This increasingly common label can get you into some nutritional trouble.
The vegan lifestyle is on the rise. It's hard to visit a grocery store without seeing an entire section dedicated to tofu, dairy-free cheeses, veggie burgers, and other plant-based products. Along with that, more and more restaurants are taking notice and catering to a vegan audience. So while options free of animal products abound, are they actually all healthy?
The discussion of "Is veganism healthy?" has existed as long as the diet itself has had a label (fun trivia fact, veganism was 'founded' in 1944). Veering away from the traditional meat-and-potatoes diet of the West, the vegan diet doesn't involve any animal products like dairy, meat, or eggs. While concerns about protein and calcium intake are common, a healthy vegan lifestyle can be achieved with a balanced diet full of a variety of plants.
Since more often than not 'vegan' and 'healthy' are thought to go hand-in-hand, that means all vegan-friendly foods are automatically great nutritional choices, right? Think again. While eating a diet mainly based on plants is great for your health (plus animals and the planet), that doesn't always mean you should eat anything and everything that is labeled as 'vegan'. Junk foods like Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos, Swedish Fish, and even Oreos are all 100 percent vegan-friendly while being full of mystery ingredients and empty calories.
Anyone can fall into the trap of mentally checking out when it comes to nutrition, simply because something is free of animal products. Even when eating strictly vegan, it's surprisingly easy to eat too much fat, sugar, and calories. If you're interested in going vegan, whether for your health or other reasons, keep paying attention to your diet. Base your meals on a hearty assortment of vegetables, grains, legumes, and fruits to keep yourself satisfied and energized.
Bottom line: Just like any other diet or lifestyle, it's possible to eat unhealthy while being vegan. Whether you're dedicated to not eating animal products, or just want to pump up the amount of vegan meals you're eating, be sure to keep reading nutrition labels and paying attention to ingredients and portions.