What is a Vegan Diet?

November 17, 2020

Vegan diets, restaurants, cookbooks, and products are appearing everywhere now more than ever before, but what actually is a vegan diet? Other than saying goodbye to burgers and skipping milkshakes, what comprises the most strict of the plant-based craze? When comparing a vegan vs. a vegetarian diet, the main difference to note is flexibility: A vegetarian might fry up an egg, or put creamer in coffee. Adopting a vegan diet means eliminating any and all animal products: dairy, meat, seafood, eggs, and even honey. Though some might try a vegan diet for weight loss, for many vegans, this is more than a diet, and a choice to support animal rights, the environment, or other ethical reasons. In some cases, the goal of a vegan diet can be somewhat similar to that of a Primal Diet—a desire to ditch processed eats and focus on real food, or whole food eating.

chopped sweet potatoes

Vegans can find protein in unexpected places—vital wheat gluten, nut butters, and green peas—and can create colorful plates with vegetables and leafy greens. So much more than salads, a vegan diet can be a solution for those uninterested in meat and unable to tolerate dairy.

What Are Different Types of Vegan Diets?

Under the larger umbrella of veganism, there are various approaches and types of diets. As with any diet, each of these variations requires sufficient planning and preparation to prevent deficiencies (and hunger!). This is just a sampling of the various vegan diets out there; a trip to the local bookstore cookbook section will reveal even more. Like any eating plan trend, there’s a diverse array of specific options and ideologies to choose from for the veggie-curious.


  • The raw vegan diet focuses on predominantly fruits and vegetables that haven’t been cooked above approximately 110ºF. This diet seeks the supposed benefits of minimally cooked or processed legumes, grains, and plants, and doesn’t recommend supplementing your diet with much else.
  • The vegan bodybuilding diet requires vigilance: those who practice this diet focus on protein... and more protein! Getting the nutrients needed to bulk up and reach peak performance is possible when the participant keeps track of macros, calories and protein, and shifts them between bulking and cutting seasons. The vegan athlete diet follows a similar protocol of being mindful of your various intakes, and having a plan for protein.
  • The alkaline diet is just about vegan. Many of the restrictions of the alkaline diet are consistent with vegetarian or vegan diet plans. This diet calls for high alkaline foods over high-acid foods, and also finds similarity in the paleo diet, calling for unprocessed foods.
  • Yes, a Vegan Keto Diet is possible! Primal Kitchen founder and author of The Keto Reset Mark Sisson recommends supplementing your vegan keto diet with hemp protein powders, creatine, carnosine, taurine, B12, algal oil, and choline to prevent deficiencies. Sisson encourages vegan keto dieters to eat avocado oil, coconut, olives and olive oil, macadamia nuts, hemp seeds, and red palm oil. As with a traditional keto diet, stick to leafy greens, cruciferous and above ground veggies, and lower-sugar fruits. For a Primal take on veganism and vegetarianism, consult Mark’s 17 tips here.

soaking cashews

A Plant-based Diet vs. a Vegan Diet

The term plant-based doesn’t just refer to veganism or vegetarianism; it encompasses a wide range of diets and lifestyles. Similar to a meat-based diet, a plant-based diet focuses on meals where plants take center stage at meal time. More flexible diets like pescetarianism (including fish) or ovo-vegetarian (including eggs), as well as vegetarianism and veganism fall under the plant-based heading. If you’re in search of a vegan diet for beginners, want to try any of the above listed vegan diets, or are lost on how to start a vegan diet, any of these plant-based options are an accessible way to ease into the lifestyle and find what works best for your body.

A note: Some might consider a vegan plant-based diet one that skips processed foods or a diet high in grains and soy for a vegetable and greens-heavy diet.

seasoning cauliflower

The High-Protein Vegan Diet

As with any plant-based diet, finding sources of protein can be a concern. A high-protein vegan diet aims to keep the participant feeling fuller longer, and feeling all the same benefits of an omnivorous or carnivorous diet, while leaving room for the dieter’s ethical or personal concerns. How much protein a person needs per day depends on their body type and specific goals. Here are some of the most common sources of protein (though not all!) that are vegan compliant, with their grams of protein per serving to help you build meals.

Protein Source

 Grams Per Serving

Beans (green beans, chickpeas)















27g (varies by type)

Nut Butter

Anywhere between 2-8g, depending on type

Nutritional Yeast




Hemp Seeds


Green Peas




Sprouted Grain Bread


Brussels Sprouts




Chia Seeds




*based on suggested serving portion

skillet of veggies

Wondering what else to eat on a vegan diet? In addition to the above listed proteins, here’s a sampling of a shopping list of vegan diet foods inspired by the Primal diet to get you started on your plant-based journey.

Fresh Vegetables and Fruit

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Asparagus
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Avocados
  • Lima beans
  • Artichokes
  • Berries
  • Watermelon
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Olives
  • Onions
  • Wild Rice
  • Yams
  • Greens
  • Collard
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Bok choy
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Microgreens
  • Cabbage
  • Watercress
  • Romaine
  • Endive

rainbow chard


pan with avocado oil and veggies

Vegan Diet Plan

If you’re looking for inspiration for a day, week, or month off meat, dairy, and seafood, here’s what a day on a vegan diet might look like. You can also visit the “vegan” tab on the recipes section of the Primal Kitchen website, or keep scrolling for more delicious plant-based recipes.


Butternut Squash Waffles


Vegan Chickpea Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette


Vegan Margherita Pizza

Vegan Diet Recipes

Eating plant-based doesn’t mean forgoing flavor. While it might call to mind a bland bowl of greens or chomping on a lone carrot stick, vegan diet recipes tend to think outside the box, using back-of-cabinet ingredients and fresh farmers market finds.


Whether you’re trying out vegan full time or want to take a brief break from animal products for a meal or two, these vegan recipes are full of bold flavor and exciting ingredients.

Sweet and Sour Roasted Brussels Sprouts 

Air Fryer Potato Wedges with Ketchup 

Vegan Coleslaw with Apples 

Vegan Watermelon Strawberry Salad with Mint and Balsamic 

Buffalo Sauce Cauliflower Wings

Keto Vegan Rainbow Salad

Gluten-Free Chickpea Penne with Pesto

3-Ingredient Grilled Portobello Mushrooms 

Flourless Vegan Chocolate Cake 

vegan mayo and chocolate batter


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