Veganism | Benefits, Diets, Meal Plans, and Recipes

Written by
8fit Team @ 8fit
Written by
8fit Team @ 8fit
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Veganism is on the rise, and it only stands to become more common. Whether it’s for the environment, for the love of animals, or just because it feels good, people go vegan for a whole range of reasons.

Veganism may seem like a trend, but it certainly isn’t new. The practice goes as far back as the Bronze Age in India, where strict vegetarianism was common. Of course, it wasn’t called veganism at the time—the term as we know it wasn’t coined until the 1940s. 

In the US alone, the number of self-identifying vegans grew to 19.6 million in 2017 from 4 million in 2014—that’s a 600% increase! With restaurants, specialized grocery stores, and even cruises, vegans in the West are spoilt for choice. 

Have you been considering going vegan yourself, or do you wonder what the fuss is all about? Let’s dive in and find out.

What is vegan?

So, what is veganism actually? Veganism is a strict form of vegetarianism that excludes animal products, whether it’s in the form of meat, dairy, eggs, or other products made from animals like lard or gelatin. 

Food is just one part of the equation. Vegans also abstain from buying clothing made from animal products such as leather, wool, or fur. However, some choose to wear clothing made out of these materials as long as they are second-hand. 

Is honey vegan? This is one question that tends to stir up controversy among the vegan community. Some vegans choose to eat honey because they argue that making it is a natural byproduct from bees and therefore doesn't cause them harm. Other vegans disagree, instead taking a hard-line stance against animal products of any kind—insects included.

The good news is that there are plenty of vegan substitutes for honey. Agave nectar and maple syrup are both excellent substitutions. They may lack the classic honey flavor, but they’re arguably just as sweet and delicious. 

Are Oreos vegan? For a long time, the word on the street was that Oreos are vegan. Unfortunately for cookie lovers, it looks like this officially isn't the case. You wouldn’t be wrong to think Oreos are vegan. After all, there’s no mention of milk or eggs on the packaging’s long list of ingredients. The problem? Oreo’s own FAQ section of their website makes clear that Oreos are not vegan because they “have milk as a cross-contact.” That means that somewhere along the manufacturing process, Oreo ingredients may come into contact with trace amounts of non-vegan ingredients.

Is beer vegan? In most cases, beer is vegan, but there can be exceptions to the rule. But how? Some heavier beers like craft stouts and porters may use lactose to give the beer a creamy effect, but usually they’ll make it clear on the can. Another possible non-vegan beer ingredient is honey (depending on how you feel about it), but again, it’s not common and would more than likely be featured on the can.

Plan it out: Prepping your food and creating a menu for the week is an excellent way to stick to a vegan lifestyle. Consult our one- and two-week vegan meal plans for some inspiration!

What do vegans eat?

Despite stereotypes suggesting otherwise, vegans can eat a whole lot more than tofu and salad greens (but they may eat those too). In recent years, the amount of vegan products on the market has grown exponentially, with options like oat milk, realistic “beef” burgers, and even non-dairy cheeses on offer in your local supermarkets. 

Kids these days may not realize how different the situation was just a decade ago when vegan products were relegated to health food stores and hip student co-ops. But innovation has its drawbacks—there may be more products on the market, but that also means more processed foods like faux meats and cheeses.

So, what do they eat? Well, it depends from person to person. Many vegans get protein from sources like beans, quinoa, legumes, tofu, tempeh, and nuts, but some also choose to eat pre-made foods like veggie dogs, protein shakes, and seitan (a meat substitute made from wheat).

Besides dairy products, eggs, cheese, and honey (depending on the person), vegans can eat pretty much everything. There’s no shortage of tasty fruits and vegetables to choose from, as well as grains, seeds, nut milks, and much more. 

Speaking of nut milks… Check out the differences between oat milk vs almond milk and find out which is better for you.

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Benefits of a Vegan Diet

Is a vegan diet healthy? Well, that depends on what kind of vegan food you’re eating. Switching to a cruelty-free diet doesn’t mean you’ll inherently be healthier, but if you approach it the right way, you can indeed enjoy a nutritious diet as a vegan. 

If you do choose to give veganism a shot, you'll just have to monitor your intake of nutrients, particularly vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and protein. As long as those are in check, living a healthy vegan lifestyle can come with an array of benefits like preventing heart disease and diabetes. 

Read more about the benefits of a vegan diet.

Vegan vs Vegetarian 

What’s better, being a vegan or a vegetarian? Simply put, it’s a matter of preference. You could argue that one or the other is better, but it depends on the criteria you’re basing it on. In reality, veganism is simply a much stricter version of vegetarianism, but the principles are similar—it just depends on how far you want to take it. 

Instead of pitting the two against each other, we think both diets have their pros and cons. It’s up to the person living either lifestyle to do their research and find out if one is right for them. As long as you’re getting a balanced array of foods, either diet is an excellent choice. 

Vegan Diets

For many, veganism is a lifestyle more than a diet. That’s because veganism goes beyond the food you eat. It’s also about ethical consumption, AKA making sure not to support any brands or buy from shops that go against vegan ethics. 

For example, some vegans try to buy their clothing second hand to keep from promoting sweat-shop labor or using non-vegan products. Others make sure to buy shoes, clothing, and accessories made from vegan leather or faux fur. Most vegans also do their research when it comes to makeup and beauty products to ensure that what they purchase is not tested on animals.

Vegan Diet For Beginners

If you’re interested in going vegan, the transition may seem daunting at first. So many of us grew up not thinking twice about consuming animal products. And we're not just talking about meat. There's cow milk, cheese, butter––so many things to think about!

If you really want to consider going vegan, we suggest making the transition slowly. You're setting yourself up for failure by switching overnight. Maybe try a flexitarian diet to ease into it.

And as always, we suggest speaking with your doctor about it before making any concrete decisions. That said, many 8fitters follow a vegan lifestyle and we're happy to be a first stop for information.

Get answers to many common questions about the vegan diet for beginners.

Vegan Diet Weight Loss

Some people decide to begin their journey with veganism because they want to lose weight. In some cases, veganism may help for weight loss because you naturally end up eating less high-calorie foods like cheese or ice cream. After all, some of the most calorie-rich things out there—like your average pizza or chocolate cake—is unlikely to be vegan unless you buy it at a specialty vegan shop.

However, that doesn’t mean that merely going vegan equals instant weight loss. It’s possible to eat just as many calories while vegan as any other diet. No matter what kind of diet you follow, burning more calories than you take in is the formula for weight loss. Eating healthy vegan meals full of vegetables, protein, healthy fats, and carbs can help you along the way!

Want to know more about veganism and weight loss? Take a look at our vegan meal plan and grocery list for weight loss here.

Vegan Keto Diet

Chances are, you’ve probably heard about the buzz surrounding the ketogenic diet. This low-carb diet has been gaining traction because it can lead to rapid—albeit mostly impermanent—weight loss in some people.  

Many people associate keto with steak and bacon, but there are actually people out there who follow a vegan keto diet, too. 

Curious about how a vegan keto diet might look? Find out about the vegan keto diet and see a sample meal plan while you’re at it!

Vegan Bodybuilding Diet

You might think veganism and bodybuilding are mutually exclusive topics. How can you build muscle without eating steaks on steaks on steaks on steaks? That's an assumption that's quickly dying thanks, in part, to documentaries like The Game Changers.

The simple answer is that, yes, it is possible to build muscle while embracing a vegan lifestyle. The trick is paying close attention to what's going into your body and how many calories you're consuming. Some of the staples of a vegan bodybuilding diet are grains, nuts, and beans.

But there's far more to it than that, and you need to take into account proper planning. Want to know precisely what it takes? Here's what you need to know about a vegan bodybuilding diet.

Vegan Meal Plans

Are you thinking of trying out the vegan lifestyle but can’t really imagine how a week of vegan eating might look? As mentioned before, not all vegans eat the same types of foods. Just like non-vegans, some followers of the diet take it very seriously and stick to whole foods, while some like to free-style it, deciding to sometimes opt for faux meats and other times go for fresh veggies.  

Where to begin? If you’re feeling completely lost, we can give you a hand. Take a look at our article to find information on vegan meal planning and recipes to help you along the way.

Vegan Keto Meal Plan

Vegan and keto may not seem like two words that belong together, but believe it or not, it isn’t too far-fetched of a combination. It’s possible to eat vegan while also following a keto diet, but it will just take some extra planning.

Following a vegan keto meal plan means eating full-fat, plant-based products such as coconut products (like coconut oil and cream), nuts, seeds, nut butters, tofu, and healthy oils. As for vegetables, a vegan keto meal plan would consist primarily of the non-starchy sort—think avocados, leafy greens, broccoli and cauliflower. It may be a tough adjustment, so be sure to consult your doctor or registered dietician if you need guidance.

Vegan Protein

It’s about time we move on from the antiquated idea that vegans and vegetarians don’t get enough protein because they don’t eat meat. The fitness world’s obsession with protein has made it seem like the only macronutrient that matters, but it simply isn’t true. 

If you’ve been wanting to adopt a vegan diet but are afraid of not getting enough protein, don’t let anyone frighten you. By keeping a journal of what you eat—or better yet, using 8fit’s meal plans to ensure you get the right nutrition—you can assess whether or not you’re getting the right amount of protein for your body.

How do vegans get protein?

This is undoubtedly one of the most common questions we get about veganism. If not from animals, eggs, fish, or dairy, then where do vegans obtain enough protein to be healthy? The good news is that most vegans are not in danger. There are more than enough ways for vegans to get protein!

Whether through wholesome dishes like beans & rice—paired together, they make a whole protein—or through tasty stir-fried tofu, there exist a wide variety of plant-based protein sources.

Want more protein? Here are 15 of the best vegan protein sources.

Plant-Based Meat

Veggie burgers have been around for some time now, but there's been a lot of talk recently about plant-based meat. What is that, exactly? Sure, it sounds self-explanatory, but what's really inside famous plant-based meat brands, like Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat?

Turns out, although they might be a good meat substitute, they're not necessarily healthy.

"The new plant-based meats are definitely better for the environment and can help meat eaters transition to a plant-based diet," writes Karen Eisenbraun, a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant. "If you’re already eating a plant-based diet, there aren’t necessarily any health benefits to including them in your diet. But if every once in a while you crave a real burger, they just may do the trick."

Want to learn more? Here's what's inside plant-based meat and how it can impact your diet.

Vegan Recipes

Once you dive into the world of vegan recipes, you’ll find that there are plenty of ways to veganize your favorite dishes. Instead of focusing on all the dishes you can’t have, though, it’s even more fun to start exploring new cuisines and cooking styles that happen to lean veggie. Going vegan could very well open your eyes to the incredible flavors that other cuisines have to offer. 

Some of the most vegan-friendly cuisines include Indian, Thai, and Vietnamese (just watch for the fish sauce in the latter). All three cultures are entirely different from one another, yet they find common ground because they take vegetables from being simple side items to playing the starring role in the dish. Learning to cook vegan recipes from cultures around the world can expand your tastes and transform your mindset towards vegan cooking.

Check out all of our vegan recipes.

Easy Vegan Recipes

Of course, making vegan food doesn’t always have to be an outright production. There are numerous easy vegan recipes out there that take just a few simple ingredients you can find anywhere. 

Let’s not forget that most pasta is vegan, and there’s no end to the ways you can jazz it up. And, one must-have ingredient for any new vegan is the most magical of them all: nutritional yeast. We know, we know, it doesn’t sound appetizing at all, but if you’re serious about becoming a vegan, we’re convinced you’re going to need this stuff. 

The scoop on "nooch." Some say it’s cheesy, others say it’s nutty—we say: try it! Find out what nutritional yeast is all about and why you need it in your diet in our article about the same thing.

Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes

It might sound like sacrilege to some, but it's entirely possible to skip out on turkey on Thanksgiving Day. And, it's also ok to say "no thanks" to the ham. If your family makes jokes or asks questions, silence them with your secret weapon: vegan Thanksgiving dishes that are just as delicious as theirs!

Out of inspiration? Have a look at six of our go-to vegan Thanksgiving recipes just in time for the holiday season.

Vegan Christmas Dinner

Like Thanksgiving, Christmas dinner is often a meaty affair. Thankfully, it doesn't have to be that way forever! Instead of feeling left out this year, why not throw your own vegan Christmas dinner party? It's completely up to you whether you want the dinner to be traditional or not!

Got the holiday spirit? Find out how to throw your own vegan Christmas dinner party here!

Vegan Snacks

Planning is your friend when it comes to being a vegan. Just an hour or so of prep work a week in the kitchen can help you make sticking to the lifestyle a piece of (vegan) cake. If you like to cook and bake, there’s no limit to how ornate you can make your snacks. At the same time, if you prefer a quick and minimal approach, you’ll find there are myriad ways to make fast vegan snacks perfect for any occasion.

Snack attack! Check out our vegan and vegetarian foods for travel for some vegan snack inspiration.

Healthy Vegan Snacks

Avocado on toast, trail mix, homemade power balls, apple with walnuts, and chia pudding are just a few healthy vegan snacks you can make to take with you on the go. Breakfast-style foods are where veganism really shines, so if you’re someone who loves a good bowl of oats, you’ll find it easy to substitute vegan ingredients.

Avocado on the mind? Make our smashed chickpea and avocado sandwich for a hefty snack or easy lunch.

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