Is veganism restrictive? At first you might think yes, because you’re not eating animal products. But the truth is there is loads of delicious vegan food to enjoy! Using a few key strategies can help you not feel restricted with food as a vegan.
Before we go any further, it’s important to assess your motivations for going vegan. I strongly recommend you read the post 5 Things to Do Before You Go Vegan. Sometimes people can use a plant-based diet as a tool for dietary restriction and disordered eating.
If you want to be vegan for the long-term and help as many animals as possible, it’s important that you have a healthy relationship with food (aka stop dieting and restricting food).
If you’re drawn to veganism because you think it will make you lose weight, cure all your ailments or have some drastic health impact, please work with a registered dietitian who can help you develop realistic expectations regarding food.
Even though vegans do not consume animal products, that doesn’t mean they’re on a diet.
Because vegans don’t agree that animal products should be food, we don’t view animal products as food options. In this sense, it’s no more restrictive not to eat a beef burger than it is not to eat a rock.
If you’re vegan and you do feel restricted with food, read through these strategies, apply them to your life and see if you feel any different. If not, it’s time to work with a professional.
Understand What a Balanced Vegan Eating Pattern Looks Like
First things first, eating balanced, tasty and satisfying meals and snacks is key to not feeling restricted as a vegan.
So what does a nutritionally balanced vegan meal look like? There is no hard-and-fast rule, but generally speaking, these are helpful strategies:
- Fill about half of the plate/bowl with fruits and/or vegetables,
- Roughly a quarter with high-quality vegan protein foods,
- And the remaining quarter with grains and/or starches
- Make sure you have a source of fat
It’s really helpful to keep these foods on hand! Stock your kitchen with a variety of nutritious and delicious foods so you’re ready to throw together quick and easy meals.
Need help planning delicious plant-based meals and snacks?
For more detail on how to get all the nutrients you need as a vegan and build balanced meals and snacks, check out my vegan nutrition online course!
Eat Plenty of Vegan Fun Foods
What are fun foods? They’re the foods you eat mostly for the flavor and experience, rather than the nutrients. Think pizza, burgers, cupcakes, donuts, etc.
Eating a balance of nutritious foods and fun foods is important for health. Yes, you heard that right. You don’t need to say goodbye to fun foods!
The wonderful thing about being vegan right now is that more restaurants and grocery stores are carrying vegan alternatives!
From vegan cheese and ice cream to sausages and deli meat, there are more vegan options than ever. Even Aldi has its own line of vegan frozen meats including meatballs and chik’n patties!
Remember Your Motivations
If you’re vegan because you’re looking at it as a diet that will help you lose weight, you will feel restricted with food. The only thing that will change that is ditching dieting.
However, if you’re vegan because you want to reduce harm to animals and the planet, then reinforcing those values can help.
Real talk: It’s normal to feel different when you’re vegan because you’re taking a stand against the status quo. You’re boycotting harmful and exploitative industries that are central to the American food system.
Find your support people, eat lots of yummy vegan food, and remember that you’re in this for the animals and the planet.
There are more helpful tips in the post 10 Strategies to Help You Go Vegan.
If you feel like veganism is harming your mental health, reach out to a mental health professional for help.
And if you’re interested in one-on-one support to help you with your relationship with food, make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need and general healthy lifestyle advice, our dietitians can help!