who want to improve their health and reduce their environmental impact. This guide will help you get started with vegan nutrition and provide some ideas on what to eat and what not to eat.

The what can vegans eat list of foods is a vegan nutrition guide that gives information on what to eat and what not to eat.

What to Eat | Diet Quiz | Basics | Benefits | Risks | Coaching Advice | What to Eat

Vegans, in my experience, fall into two categories:

Person #1’s eyes glitter, their skin glows, and their energy levels rise. They’re a walking, talking advertisement for a plant-based diet.

Person #2: They appear exhausted and pale, as if they have just lost two pints of blood.

Person #1 will tell Person #2 that 100% plant-based diets are the very best way to eat—for everyone—in comment sections all over the internet. Person #2, on the other hand, says in the same comment fields: “100% plant-based diets are dangerous!”

Who is correct? Who is the one who is incorrect?

Both and neither are true.

I’m sure that response is perplexing. That’s because, as I’ll describe later, the benefits and drawbacks of a completely plant-based diet are complex. Some people benefit while others suffer, and the reasons behind this are quite surprising.

I’ll go over all of it in this article, as well as:

Let’s start with a question that is anything but simple:

What exactly are plant-based diets?

Not everyone uses the terms “totally plant-based” and “vegan” interchangeably. As a result, it’s a good idea to start this story by describing how these terms are used.

Nutrition based on plants

Although some people define “plant-based” as “plants exclusively,” we use a broader and more inclusive meaning.

Vegetables, fruits, beans/legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds make up the majority of our plant-based diets.

To put it another way, you’re a plant-based eater if you eat largely plants with a tiny quantity of animal-based protein.

(For more information, see our entire guide to plant-based nutrition.)

A plant-based, whole-food diet

Whole, less processed plant foods are emphasized in this eating style. Essentially, you’re consuming plant-based foods as close to their natural state as possible.

Diet consisting solely of plants

Without any animal products, this eating pattern emphasizes foods from the plant/fungi kingdom.

Vegetarian diet

Veganism is a way of life. Vegans seek to avoid any activities that injure or cause suffering to animals.

Vegans avoid purchasing things made from animals (such as fur or leather) as well as products that have been tested on animals or generated using animal experiments, in addition to not eating animals, their eggs, or their byproducts (such as milk or honey).

They also avoid companies like circuses, rodeos, and bullfights that rely on animals for entertainment.

There is a lot of diversity among the four primary groups of plant-based eaters outlined above.

Consider plant-based, whole-food eaters.

Because few people consume only whole foods, consider this eating approach to be a continuum.

On the one hand, there are some who eat entirely plant-based foods such as store-bought cookies, crackers, white bread, and vegan hot dogs.

People that eat a lot of vegetables, fruit, legumes, seeds, nuts, and grains are on the other end of the spectrum.

If the majority of what you eat is both minimally processed and plant-based, we consider you to be on a whole-food, plant-based diet.

Similarly, some vegans and totally plant-based eaters are stricter than others.

I’ve given advice to people who never eat animals or animal products. I’ve also worked with more adaptable clients. In specific cases, such as when they’re at a social event and vegan options aren’t available, they’ll make allowances for particular meals.

If you’re a coach, these details are crucial since they influence the health benefits and risks your clients may face.

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The advantages of a plant-based diet

Many people believe that one of the major advantages of a plant-only diet is that it lowers the risk of disease.

A number of research appear to back this up.

For example, vegans scored highest on the Healthy Eating Index, a nutritional quality measure, when researchers in Belgium utilized an online questionnaire to ask over 1500 vegans, vegetarians, semi-vegetarians, pescatarians, and omnivores about their food intake. 1

Fully plant-based eaters and vegans have a lower risk of a variety of diseases as a result of their enhanced nutritional quality. 2,3,4,5,6

Vegans and entirely plant-based eaters, on the other hand, score higher on the Healthy Eating Index not because they don’t consume meat, but because they eat more minimally processed whole plant foods including vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds.

To put it another way, many totally plant-based eaters prefer a whole-food, plant-based diet.

According to a large, long-term study, including minimally processed whole foods in a vegan diet may be important to reaping the benefits.

Over the course of two decades, researchers studied the health outcomes of hundreds of thousands of female nurses as well as dozens of male health professionals and discovered that heart disease risk was linked to the types of plant foods ingested.

The risk of heart disease was decreased in vegetarians and vegans who ate largely minimally processed whole foods. Vegans and vegetarians who ate a lot of fries, candies, sugary drinks, and other highly processed meals, on the other hand, were at a higher risk. 7

The disadvantages of a completely plant-based diet

When someone skips entire meal groups, their body has to work harder to receive all of the nutrients it requires. People who eat a completely plant-based or vegan diet have a hard time getting enough of four nutrients in particular.


Calcium helps muscles, including your heart muscle, perform properly, in addition to keeping bones and teeth robust.

Vegans are at danger of calcium shortage because they avoid dairy products, which provide about a third of the 1000 to 1200 mg of calcium that the average person need each day.

Vegans have lower bone mineral density and higher fracture risks than meat eaters—or even vegetarians, according to a new study of 20 studies involving 37,134 people. 8

Use this advice to acquire enough calcium from non-dairy meals.

Several portions of high-calcium plant foods should be consumed each day.

Greens with lots of leaves (collards, turnip greens, kale), calcium-set tofu, calcium-fortified plant milks, sesame seed butter, black strap molasses, okra, broccoli, figs, beans, almonds, edamame, and soy nuts are among the calcium-rich plant foods.

Cook calcium-rich greens before eating to improve absorption.

Reduce your consumption of salt, alcohol, and soft beverages.

People that consume a lot of alcohol, salt, and soft beverages consume fewer nutrient-dense, minimally processed whole meals.

When someone opts for a soft drink, they are not opting for calcium-fortified plant milk. By default, people don’t eat vegetables, figs, or soy almonds when they sit down with a bowl of salty chips.

Many soft drinks are also high in phosphoric acid, which can disrupt the calcium-phosphorus equilibrium in the body. 9,10,11,12,13

Exercise is a must.

Both resistance training (such as weight lifting) and weight-bearing cardio (such as jogging and tennis) stimulate bones, which helps to prevent bone loss. 14

B12 (cobalamin)

This vitamin aids in the formation of DNA, the strengthening and repair of blood vessels, and the protection of nerves.

Deficiency in B12, which is crucial in red blood cell development, can result in a reduction in red blood cells (a condition called pernicious anemia).

Though certain plants include chemicals that the body can convert to B12, we don’t absorb or use these substances as well as the B12 found in animal sources. 15

Furthermore, whether or whether they eat meat, many persons over the age of 50 are already deficient. This is because as we get older, our stomachs produce less acid (which aids in B12 metabolism) and intrinsic factor (which helps the body absorb B12). Some drugs, such as acid blockers, further limit absorption.

As a result, taking a daily B12 supplement is the best option for:

  • People in their fifties.
  • People who use drugs that block the absorption of vitamin B12, such as those used to treat reflux, ulcers, or diabetes.
  • People who eat a plant-based diet in some or all of their meals.

Even with supplements, some people may experience deficient symptoms such as weariness, dizziness or lack of balance, and decreased mental performance.

In those circumstances, their doctor can perform a blood test to determine their B12 levels and may give intramuscular (injected) B12, which is more easily absorbed than oral (including sublingual) supplements.

Omega-3 fatty acids

These fats aid in the prevention of heart disease. They also play a role in the formation of eye, nerve, and brain tissue (especially in fetuses and babies).

Omega-3 fats can be found in a variety of forms, including:

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are two types of fatty acids (DHA) Oceans are often the richest sources of EPA and/or DHA. Salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, sardines, and oysters are all good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Sea veggies provide a reduced quantity of protein for vegans (think: seaweed and algae).

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) (ALA) Flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds/hearts, walnuts, soy, dark leafy greens, and cruciferous vegetables are all high in ALA.

Before we can use ALA, our systems must convert it to EPA or DHA. During the conversion, approximately 90% of the ALA fat is lost. To put it another way, if you eat 2.5 grams of ALA from plants, your body will only convert and use roughly 10% of it, or.25 grams. 16

Bottom line: Fully plant-based eaters should strive to consume legumes, almonds, flaxseed oil, ground flaxseed, walnuts, and other ALA-rich foods on a daily basis to maximize their omega-3 intake. 17

Consider taking a vegan (algae-based) DHA supplement if necessary.


Low levels of iron can cause weariness because it transports oxygen throughout the body.

Animal products are particularly high in heme, a form of iron that is easily absorbed by our systems. Plants such as beans, peas, and lentils contain non-heme iron, which is more difficult to absorb. Use the following tips to increase iron intake and absorption:

Cook with cast iron pots and pans. It has the ability to raise the iron content of the food you consume. 18

Coffee or black tea should not be consumed with food. These beverages include tannins, which prevent iron absorption.

Consume vitamin C-rich foods. When combined with iron-rich foods, they can help with absorption. For inspiration, look at the chart below. Make a tofu and broccoli stir fry or a bean salad with tomatoes, peppers, and a touch of lime, for example.

Non-heme iron is abundant. Vitamin C-dense
Seeds from pumpkins



Edamame is a type of edamame that (soybeans)




Sunflower seeds are a type of sunflower.



Butter made from almonds

Leafy greens

Foods with added nutrients


Oyster and white mushrooms





chocolate (dark)

Fruits and liquids made from citrus (ex: oranges)






Squash in the winter






Vegans and others who eat a completely plant-based diet flourish.

As I indicated at the outset of this post, some people thrive on vegan and totally plant-based diets, while others tell me they can’t work out, are constantly hungry, and generally feel awful.

Here’s what separates the two.

People who excel at what they do:

Have a genetic tendency to this eating style that suits them. When they consume more veggies and less (or no) meat, they feel great.

Like veggies, beans, and lentils, which are minimally processed entire plant foods.

Are willing to make an effort to eat foods that are high in vital nutrients or take supplements as needed to avoid deficits.

When it comes to eating, be open-minded and say, “I’ll try anything once.” There are no vegan options that are off-limits. (How about an algae smoothie?)

Have the time and desire to look for vegan restaurants, meal delivery services, and recipes.

Have the support of family and friends.

Have a strong “why” for going plant-based, such as “protecting and sustaining animal welfare is a top importance for me.”

Are adaptable when it comes to their plant-based identity. If no other options are available, they are willing to consume eggs, dairy, seafood, or even meat on occasion.

Those that are having difficulty:

Even if they’re taking steps to correct deficits, people feel physically awful when they quit eating animal protein.

Cook for picky eaters who like meat or despise vegetables—or both.

Prefer highly refined, highly processed foods to whole plant sources.

You don’t have a compelling reason to switch to a plant-based diet.

I don’t have the time or energy to try new recipes or eateries.

How to guide someone through a completely plant-based diet

Use this guidance to assist clients avoid deficit and maintain consistency.

Don’t assume that a vegan or a completely plant-based diner never consumes animal products.

It’s counterintuitive, but it’s true: some vegans and purely plant-based eaters will ingest animal products in specific circumstances.

This is vital knowledge for you to know as a coach because flexibility can assist your clients avoid inadequacies.

Pose queries such as:

  • To you, what does “vegan” or “strictly plant-based” mean?
  • Could you tell us a little bit more about the meals you like to eat and the ones you avoid?
  • What do you consume and how often do you eat it?
  • What did you eat the day before?

You might be surprised by the answers.

When I asked a college-aged customer same questions, she said, “I am a strict vegan, except when I’m intoxicated.” Then I’m going to get some fast food and order a hamburger.”

“Well, I party three times a week, therefore I get hamburgers three times a week,” the client said when asked how often she drank. But aside from that, I am a devout vegan.”

Assist clients in settling in.

Some of your clients will try to switch from a meat-heavy to a strict vegan diet in a single day. Frequently after watching a documentary about the advantages of a plant-based diet.

While this devotion to a significant and rapid dietary change is admirable, it frequently results in frustration. Why? Vegan and totally plant-based diets necessitate the knowledge and application of numerous abilities. Consider:

  • What’s the secret to making tofu taste like bacon? Or how about chicken? Or is it paneer?
  • Which vegan yogurt brands have the finest flavor? How about plant-based milk?
  • Which vegan-sounding packaged foods have animal-derived components like rennet, chicken broth, or gelatin? (Hint: commercially made breakfast cereals, soups, condiments, stuffing mixes, yogurt, and sweets, among other goods, will need your clients to study the labels carefully.)
  • When friends invite them over for supper and all of the options include meat or animal products, what should they say?

To put it another way, going vegan will require you to learn how to cook a wide variety of foods and recipes, shop for various foods, and navigate social settings in entirely new ways.

As a result, I’ve discovered that clients who take it slowly are more effective in the long run.

Consider a completely plant-based or vegan diet as a volume dial. A 10 on the diet means you eat 100 percent plants all of the time. Their present eating style is a zero.

They may turn the dial all the way up to 1 and cook one vegan meal per month or week. Then, if everything goes well, they’ll move on to level 2 or 3. And so forth. It’s fine if they don’t make it all the way to ten. They’re making progress as long as they’re eating more plant-based foods.

Should you try to persuade clients not to eat a vegan diet?

In a nutshell, no.

Your client won’t feel like you’re in it together if you control the terms. Your client hears, rather than your carefully considered reasoning, “My coach believes I’m wrong.”

And that isn’t pleasant.

So, what do you do if your customer wants to go vegan but you’re not sure they’re ready? You could say:

“Wow, I think it’s fantastic that you’re taking the initiative to study more about nutrition on your own time! That’s fantastic.

We can approach this in a few different ways. Right now, we can look at a rigorous plant-based diet.

Alternatively, we can stick with the original plan for a while.

Another alternative is to combine the two plans and see what we can come up with. To put it another way, you’d preserve what you like about your existing plan while incorporating a few aspects of plant-based eating.

Once or twice a week, for example, you could try a vegetarian supper. Alternatively, if you’re serious about increasing your plant-based intake, try to go meat-free before supper most days of the week.

Which of those options appears to be a good fit for you?”

Respect their decision once they’ve made it, and use your coaching skills to assist them in overcoming challenges.

Inquire about the clients’ favorite foods.

People can be tested for vitamin deficiencies in a variety of high-tech techniques, for as by running their diet diary through a nutrient database.

If you don’t have access to good nutrition software, though, there is a low-tech alternative: Show your clients a list of foods high in calcium, B12, iron, and good fats. Then ask them to complete two tasks.

  1. Make a list of foods they don’t consume and cross them off.
  2. Make a circle around the meals they eat.

Consider the following scenario: you’re looking at a list of calcium-rich foods. Cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and all other dairy products may be crossed out by the client. The client then selects leafy greens, calcium-set tofu, broccoli, figs, beans, edamame, and almonds among the remaining foods.

“I don’t care for sesame seed butter, and I’ve never heard of blackstrap molasses,” the client responds.

That provides you with a starting point. You can work together to come up with recipes and meal prep ideas to help your client consume those meals more frequently after you know what foods they prefer to eat.

Understand that plant-based and vegan diets do not work for everyone.

As I previously stated, some people thrive on completely plant-based and vegan diets. Their skin is radiant. They walk with a spring in their step. They appear energised, healthy, and alive.

Others, on the other hand, appear to be fading away.

They’re constantly hungry. They can’t get cookies, brownies, or bread out of their heads. They may also exhibit symptoms of deficiency, such as weariness, sleeplessness, thinning hair, brittle fingernails, and damaged blood vessels.

The most striking piece of evidence is when people say, “I feel better if I consume a little amount of meat.”

It’s tempting to see this as proof that the client is vegan “wrong.” However, there may be a deeper, hereditary component for at least some people.

I’ve given advice to couples who are trying to follow vegan diets together. The one is thriving, while the other is struggling. Diet is the same (heck, even the same table). It’s just that their bodies are different.

This is what I refer to as “failure to thrive on a plant-based diet.”

If this describes a client who appears to be eating a lot of minimally processed whole foods, it’s important to ask if this diet is really working for them. (You can find out by doing the self-assessment below.)

What to eat on a completely plant-based diet

This is obviously self-evident, but I’ll say it anyway: People who eat a completely plant-based diet eat a lot of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and vegetable oils, among other things.

They may occasionally include animals or animal products, depending on the person—a little fish sauce here, a whipped cream topping there.

The goal for all plant-based clients isn’t perfection in the end.

Rather, it’s about making progress: consuming more minimally processed whole plant foods and fewer highly processed refined foods and animal products. This infographic will assist them in achieving their objective, no matter what type of plant-based eater they are.

Use our Nutrition Calculator to get a more detailed, personalized plan. (It’s completely free and tailored to your eating habits, objectives, and lifestyle.)

Do completely plant-based diets work for you?

Consider a new plant-based or vegan diet as a small research study with a single participant—you (or your client).

Define 100% plant-based for yourself or your client.

Try it for a few weeks and then assess the results. Was it successful? Do you have a better appearance, feel, and performance?

To get started, take this little survey to see if your vegan diet is working for you. You may return to the quiz at any time and for any diet plan, so it’s worth bookmarking.

Stay the course, make some changes to improve your success (for example, more beans, less chips), or quit the mission based on what you learn from the trial.

Whatever your outcome, keep in mind that it’s all right.

It’s not about winning awards for plant-based excellence. It’s all about making progress, staying consistent, and figuring out what works best for your body.

It’s also not a big deal if you decide that 100% plant-based diet isn’t for you. There are a variety of other diets to choose from, including Mediterranean, keto, intermittent fasting, and paleo, to mention a few. Alternatively, you might try our Macro Calculator’s “anything” diet. Experiment with new things as much as possible.

You’ll eventually find the greatest diet—for you.


To see the information sources mentioned in this article, go here.

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2. Rizzo NS, Sabaté J, Jaceldo-Siegl K, Fraser GE, Rizzo NS, Sabaté J, Jaceldo-Siegl K, Fraser GE. The adventist health research 2 found that vegetarian dietary habits are linked to a lower incidence of metabolic syndrome. Diabetes Care. 2011 May;34(5):1225–7.

3. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on Vegetarian Diets. Melina V, Craig W, Levin S. 2016 Dec;116(12):1970–80 in J Acad Nutr Diet.

4. R-Y Huang, C-C Huang, FB Hu, and JE Chavarro. A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials on Vegetarian Diets and Weight Loss 2016 Jan;31(1):109–16. J Gen Intern Med. 2016 Jan;31(1):109–16.

22 – Blood Pressure and Vegetarian Diets. Yokoyama Y, Nishimura K, Barnard ND, Miyamoto Y. F. Mariotti is the editor. Diets that are vegetarian or plant-based are beneficial to one’s health and disease prevention. 395–413, Academic Press, 2017.

7. Oussalah A, Levy J, Berthezène C, Alpers DH, Guéant J-L, Oussalah A, Levy J, Berthezène C, Alpers DH, Guéant J-L, Oussalah A, An overview of systematic studies and meta-analyses on the health effects of vegetarian diets. [Internet] Clin Nutr. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2020.02.037 on March 11, 2024.

A. Satija, S. Bhupathiraju, D. Spiegelman, S. E. Chiuve, J. E. Manson, W. Willett, et al. Plant-Based Diets and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Adults in the United States. 2017 Jul 25;70(4):411–22 in J Am Coll Cardiol.

Iguacel I, Miguel-Berges ML, Gómez-Bruton A, Moreno LA, Julián C. 9. Iguacel I, Miguel-Berges ML, Gómez-Bruton A, Moreno LA, Julián C. A systematic review and meta-analysis of veganism, vegetarianism, bone mineral density, and fracture risk. 2019 Jan 1;77(1):1–18 in Nutr Rev.

Plant-Based Diets for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention: Not All Plant Foods Are Created Equal, Hemler EC, Hu FB. 2019 Mar 20;21(5):18. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2019 Mar 20;21(5):18. [10]

Rapuri PB, Gallagher JC, Kinyamu HK, Ryschon KL. 11. Rapuri PB, Gallagher JC, Kinyamu HK, Ryschon KL. Caffeine consumption accelerates bone deterioration in older women and interacts with vitamin D receptor genotypes. Nov 2001;74(5):694–700 in Am J Clin Nutr.

The Association of Dietary and Urinary Sodium With Bone Mineral Density and Risk of Osteoporosis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, Fatahi S, Namazi N, Larijani B, Azadbakht L. 2018 Aug;37(6):522–32. J Am Coll Nutr. 2018 Aug;37(6):522–32.

Berg KM, Kunins HV, Jackson JL, Nahvi S, Chaudhry A, Harris KA Jr, et al. 13. Berg KM, Kunins HV, Jackson JL, Nahvi S, Chaudhry A, Harris KA Jr, et al. There is a link between alcohol use and osteoporosis fractures as well as bone density. May 2008;121(5):406–18 in the American Journal of Medicine.

14. Tucker KL, Morita K, Qiao N, Hannan MT, Cupples LA, Kiel DP, Tucker KL, Morita K, Qiao N, Hannan MT, Cupples LA, Kiel DP, Tucker KL, Morita K, The Framingham Osteoporosis Study found that colas, but not other carbonated beverages, are linked to decreased bone mineral density in older women. 2006 Oct;84(4):936–42 in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Benedetti MG, Furlini G, Zati A, Letizia Mauro G. 15. Benedetti MG, Furlini G, Zati A, Letizia Mauro G. The Impact of Physical Activity on Bone Density in Osteoporotic Patients 2018 Dec 23;2018:4840531. Biomed Res Int.

Vitamin B12-Containing Plant Food Sources for Vegetarians. Watanabe F, Yabuta Y, Bito T, Teng F. Nutrients, 6(5), 1861, May 2014.

Swanson, D., Block, R., and Mousa, S. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have long-term health benefits. 2012 Jan;3(1):1–7 in Adv Nutr.

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If you’re a coach or wish to be one…

It’s both an art and a science to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy food and lifestyle adjustments in a way that’s tailored to their individual body, tastes, and circumstances.

Consider the Level 1 Certification if you want to learn more about both.

The what do vegans not eat is a vegan nutrition guide that lists what to eat and what not to eat.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Can Vegans eat and not eat?

Vegans avoid all animal products and byproducts like eggs, dairy, honey, and gelatin. They also do not eat meat or fish because the animals are killed for food.

What should a beginner vegan eat?

A vegan diet is one that excludes all animal products, including meat, poultry, fish, dairy products and eggs. There are many different types of vegan foods you can eat. Some examples include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Why vegan diet is bad?

The vegan diet is a very unhealthy one. It lacks in nutrients and can cause serious health problems such as anemia, osteoporosis, and even cancer.