This is a guest post written by Jessica.
Jessica is a clinical dietitian who also has a strong passion for cooking. She has a Master of Science degree in nutrition and food management from The University of Central Oklahoma. She likes to write about all aspects of health and wellness and enjoys staying up to date with industry news.
Are You a Junk Food Vegan?
Veganism has grown quite rapidly over the past few years as more and more people are deciding to ditch the meat and top up on a plant-based diet instead.
However, despite popular belief, not all vegan foods are healthy. And many people find themselves falling into the trap of going from a well-rounded meat-eater to a junk food vegan.
What is a Junk Food Vegan?
Junk food vegans are essentially vegans who regularly eat foods that are highly processed and made in labs. This isn’t going to do anyone’s waistline (or health for that matter) any good. Really, you should aim for a diet that consists of around 85% whole foods.
Transitioning to become a vegan can be tricky with so many offerings of quick and easy vegan snacks around. The problem is that if you look a little closer at what these convenient foods include, you’ll find that most aren’t that good for you at all. Many are simply pumped full of additives and preservatives, containing very little in the way of nutrition, as you’ll see in the next section.
Not All Vegan Foods are Healthy
This is perhaps the biggest myth surrounding veganism – that all vegan foods are considered healthy, as this is definitely not the case. Just because you make the choice to cut animal products from your diet, won’t make you automatically slimmer, and it won’t necessarily improve your health. You still need to work at these things and become a healthy vegan.
Because of the rise in demand for vegan food, there has been a big surge in the different kinds of food available to cater for this market. The problem is that not all of these food manufacturers care about the health aspect of it, and simply the fact that they are able to produce a tasty vegan meal or snack.
To help you separate the truth among the myths, here’s a list of some popular vegan foods that are commonly mistaken for being healthy and why they’re not.
Frozen ‘Meat-Free’ Meats
While some people are vegans from a very young age and simply continue the same eating habits throughout adult life, others make the change at a much older age. One downside to this, is they’ve had many years of consuming meat, and quite often, have come to enjoy the taste. So, it’s only natural that when they take the plunge to go vegan they still crave some of those familiar flavors.
However, many of these ‘meat-free’ frozen meals are actually worse than the meat version, packed full of sodium, preservatives, processed oils, and various artificial ingredients. So if you are thinking of purchasing any of these type meals in the near future, just be sure to double check the label.
This is perhaps one of the most surprising on the list as coconut is known for being a super food and is used in many vegetarian and vegan dishes. The problem is that it’s extremely high in saturated fat and contains hardly any protein.
Another misleading area of vegan foods is that of the dessert section. In some cases, these treats contain more calories than those that are non-vegan.
A lot of times when food manufacturers remove eggs or butter from a recipe they replace it with ingredients such as starches, gums, or pectins.
And while these may give the food a nice texture, the extra sugar they contain, won’t do your health any favors.
Cut Down on Processed Foods
Whether vegan or not, eating a high amount of processed foods is really bad for you. Therefore, try and minimize the amount of processed foods you consume. It can take a while to change to this mind-set completely, but it is definitely worth it.
Processed foods are essentially any food item that’s been altered from that of its original state. Even simply freezing or drying food in order to preserve it is a form of processing. The amount of processing a food goes through will have an impact on its final nutritional content.
Bagged salads and roasted nuts, for example, are processed foods, but go through very little in the way of processing compared to that of say potato chips. And while they may still have additional ingredients added to them to try and preserve their shelf life, they won’t be anywhere near as unhealthy.
Stick to Eating Whole Foods
When you’re vegan, your food choices may be a little different to those that you’re used to, but that doesn’t mean to say they can’t be tasty. The trick to eating healthily as a vegan is to eat as many whole foods as possible.
The following is a list of some of the best whole foods to eat as a vegan:
● Vegetables: broccoli, carrots, peppers, spinach, kale, tomatoes
● Fruit: bananas, berries, citrus fruits, peaches
● Whole grains: brown rice and pasta, quinoa, rolled oats
● Seeds and nuts: almonds, cashews, pumpkin and sunflower seeds
● Plant-based milk (unsweetened): almond, cashew, or coconut milk
● Beverages: coffee, tea, water
This list is far from exhaustive. It just gives you a place to start when compiling your shopping list. As you make up the rest of it, just take a few moments to think about any healthy alterations you can make along the way. I.E trade the cereal for rolled oats or make your own healthy salad dressing opposed to buying off the shelf.
You may be thinking that you don’t have time to start making everything from scratch, or that it’s going to be more expensive. But if you do it right, you can actually save in both. When making a meal, make it in batches, then you can freeze some to use for another day.
Buying certain foods in bulk will help cut down costs, as will learning to grow some of your favorite veggies. Following a strict (no junk food) vegan diet may not be the easiest thing in the world for everyone to do. But cutting out heavily processed junk foods is going to help keep you strong and healthy, regardless of whether you’re vegan or not.
Which would you prefer: a few minutes of satisfaction eating a calorific cake or extra time with those you love?