A well-balanced vegan diet includes a wide variety of whole-grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.
For more comprehensive information on optimal plant-based nutrition, making the transition to plant-based meals, key nutrition during pregnancy and breastfeeding and how and what to feed vegan kids we recommend the book Vegan for Life by dieticians and long-time vegans Jack Norris and Virginia Messina.
A vegan diet is a great choice for your health, for the environment and for the animals!
Grains: 6+ servings
6 or more servings per day (a serving is ½ cup cooked or ½ cup dry cereal/grain, 1 slice of wholemeal bread).
Includes: wheat, oats, buckwheat, rice, corn, quinoa, cereals, wholemeal bread. Choose whole grains as refined grains have lost valuable nutrients. Whole grains are high in fibre and provide protein, minerals and B vitamins.
Legumes 3 – 4 servings
3 to 4 servings per day (a serving is a ½ cup of cooked legumes or 1 cup soy milk).
Includes: beans, peas, and lentils. Legumes are the most protein-rich of all plant foods and provide 7 to 8 grams of protein per serve and even higher for soy foods (tofu, tempeh, soymilk). While it is easy to get enough protein on a well-balanced vegan diet, legumes are a rich source of the essential amino acid lysine which is limited in other food groups.
Vegetables 5+ servings
5+ servings per day (a serving is ½ cup cooked or 1 cup raw).
Vegetables are the most nutrient-dense foods, and we should include generous portions of these every day. Leafy greens like spinach, silverbeet, and kale are particularly nutritious and important.
Nuts and seeds
A small handful of mixed nuts and seeds eaten every day is a great nutrition boost. Some nuts have valuable nutrients (like selenium) not common to other foods.
Includes: almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, brazil nuts, walnuts and sesame seeds
Other essential nutrients
Back in the day we would have gotten enough B12 from plant based sources (like the residue of soil on our vegetables) but today there are no reliable plant-based food sources of vitamin B12. Vegans must get vitamin B12 from fortified foods (such as soy milk, marmite and nutritional yeast – check the labels) or a supplement. Vitamin B12 is critical for nervous system, mental and red blood cell health. Recommended dose 50mcg a day or 2000 a week.
Iron is critical for helping to transport oxygen to every cell in the body to produce energy so each cell can perform its vital function. Good food sources of iron include legumes (peanuts, beans, lentils, peas), nuts and seeds (cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds), dried apricots, raisins, and rolled oats.
A source of Omega-3 oil is essential and should be included in the diet every day. Omega-3 oils are important for decreasing inflammation in the body, maintaining healthy cell membranes and healthy brain function. Top sources of Omega-3 oils are flax seed oil, walnuts, chia seeds and hemp seed oil. Pour oils on top of food or add to smoothies. Include nuts on cereal, in salads or on top of meals.
Vitamin D is important for mental health, preventing depression, bone health and a strong immune system. The best source of Vitamin D is exposure to sunlight. There are no reliable plant-based food sources of Vitamin D. If you are unable to get enough sunlight then there are some great vegan Vitamin D supplements available.
Additional nutrition resources
Two Zesty Bananas – founded by New Zealand doctors and whole plant-based food enthusiasts Dr Luke Wilson and Dr Mathew Hobbs. Recipes and nutritional advice.
High Carb Health – nutritional advice, recipes, 30 day challenge, and more by Auckland based brothers Shamiz and Shukul Kachwalla.
Thrive Cuisine – dedicated to spreading scientific information about the healthfulness and disease preventing power of vegetables, fruits, mushrooms and overall plant-based eating.