Many people think vegan is synonymous with healthy. That cutting out the meat and dairy means anything you put in your mouth is good for you.
Vegans can be just as unhealthy as non-vegans. Ditching the animal products is a great step toward health, but you have to be conscious of what you replace those foods with. It can be so easy to fall in the unhealthy vegan trap, but thankfully there are a few simple tips you can use to be a healthy vegan.
1. Read the ingredients of processed vegan food
But let’s face it, sometimes veggie burgers, cookies, or vegan cheese just sounds so good! So when you’re grabbing any processed vegan food off the shelf, take a look at the ingredients list. If most of the ingredients are not real plant foods, set it right back down.
Some processed foods have only a handful of ingredients that are totally natural. That’s what you want to look for. You start leaning towards becoming an unhealthy vegan when the food you’re eating is mostly chemicals or processed ingredients.
I feel it’s fine to occasionally eat processed vegan food with clean ingredients as long as you follow tip #2.
2. Eat mostly whole, plant foods
When you go grocery shopping, start in the produce aisle and fill your cart there. Whether you’re buying fruit for smoothies, veggies to snack on, or potatoes to bake for dinner, these are the life giving foods that will optimize your health.
Of course, eating whole, plant foods does not mean you have to eat them exactly as they grow. Feel free to chop, blend, bake or transform whichever way you like.
The key here is that you are the one to process the food. That way you know exactly what goes into your food and that it’s fresh and contains more nutrients than if it were sitting on the shelf in a package.
3. Eat a range of plants to get the vitamins you need
Being a healthy vegan isn’t just about the foods you do or don’t eat. It’s also about the vitamins and minerals you’re getting from your food.
When I first went vegan, I ate mostly fruit, practically zero vegetables, and pasta and potatoes for dinner. I was completely missing all the nutrients that come from veggies and greens!
If you’re someone who loves all different kinds of plant foods, eating an array of them won’t be hard for you. If you’re a picky eater like me, challenge yourself to find even just a few plant foods in each category (fruits, veggies, legumes, etc.) and stick with those for a bit.
Then… try something new.
You’ll be surprised how your tastebuds change and you begin to like foods that once made your face do that weird thing. The more plant foods you eat, the more your body will crave and enjoy the taste of them.
With these three simple tips, you’ll be on the path to a healthy vegan lifestyle.