If you ask a vegan why they adopted a plant-based lifestyle, you’re sure to get a bevy of varying responses.
Some people do so for health reasons, which is logical since a whole foods, plant-based diet has been shown in numerous studies to reduce our risk of virtually all chronic health problems.
Others choose this way of life to reduce negative impacts on the environment, understanding that eating meat is vastly unsustainable from a global standpoint, and that factory farming creates more greenhouse gases than all cars, trucks and planes combined, according to the United Nations. Perhaps the majority of vegans are influenced by a concern for animal welfare. And of course, some of us choose this lifestyle path for all of these reasons.
Does that mean a vegan diet is healthy?
Not necessarily. While vegans benefit merely by cutting out highly inflammatory meat and dairy—and all the associated saturated fat and cholesterol—what’s used to replace these items have great impact nutritionally.
As it happens, many foods that qualify as vegan are anything but healthy. Think Oreos, french fries, jelly beans, white bread, Pop Tarts, Fritos, Ritz Crackers, Better Crocker bacon bites, a majority of sugary cereals and so much more.
Additionally, many products that cater to vegans in today’s exploding market are highly processed and—if not organic or Non-GMO Project verified—often contain GMO-laced soy, corn and wheat, not to mention other dubious additives.
Soo… what kind of vegan are you?
Do you tend to grab processed, packaged and prepared items, or do you seek out nourishing plant-based staples such as fresh fruits and veggies, beans and legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, healthy fats and fermented items?
If you are not following the vegan diet you originally aspired to, there is no time like the present to shift to a larger percentage of fresh, whole foods. You can still stand for the cause, and you’ll also look and feel better, have more energy and save money too! Here are some healthy swaps you can start making now.
- Homemade stir-fry or brown rice/veggie medley instead of Chinese take-out, which is often made with cheap oils, corn starch and MSG
- Tostada with lettuce, beans, salsa and avocado over fast food tacos
- Baked yam slices as opposed to French fries
- Grilled Portobello or homemade bean burger instead of commercial soy-based burger (especially non-organic brands)
- Banana-based “soft-serve” or fruit sorbet rather than sugar-laden, vegan frozen desserts
- Zoodles or quinoa noodles as opposed to white flour pasta
- Crock pot stew, soup or chili instead of packaged, frozen vegan entrées
- Kale and beet chips over Fritos or potato chips. If you do buy corn chips, choose organic or Non-GMO Project Verified
- Nut/seed crackers over Saltines or refined, commercial wheat crackers
- Protein shakes or green smoothies over sweetened oatmeal packets or frozen waffles
- This luscious homemade chocolate pudding as opposed to any shelf-stable packaged version
- Zoodles in miso broth instead of Top Ramen
- Oatmeal made from whole oats and dried fruit like goji berries instead of processed/sugary cereals
- Tofu/veggie scramble with smoked paprika instead of fake sausage or bacon
- Freshly prepared nut-based yogurt over commercial vegan brands which often contain fillers, refined sugar, etc. Enjoy with organic berries and cinnamon!
- Fresh pressed fruit and/or veggie juice over all shelf-stable/processed juice products
- Raw, organic chocolate chips and bars instead of mass-market candy, which contains GMOs, sugar and numerous other additives, and may not source cocoa in a sustainable, responsible, slavery-free manner
As you can see, healthy swaps are easy once you embrace the mindset. And, even if you spend a bit more time preparing whole foods, you’ll invariably save money as well and feel better on many levels. As you honor yourself by taking the time to chop, slice, bake, dehydrate, press or squeeze, the mantra that will resonate in your heart and mind will be “I’m worth it!”