Did you know that…vegans eat more than just salad?
Did you realize that…not all vegans care about eating healthy food all of the time?
Were you aware that…vegans do not care if you think the Impossible Whopper or Earth Balance or Daiya or Beyond Meat is unhealthy?
For the past few months, vegan (or at least vegan-friendly) options have been on the rise, and one of the most famous places to introduce a plant-based item is Burger King. Since the fast food giant introduced their Impossible Whopper, which uses the Impossible Burger, the think pieces have abounded, the criticisms have been shouted. “When it comes to Whoppers, beef might be better for you,” reads the headline of Fred Bodimer’s article on KMOX-AM. “Is Burger King’s “Impossible” Whopper Healthy?” asks Healthline. Similar articles appear for just about any new option that is suitable for vegans.
Here’s the thing: plenty of vegans (myself included) really don’t care.
Weird vegan stereotypes are all over the place, but two common ones prevail: vegans eat absolutely nothing so they are weak and frail or vegans eat salad for every single meal so they are in optimum health.
The truth? It’s not so black and white.
What Is a Vegan Really?
Let’s keep this simple. Here’s how Merriam-Webster defines vegan: “a strict vegetarian who consumes no food (such as meat, eggs, or dairy products) that comes from animals” and “also : one who abstains from using animal products (such as leather).”
And here’s how The Vegan Society defines veganism: “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”
These definitions are pretty straightforward, right? And did you notice that neither of them mention being healthy?
That’s because diet is only one aspect of veganism, and no one said that aspect had to be healthy either. Veganism is about the animals: protecting them, saving them, liberating them. That doesn’t mean vegans don’t care about their health – most people following a plant-based diet don’t consume animals either but do eat a plethora of fruits, vegetables, grains, and other “healthy” plant-derived foods – but eating health foods isn’t necessarily the priority for ethical vegans.
Rachael Kennedy, who has not only been vegan for five years but is also the owner of Grӧnn, one of England’s first vegan and plastic-free hair salons, isn’t as concerned about how healthy a vegan diet is.
“I am happy to eat meat alternatives from time to time, even if they are not deemed the ‘healthiest’ option, because my main concern is it means that less animals are being slaughtered for meat,” she said. “And if others want to eat them too, they should go for it! Fundamentally, we’re all working towards the same goal of a healthier planet, with less animals being killed.”
And that’s it. We want less animals being killed. If that means eating nothing but smoothies and salads, fine. But it doesn’t. For others, it means eating MorningStar chik’n nuggets and Annie’s Homegrown boxed vegan mac. For some, it’s one or the other. For some, it’s a combination of the two. And both are vegan, whether or not other people consider either one to be “healthy.”
Vegans Can (and Do!) Eat More Than Just Traditionally “Healthy” Foods
Your diet is as healthy or as unhealthy as you make it. This goes for vegans and non-vegans alike.
Most vegans didn’t transition to that lifestyle for health reasons. They didn’t go vegan because they hated the taste of meat, dairy, and eggs. In fact, many of them still do like the taste – they just despise the cruelty that comes along with it.
This means that vegans eat more than just salads, smoothies, fruits, and vegetables. It means plenty of vegans like chicken nuggets, mozzarella sticks, and scrambled eggs.
So they eat them…but without the cruelty.
Sometimes, this means creating their own alternatives: you can make bacon out of carrots, blend vegetables into burgers, and use squash to make a cheese sauce.
But other times…well, we don’t have time for that. Some recipes are complicated, and not all of us are experts in the kitchen or can find (or afford) the ingredients necessary. Black salt might give dishes an eggy flavor, but who wants to scour every grocery store for it?
Non-Vegans Can Have Junk Food – Why Can’t Vegans?
Nobody goes to Burger King thinking they’re going to have a healthy meal, so why use processed foods unhealthiness as a “gotcha!” for vegans and vegetarians? Why can’t vegans also be allowed the ease and convenience of fast food? Of microwavable meals? Of easy-to-access food, no matter their location?
Potato chips and pretzels are vegan. So are Oreos and Smarties. So is most pasta and bread and other delicious carbs. Are they healthy? They might not be. Does it matter? No, not really.
If a vegan wants to eat nothing but processed meat and dairy alternatives, they’re still vegan. They can eat nothing but Gardein chicken tenders, Beyond sausage, Violife cheddar, and Mac & Chao. Who cares?
When a non-vegan eats microwave dinners every night, Sausage McMuffins for breakfast, a ton of coffee every morning, is it healthy? Does it matter if it’s healthy? Then why does it matter so much if vegans are eating healthy food or not?
“I think it’s all down to personal taste, and I don’t believe anyone has the right to tell someone else what is ‘healthy’ or not,” Kennedy said. “Maybe some Vegan alternatives are not particularly ‘healthy’ but, from a personal point of view, that comes last on my list and I really don’t care.”
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