The beginner’s guide to vegan diets: What to avoid and what you should eat every day

Read Time:   |  9th January 2020

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Get to grips with the basics with our beginner's guide to a healthy vegan diet.


Switching to a plant-based diet can seem daunting at first, particularly when there is so much misinformation surrounding vegan diets.

Despite the myth that vegan diets are lacking in nutrients, a well-planned vegan diet is incredibly beneficial for your health provided you are eating a balanced diet full of delicious natural foods.

Not sure where to start or what your body needs?

Our handy beginner’s guide will show you what your body needs to feel its best, as well as showing you sneaky non-vegan ingredients to look out for!

What to eat everyday

Follow this simple chart to ensure your daily plant-based diet includes all the nutrients your body needs.



Follow the above to achieve a good balance of:


Certain nuts and seeds are a good source — cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, ground linseed (flaxseed), chia seeds, hemp seeds.


Wholewheat pasta, brown rice, wholemeal bread, oats, sweet potato and new potatoes with skins left on.

Vitamin C

Boost iron absorption by including a good source in every meal like pepper, broccoli, cabbage, strawberries, pineapple or orange juice.


Beans, peas, lentils, tofu, fortified breakfast cereals, whole grains like quinoa, dark green leafy vegetables, ground flaxseed (linseed), chia seeds, hemp seeds, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, raisins, apricots, figs.

Omega-3 fat

Walnuts, ground flaxseed (linseed), chia seeds, hemp seeds, vegetable (rapeseed) oil as
main cooking oil.


What to avoid

It’s important to look at labels and check for animal products. Veganuary has compiled this essential list of what to avoid when you’re shopping.

While it may seem like a long list, there are plenty of foods that are made without any of the below ingredients and, once you know what to look out for, it becomes easy to spot non-vegan foods.

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Casein a milk protein
  • Lactose a milk sugar
  • Whey a milk by-product
  • Collagen from the skin, bones and connective tissues of animals such as cows, chickens, pigs and fish
  • Elastin found in the neck ligaments and aorta of bovine, similar to collagen
  • Keratin from the skin, bones and connective tissues of animals such as cows, chickens, pigs and fish
  • Gelatine/gelatin obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments and/or bones and is usually from cows or pigs
  • Aspic industry alternative to gelatine; made from clarified meat, fish or vegetable stocks and gelatine
  • Lard/tallow animal fat
  • Shellac obtained from the bodies of the female scale insect tachardia lacca
  • Royal Jelly secretion of the throat gland of the honeybee
  • Honey food for bees, made by bees
  • Propolis used by bees in the construction of their hives
  • Vitamin D3 from fish-liver oil or sheep’s wool
  • Albumen/albumin from egg
  • Isinglass a substance obtained from the dried swim bladders of fish, and is used mainly for the clarification (fining) of wine and beer
  • Cod liver oil in lubricating creams and lotions, vitamins and supplements
  • Pepsin from the stomachs of pigs, a clotting agent used in vitamins

E Numbers

As well as this, food additives can create another issue. All food additives in Europe must be marked on the ingredients list and are given an E number, which can make navigating labels a little more difficult. 

Many of these E numbers are fine for vegans, however there are a few to look out for that are not cruelty-free:

  • E120 Carmine, also known as cochineal, carminic acid or natural red 4. Crushed up beetles used as red food colouring
  • E441 Gelatine. A gelling agent made from ground-up animal bone and skin, often found in confectionery
  • E542 Bone phosphate. Ground-up animal bones used to keep foods moist
  • E901 Beeswax. As the name suggests, this is wax that’s made by bees and is used as a glazing agent
  • E904 Shellac. Glazing agent, made from the secretions of an insect called the lac bug
  • E910, E920, E921 L-cysteine and its derivatives. Made from animal hair and feathers, these additives are found in some breads as a proving agent
  • E913 Lanolin. A greasy substance secreted by sheep and other woolly animals. Mostly used in cosmetics, but also used to make vitamin D3, rendering many multi-vitamins and fortified foods unsuitable for vegans
  • E966 Lactitol. A sweetener derived from lactose, which is made from milk

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Vegan Food & Living

Vegan Food & Living is a magazine dedicated to celebrating the vegan lifestyle. Every issue is packed with 75 tasty recipes, plus informative features.

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