A vegan follows a strict vegetarian diet and avoids eating animals foods and consuming dairy products. That can be a healthy alternative to a diet high in fatty animal products. To follow the vegan diet properly, you need to know exactly what foods to avoid. A vegan diet is not necessarily healthier than a regular diet, and a nutritionist can guide you in developing a nutritious vegan meal plan.
Vegans cannot eat any type of meat, poultry or eggs. Essential nutrients in those foods include protein, iron and zinc, but you can get these nutrients, without the cholesterol, from plant-based foods. To meet protein needs on a 2,000-calorie vegan diet, aim for at least 13 servings of beans and peas, 10 servings of soy products and 15 servings of nuts and seeds, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
If you are vegan, you cannot eat fish or shellfish. Seafood contains DHA and EPA, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids that can lower your risk for heart disease. You can get short-chain omega-3 fatty acids from some plant-based foods, including canola oil, flaxseeds and walnuts. However, your body can only convert small amounts into DHA and EPA, so vegans should consider taking a fish oil dietary supplement, according to MayoClinic.com.
A vegan diet excludes milk and dairy products, which are high in calcium, protein and potassium. Vegan substitutes include soy milk, soy or tofu yogurt, and soy cheese. To get adequate calcium, a 2,000-calorie vegan diet should include three servings per day of vegan alternatives to dairy products. You can use margarine instead of butter, but choose a brand that is free from trans fats, which come from partially hydrogenated oils.
Read the list of ingredients on the labels of processed foods to make sure they do not contain animal-derived ingredients. Gelatin comes from animal products, and foods made with it include flavored gelatin, and gravies and sauces with gelatin as a thickener. Some products, such as nutritional supplement bars, contain added protein from whey, a milk-derived product, and many processed foods use chicken or beef broth for flavoring.
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