While I think a vegan life is so amazing, I don’t think eating vegan junk food is part of a healthy living equation. Sure, a little junk food, vegan or not, may not kill you, but it isn’t a pathway to health. I advocate vegan food whenever I can because factory farming disgusts me, along with animal abuse. Yet, while I’m all for more vegan food, I’m more focused on getting people to eat whole, clean foods, over vegan foods. There are tons of vegan junk food products out there that are laced with excess vegan sugar forms like agave, maple syrup or coconut syrup. Or, many have GMO soy protein and soy isolates, which aren’t even a real food. Just because it’s vegan, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Let’s start with some of these vegan junk food items that many people think will help them be healthier, but are instead, just another marketing ploy.
1. Vegan Ice Cream
One of the worst vegan junk food items out there is vegan ice cream. There is usually more calories per serving in vegan ice creams than there is in regular ice cream. There are also a lot of hard to digest stabilizers, gums and oils. I do believe that eating plant foods over animal foods is a good idea, but not when it has as much sugar as a candy bar or as much fat as a cheeseburger. Use your common sense and just make your own at home with some frozen bananas or coconut milk and ice.
2. Non-dairy Sweetened Milk
Once again, I think that the idea of using non-dairy milks are a great idea over using animal sources of dairy, but did you know unless you buy unsweetened varieties that you’re eating more sugar than what’s in a candy bar or drive-thru ice cream? Sure, that doesn't mean you should be eating the candy bar or ice cream, but still, that's a lot of sugar for one cup of non-dairy milk! There is usually anywhere from 15-26 grams of sugar in sweetened non-dairy milks. If they have less than that, the sugar content still comes from evaporated cane juice, which is a simple sugar- vegan or not. A 5 gram serving or more of added sugar in one cup of milk is just not healthy. Buy the unsweetened and save your calorie count from all that sugar.
3. Vegan Candy
Hey, I love chocolate as much as the next girl, but don’t buy a box of sugary and high fat candy just because it’s vegan and think it will make you healthy. Those candies are nothing more than a marketing ploy to the vegan culture. They’re also pricey! Eat really dark or raw chocolate if you want a healthy vegan candy, or make your own at home from the tons of recipes on the web that use real food and not sugar as the main source of flavor.
4. Fake Meat
I’m categorizing fake meat as vegan junk food, because most fake meats are made of so many processed, hard to pronounce ingredients, that it’s no better than eating another piece of processed food. Soy isolates, soy proteins, and the many yeast extracts in fake meat are not good for your body. They’re hard to digest, can hurt the healthy flora content in your digestive system that keeps you well, can hamper the thyroid function, and more. Stick to eating more real whole vegan foods instead of fake meat.
5. Vegan Sweeteners
Many vegans like to use agave, or raw cane sugar because it’s vegan, but guess what? Just because it’s vegan doesn’t make it any healthier for you. Sugar causes diabetes, obesity, depression, anxiety and blood sugar issues in many and most people, vegan or not. Stick to lower glycemic sweeteners that are actually vegan, but not promoted as “vegan sweeteners”. This includes stevia, whole fruit, and small amounts of dried fruit.
6. Vegan Protein Bars
I love being able to pick up a good energy bar or protein bar on the go, but I don’t buy animal based ones anymore and I also don’t buy vegan ones. Why? Because most all vegan protein bars are loaded with sugar! Sugar is in everything and even companies that usually produce very clean products or are even non-GMO certified are loaded with sugar. Anything over 12 grams of sugar per bar is just not healthy, and preferably it would have less than that. Agave,tapioca syrup, brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, molasses and even maple syrup are not good sources of nutrients overall due to their high sugar content. Stick to making your own protein bars, or choose a simple fruit and nut snack without added sugars of any kind. Trailmix and an orange or green juice is even better!
7. Vegan Cereals
Boxed cereals are just usually not a good idea. Most, even if the sugar range is healthy, have lots of processed ingredients, soy proteins, or hard to digest sources of gluten. Try to eat more whole grain cereals like whole oats, cooked quinoa, homemade oatmeal breakfast bites or bars, or try making a smoothie in the morning instead. Fruit and almonds even makes a great vegan breakfast. Boxed cereals, vegan or not, just aren’t a smart idea if you’re trying to make good food choices.
Vegan diets don’t have to be perfect, nor do they keep you from enjoying a treat here and there. I just don’t want you eating vegan junk food like mac and cheese for every meal and thinking you’re doing your body any good. Stick to more whole plant foods and leave all those pricey, sugary and processed items on the shelf. Do you eat a vegan diet? What vegan junk foods do you avoid?