Getting ample protein can be a concern when you remove animal products like meat and eggs from your diet, but legumes offer plenty of low-fat, plant-based protein to vegans. Stock your pantry with chickpeas, lentils, adzuki beans, black beans, split peas, pinto beans, peanuts, navy beans and other varieties. Use them in soups, stews and the like, or serve them cold in salads. Peanut butter can act as the base for a delicious sauce for Asian-flavored dishes, and hummus is a good spread for veggie wraps. Soybeans are versatile additions to a vegan diet, too. Cut up baked tofu as a base for stir fries, snack on edamame or scramble soft tofu with peppers and onions for an “omelet.”
Nuts and seeds are on your vegan diet list, providing healthy fats and protein. Choose an assortment, like almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and pepitas. Remember that nuts and seeds are high in calories, so stick with a 1-ounce serving, and opt for raw or roasted, without added sweeteners or salt, for the best health.
Vegans have a wealth of whole-grain foods to choose from, including whole wheat breads and pastas and grains like brown rice, bulgur, barley, millet, oats, quinoa, rye, spelt and wild rice. Again, how you serve them may shift once you go vegan. With pasta, forget cheese-based sauces and stick with vegetable-based ones, like a hearty puttanesca made with tomatoes, olives, onions, garlic and capers. Add a dash of olive oil to your brown rice instead of butter, and serve it as the bed for a veggie-and-tofu stir fry. Enjoy your morning oatmeal or bran cereal with calcium-fortified soy or almond milk instead of cow’s milk.
If you’re accustomed to using honey in your tea or coffee, try a little agave nectar, which comes from cactuses, instead. Nutritional yeast, a source of protein and B-complex vitamins, makes a good stand-in for cheese in some recipes. For a vegan-friendly dessert, enjoy a scoop of fruit sorbet after dinner. Dark chocolate may be a sweet option, too, but check the label and pick a brand that’s dairy-free.
Some companies manufacture vegan-friendly products, like vegan mayonnaise and whipped cream, and also offer vegan baked goods, “meat” patties and other frozen foods. As with any diet, the healthiest vegan regimen is one that focuses on whole foods rather than on processed food products with added salt and sugar. Excessive amounts of additives can undo the benefits of a vegan diet.