Vegan diets Q&A


25 Mar 2024

Couple chopping vegetables at the kitchen worktop

Did you know that a recent YouGov survey has found that 9% of British adults have participated in Veganuary since 2014 – that equates to around 6 million people.

If you’re thinking of making the switch to a plant-based diet this year, you might be wondering how you can get enough protein, calcium and vitamin D – all essential for good bone health. We caught up with Andrea Rymer, a Registered Dietitian at The Vegan Society, to discover how you can maintain a bone-friendly diet, minus the animal products.

How can I get enough protein on a vegan diet?

Good quality proteins contain a good amino acid profile, and examples of vegan sources include:  

  • Beans
  • Lentil
  • Peas
  • Soya
  • Peanuts
  • Cashew nuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Ground linseed
  • Hemp seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds

Carbohydrates such as wild rice, buckwheat and quinoa also provide useful amounts of protein. The key is to eat a balanced diet containing good quality protein sources throughout the day. Meat alternatives based on soya or pea protein as well as vegan Quorn products, make dense protein options and can support people with higher protein needs such as older adults and athletes. Be mindful that some processed meat alternatives can be higher in salt and saturated fat, and checking food labels can help you make healthier choices.

What are the best sources of calcium for vegans?

It’s easy to hit your calcium target without dairy if you choose the right alternatives and aim to include at least two rich sources of calcium every day.

You could try:

  • Calcium-fortified plant milk (this contains the same amount of calcium as cows’ milk)
  • Calcium-fortified yoghurt alternatives
  • Calcium-set tofu
  • Calcium-fortified ready oat cereal
  • Soya and linseed bread fortified with extra calcium

Other foods that provide smaller but useful amounts of calcium include okra, canned haricot beans, kale, and watercress.

Which vegan foods will give me enough Vitamin D?

Vegan sources of vitamin D come from fortified foods, including some margarines, breakfast cereals, dairy-free yoghurt, and milk alternatives.

However, sunlight is our primary source of vitamin D, and it’s difficult for anyone to meet their daily vitamin D needs from food.

Therefore, it is important that everyone in the UK follows guidelines about vitamin D, which helps to control the amount of calcium in our bodies. The recommendation is to consider supplementation throughout the darker months in autumn and winter.

How can I make a smooth transition to this type of diet?

A smooth transition to a vegan diet is all about making smart swaps. For example, if you switch from dairy to fortified plant milk and soya yoghurt, you won’t be missing calcium. Beans, lentils and chickpeas can be used to replace meat in all sorts of dishes, from curries to casseroles.

When you stop eating oily fish, you can ensure that your daily diet includes a rich source of omega-3 fat by eating walnuts, chia seeds or flaxseed.

Increasing your intake of plant-based foods step by step gives you time to get used to the practicalities of a vegan lifestyle, and it also allows your body to adjust to the likely increase in beneficial fibre; drinking plenty of fluid will help. You could try eating vegan breakfasts for a week, then add vegan lunches in the second week, and so on.

Find out more

We discussed plant-based diets, fasting, vitamins and much more in our recent Bone Matters session on Nutrition. Watch the video now. Or check out our Food facts fact sheet, which includes Public Health England’s handy Eatwell Guide.

More information about vegan nutrition is available at

Help our specialist nurses continue to support those in need