Veganism eliminates all animal foods and by-products including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and even honey, thus removing a significant amount of cholesterol and saturated fat from their diet, which promotes heart health.
While there has been an abundance of research done to support the healthfulness of a vegan lifestyle, removing all animal foods from your diet can pose some nutritional challenges.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Though most animal foods do contain cholesterol and unhealthy fats, they also provide you with essential nutrients such as protein, iron, vitamin B12, calcium, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, which aren’t as abundant in plant based foods.
With veganism growing in popularity especially in the celebrity world, many people perceive the word “vegan” to automatically mean healthy, and you best believe that food manufacturers are capitalizing on this innocent misconception.
Over the years, vegan food products have spread across the supermarket shelves like wildfire, and though some might be healthy, the majority of vegan food products sold in stores are just processed foods in disguise.
If you are thinking about going vegan, it is important to understand that just because a food is not made with animal products, does not mean it is healthy or not made with other unhealthy ingredients. So what are these foods and how can you spot them?
Here is a list of the most common vegan foods that should NOT be included as a part of a healthy vegan lifestyle:
1. Vegan Baked Goods:
Baked foods such as cookies, cakes and muffins are considered “vegan” if they are not made with eggs, milk or butter, typical ingredients in baked goods.
However, these ingredients need to be substituted for in order to get a good tasting product.
Thus, vegan desserts often contain a lot of sugar, vegetable oil and heavy coconut cream. Remember, just because you are eating a food not made with animal products, does not mean it is not highly processed and high in calories, fat and sugar.
A vegan dessert is not necessarily any healthier than a non-vegan dessert.
2. Processed Soy Meats:
Meat substitute products like soy hot dogs, soy burgers and soy deli meats are highly processed and high in sodium, additives and preservatives.
The best way to get your protein is to incorporate whole foods like beans, legumes, edamame, nuts and seeds. Choose whole blocks of firm tofu or tempeh to substitute for meat in stir fries, pasta dishes and atop salads.
3. Pre-Packaged Veggie Burgers:
You might be thinking, what can possibly be unhealthy about a burger made out of vegetables?
There is no doubt that a veggie burger made at home from rice, beans and vegetables is a healthy meal option, but what you have to watch out for are premade veggie burgers that are either packaged and frozen or offered on a restaurant menu.
Veggie burgers may contain fewer calories and fat than their meat counterparts, but they are often highly processed, containing chemicals, additives, GMOs and unhealthy oils.
Choose veggie burgers that are preservative-free or better yet, make them at home.
4. Vegan Frozen Desserts:
Vegan ice cream and frozen treats often use coconut milk, coconut water, almond milk or soy milk as an alternative to milk. Sorbets and fruit based desserts are also classified as vegan.
Though the calories might be lower in these products, the real culprit ingredient among all frozen desserts are the sugar and fat, which typically isn’t much lower among non-dairy ice cream products than their dairy counterparts.
If you’re going to have a frozen dessert, whether vegan or not, embrace it as a “treat” for yourself and watch your portion size.
As a vegan, you should be cautious about making naturally vegan foods like potato chips, crackers, dressings, candy and sugary cereals a staple in your diet as these foods lack nutrition.
If you are currently following a vegan diet or are thinking about adopting one, knowledge is power! Avoiding animal products does not necessarily mean you’re getting high quality nutrition.
Educate yourself on which foods offer adequate protein, which vitamins you will need to supplement with, and which nutrients you can find in other food sources.