What does a healthy vegan diet look like?

I wanted to spell out what I’m modeling my vegan diet to look like for the next week, and what it will probably look like for the three months of the real experiment.  Just as in the other diet worlds there is some variety in terms of what should make a healthy vegan diet.  One thing that is constant across them is the absence of animal products.  No meat, no dairy, no honey will be found in any vegan diet.  That still leaves a lot of room for error, which requires a plan to avoid.

Before thinking about what I will be eating, let’s look at what I won’t.  What would an unhealthy vegan diet look like?  Since the whole point is to avoid eating a standard American diet, one should avoid anything that resembles that with a nice “vegan” wrapper put on.  A daily lunch of tofurkey dogs and fries while perfectly vegan isn’t doing much for you health wise.  Lack of variety of foods will cause the same problem whether you are eating the same four or five traditional or vegan foods.  An over-reliance on processed foods loaded with preservatives, dyes and “natural flavors” isn’t nourishing your body well even with that vegan label either.

A healthy vegan diet is one that is based substantially on a wide variety of fruit and vegetables.  Add to that healthy doses of whole grains, beans, legumes and nuts.  Depending on which sources you read you will get different opinions on what fats are considered healthy, and which ratios one should have for protein, carbs and fats.  To make matters simpler for me I’m trying to follow the guidelines in the “Engine 2 Diet” book which adheres to a more traditional low-fat emphasis diet.  Depending on how I feel on it I may opt to look into a higher-fat version since on other diets I find having not enough fat makes me constantly hungry.

One big thing that vegans need to watch out for is vitamin deficiencies, particularly B12 and Vitamin D.  I’m taking Vitamin-D anyway because my standard diet, like most people’s, doesn’t have enough of it.  Vitamin B12 deficiency is something specific to vegans however.  B12 is something that you only get through animal products.  Cultures that traditionally ate a mostly vegan diet didn’t have as much a problem with this because B12 is actually synthesized by bacteria in the dirt.  If one eats vegetables without washing them, or leaves the peels on things like potatoes then you can get some B12 from “vegetable” sources.  However it’s far easier to get from animal products.  In the age of fortified foods and vitamins however one can get this through supplementation.  I’m going to try to get it just from dietary sources for this week and for the three month experiment.  Time will tell if that proves to be sufficient.

So in the end what will I be eating?  I’ll be wolfing down lots of whole foods, not a lot of processed foods, no animal products but lots of deliciously made fruits, veggies and so on.