Although popular culture can sometimes give the impression that vegans eat nothing but lettuce and celery, the truth is that most follow a far more varied diet. As a strict form of vegetarianism, veganism eschews all animal products, including honey, milk, cheese and eggs, but that doesn't mean a vegan diet has to be restrictive. You can still meet all of your nutritional needs while eating vegan, but it is helpful to consult your doctor, a nutritionist, or a dietitian before completely changing the way you eat.
Sample Vegan Menu
It can be hard to imagine a vegan diet without looking at a sample menu. A meal plan can give you ideas for quick weeknight dinners, portable snacks, and balanced meals that won't break your diet, and it's a great guide to use when you're transitioning to an entirely new way of eating. For a week's worth of vegan meals, try following the menu plan below.
- Breakfast: Tofu scramble with veggies and toast, can substitute black beans for tofu if desired
- Lunch: Hummus wrap with fresh veggies
- Dinner: Vegetable curry with spiced coconut milk sauce
- Breakfast: Steel-cut oatmeal with fresh berries
- Lunch: Tofu salad sandwich or almond butter on whole-wheat bread with sliced apples
- Dinner: Roast vegetable kabobs with sautéed tofu or tempeh
- Breakfast: Vegan granola with soy milk or almond milk and a banana
- Lunch: Brown rice pilaf with sautéed vegetables and tempeh or drop the tempeh and replace the brown rice with quinoa
- Dinner: Spaghetti and vegan "meatballs" made with lentils
- Breakfast: Tofu frittata with spinach and onions
- Lunch: Vegan spring rolls with soy sauce and fresh vegetables
- Dinner: Veggie chili with plenty of beans and tomato sauce
- Breakfast: Tempeh "bacon" or roasted seaweed, toast, and fresh fruit or veggies
- Lunch: Ramen soup with veggie or miso broth and steamed vegetables
- Dinner: Stir fry with beans, vegetables, and soy sauce
- Breakfast: Vegan cold cereal with soy milk or almond milk and a banana
- Lunch: Tomato soup and toast with grilled tofu or vegan "cheese" or your favorite nut butter
- Dinner: Falafel with whole-wheat pita, hummus, and fresh vegetables
- Breakfast: Soy yogurt parfait with vegan cereal and fresh fruit
- Lunch: Vegan macaroni and "cheese" made with a cheese substitute or pasta topped with chopped nuts and veggies
- Dinner: Veggie burgers with baked beans and fresh fruit
If you balance your meals well as a vegan, you can fulfill all of your nutritional needs. However, there are some essential vitamins and minerals that are scarce in the diet. Since your body needs those nutrients to function at its best, you might consider taking a daily multivitamin supplement, choosing fortified foods, or taking nutritional supplements that offer just the nutrients you need. The following are among those that are particularly important to vegans:
- Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is only rarely found in foods that are not animal-based. One vegan source is nutritional yeast, and the Vegetarian Resource Group reports that you may also get B12 from seaweed, miso, and tempeh.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: These acids contain beneficial fat for the body and are typically found in fish and some other animal products. Vegans can get them through flaxseeds, canola oil, soybeans, walnuts, and tofu.
- Iron: Many people meet their iron quota by eating red meat, but vegans don't have that opportunity. In a plant-based diet, you can get iron by eating plenty of leafy green vegetables and beans.
- Vitamin D: You won't find natural sources of vitamin D in a vegan diet, but you can choose fortified foods to get the vitamin, and you can also absorb D through the sun. Just remember to wear sunscreen!
- Calcium: Dairy products are great sources of calcium, but if you don't eat them, you have to look elsewhere for the nutrient. Try fortified foods and non-dairy milks, tofu, and dark green veggies.
More Vegan Meal Plans
Need more ideas? Expand your palate and your creativity by using more resources:
- VeganHealth.org offers sample meal plans for both 1,800-calorie and 2,300-calorie diets.
- The Vegetarian Resource Group promotes vegan meals that are both economical and simple to make.
- The 21-Day Kickstart program, designed to promote veganism, provides daily menus for three full weeks.
- The UK's Vegetarian and Vegan Foundation offers recipes and menu plans for a week of veganism.
- PETA also shares recipes and suggested menus for two weeks of the vegan diet.
Planning Makes a Difference
Following a vegan diet may seem tough at first, but planning makes all the difference. If you take the time to become familiar with what you can eat, find tasty recipes, and determine meals in advance, you may find that eating vegan is even more enjoyable than following a more traditional eating plan.