What is Eating Vegan?

To a person who has never been exposed to veganism before, when hearing about veganism in passing may wonder to themselves, “What is eating vegan? Do vegans just eat salad? Aren’t they always hungry?”. Well, my goal here is to break it down for anyone who doesn’t quite know what a vegan may or may not eat.

First Things First- A Definition

So when you boil it down, the definition of “vegan” (as it applies to food) simply means that the food contains nothing that comes from an animal. The Vegan Society, the often quoted charity that has been around since 1944, defines “vegan” with respect to food as the following: “In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” The more obvious ones are meat, dairy, eggs. What makes vegetarians different from vegans is that they consume dairy and eggs, and only cut out the meat.

So What DO They Eat?

Well, what do YOU eat? With the afore mentioned definition, there is a vast variety of foods a vegan can eat. Do you eat the same as everyone that you know? The truth is that one vegan’s diet can vary substantially from the next. Some vegans eat healthy, some eat a lot of junk food, some are in between the two. It depends on the person. Oreo cookies are vegan. So are many potato chips. At the other end of the health spectrum, there are vegetables (of course), tofu (famously vegan), and beans. Of course there are the “fake meat” burgers that one can get as well.

But for some, they still can find this confusing. I get it. If you don’t have any vegans in your life, and have eaten animal products your whole life, it may be a hard concept to grasp. Here are some examples of common questions (with answers) that vegans get:

Will a vegan drink milk? No. Milk comes from a cow, therefore not vegan

Will a vegan eat eggs? No. Eggs come from chickens, therefore not vegan

Will a vegan eat cheese? No. Cheese is made from milk, which comes from a cow, therefore not vegan

Will a vegan eat butter? Same as the above answer for cheese

Will a vegan eat chocolate? Yes and no. Dark chocolate usually contains no dairy, therefore- vegan! Milk chocolate obviously contains dairy, therefore is always not vegan

See how easy this is? It’s not all that complicated really. But for any vegan wanting to have any of these products, there are vegan options for every one of them, whether in a pre-made product that you buy from the store, or recipes exist with common ingredients that can be made to replace them.

Well What About Protein?

Ah, the famous question: “Where do you get your protein?”. It seems almost every vegan has heard this at least once in their life. It’s such a common question, it’s almost a meme in vegan circles. Luckily, there are many plant based sources for a vegan to get their protein from. Here are a few common examples:

Tofu- there’s a reason that vegans are known for eating tofu. It is incredibly healthy, cheap, and loaded with protein. I like to call blocks of tofu “flavor sponges”, because that’s basically what they are. Although they can be considered by some to be quite bland on their own, there are NUMEROUS ways to prepare it with sauces, marinades, herbs and spices, etc. I’ve used tofu to make a healthier homemade version of mayo and I’ve even read of people using it in their smoothies (I still need to try that one of these days). As a side note, tofu is made from soybeans. Seitan and edamame are also made from soybeans making them both excellent sources of protein as well.

Beans- “beans, beans, the magical fruit”…the first line of a well-known poem about the after effects of eating beans. If you know it, you know it, and if you don’t you are probably wondering why I just called beans a fruit. Well Google is your friend, my friend. Even though beans aren’t fruit, they ARE pretty magical. Just like the rhyme’s last line: “so eat your beans with every meal”, some say that you actually SHOULD have beans with many of your meals. They are high in fibre, a great source of iron, can lower your “bad” cholesterol, and are a great source of protein.

Quinoa- this is a staple in my household. Before going vegan, I had never tried quinoa, now I couldn’t live without it. It is known as one of the healthiest foods on the planet Rich in antioxidants and higher in protein and fibre than other grains, you can simply use it as a substitute for rice in most cases. Quinoa is so versatile, it can be used in a variety of dishes. Not only can it be cooked and used as part of dinner, it can even be used in breakfast dishes and even desserts.

There are of course MANY different sources of plant based protein, but there were just a few examples to give you an idea what a vegan may eat during the day to get his or her protein. Just as it is a meme for a vegan to be asked “where do you get your protein?”, I would also say that the phrase “I haven’t died yet from a protein deficiency” is also a meme that vegans can use quite often.

So, Vegans Aren’t Weak and Tired All the Time?

No. Not all of them anyways. Some most likely are. Let me put it to you this way: is everyone you know in optimal health? Probably not. It is most likely a spectrum of different health profiles ranging from some that are on the more healthy side to ones that aren’t so healthy. It’s the same with vegans. Some eat healthier and more plant based, while others eat too much processed crap. Remember being vegan is NOT about eating healthy, being vegan is an ethical stance against the exploitation of animals. So with that in mind, vegans eat however it makes them happy, as long as they are not partaking in this exploitation (to the best of their abilities).


So for anyone that was wondering “What is vegan eating?”, I hope this was able to shed a bit of light on things. It’s actually pretty simple the more natural your diet is when vegan. Where things can get more complicated are some ingredients in processed foods. You wouldn’t believe how many products have milk in them where you would least expect them. And duck feathers in your bread? Bugs in your candy? Using bones to make sugar? These are some examples of things many new vegans learn only after becoming vegan. But that’s for another article.

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