It's easy to make a few mistakes when taking on a big dietary change.
Going vegan can be a great way to enhance health. Eating a diet high in plants can help cleanse your system, increase fiber, increase phytonutrients, prevent health issues, improve food consciousness, and jump start positive eating and lifestyle habits. However, there are many common ‘mistakes’ I see clients make when they opt for a vegan diet.
Here’s a simple look at how to combat those mishaps and misconceptions:
· Vegan = Healthy.
As a nutritionist, I see this all the time. When a food carries a health claim or label, it is instantly thought to be overall healthy. Not the case! A gluten free cookie is still a cookie and that goes for vegan too. Many vegan treats contain high calories, sugar, and fat. Many ‘junk’ foods like chips, candy, sodas, baked goods, can be vegan. Lesson – Just because you can eat it on a vegan diet doesn’t mean you should. Pick food products that match your overall nutrition goals over ones that fit the blanket diet description.
· Relying on replacements.
Packaged vegan replacement foods are great for satisfying a craving, but shouldn't be the basis of your new eating style. Going from eating breakfast sausage, turkey sandwiches with cheese, and pasta with meat sauce to eating vegan sausage patties, veggie turkey slices with faux cheese, and meatless ‘meat’ crumbles in your pasta sauce isn’t the ideal way to eat vegan; you’re just going from eating meat heavy to eating meat alternative heavy. Many of the meat alternatives are filled with cashews, expelled oil, gums, etc… that in excess will not promote good health. Lesson – Going vegan should be more about increasing plants and natural foods, not replacing your old normal foods with packaged/processed alternatives. Look for alternatives that are truly plant based like quinoa burgers, pea protein crumbles, bean patties, and nut based spreads.
· Confusing vegan with vegetarian.
While both diet styles are great, going vegan carries more responsibility than just saying 'no meat'. If you decide to make the vegan plunge, there are many hidden sources of animal products in foods that may seem vegan. Some beer, wine, cocktails, juice, candy, etc. can all have things like added fish oils, crushed insects (color additive) or gelatins derived from animals. Bee pollen, honey, and some vitamins/supplements will also need to go. Lesson – Decide how far you want to go. Are you in it to give up the obvious offenders or are you looking to dive 100% in. Either way can be beneficial, just do your research before labeling yourself.
· Being Unbalanced.
I see many clients get flustered about what to eat and end up sticking to the same green salad and fruit smoothie. This will leave you bored with food choices and nutritionally depleted. Lesson – When making the switch to a vegan diet, consult a nutritionist to learn how to plan a diet that is well balanced and meets all your health needs.