Bad Vegan Diets

NB/ 'Bad' in this instance refers to the nutritional quality of the diet, which is why I wrote 'bad vegan diets', instead of 'bad vegan people'. In my opinion, there are no bad vegan people. You've devoted your life as a consumer to saving countless animals from awful lives, and for that, I salute you. You advocate for animals every single day of your life by making a conscious choice to not consume them or their products, so continue with your fantastic work, you magnificent human.

There are many reasons for being vegan, and health might not have even crossed your mind, but in my opinion, a whole food vegan diet is the healthiest diet you could follow, and if you could do so just by making a few adjustments to your current diet, why would you deny yourself optimal health and wellbeing?

Bad vegan diets:

1. Include a LOT of packaged crap. There's just as much available now for vegans as there is for regular-vores (except that we pay double the price for it). Yes, it's great to have the variety and freedom to eat these foods that we used to love, but nutritionally, they shouldn't be a regular feature in your diet.  'Package crap' (a technical nutrition term, obviously) refers to chocolate, crisps, biscuits, cakes, cheeses, oil spreads (margarines don't exist in Australia), fake meats etc. Basically, if it's in a package, and it has a long list of ingredients, it's probably crap. Case closed. 

2. Include way too many vegan treats packed with fat and sugar. Yes, it's great that we have vegan cupcakes/donuts/brownies, but it doesn't mean you have to eat them whenever you see them. 

3. Rely on mock or fake meats for protein. These are typically made from isolated soy protein, which means you get a lot more protein than you would consuming whole soy products (which isn't necessarily a good thing), and less (or none) of the beneficial components of soy. These products can be useful for people transitioning to a vegan diet, but I definitely don't recommend them on an ongoing basis. Get your protein from whole soy foods (tofu and tempeh) and legumes instead. Legumes and lentils are some of the healthiest foods on the planet, providing protein, low GI carbohydrates, dietary fibre, iron, zinc and plenty of antioxidants. 

4. Don't contain enough fruit and vegetables. Two out of your three meals each day should contain vegetables (at least a cup), and you should be having at least one piece of fresh fruit (and not juice) each day.

5. Make fried foods a food group. Frying is not a healthy way to cook, so steam/grill/bake things you would usually fry (e.g. felafels, potato chips).

6. Are low in plant-based omega-3s (known as alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA), found in flax seed oil, ground flaxseed, hemp seeds, chia seeds and walnuts. Good sources of ALA need to be consumed daily, not just every now and again. 

7. Pay no attention to nutrients which can fall short in vegan diets, including calcium, iron and zinc. I'll talk about this is more detail in another post soon.

8. Contain saturated fats from coconut oil. Aside from coconut milk/cream/oil and chocolate, there are no significant sources of saturated fats in whole food vegan diets, which confers serious nutritional leverage above and beyond typical omnivorous diets containing dairy products and meat. In my opinion, there's no place for coconut oil in the diet at all. If you're using it to fry at high temperatures, see point number 5, and in any case, rice bran oil has a similar smoke point (which is the temperature at which an oil begins to degrade). 

So what do I recommend? 

Step 1. Wind the clock back 40 years or so to a time when there was no packaged crap available. Time travel not possible? Please proceed to Step 2. 

Step 2. Cut the junk out of your diet and get back to basics.  So what's for dinner you may ask? A fake chicken schnitzel covered with batter and a serve of fries? Sorry comrade. You're having chickpea curry, brown rice and vegetables. Enjoy.