Is a vegan diet healthy? It depends. If you clicked on this article, our assumption is that you’re either already a vegan or are considering making the switch. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place!
While it’s commonly assumed that vegans are super healthy, the reality is that you can be a vegan and still have poor eating habits. We’re going to go over how to be a healthy, sustainable vegan and ensure you’re maintaining a well-rounded diet!
On the off chance that you have no idea what a vegan is, let us break it down for you – a vegan is a person who does not eat any animal products. This includes meat, fish, dairy, eggs, etc. Some people choose to only adopt a vegan diet, while others apply it to other aspects of their life. For example, many vegans avoid purchasing anything made with animal products, such as fur or leather.
There are a lot of myths surrounding veganism. Let’s get into some of the common misconceptions about a vegan diet:
1. Being vegan is expensive
While grocery items like fresh produce or non-dairy alternatives, like almond milk, tend to be a little pricier, a vegan diet is no more expensive than a meat-eater diet. Have you seen how expensive a good steak is?!
At the end of the day, it’s easy to rack up a crazy expensive grocery bill, regardless of your diet. The best thing that you can do is plan out your grocery list ahead of time and commit to a budget when you shop.
2. Vegans are nutrient deficient
Without meat, fish, dairy and eggs, people who follow a vegan diet risk being deficient in calcium, vitamin D, iron, vitamin B12, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. However, there are plenty of plant-based options that have an abundance of these essential nutrients.
Dark, leafy greens like spinach, as well as beans, lentils and tofu, are all great sources of iron. Kale, mushrooms, almonds, soy milk and oranges are good alternatives for calcium and vitamin D. If you’re not loving these food options, there are also plenty of supplements out there that can give you the daily dose of essential vitamins and minerals that you need (but, please eat your greens).
3. Being vegan is super healthy
As we mentioned, while a lot of people seem to think that vegans sit around eating like a bunny rabbit all day, they’re wrong. It is so easy to fall into unhealthy habits as a vegan.
You could be consuming tons of refined grains like white rice and bread, as well as sugary juices and sodas, chips and crackers, and still be vegan. Even some types of store-bought cookies are vegan, which can make it hard to stay on the straight and narrow.
The other issue is “replacement” foods, like faux chicken nuggets. Fake meat tends to be loaded with artificial ingredients and preservatives, and can be nearly void of any nutritional value. Overall, it’s important to remember that vegan doesn’t automatically mean healthy.
If you’re feeling discouraged, fear not. While there are unhealthy pitfalls in a vegan diet, there also are lots of ways to stay healthy and sustainable. Here’s how:
1. Eat tons of whole foods
This means eating foods in their most natural state. Try to avoid foods that have been refined or processed. This means avoiding foods that have ingredients you can’t pronounce or opting for fresh produce over frozen.
A great example of a whole food is brown rice, with its refined counterpart being white rice. White rice has been milled to remove the bran and the germ, meaning all the nutrients that we need have been removed. Choosing brown rice and other whole foods over their processed counterparts will help you maintain a more well-balanced diet.
2. Eat! Your! Greens!
Seriously, we can’t stress this enough. Dark, leafy greens are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and even protein. For someone who’s not eating meat, this is essential for getting the nutrients you need.
3. Be prepared and do your research
Whether it’s a trip to the grocery store or dinner at your favorite spot, it’s important to prepare yourself. Make a grocery list or look at a restaurant’s menu online before your meal. This can help you make healthier choices without breaking the bank!
It’s also important to ask questions. There are lots of sneaky things that you may think are vegan, but they’re not. For instance, you might get a salad packed with veggies without realizing the salad dressing contains dairy. Never be afraid to ask your server questions, read labels and be mindful of the choices you make when it comes to your food and drink.
Being vegan doesn’t mean depriving yourself, but it also doesn’t automatically equal health. It’s important to make sure you’re finding the best foods to supplement a healthy, well balanced diet. Feel free to enjoy those Oreos, but once again, eat your greens!