Can a Vegan Diet Ever Be Unhealthy?
Many people, including other vegans, mistakenly assume that all vegans have such a superhero level of healthy eating that they should all be wearing red capes. Absolutely not true. Ever heard of a small little thing called a junk food vegan? Think of your typical American omni diet—but with vegan food. For myself, I know that I can eat a whole bag of chips in just one sitting!
To be clear, veganism is a perfectly healthy and balanced diet. When followed properly, vegan diets are also shown to be far healthier than the average omni diet which tends to be high in processed foods, saturated fats, and oil, and also lacking in necessary vitamins and minerals.
The simple answer is that a vegan diet can be all these things too. Here are the most common ways in which plant-based diets can be less healthy:
- High in junk food and processed meat/ dairy alternatives.
- High in white/ simple carbohydrates (potatoes, breads, rice, pasta).
- Low in fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Low in essential alternatives for B12 and omega.
What changes can you make to your diet so it’s more balanced and nutritious?
Junk and Processed Foods
Honestly, I wish there were vegan junk foods as readily available as the omni versions! But many of us do fall into the habit of getting take out far too often, and this can lead to weight gain, fatigue, mood swings, diabetes, and other issues. The good news is that you don’t have to completely eliminate these foods from your diet (though that would be a great thing to do!)
Cut down on these types of foods and find healthy ways to make homemade alternatives of your favorites. For example, you can ditch the processed soy burger and fries and make your own lentil or bean burger. You also get to cut costs this way. What could be better?
I am guilty of this one! I love my bread and pasta, and especially my potatoes. Don’t buy into the myth that carbs are all seriously unhealthy. Complex carbohydrates—your brown/whole-wheat varieties—can be very good for you. Carbohydrates also help fuel your body, giving you much-needed energy. To ensure your carbs are still part of a healthy vegan diet, choose complex carbohydrates and watch your portions.
Fruit and Vegetables
You need to be eating the full rainbow of fruits and vegetables whether you are vegan or omni. Most of your essential vitamins and minerals can be obtained solely from fruit and vegetables, and you know it! However, if you find it difficult to get your daily intake, shake things up and get creative.
You can experiment by getting all your plant-powered needs by mixing fruit and vegetables into smoothies, pasta sauces, and curries, or making veggie burgers and pies from different fresh ingredients.
Remember to get your B12 from fortified products like cereals and plant-based milks, and alternatives such as nutritional yeast. Also include algae like seaweed, and the appropriate nuts and seeds, to get all your omegas.
To me, food is all encompassing. It should be cruelty-free, nutritious, fun, and delicious. Definitely look into ways that you can get creative with all your favorite foods so that you stay on top of your vegan-powered game.