A Vegan diet contains only plants (such as vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits) and food made from plants.
Vegans do not eat food that come from animals, including dairy products and eggs.
How To Start The Vegan Diet
You can get most of the nutrients you need from eating a varied and balanced vegan diet.
For a healthy Vegan diet:
- eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
- base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates (choose wholegrain where possible)
- have some dairy alternatives, such as soya drinks and yoghurts (choose lower-fat and lower-sugar options)
- eat some beans, pulses and other proteins
- choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat in small amounts
- drink plenty of fluids (the UK government recommends 6 to 8 cups or glasses a day)
If you choose to include food and drinks that are high in fat, salt or sugar, have them less often and in small amounts.
Vegans who are pregnant or breastfeeding
During pregnancy and when breastfeeding, women who follow a vegan diet need to make sure they get enough vitamins and minerals for their child to develop healthily.
If you're bringing up your baby or child on a vegan diet, you need to ensure they get a wide variety of foods to provide the energy and vitamins they need for growth.
Vegan sources of calcium and vitamin D
Calcium is needed for strong and healthy bones and teeth.
Non-vegans get most of their calcium from dairy foods (milk, cheese and yoghurt), but vegans can get it from other foods.
Good sources of calcium for vegans include:
- green, leafy vegetables – such as broccoli, cabbage and okra, but not spinach
- fortified unsweetened soya, rice and oat drinks
- calcium-set tofu
- sesame seeds and tahini
- brown and white bread (in the UK, calcium is added to white and brown flour by law)
- dried fruit, such as raisins, prunes, figs and dried apricots
A 30g portion of dried fruit counts as 1 of your 5 A Day, but should be eaten at mealtimes, not as a between-meal snack, to reduce the impact on teeth.
The body needs vitamin D to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients help keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
Good sources of vitamin D for vegans include:
- exposure to sunlight, particularly from late March/early April to the end of September – remember to cover up or protect your skin before it starts to turn red or burn.
- fortified fat spreads, breakfast cereals and unsweetened soya drinks (with vitamin D added)
- vitamin D supplements
Read the label to ensure the vitamin D used in a product is not of animal origin.