What Is the Pegan Diet? It’s Not as Simple as Paleo + Vegan
- The pegan diet combines some principles of the paleo diet and veganism and prescribes a plant-based eating style.
- Followers eat vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, and eggs and avoid dairy, grains, legumes, sugar, and processed foods.
- Its restrictiveness can make the pegan diet hard to follow in the long run.
Combine paleo with vegan and what do you get? A trendy eating plan dubbed the pegan diet (not pagan, mind you — that’s something else). Dr. Mark Hyman first coined the term on his blog in 2014, but the philosophy has only since picked up steam. Pinterest revealed that interest in the pegan diet jumped 337% in the past year, with searches continuing to climb.
If simultaneously eating like a caveman and cutting out all animal products sounds tough, you’re right. While the pegan diet does allow some meat, fish, and eggs, it still limits whole grains, dairy, and legumes.
“The general parameters are basically taking the topline of two competing diet ideologies and combining the names to make for a great wedding hashtag,” says Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. “But in reality, most of these restrictions are unnecessary and frankly, quite costly and time-consuming.”
Here’s how it actually works:
What is the pegan diet?
Like the name suggests, the pegan diet borrows principles from both the paleo diet and veganism. In short, paleo eaters try to consume only foods available in the Paleolithic era 2.6 million years ago: vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish, and meat. It usually excludes dairy, grains, sugar, legumes, oils, salt, alcohol, and coffee. Veganism prescribes refraining from any animal products and byproducts — including meat, fish, eggs, cheese, yogurt, and honey — and eating plant-based foods instead.
While the two styles contradict each other in some ways, the main tenant that peganism borrows from both is a focus on real, whole foods. The idea is to eat more vegetables and plants and cut back on the processed stuff — core ideas shared by other healthy eating plans.
What do you eat on the pegan diet?
With pegan, it’s all about the plants. Dr. Hyman suggests making vegetables and fruits about 75% of your diet and your plate. You can still eat meat, but think of it as a topping or side dish instead of a main course.
Foods to Eat:
Foods to Avoid:
What are the benefits?
“I like the concept behind flipping the ratio of real, whole, plant-based foods with meat because it supports inclusivity over exclusivity,” London says. “It’s the real-life application of making your plate more veggie-based and adding meat in smaller portions.”
Doubling down on veggies and fruit can help you lose weight because produce contains more filling fiber and less calories than other foods that generally populate our plates.
What are the downsides?
While the pegan diet has more wiggle room than the paleo diet and veganism, following all of those rules can be a needlessly tough way to lose weight.
Plenty of research indicates that both fiber- and nutrient-packed whole grains and legumes can absolutely be a part of a healthful diet. Plus they’re still plant-based — many vegans rely on antioxidant-filled beans as an important protein source.
And if you enjoy eating milk, cheese, yogurt, and, yep, dessert, there’s room for that too. “A life without sugar is no life at all and pointless, because attempting to restrict something your body may want to have will inevitably backfire,” London says.
Should I try it?
“The general, real-life design of the pegan diet is okay at best,” London says. “There are a lot of claims surrounding what makes specific attributes of specific diets so ‘life-changing’ these days, but in large part we’re buying into marketing instead of general tenants of health and wellbeing.”
Her advice: Eat more veggies, more fruit, more plant-based protein in the form of pulses (chickpeas, beans, peas, lentils) and nuts, plus unsweetened dairy and plant-based oils. Make the conscious choice to indulge in dessert, donuts, and fries when it works for you rather than assigning arbitrary value to foods and labeling them as “good” or “bad.”