Vegans shun all animal products, while the paleo diet suggests we eat like our caveman ancestors and consume mostly high-protein meat. How could a new diet be created from those two approaches? Let us explain.
What Is the Pegan Diet?
Nutrition expert Dr. Mark Hyman introduced the pegan diet in 2015. He realized that the vegan and paleo ways of eating had common ground. They both recommend avoiding processed, packaged foods and instead filling your plate with natural, nutrient-rich ingredients.
“The pegan diet is a healthy compromise of the two,” says Carol Aguirre, a registered dietitian/nutritionist and owner of Nutrition Connections in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “It focuses on eating fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy protein and good-for-you fats. The best aspects of each are integrated for a balanced dietary plan.”
The Pegan Diet Plan
“While the vegan diet is often low in protein and key nutrients like vitamin B-12, the paleo diet is often heavy in animal protein and saturated fat,” Aguirre says. “The pegan diet is a healthy compromise of the two.”
And because it’s loaded with fiber-filled veggies and satisfying fats, you’ll feel fuller longer, which should help with weight loss. Sugary, processed foods aren’t part of the diet, so eliminating them will also help followers of the diet slim down.
Here’s how to follow the pegan diet:
- Opt for a small portion (1/2 cup or less per meal) of whole or gluten-free grains, including black rice, quinoa, teff, buckwheat, or amaranth.
- Eat sustainably-raised livestock (like grass-fed meat and pasture-raised eggs), which contain more nutrients and tend to be leaner.
- Fill your plate (approximately 75 percent) with fresh, minimally processed vegetables and fruit. But avoid starchy vegetables, like beets, pumpkin, potatoes (regular and sweet) and parsnips.
- Aim for 25 to 35 percent of your total calories to come from omega-3 rich fat sources. Think fatty fish, flax seeds, nuts, avocado, olives and their oils.
- Allow yourself one cheat day per week, along with two desserts and two alcoholic drinks per week.
- Choose foods that have been treated with pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and GMOs.
- Eat foods that can cause a spike in blood sugar (such as refined carbs or anything with sugar or flour).
- Consume vegetable oils high in omega-6s, like soybean and corn oil.
- Include dairy, soy, legumes and gluten in your diet.
The Pegan Diet Formula
To follow the pegan way of eating, Aguirre suggests remembering “5-4-3-2-1.” Over the course of your three meals and two snacks each day, aim for:
- 5 or more cups of fruits and vegetables
- 4 servings of low-glycemic carbs
- 3 servings of lean protein
- 2 servings of healthy fats
- 1 dairy substitute
Pegan Diet Recipes
Here are two satisfying recipes from Aguirre that fit into the pegan way of eating:
Preparation: 10 minutes (active)
Ready in: 25 minutes
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup (red or white) quinoa
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
Bring water and quinoa to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes or until quinoa is tender; drain. Stir in almonds, juice, oils, salt, and onions.
Prepare quinoa as directed in main recipe; drain. Place quinoa in a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir and serve. Serves two.
Salmon with Salsa
Preparation: 10 minutes
Ready in: 25 minutes
- 1 medium plum tomato, roughly chopped
- ½ small onion, roughly chopped
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and quartered
- 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 (4-ounce) salmon fillets
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place tomato, onion, garlic, jalapeno, vinegar, chili powder, cumin, and salt to taste in a food processor; process until finely chopped and uniform. Place salmon in a medium roasting pan; spoon the salsa on top. Roast until the salmon is just cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. Serves two.
What to Consider Before Starting a Pegan Diet
Before you go completely pegan, talk to your health care provider to make sure the diet is a good fit for you. Most people will benefit from this way of eating since it focuses on whole, natural foods. However, we have five food groups for a reason—to get a wide variety of vitamins, nutrients and minerals.
“Slashing dairy can deprive the body of calcium and vitamin D (nutrients that keep bones strong and help fight fatigue, brain fog and depression, so you may need to take a calcium supplement or D vitamin,” says Aguirre. Plus, beans are packed with heart-healthy fiber. “Removing legumes and not eating enough meat can limit muscle-building protein and energizing iron in your diet, which can really devastate workouts.”
If you find the pegan diet hard to sustain, choose the elements of it that work best for you. There are many healthy components of the diet that people can benefit from, even if they don’t follow the plan to a T.