Is it possible to be an unhealthy Vegan or Vegetarian?

As my regular readers know, I’ve begun the process of transitioning my ‘eating preferences’ from vegetarian to something that I would have called vegan a few days ago but I’m now realizing is not vegan.

It’s something else.

There is no convenient label for what I’m trying to do, but I’ve also realized something kind of terrible in the last few days also… it’s possible to be an unhealthy vegetarian or vegan.

That’s blasphemy to many, I’m sure!

But please, before I start getting annoyed comments from the folks that have adopted vegetarian and vegan eating habits, let me explain what I mean. You may even agree with me.

First, let’s start with the basics. If you are vegetarian or vegan, you’re not eating meat and that helps dramatically reduce unhealthy saturated fats from your diet. That’s for sure. It’s an excellent start on a road to better health.

Next, if you are vegan, you are further reducing saturated fats by eliminating both eggs and dairy products. Kudos to vegans who are off both eggs and dairy and consuming much less saturated fat. Yay!

HOWEVER.

What I’ve noticed in many of the vegetarian and vegan recipes online is that there is a new boogie man hanging out and readily made available to veg-peoples: processed “veg” alternative foods.

Would you like some fake veg-meat? Or how about some fake veg-cheese? Sure, you can have that… and along with it, tons of oil, sugar and chemicals to preserve it on the shelf.

Want some fake sour cream? Non-dairy ice cream made out of tofu? Oh yeah, that’s our best seller.

See, the thing is… I don’t want to eat that fake chemically laden, oil enriched, sugar coated stuff.

I don’t want to eat food that will stay on a shelf for a month and not go bad. The food we eat should be alive, and if you don’t eat it, it dies and can’t be eaten if you want to stay healthy.

The food industry is SO damn sneaky. They want to make consumers feel really good about their food choices (while charging them a whole lot more than the “regular” products because it’s “healthier”) and so they provide them with plenty of opportunities to buy stuff that, frankly, I don’t see how it’s better for you over not eating it.

THAT is the key.

If you compare eating MEAT, vs. eating fake processed veg. food on the supermarket shelf, I’m sure the argument would be … HEY, this is HEALTHIER than MEAT!

Okay. So what?

Is it healthier than NOT eating the fake veg thing you have in your hand and eating… I don’t know, a carrot? An apple? A carrot and an apple?

And the answer to that is NO, eating fake veg thing is NOT healthier than eating an apple. (Okay, okay, an organic apple.)

Also, and I’m sorry people, I have to point this out… eating baked goods with dark chocolate, raw sugar, wheat flour and oil is not “health food” either.

Imagine… a vegan nightmare…

Breakfast: eat a bowl of sugar coated shredded wheat, with some sugar laden rice milk for a “healthy” vegan breakfast.

Lunch: I can have a baked potato with fake veg cheese, fake sour cream, and fake bacon bits. (I cannot make this stuff up, I’ve seen the recipes and it looks gross.) As my desert, I’ll have chocolate chip cookies with soy milk.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Now, if I’m not doing that and not eating the way some veg peoples do, what am I doing?

WHAT I AM DOING:

WHAT I AM NOT DOING:

  • I’m avoiding as much processed food as I can, which is freaking HARD TO DO.
  • I’m avoiding using processed oils in my food (yep, even olive oil), although again, this is freaking HARD TO DO.
  • I’m avoiding high fructose corn syrup, and avoiding as much sugar as I can (yes, including things like raw/organic honey. It’s still sugar.)

In case you are wondering what the hell am I eating… here is today’s sample:

Breakfast: oatmeal with slivered almonds and two tablespoons of chia seeds (omega 3’s)

Lunch: Half of the following:

Can of Amy’s Organic Lentil Vegetable Soup (minimal oil) with this other stuff I added:

half can of whole kernel corn (no oil, salt or sugar); half can of diced tomato (no oil, salt or sugar); and half of one sweet potato cut into cubes, and one half cup of cooked Reinzi “i bambini” Fusillini with spinach and zucchini (ingredients: duram wheat semolina and 25% vegetable puree.)

Dinner: Finish soup from lunch. Handful of fresh raspberries. One fresh persimmon.

(Cheat item: Pomegranate Blueberry Mash sparkling water drink with fruit juice concentrates and crystalline fructose… sigh. 40 calories per serving, but that’s just my justification.)

.

I don’t mind telling you…this transition is very freaking hard… so far.

But the fresh raspberries tasted AMAZING tonight, and I think I can expect to start tasting food differently now … if I’m serious about getting off the other stuff I’d been putting in my body.

How about you?

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12 Responses

  1. Spot on! This why I tell people I eat a plant based diet not vegetarian or vegan, im striving for health. Great post

    • Hey, thanks for the comment. 🙂 I just followed your blog too “Fat2plant”.

      I’m just starting on this journey, and I don’t mind telling you … I’m currently going through withdrawal.

      It’s not easy to give up stuff that, while you know it’s bad for you, it has been engineered to hit the pleasure centers in your brain…

      • It’s about the steps and moving towards the smaller attainable goals, rather then a huge monster of a goal that will break your spirit. Do Work and keep posting your journey I want to see you have great success in health!

        • Thanks, I totally agree with you regarding having steps and attainable goals.

          I didn’t start out becoming a vegetarian a year ago without going back and eating chicken from time to time until I realized I not only didn’t need it, I didn’t want it anymore.

          For me, eggs, cheese and yogurt are harder things to give up, but I’m doing alright so far. (I ate a baked potato for lunch while I was on the road for work earlier this week, and I “slipped” and put one pat of butter on it, but forgave myself the slip and moved on.)

          Like you said, it’s a transition process and it takes time to adjust.

          Thanks for your encouragement… believe me, I need it!

  2. Great point– I agree that the term vegan really doesn’t tell you anything about the healthfulness of your diet. It bugs me a bit when people are surprised that I like to chow down. Hey, I don’t eat animal products. Doesn’t mean I don’t like to pig out sometimes!

    That being said, I hate hate hate when vegan recipes just swap fake meat for real meat and claim to be healthy. Please. Those weird soy meats terrify me.

    I do still eat some processed products on occasion, but after being essentially vegan for a couple months I completely stopped craving real and fake animal products. And with time, I’ve learned how to get a lot of the flavors I missed out of whole foods.

    Hang in there–it’ll get easier everyday! And congrats on taking the leap!

    • Thanks so much for sharing your own experiences and of course for the encouragement!

      Your point about “flavors” is well taken. In my “sample meals” example in this post, I write about the soup I made, but I should have also said I added dried basil, and a pinch of chili powder too… you’re so right, you have to be creative in the use of herbs and spices to get exciting flavors packed into the vegetable dishes we’re cooking.

      No one is perfect, and I’m sure I’ll slip up from time to time… but it’s about overall health and overall habits.

      Thanks!!

  3. I mean Oreos are vegan – does that make them healthy? NOPE. Great post!

  4. There’s a tonne of ways to be healthy–there’s no way to make a single rule like “vegan” or “gluten-free” and then never think about what you put in your mouth ever again. I would argue that someone who has free-range, grain-fed meat as part of carefully thought-out, mindful diet is apt to be far healthier than the vegan that just grabs whatever’s handy that doesn’t contain animal products.

    Of course, some (like me) don’t eat animals or certain animals for ethical reasons, but that by itself has no real impact on health AT ALL.

    • Hey Rebecca, I agree with you, there are a lot of ways to be healthy and I especially agree with you about the fact that we do have to think about what we put into our bodies and be balanced about our approach.

      So while I’m getting myself off eggs and dairy, I’m not going to “freak out” if I decide that I want to have some amount of those products. I’ve been able to start my transition, and I’ll continue on and see if it’s sustainable.

      And yes, given all that, even if someone is giving up animal products for ethical reasons it does not guarantee they will be healthier because they could still eat foods that are not healthy. 🙂

      Thanks for the comment!

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