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Sep 23, 2012 05:52 PM

Can you be a Vegan or Vegetarian without using Soy products?

I am one of those people who can't have soy of any type. I have been told by people who have been vegetarians or vegans for years that without soy products the diet is not possible. Is this true? I still have meat occasionally but have lately been eating more vegetables than meat.

Thanks for any suggestions or advice you all can give me.

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  1. Sure you can. Look at Indian cuisine, primarily vegetarian without any soy products used in their cooking at all. Soy as a protein substitute can easily be replaced with various lentils, beans, and paneer (cottage cheese) as Indians do.

    I think a lot of people on vegetarian diets who consume large amounts of soy products are often eating products simulated to taste like meat. But to me that seems counterproductive. Processed fake meat in lieu of fresh vegetables and fruits totally misses the point of a vegetarian diet.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chi_Guy

      I totally agree with you Chi_Guy. I forgot about Indian cuisine. One problem with Indian food is it tends to be spicy and the milder foods like tikki-masla chicken have meat in them.

      I don't get why restaurants seem to think if your vegetarian you must want lots and lots of spice. I can't handle foods with any spicy hotness at all. In fact I haven't found anyone who prefers blander food in quite a while, and no before you ask I'm not one million years old. :)

      1. re: Bottomless_Pit

        I cook Indian food all the time, I prefer Southern, Northern is usually quite mild and frankly you can make any dish mild. Here is a vegan tikka masala recipe (for no soy use seitan, Beyond Meat or non soy tempeh or quorn)
        In the recipe the spice comes from the black pepper and red pepper, just cut back or omit. No problem:)

    2. It's totally possible to avoid soy and be vegan or vegetarian. Where soy milk is called for, use nut or grain milk. Where you would use tofu as a solid protein such as in a stir fry or sandwich, use seitan (grain-based vegetarian protein) instead.

      If you do some digging around on vegan or vegetarian blogs and forums, you'll see that lots of people avoid soy for a variety of reasons and it's totally do-able. Good luck!

      1. Vegetarian, I think would be easy. Vegan is possible, but it will definitely make your life a bit more difficult in some cases, especially if you eat outside the house a lot, because vegan options at a lot of places will very often contain something soy-based. Obviously, in addition to tofu, and various soy-based meat analogs, you also won't be able to eat soy-derived seasonings. Do very small amounts of soy (say, soy lecithin as an emulsifier) cause problems for you?

        I think it's do-able if you can eat other legumes. Just focus on vegetable-centric cooking. Since you're already eating less and less meat, why not try to cut down your animal product consumption slowly and see how you're feeling?

        1 Reply
        1. re: will47

          Happy to be part of this forum. I'm excited to know more!

        2. I don't see why that is a "requirement" of being a vegetarian or vegan ... it's not like there is a test and you need to carry a license..... unless I'm missing something????

          My bf is a vegetarian, but until we met, he called himself a "carb-a-tarian" because he ate lots of cereal, bread, pasta. (A 30 year old who could eat cereal and PB&J for every meal!) Until I came along, and then he started eating a wider variety of veggies, fruits, and alternative protein sources. Technically, he's a pescetarian, because he eats seafood. I have dramatically reduced how much meat I eat since we've been together, and I'm not a huge fan of seafood, so I might have one meal a week with meat. I've discovered a term "flexatarian" ... Google it. It sounds like it describes you too. There's lots of reasons people give up meat whether 100% or not, and also varying degrees of consuming animal products (dairy, eggs).

          I think the best thing to do is to ensure you have a balanced diet (if your insurance or health plan covers services of a dietician, use it!) and to not push your own beliefs down other people's throats. We're all free to make our own choices, and no need for labels, right?

          5 Replies
          1. re: j_camp

            I don't think the OP was asking for permission to adopt the label of vegan or vegetarian, and didn't use the word "requirement." I read the question as "can I meet my nutritional needs as a vegan or vegetarian who doesn't eat soy."

            I think generally the answer is yes if it's just a matter of avoiding tofu, soy milk and the like. But will47 raises a very good point regarding how diligent you will need to be if very small amounts bother you. And depending on where you live, your options may be more limited when eating out.

            You might find the book "Becoming Vegan" helpful ( -- it is PACKED with nutritional info, and will provide a good guide (or starting point) for ensuring you're getting enough protein and/or whatever else you're concerned about nutritionally by giving up soy.

            1. re: herring

              I second the Becoming Vegan rec. It's a good one.

              1. re: herring

                I appreciate herring's observation. I am researching MarianneB88's same question due to a serious health issue that forbids me from eating soy products. Thanks for the link, too.

                  1. re: Ernesta

                    My family eats a plant-based diet with little in the way of soy. Definitely doable. Legumes, grains, veggies, fruit, nuts and seeds are more than enough!

              2. We're vegans who eat soy very infrequently. Consider how many vegetables, grains, and nuts are available and you won't have any trouble at all. Enjoy!