Since most people automatically think of deprivation (not true!) when they think of a vegan diet, I will start with what vegans don’t eat:
The obvious culprits are:
Animal flesh (red meat, white meat, dark meat, organically-raised-cage-free-humane-boneless-skinless chicken breasts…)
Yes, fish are animals too!
Dairy products including milk, cheese, yogurt, and Hagen Daazfrench vanilla ice-cream
So what do you eat?
Although it is possible to call yourself vegan while subsisting on Doritos, diet Pepsi, and vodka (although I wouldn’t recommend attempting this) most vegans eat a healthy variety of whole natural foods. There is a plethora of vegan blogs out there chock full of recipes and photos of tasty creations that I encourage you to peruse. Mostly, though, here is a rundown of some of my favorite vegan foods:
Nuts and nut butters
Soy milk, almond milk, rice milk (and their ice cream counterparts)
Fresh fruits and veggies
Whole grains including pastas, quinoa, vegan breads and tortillas
Hummus and beans
Salsa and guacamole!
The huge variety of vegan “substitutes” out there (yep, stuff like tofurkey, vegan cheese, even vegan chorizo)
Don’t you need to eat animals to be healthy?
I find it funny (not funny haha just plain old stupid funny) that people are always worrying about vegans/vegetarians having a “healthy diet.” I would be willing to bet that most veg*ns know more about nutrition than the typical meat-eater. In fact, the Standard American Diet is appropriately abbreviated SAD. The sad state of dietary affairs in this country is evident by the rapidly rising levels of obesity and skyrocketing rates of type II diabetes and other poor-diet-related illnesses.
True, it does take a little extra knowledge about food to make sure that you are eating healthy as a vegan. But it also takes tons of extra knowledge to take care of a baby, raise a child, be successful at work or at school, excel in sports, enjoy any particular personal hobby…
Not all vegans are scrawny and anemic. Trust me. If you need some inspiration, there are lists of celebrities and athletes that don’t eat animal flesh. Just Google it.
If you are worried about your health, meet with a nutritionist or just plug all your foods into one of those diet calculators that can be found online (fitday, myfoooddiary, etc.). That’s a great way to get an idea of whether or not you are getting enough of the necessary nutrients. Even better, ask others you know – close family members who are fretting about your health perhaps – and plug their typical food into the sites. You just might find sky-high sodium intake, ridiculously high saturated fat intake, a lack of essential vitamins, etc. This might be a good thing for teens to sit down and do with concerned parents. The more you know about what you are putting into your body, the better decisions you can make.