From nutritionists to athletes and public personalities, more people of all ages and origins choose to become vegans – but why is that? Today, we’ll cover the real definition of veganism and all of the health benefits it can offer. Ready?
What is veganism?
Veganism is a lifestyle choice that involves avoiding anything of animal origin. Vegan people avoid dairy, eggs, honey and, of course, meat, just like vegetarians. As to why people choose this diet, the reasons are to protect the environment, to save endangered species or the health benefits it offers. Note that, aside from the obvious stake or glass of milk, these people also avoid any ingredients that come from animals.
I think you already know that the first rule of any vegan diet is to avoid meat. However, unlike vegetarians, vegans also avoid any other food originated from animals and that includes options like dairy and eggs (see below the full list).
- 1Lose weight!
- 2Be healthy!
- 3Enjoy great taste!
A healthy vegan diet aims to offer the full range of nutrients our body requires in a healthy, tasty way. To those who have never tried replacing meat before, this might be hard to imagine – but I promise it’s all possible.
What are its benefits?
Vegan diets have been controversial since forever; however, there are more and more studies proving how much this choice can bring a positive impact in your life. Let’s have a look at some of the main benefits:
Faster weight loss
Many animal-originated products are high in fats and chances are they’re cooked in a way that makes them unhealthy (think processed meals and fast food). Meanwhile, most vegan products are prepared in healthier ways that help your body use fat more effectively. Even if you consider calorie-restricted diets, vegans still win; meat eaters need to reduce their portion size considerably in order to get less calories per serving. On a vegan diet, you still get to eat a large quantity of food that helps you feel full for longer.
Getting more nutrients
I’m not going to lie – animal originated foods are a large part of what we eat everyday and replacing them means exploring a variety of other options. Because meat and dairy seem so satious, we often feel full quickly although our body doesn’t get all the vitamins and minerals it requires. A vegan diet means consuming plenty of foods rich in micronutrients that are essential to our long-term health.
Lower cholesterol levels
Unfortunately, eating more fats doesn’t just translate into unwanted pounds – especially when it comes to saturated fats found in meat. This type of fat increases cholesterol levels and that’s the main enemy of our physical health. In fact, most organs from our heart to liver and blood circulation can be seriously affected by high cholesterol levels; while on a vegan diet, you’re much more likely to avoid this health issue.
Which are the challenges?
One of the good (and potentially challenging) parts about being a vegan is that it encourages you to eat a wider range of foods and combine them in new ways. Sure, stepping out of your comfort zone may feel odd at first, but you’ll most likely be pleasantly surprised by the new flavors you encounter.
The thing about vegan diets, though, is that there’s only one, big challenge: no animal originated products.
Now if you’ve been eating meat and dairy your entire life, cutting them from your diet all at once may seem hard – and unless you have a good plan, you might not even manage to adopt the new diet.
Looking for a vegan meal plan that helps you forget about meat & dairy? Breakfast, lunch and dinner – we’ve got you covered. Click here for our free 14-day vegan plan.
Like any other diet, though, it’s all about reminding yourself every day how many advantages it offers and why you’re doing it. Like any new habit, it gets easier day by day and soon enough you’ll start reaping the benefits!
What to eat/avoid on a vegan diet?
Considering that we’re talking about vegan diets here, I think it’s obvious that meat is strictly forbidden. With that in mind, let’s have a look at what other foods you can and can’t eat as a vegan:
Foods to eat
- Vegetables, fruits & legumes
- Whole grains, cereals & pseudocereals
- Plant milks and yogurts (example: coconut)
Foods to avoid
- Dairy: ice cream, butter, yogurt, cheese etc.
- Bee products: honey, royal jelly, bee pollen
- Dairy ingredients: whey, casein, lactose
What are the health benefits?
As the popularity of vegan diets increased, so has the number of studies proving how many benefits it offers. Aside from helping you lose unwanted pounds, a vegan diet can also improve the health of many organs:
Improved kidney functions. Protein originated from animal sources is harder to digest and process than plant protein; consume it in higher dose and you may experience unpleasant kidney symptoms that could increase the risk of failure. Plant protein sources can also offer plenty of essential amino acids while being more gentle to your kidney and liver.
Lower risk of heart disease. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in many countries and that’s enough to make us pay more attention to what we eat. Studies showed that adopting a vegan diet makes you 42% less likely to die from heart problems. Furthermore, the same diet lowers your risk of high blood pressure by 75% which is yet another cause of heart failure!
May protect against cancer. The World Health Organization says that we can prevent ⅓ of all cancers simply by living a healthy lifestyle. Eating legumes constantly reduces risks of coloreclar cancer by 9-18%, while eating fresh fruits & vegetables could lower your risk of dying from cancer by 15% – all of which are supported by vegan diets.
This vibrant breakfast smoothie is sure to get your blood flowing thanks to its nitrogen rich beets and greens. Then for lunch you’ll have pita pockets crammed with crisp veggies and sweet/salty hummus, headlined by nature’s multivitamin — sprouts. Finish the day off with good-for-you comfort food in this Mediterranean pasta dish.
Berry and Beet Green Smoothie, 2 cups (450 mL) – 105 kcal
For extra protein, add 30g pea protein powder – 120 kcal
6 whole wheat crackers with 2 Tbsp almond butter – 310 kcal
2 whole grain pita pockets with 2 Tbsp roasted red pepper hummus, 50g bean sprouts and 30g sliced cucumber, seasoned with 2 Tbsp vinaigrette dressing – 397 kcal
Apple – 95 kcal
100g linguine pasta with 60g diced tomatoes, 100g sauteed spinach and 4 cloves diced and sauteed garlic, tossed in olive oil and Italian seasoning – 445 kcal
Daily total: 1,472 kcal
Orange, Apple, Bananas
Beets and beet greens
Mixed berries (frozen)
Pea protein powder
Whole wheat crackers
Whole grain pita pockets
Roasted red pepper hummus
Bean sprouts, Cucumber
Vinaigrette salad dressing
Tomatoes (fresh), Spinach (fresh)
Get the day rolling with a warm, hearty bowl of oatmeal chock full of fiber and plant-based fat. More savory selections await at lunch, where you’ll certainly enjoy the healthy indulgence of chips and fresh guacamole. Then finish the day right with a classic Mediterranean-style dish including whole-grain superstar quinoa and asparagus playing the role of lead vegetable.
55g rolled oats and 30g raisins cooked in 180 mL almond milk, topped with 1 Tbsp natural peanut butter and cinnamon to taste – 425 kcal
40g fresh pineapple chunks with 20g shredded coconut – 240 kcal
10 blue corn tortilla chips with 200g homemade guacamole – 474 kcal
60g celery (1 large stalk) dipped in 2 Tbsp French dressing – 128 kcal
180g cooked quinoa topped with 12 roasted asparagus spears and 30g sliced, toasted almonds, drizzled with 1 Tbsp olive oil (seasoned with salt, pepper and herbs to taste) – 490 kcal
Daily total: 1,757 kcal
Rolled oats, Raisins
Almond milk, unsweetened
Peanut butter, natural
Tortilla chips, blue corn
Green onions, Cilantro
Chocolate peanut butter smoothie with 360 mL almond milk, 2 Tbsp natural peanut butter, 1 Tbsp raw cacao powder and 1 frozen banana – 370 kcal
250g sliced pears in juice – 120 kcal
Leftover portion of quinoa/asparagus dinner from Day 2 – 490 kcal
30g roasted/salted sunflower seeds – 194 kcal
Avocado, Black Bean and Charred Tomato Bowl – 428 kcal
Daily total: 1,602 kcal
Natural peanut butter
Raw cacao powder
Pears (fresh or canned in juice)
Sunflower seeds, roasted/salted
More vitamins, minerals and healthy fats than you can shake a stick at today. Whole grains, chia and flax pack a punch early in the day, along with a few servings of fiber-rich fruits. Then dinner is all about vegetarian comfort food, as you’re sure to savor every last bite of this incredible ratatouille.
1 whole wheat English muffin spread with ½ mashed avocado, sprinkled with 1 Tbsp chia seeds – 415 kcal
140g fresh red raspberries – 70 kcal
Smoothie with 240 mL lemonade, 30 mL tart cherry juice, 1 frozen banana, 1 Tbsp ground flax meal and 30g vanilla-flavored pea protein – 398 kcal
30g raisins – 90 kcal
Skillet Ratatouille – 354 kcal
Daily total: 1,327 kcal
Whole wheat English muffins
Tart cherry juice
Ground flaxseed meal
Pea protein, vanilla flavor
Diced tomatoes, canned
Chickpeas, canned, Garlic
Red onion, Red bell pepper
Zucchini, Yellow squash, Eggplant
Front-loading calories is the plan today, led off by a satisfying breakfast burrito without the typical fatty meats. Instead the complete protein comes from lean-and-mean beans and rice. If you get hungry later on, regardless of whether you’re in the wilderness or the office, some sweet, salty trail mix should do the trick, full of fiber and protein.
Breakfast burrito with 50g black beans, 50g brown rice and 50g fresh salsa – 469 kcal
60g dried fruit and nut trail mix – 250 kcal
Tossed salad with 85g mixed greens, 130g garbanzo beans and 50g shredded carrot topped with 2 Tbsp green goddess dressing – 287 kcal
160g edamame tossed in 2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce – 220 kcal
Tahini-Carrot soup with pistachios – 273 kcal
Daily total: 1,499 kcal
Whole wheat tortillas
Fresh salsa (refrigerated section)
Dried fruit and nut trail mix
Low-sodium soy sauce
Today’s menu is bookended by two fabulously satisfying meals, not only in terms of calories but flavor and nutrition as well. Breakfast requires a little planning and preparation, and you can bet we’re going to have that amazing coconut buckwheat granola for a snack tomorrow! Lunch and dinner on the other hand are about as easy as can be. Leftover soup for lunch, fortified with a hunk of multigrain bread (try an artisan variety from your local bakery).
Blackberry citrus granola bowl – 403 kcal
2 rice cakes spread with 1 Tbsp cashew butter and 1 Tbsp apricot jam – 199 kcal
Leftover tahini-Carrot soup from Day 5 dinner, served with 50g multigrain bread – 383 kcal
100g baby carrots dipped in 4 Tbsp hummus – 172 kcal
200g potato gnocchi (pre-packaged), boiled then sauteed in 2 Tbsp olive oil, 6 cloves minced garlic, 110g halved cherry tomatoes and 50g fresh spinach, seasoned with crushed red pepper, salt/pepper to taste – 574 kcal
Daily total: 1,731 kcal
Unsweetened almond milk
Regular (old fashioned) oats
Potato gnocchi (in pasta section)
The menu today is loaded with high-fiber whole foods including avocados, sprouts, pears, seeds and legumes. Your morning snack of fruit salad will satisfy your sweet tooth while fulfilling your daily need of immune-boosting vitamin C. This fare is not wanting of protein either, thanks to the aforementioned seeds and legumes, as well as the tofu salad topper at dinner.
Avocado Sprout Toast (2 slices) – 338 kcal
Fruit salad with 40g pineapple, 1 banana and 2 kiwis – 330 kcal
Leftover gnocchi from Day 6 dinner – 574 kcal
180g roasted chickpeas – 286 kcal
Tossed salad with 85g grilled tofu, 60g baby greens, 35g diced asian pear and 15g pumpkin seeds, dressed with 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar – 410 kcal
Daily total: 1,938 kcal
Whole grain bread
Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans), canned
Three words for you: Carrot cake truffles! And who would think they’re actually much healthier than the average breakfast? If you’re still feeling guilty though, your green smoothie for lunch will give you health-conscious bragging rights. And if that’s not enough, you can gorge yourself on fresh veggies and plant-based protein for dinner, stir fry style.
Vegan carrot cake truffles (4 truffles) – 434 kcal
1 grapefruit – 76 kcal
Green smoothie with 240 mL water, 100g spinach, ½ mango, 40g pineapple and 1 banana – 355 kcal
30g dried cranberries and 15g pumpkin seeds – 194 kcal
Stir fry with 160g edamame and 160g combination of red onions, carrots, sugar peas, ginger and garlic (proportion as you like), served over 50g long-grain brown rice, seasoned with mixture of 1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce, 1 Tbsp sesame oil, 1 tsp brown sugar and pinch of crushed red pepper – 465 kcal
Daily total: 1,524 kcal
Unsweetened shredded coconut
Long-grain brown rice
Another day of voluptuous vegan eating today, including a phenomenal meatless burger for lunch that will be the envy of any fast-food goer. Dinner is a delight as well, as you’re sure to savor every bite of this cauliflower concoction that’s spicy, smoky, nutty and just a little sweet to boot. Best of all, it’s so lean you can help yourself to three portions for less than 400 calories!
45g oat cereal (such as Cheerios) with 240 mL unsweetened almond milk, topped with 140g sliced strawberries – 341 kcal
3 dried dates each stuffed with 1 tsp almond butter – 191 kcal
Sweet potato black bean burger on a whole wheat bun, served with two dill pickle spears – 390 kcal
30g roasted peanuts – 165 kcal
Whole roasted cauliflower with pomegranate and pine nuts (3 servings) – 365 kcal
Daily total: 1,452 kcal
Oat cereal (such as Cheerios)
Unsweetened almond milk
Walnut or pecan meal
The word of the day is most assuredly “spicy.” Rise and shine with a virgin margarita infused with veggie protein, fiber and satiating monounsaturated fat. Next up is a awe-inspiring Asian salad for lunch that will press all the right buttons on your taste buds. Then for dinner, chow down on some meaty portobello mushrooms topped with veggies and spicy flavor, this time from crushed red pepper flakes.
Spicy morning margarita smoothie with 240 mL limeade, 1 avocado, juice of 1 lime, 30g vanilla-flavored pea protein and thin slices of jalapeno pepper to taste – 322 kcal
180g honeydew melon drizzled with 2 Tbsp orange juice and 1 tsp honey – 197 kcal
Asian salad with 150g grilled tofu, 60g shredded cabbage, 30g diced radish, 30g shredded carrots and 30g crushed peanuts, dressed with 2 Tbsp asian salad dressing and 1 Tbsp sesame oil – 561 kcal
130g spicy roasted chickpeas – 150 kcal
Broiled portobello mushrooms (2) topped with veggies sauteed in 2 Tbsp olive oil — 100g fresh spinach, 60g sun dried tomatoes and 2 cloves minced garlic — seasoned with 15g pine nuts and crushed red pepper flakes to taste – 459 kcal
Daily total: 1,689 kcal
You’ll eat just about every color of the rainbow today given the wide variety of fresh fruits and veggies on the menu. The morning’s highlight is a helping of creamy grits bursting with flavor. Then for lunch you’ll load up on a plate of vegan nachos with a motherlode of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Finish up with a light but very satisfying spaghetti squash toss, high in potassium and iron.
Southern Vegan Grits, 2 servings (can be made ahead) – 280 kcal
200g cut watermelon – 58 kcal
Loaded vegan nachos with 15 corn tortilla chips, 100g guacamole, 60g black beans, 60g fresh salsa, sliced banana peppers and jalapeno peppers to taste – 542 kcal
30g cashews and 30g raisins – 190 kcal
Greek Spaghetti Squash Toss (omit cheese) – 250 kcal https://www.cookinglight.com/recipes/greek-spaghetti-squash-toss
Daily total: 1,320 kcal
Green bell pepper
Tomato, Green onion
Corn tortilla chips
Guacamole (or avocados to make yourself)
Start off today with some cream of wheat cereal supercharged with antioxidant cranberries and protein-packed hemp hearts. Lunch is a wholesome veggie wrap followed by a crunchy, sweet and salty snack in the afternoon. Finally your taste buds will really come alive upon meeting up with this spicy jambalaya.
30g cream of wheat hot cereal (made with water) with 30g dried cranberries and 30g hemp hearts, sweetened with 1 tsp raw honey – 389 kcal
Fruit salad with 1 grapefruit, 1 navel orange and 1 kiwi – 214 kcal
Whole grain wrap filled with 3 Tbsp hummus, 30g sprouts and 50g sliced pear, seasoned with 2 Tbsp vinaigrette dressing – 404 kcal
30g dried banana chips dipped in 1 Tbsp cashew butter – 250 kcal
Spicy Vegan Jambalaya (2 portions) – 402 kcal
Daily total: 1,659 kcal
Cream of wheat cereal
Grapefruit, Orange, Kiwi
Whole grain wrap
Vinaigrette dressing (or make yourself)
Dried banana chips
This wholesome breakfast banana bread is super-easy to make, but consider baking the night before if you plan to be rushed in the morning. No doubt that, once made, a slice can just as easily be taken on the go. Your mid-morning snack requires just a little prep also, but less than 5 minutes worth, and is ultra-portable in its mason jar vessel. This evening, get your chef’s knife sharpened up to cut these hearty fall veggies, then toss them all on one sheet pan.
Wholesome Vegan Banana Bread (2 slices) – 390 kcal
Mason jar chia seed pudding (half of recipe), topped with 50g fresh strawberries – 250 kcal
Vegan Cucumber Tea Sandwiches (8 triangles = 4 slices bread) with sliced pear – 428 kcal
160g edamame tossed in 2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce – 220 kcal
Balsamic Roasted Fall Vegetables with Sumac (2 servings) – 396 kcal
Daily total: 1,684 kcal
White flour (all purpose)
Whole wheat (aka wholemeal) flour
Unsweetened coconut, almond or cashew milk
Vegan cream cheese
Flat leaf parsley
White or pumpernickel bread
There will be no hunger pains to worry about this morning after you enjoy this creamy and ultra-nourishing bowl of berry chia overnight oats. High in fiber, high in folate and omega-3 fats, low in any guilt whatsoever. Later on, dinner promises to be just as satisfying — except in a warm, smoky and spicy kind of way. Again, there’s fiber to spare here and a whopping dose of vitamins and minerals from the beans and veggies.
Berry Chia Overnight Oats (use almond milk, no yogurt topping) – 559 kcal
30g pumpkin seeds – 130 kcal
Leftover sumac veggies from Day 13 dinner (2 servings) – 396 kcal
40g dried apricots and 30g walnuts – 280 kcal
Easy Vegan Chili (2 servings) – 400 kcal
Daily total: 1,765 kcal
Green bell peppers
Kidney beans (canned)
Pinto beans (canned)
Crushed tomatoes (canned)