The Pegan Diet Dr. Mark Hyman and I Live By: Are You a Paleo-Vegan?


As a health coach, it is my job to help guide my clients to find the best way of eating for them. A common response is, “Well, what works for you? How do you eat?” I struggle with this because I don’t want them to be subliminally influenced by my choices, but also because it never quite had a label. I have created some sort of hybrid diet that my body happens to thrive on. Lots of vegetables, nuts/seeds, good fats, some fruits, no dairy, minimal grains if possible, and mindfully sourced protein from both animals and plants.

It’s not quite paleo, and it’s not quite vegan. I had been calling it Plant-Based Paleo…but only in my own head.

Imagine my surprise when holistic physician and public health figure Dr. Mark Hyman — a regular columnist for the Huffington Post and contributor to the Katie Couric Show — posts an article to his website saying that he is Pegan a kind of hybridized version of paleo and vegan. Ha! I now feel strangely validated.

This is a strange combination, no doubt. Vegan diets have proven to help manage cholesterol, diabetes, weight loss. Paleo diets seem to do the same thing. Yet one says eat only plant-based foods, no meat or animal products. The other says to go crazy on meat, but watch dairy and grains. After reading dozens of studies on vegan and paleo diets, even I could get confused.

But I focus on this: Both schools of thought believe in low glycemic load (minimal sugar and other refined carbs), high fruits and veggies, low chemicals and preservatives, lots of good quality fats, enough protein, and ideally organic and local.

I have tried to be 100% vegan and vegetarian, and my body does not feel good that way. I have some clients who do great with this format! I am just not one of them…and you may not be either. I need some animal protein to function best. But I can’t be 100% paleo, because that much red meat or animal protein in general is hard on my system. I need a balance.

My balance, and that of Dr. Hyman, is Pegan.

Basically his/my idea is this: Focus on the glycemic load. 

This can be done on any diet. Focus on protein and fats, and minimize sugar and refined carbohydrates to keep blood sugar stable and energy high.

Eat the right fats. 

Stay away from most vegetable oils like canola, corn, soybean, etc. Focus on omega-3 fats, nuts, coconut, avocados, and yes, sometimes saturated fat from grass-fed organic meat.

Eat mostly plants. 

The greener the better. This should be 75% of your diet, and most of each plate at every meal. I usually make two vegetable dishes per meal, like this arugula fennel salad with chickpea fritters or these kale stuffed sweet potatoes.

Avoid dairy. 

My take is that it’s for growing calves into cows, not for human consumption. Plenty of alternatives exist if you’d like a replacement.

Avoid gluten, limit gluten-free grains. 

Whether you believe this fad, have a gluten sensitivity, or not, we’d all feel better if we depended less on bread products and focused instead on complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, nuts, and leafy greens.

Eat animal products on the side. 

Do not make meat the main course! Vegetables, lentils, and good fats should be the main attraction, then serve organic, mindfully-sourced meat products as a side dish. Portion control is the name of the game!

Sugar is an occasional treat. 

Sugar is not something we need to add to coffee, sprinkle over cereal, hide in condiments, and then also enjoy in dessert. I enjoy coconut, local honey, or maple syrup as delicious sweetening options.

Now this seems like a lot of rules to manage, but it is manageable. And remember, I got here after years of experimentation and trial and error. Mostly error. This happens to be what works for me, and what works for Dr. Hyman. Maybe these are the “rules” you end up following, but allow this to let you get excited to explore different ways of eating that appeal to you and create your own hybrid. Ultimately, you must decide what works best for you. Your answer is out there, maybe not in a pretty package or its own book series, so go ahead and create your own word — like Pegan — if you have to.

Also Read: 

The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions

Drew Mannings 4-Month Challenge to Bust the Gluten-Free Hype

Why Paleo and CrossFit Combine for Explosive Weight Loss Results

5 Responses to The Pegan Diet Dr. Mark Hyman and I Live By: Are You a Paleo-Vegan?

CrysDawn (pronounced Chris-Don) says:

I love the “pagan” diet but hate the name in that it will detere allot of Christians from even considering the diet on the grounds it’s part of paganism. I know it’s not but that’s how they will see it maybe you should write your own book calling it the plant based Paleo diet or what ever for those who are offended by the the name being the pagan diet, in your book you can make any changes you see fit in areas you disagree with in the pagan diet since your diet isnt the pagan diet exactly. Personally even when I wasn’t trying to eat healthy when I ate very little veggies and fruits and allot of processed food I only ate about 5 lbs of meat a month and that was ground meat and bacon when I’d allow myself (I tried not to over do bacon do to fat) but very seldom whole meat (steak,chicken , roast ECT). I never felt right eating whole meats and didn’t overly like them. I tried a more or less Paleo diet (I didn’t restrict any dairy and used cheese as a transitional crutch and allowed myself a daily glass of sweet tea something I couldn’t give up) and with in 2 months I developed kidney stones. I believe fully it was all the meat I forced myself to eat as dispite tripling my fruit and veggie intake it was still extremely limited (mash cauliflower, sweet potato fries with ranch, avocado cookies, avocado salsa, onions and mushrooms on meat or in omelets, and spaghetti sauce was the majority of the veggies) making my meal mostly meat (a lot of which was “whole” meat about eight times my usual “whole” meat intake) and cheese. An example “good””dinner is I’d fry cheese until crisp and about like a tortilla, I’d add lots of seasoned ground beef a little spinach leaf (maybe ten leafs )and tomatoes(about ten cubes of diced tomato), a big dollop of sour cream and salsa and call it a taco dinner. I was working hard at finding more ways to eat veggies that I’d tolerate but it was a slow and steady struggle. I had intended to cut the dairy and tea crutch as soon as possible but they were acting as crutches. After the kidney stones I went off the “Paleo” diet as I believe my body doesn’t process meat well particularly “Whole” meat but felt there has to be a way as I agreed with the Paleo concept so went into a time were I ate my old foods with my new Paleo veggies sides and continued to persue new veggies I’d eat. So if I wanted a side of mashed potatoes Id substitute cauliflower mash but otherwise ate normally including grains. During this time I started reading all diets I could find especially low carb diets. 6 Mo later I found the pagan diet and was put off by the tittle but was so desperate for answers looked at it any way and am now about to try again this time the pagan diet. I’ll admit I’ll still be using my dairy and tea crutch but I’m finding way more recipes that I do not feel I need dairy with in the pagan diet recipes and feel very hopeful. So please write a book for others like me who wouldn’t consider the pagan diet do to its name.

Disa says:

It’s Pegan, with an E. Not pagan. As in Paleo meets Vegan.
Just sayin’

Maddie says:

This whole diet is sooooo frustrating he does not understand what VEGAN mean. VEGAN IS NOT A DIET PEOPLE. Its a crulety free lifestyle!!!!! You can’t eat any meat, dairy, honey, or any animal product. Hes simply paleo but chose a dumb ass name to associate with his diet because he eats more veggies than most? Nothing about this is vegan.

Jim says:

No such thing as a cruelty free life style. Sorry. Get informed.

Rita says:

Trying to find portion size for all the different things your supposed to eat. Please help

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