Going vegan or adopting a plant-based diet has several benefits for your health, weight, and of course, for the environment. Shifting to a vegan diet removes a major source of saturated fat from the diet and adds more fibers to the diet. So, there is a lower risk for things like heart disease and high cholesterol.
While going vegan, you have to leave many things like dairy and meat behind. In the beginning, it becomes quite hard for new vegans to cut down on their favorite meal, and that’s why many brands have come up with vegan options like vegan burgers, vegan meats, vegan cookies, etc. But is it good to consume all these food items?
The demand for plant-based products is higher than before, and vegan alternatives to dairy, meat and even egg taste much better than before. However, many of these food items are as unhealthy as their original versions are. Many vegan products in the market have highly processed ingredients and excess levels of sodium and sugar. Here is a list of such unhealthy vegan food items you might be consuming and what you can eat instead to curb your plant-based cravings.
Frozen Vegan Meats
Food items like frozen vegan meats are not healthy as they claim they are. More often, these alternatives are high in sodium. Before buying such frozen meats, check the ingredient label, and anything above 400 mg of sodium is a no-no. Apart from the sodium, you should also check for preservatives, artificial ingredients, and processed oils. Food items containing many preservatives are generally low on nutrients that vegans need like vitamin B12, protein, minerals like iron, etc. If you still want, you can buy vegan sausages or Chik’n Nuggets, but moderation is the key.
Oreo And Vegan Cookies
You must have exclaimed out of joy when you found out that Oreos are vegan, but have you wondered what its white filling is? After a little research, you will find out that Oreos are the highest processed foods. You’ll be surprised to know that FDA has banned Nabisco, Oreo’s manufacturer, from calling the filling cream because there’s nothing in it that can be called cream. Other vegan cookies aren’t that bad, but they contain a lot of processed ingredients and sugar. The ingredients in these cookies give pleasure responses to the brain, which is why you keep on eating more and more of them. However, eating them in moderation should not cause much trouble.
Tofu Deli Meats
Deli meat is pretty bad for you. This is why there’s no surprise that vegan deli meats aren’t healthy as well. These meat-free alternatives are high in sodium and sugar. Instead of this, you can go for food items with a more recognizable ingredients list like red pepper, kale, white beans, and chickpeas.
In some cases, vegan desserts could be worse than the traditional cheesecake or chocolate mousse. When the manufacturers can’t use butter and eggs, they often put things like gums, starches, and pectin to get a particular consistency. These ingredients end up increasing the sugar count.
How much do you love your vegan toast with vegan cheese? Very much is the answer, and it’s not a surprise. But are they healthy? Unfortunately, no. Just like vegan meats, vegan cheeses also contain many artificial flavorings and ingredients. Vegan cheeses are also high in fat and calories, which doesn’t make them a healthy option. If you want to buy vegan cheese, make sure you read the ingredient list. The key is to buy cheese with fewer ingredients and consume it in moderation.
Vegan Ice Creams
You are surely going to hate adding it to the list, but it is the truth. That doesn’t mean you should run away the moment you see vegan ice creams but make sure you know these are not very healthy, and you have to consume them in moderation. So here is something about vegan ice cream – they have loads of sugar. You must be thinking, so what if it has sugar? At least I am getting to eat ice cream like everyone else. Eating too much vegan ice cream can add that extra layer of fat to your belly that took you months to shed off. So, don’t say a complete no to vegan ice creams but eat them in moderation.
This creamy milk yogurt alternative can satisfy cravings for vegans, but you must watch portion sizes before consuming them because they are very high in saturated fat. Most brands produce coconut yogurt in large portion sizes, making it more likely to consume more calories without knowing it. If you still want to enjoy yogurt, go for a ½ cup serving, or you can try cashew or almond milk yogurt.
Not all frozen meals are unhealthy, and the same goes for vegan frozen meals. All you have to do is select the right list of ingredients. You can eat meals that contain vegetables, legumes, whole grains, beans, etc. Frozen meals have a bad reputation for their high sodium content. Still, a lot of brands are considering this fact to make products with lower sodium content. Go for meals that have less than 400 grams of sodium. Also, look out for carbs in the product you buy. It’s going to be important for vegans to incorporate plant sources of protein and not just carbs.
It could be disheartening to know, but veggie chips can be equally bad for you as real chips. It’s because these chips are fried and topped with salt. If you want to eat veggie chips, eat kale, beetroot, or carrot chips with no extra seasoning. Want something better? Make your own chips at home in an oven or air fryer with olive oil and a little bit of salt to save tons of sodium, calories, and fat. The same goes for other fried foods, as they also pose a risk for heart disease, high cholesterol, and blood pressure. If you want to eat such foods, consider air frying them for a better alternative.
For vegans who want to stay healthy, following a nutrient-rich diet is essential. Since you won’t be getting any animal protein or nutrients, it becomes more crucial to plan your diet well. Here are some food items that should be part of a healthy vegan diet:
Nut Butter, Seeds, And Nuts
Nuts and seeds are great sources of fibers, iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc, and vitamin E. They also contain a good amount of antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds. You can use nut butter on your regular toast or with vegan pancakes.
Tempeh and tofu are minimally processed meat substitutes made from soybeans. Tofu is created by pressing soybean curds which are the best replacements for meat. You can use tofu in your vegetable stir fry, vegan burger, or you can simply grill it. You can also eat scrambled tofu instead of scrambled eggs.
Vegetables And Fruits
Last but not least, adding fruits and vegetables to your diet is crucial. You can use fruits like mashed bananas in place of eggs in baking recipes. You can also make ice creams with bananas.
The Bottom Line
Turning vegan means letting go of a lot of things you use to love before. While some people find it easier than others, some may even fall for the trap of unhealthy vegan junk food. The best way to make sure is to check the ingredient list before buying anything.