Just because it’s vegan, doesn’t mean it’s healthy – This is a lesson many of us learn as we’re trudging our way to a happier, healthier, skinnier self. People often exclaim, “We have given up meat, eggs, milk, cheese, and even gelatin. Why aren’t we losing any weight or feeling any better?” Well, to see (and feel) the benefits of a plant-based diet, we need to rid our pantries of junk foods, whether they contain animal products or not. Just what do I mean by junk food? My definition of junk foods is simple: foods that are highly processed, containing high amounts of salt, sugar, fat, and calories. These foods also lack the vital nutrients for maintaining a healthy body.
If you have recently made your way into the vegan realm of living, you are likely to have come across meat alternatives. You will also have come across snack foods which mimic healthy snacks. Let’s look deeper into some of these foods to see exactly what they contain. Often, you can tell by the ingredients list or the nutrition label, whether a food is healthy or not.
Gotta be harmless, right? Looking closely at the package will show you that one link of this mock Italian sausage contains the salt of two strips of bacon. In fact, two strips of bacon have fewer calories. If you glance over at the ingredients list, you’ll see how many ingredients go into one of these seasoned links. Remember – the more ingredients, the more processed.
|Tofurky Sausage Ingredients|
A better alternative might be to use tofu as your meat substitute. Tofu is great steamed, baked, or (if you must) fried. Add your own seasonings and spices, and you’ll never miss meat again.
Vegan Boca Burgers
These burger substitutes taste great, but are they healthy? Eyeing the nutrition label, I immediately noticed the sodium content; 470 mg in one patty! That’s the equivalent of two slices of hard pork or dried salami.
|1 Boca Burger Patty 2 Slices Salami or Pork|
Once again, I would look to an alternative such as tempeh or firm tofu. Tempeh is a highly nutritious fermented food traditionally made from soybeans and its high protein content makes it a wonderful substitute for meat. As you can tell from the chart below, tempeh provides protein along with many other nutrients.
Kale Chips (Zesty Nacho) by Rhythm Superfoods
Before I go into this one, let me explain that kale is a superfood. It is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.
So, why does baking them make them unhealthy? Perhaps, it’s all of the salt and oil that goes into baking the chips and keeping them fresh. Below you will see the nutrition of Kale Chips along- side Lays Potato Chips. In some regards, the Lays Potato Chips appear to be a healthier snack.
|Lay’s Potato Chips|
A healthier alternative would be to make your own kale chips. Baking your own kale gives you the freedom to use as much, or as little, oil as you would like. You can control the salt content as well.
Tried making your own kale chips before and they were bland? Spice things up by adding cumin, cayenne, and paprika to your recipe.
Obviously, these little treats weren’t designed to be healthy snacks. But, just how unhealthy are they? For starters, they are highly processed and contain corn syrup solids, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and three different hydrogenated oils. One serving of these buttery delights has 250 calories and 10 grams of fat; 3 grams of that fat, being saturated.
See below why foodfacts.com gave them an F.
|Nutter Butter Nutrition|
I would suggest steering clear of these and look at making your own little treats with “real” peanut butter. When looking for a peanut butter in the store, be sure to check the ingredients. There should only be one ingredient: Peanuts.
I prefer Crazy Richard’s Peanut Butter. Crazy Richard’s Natural Peanut Butter is made with no salt, sugar, hydrogenated oils or trans fats. They’re only ingredient is 100% USA peanuts. They’re completely nuts!
As you have seen, not all vegan foods are created equal. Just because we don’t eat animals or their bi-products, doesn’t mean that we will feel great and lose those extra pounds. To truly get the most out of our animal-loving lifestyle, we should be incorporating unprocessed, whole foods into our diet. Most of the foods I eat don’t have nutritional labels. This is because they are whole foods such as kale, oranges, apples, broccoli, spinach, potatoes, etc. I still do buy some packaged foods, but I’m always careful to read the ingredients. If I find an ingredient that’s unfamiliar, I don’t buy it. It’s just that simple. If you are new, check out these foods that should be on your grocery list.
Do you eat vegan junk foods? What are some other foods that would make it on this list?