Just Because It's Vegan, Doesn't Mean It's Healthy!

We live in an world where everything that's for sale is trying to trick us. The kinder word for it is "marketing." From packaging labels, to print advertisements, to radio and TV commercials -- even placement within a store -- it's all about getting us to buy. (Why do you think freshly baked bread is next to the checkout line? Or candy bars are literally at hand level?)

"Buzzwords" are the most seductive -- catching my clients in their tangled web. They even catch me sometimes.

I'm referring to words like "organic" that immediately put on a spell on us. As soon as we see or hear these buzzwords, our inclination is to think it's healthy and zap! We're caught in the marketing web.

The problem is these words usually DO signal a healthier choice, which is why it's so easy to be tricked. I've got nothing against organic lettuce, or organic beans. Those are absolutely a healthy choice -- a great choice! But! An organic potato chip is still a potato chip.

Yet the organic potato chip company is banking on you falling into the "organic" buzzword spell.

Lately, there's been another buzzword that's been catching all my clients and it's "vegan."

Because my meal plans are 100% plant-based (vegan), my clients start associating the term "vegan" with health and healthy choices -- and like organic, it often *is* the healthier choice, but it can also be a trap.

For example, I once bumped into a client at Whole Foods and noticed she had two tubs of vegan ice cream in her shopping cart. She noticed me looking at it and she said “oh it’s vegan ice cream so it’s healthy - Don't worry, I'm not eating real ice cream!” She thought just because it was vegan that meant it was also healthy. And sure, it’s healthier than your average dairy ice cream BUT IT’S STILL ICE CREAM. I told her politely, "Just because something is vegan doesn’t meant it’s automatically healthy."

http://photos.happyherbivore.com/2013/04/ice.cream.jpg

I find many of my clients assume something is healthy just because it's vegan. Arguably, the vegan alternative is a better choice than it's animal-based counterpart, but that doesn't also make it a health food. Many of the processed vegan alternatives (fake meat, fake cheese, etc) are loaded with fat, sugar, salt. They're junk, not health foods.

Now I'm not saying you can't ever have a vegan cookie, or a tofu hot dog. I tell my clients, "If you want to have these things once in a while as a treat, do so, just remember that it's a "treat" and not a health food. Don't be duped by the "vegan" buzzword."

I see it nearly every day. Just yesterday a client sent me a link to a vegan product ("chicken" nuggets), asking if it was "healthy." I asked my client why s/he thought it was healthy. My client said "well, because it's vegan and only 100 calories per serving."

I took a look and here's what I found: This "food" had over 20 ingredients (I tell my clients not to eat foods with more ingredients than they have fingers).

The serving size was really only 100 calories, BUT IT WAS FOR TWO CHICKEN NUGGETS (as if anyone would eat only 2!) and 40 of those 100 calories came from fat.

A health food they are not :)

Fast forward to this morning, another email from a different client. Straightaway my client tells me it's vegan (I confirm it is), it's only 100 calories per serving (this seems to be a magic number for my clients) and it has less than 10 ingredients, unless you count fortified vitamins, and then it's just over 10.

By all accounts, it's looking promising until I read the ingredients: Enriched Flour, Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, High Oleic Canola Oil, Cocoa, Cornstarch, Leavening, Artificial Color, Salt, Powdered Sugar, Artificial Flavor.

Yeah, no. Just because it's vegan doesn't make it healthy. Similarly, don't be tricked by "low calories" (i.e. just because it's under 100 calories doesn't make it a health food) and even a few number of ingredients can trick us too.

Again, I'm not saying you can't splurge and have a treat (you can!) my suggestion is simply to keep in mind that these "foods" are just that: a treat. Don't be fooled by buzzwords. Remember that just because it's "vegan" doesn't automatically make it healthy. It can be, but it's not automatic. Check the label and use your noggin' :)

A "health" food is a whole food -- fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, limited nuts and seeds -- everything we focus our meal plans around.

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