The vegan diet is the most restrictive of all vegetarian diet types, and vegan diet foods are strictly limited to plant-based sources such as grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables. All animal-based food sources are excluded from the diet. This includes not only meat and seafood but eggs and dairy products, too. Some of the challenges vegans face include getting enough of the right kinds of nutrients on a somewhat limited diet, but consuming a diverse range of fruits and vegetables can cover the nutritional bases, with beans stepping up as a good source of protein.
Permissible foods for vegan dieters are exclusively plant-based and, chosen carefully, high in protein, fiber and other nutrients. A common misconception is that a vegan diet is low in vitamins and protein, because non-vegetarians get much of their protein from meat. These challenges can be overcome with an increased consumption of beans, nuts and plant oils such as canola oil. These options provide a large amount of protein per serving and also provide a source of healthy unsaturated or monounsaturated fats.
Fresh fruits and vegetables provide vegans with the recommended amount of nutrients and essential vitamins for a healthy vegan lifestyle. For example, zinc is available in such foods as potatoes, asparagus, blackberries, peas, cashews and sunflower seeds, to name a few. Iron is found in avocados, strawberries, squash, coconut and kale. These and other fruits, vegetables and nuts also provide riboflavin and vitamin B12. Many fresh produce items, such as apples and celery, also deliver a healthy dose of dietary fiber.
Whole grains in breads, pastas and cereals also contain a substantial amount of fiber and carbohydrates sufficient enough to maintain healthy digestive systems and energy levels. Grains make up the smallest portion of vegan diet foods, and a greater emphasis is placed protein sources such as legumes, nuts and oils. Oatmeal, spaghetti and tofu lasagna are common vegan diet foods containing grains.
Replacing eggs and dairy products can be a challenge for vegans, because they are common ingredients in many non-vegan recipes. Eggs come from chickens and dairy comes from cows, so they are absolutely not allowed — though there are some vegetarians who would be vegan except for their willingness to include such animal products in their diet. Alternatives, such as soy and almond milk, exist to replace these food groups in vegan diets. Milk from plant-based sources such as soybeans and almonds are the preferred choice for vegans. Tofu is another example of a non-dairy alternative to dairy products, and it is an excellent source of protein.
Some common vegan diet foods are variations of non-vegan foods, except with vegetable-based substitutes for things such as cheese and milk. Even hamburgers can be copied using oats and nuts. Rice pudding, frozen fruit and banana muffins are a few examples of sweets and baked goods that, with the right ingredients, can be included among vegan diet foods.