You become what you think. You are what you eat. – Barbara Cartland
One day on FB, I had posted a photo of my vegan dinner from that evening. It had received around five likes before I got a notification that someone had commented. When I read it, it was what you’d expect. “The vegan diet isn’t healthy and can kill you. You should really research what you are eating before promoting it to others.” I ignored this and went about my night.
A few weeks passed, and there was a news article published about some schools in California starting ‘Meatless Mondays’ and how it was saving the schools money. I shared the news with no commentary. Without fail, that evening, there was a comment on the share from the same person. “Eating this type of way will kill children, why are you promoting this?” I decided to attempt to educate this person as they were spreading misinformation on my posts. Fifty comments later of debating, he revealed to me that his brother had tried vegetarianism and ended up in the hospital. When I asked what his brother had been eating that had led him to illness, his response was, “He was eating cheese pizza and chips; that was all he could eat on the diet.”
Let me start by pointing out the distinction between a vegan diet and a vegetarian diet for anyone not aware so the context of the previous statement really sinks in:
A vegetarian diet consists of all foods that do not include meat.
A vegan diet consists of all foods that do not include meat or animal byproducts such as eggs, cheese, dairy milk, etc.
In short, the diet that this commenter’s brother was eating was devoid of most nutritional value and laden with fat and cholesterol. I was not surprised after hearing this that his brother ended up in the hospital – he was malnourished. On a diet like this, you would be ingesting high amounts of salt, oil, fat, cholesterol, empty calories, and carbohydrates as you can see from the nutritional breakdown of a typical frozen pizza below:
So yes, his brother was eating vegetarian – but it was definitely not a recommended, healthy vegetarian diet. This type of undernourishment can be achieved on any type of diet, weather that be carnivorous in nature or otherwise, as no one food contains all the nutrients you need to live a healthy life. There seems to be a myth going around with the latest paleo diet trend that meat is this magical food that contains everything in it you need to survive. That is false, there is nothing special about meat that makes it a requirement in the human diet. That being said, you could also not eat kale alone and be nourished.
The main problem that has come about concerning diets is that people are hearing about food trends, jumping on the bandwagon, and doing little research before switching over to the new diet. After switching, most people are continuing to eat how they previously did, removing what they consider no longer a part of their diet, and not changing out anything about their actual diet. This is shown in the commenter’s brother’s behavior. He had basically stopped eating everything else that he had been eating on his regular diet, reduced it to what he had eaten that didn’t contain meat, and thought he was eating correctly now that he had removed those items. This is 100% the wrong way to go about a diet change, and yet this is what can commonly be found across most diets you hear about today.
This seems to be happening because in America, everything is expected to be instant and this mentality is destroying our health. "Fast Food Nation" and "SuperSize Me" are great insights on this crisis we are facing, and it also points out how the government and industries are fueling this social decline. The movies can be found here (FFN is a movie while SSM is a documentary):
Even though there is not one single food out there that you can eat alone and be fully nourished, a vegan diet is the most optimal diet to sustain human life. This can be found across thousands of research papers, doctor recommendations, and documentaries. I encourage you to do research on your own concerning this matter as there is so much available now, but there is a caveat to this, as you would imagine. There are several types of vegan diets and not all are healthy. This diet, like the diets I have previously mentioned, has become another diet that is being misused and improperly carried out. So, before you choose to jump into a vegan diet, make sure you know what you are doing. Below are the main types of vegan diets that are practiced today:
Whole food plant-based vegan (WFPB) – this is a diet consisting of minimally processed whole food that is cooked, including mainly vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes. Some average dishes in this diet would be quinoa salad, buddha bowls, soups, and stir-fry. This is a recommended diet and is suited for weight loss.
Plant based vegan (PB) – this diet is like the WFPB vegan, but this type of diet would contain processed food, such as mock meats and cheese. Some average dishes in this diet would be burgers, spaghetti and meatballs, tacos, and chili. This is a recommended diet, if emphasis on minimizing processed food is considered.
Junk food vegan (JF) – this diet is something like the commenter’s brother’s diet. It is heavy in processed food, fats, and more instant meals, but all food would be vegan instead of containing animal products. Some average dishes in this diet would be microwaveable dinners, take-out, pizza, comfort foods (such as mac and cheese or ice cream), and fried foods. This is not a recommended diet and the foods included in this list should be eaten as sparingly as possible.
Fruitarian vegan (F) – This would be a vegan diet that only contains fruit and is high in natural sugars. In most cases, food is not cooked. I have limited knowledge on this diet, but from my research it is noted that this type of diet isn’t sustainable as it takes a lot of food to meet caloric intake requirements and it is very limiting. Some average dishes in this diet would be smoothie bowls, fruit salad, and plates of cut up fruit. This could be a recommended short-term diet if being used as a cleanse or something similar, but not long term.
Raw vegan (R) – This would be a vegan diet that contained raw vegetables and fruits. Similar to the fruitarian diet, there is no cooking involved in this diet and dehydrating foods is more so used. This diet is more diverse than the fruitarian diet as it includes vegetables, but hits the same pitfalls. You must eat a lot of food to meet caloric requirements and it is limiting. Some averages dishes in this diet would be salads, fruit bowls, smoothies, and juices. This could be a recommended short-term diet if being used as a cleanse or something similar, but not long term.
Note: you might have also heard of a ‘Raw til 4 Vegan’ – this is a blended diet that consists of eating only raw foods until 4 pm and then eating cooked foods after that time. Basically, you would have something like a smoothie for breakfast, raw salad for lunch, and then a cooked dinner after 4 pm on this diet. This is a recommended diet but is best suited for weight loss. I personally would not start a vegan lifestyle with this diet as it is vastly different from a typical American eating pattern.
As you can see from the types of vegan diets above, there are multiple vegan diets, but only a few that are considered healthy. When I am talking about vegan diets, I mean PB, but it isn’t often that someone would know that and that information could be misconstrued if not executed correctly.
Now that you know the different type of vegan diets and you know that plant-based vegan is usually the best beginning vegan diet, what does that actually mean? There is really great book out there called ‘How Not to Die” written by Dr. McGreger. This book contains a lot of great information on the diet and how to get started. It can be found here:
Outside of the book, Youtube is a great resource for recipes. Minimalist Baker, Happy Pear, Cheap Lazy Vegan, Easy Vegan, and Adventgarde Vegan are all great channels to follow to get vegan recipes that you will love. Here is a great beginner video on Cheap Lazy Vegan’s channel:
Here are also some ideas from Tasty:
Some rules-of-thumb for any diet are below:
1. Always drink enough water (8 glasses are recommended)
2. Research Research Research – never go into a diet blind. Make sure you fully understand what your body needs on any diet and what you need to eat to get those nutrients.
3. Replace what you remove – if you eat pasta every night, don’t just stop eating pasta because your diet says so. Replace it with something similar (in this case zoodles, wheat, or Tofutti noodles could substitute) and find ways to incorporate new foods in place of what you lost.
4. Follow Recommended guidelines – there are now food pyramids for a lot of diets. They usually have good studies behind them to provide the best advice. Look up the pyramid for your diet to make sure your needs are being met.
5. Don’t restrict yourself – if you feel hungry, don’t starve. Eat dense foods if you find you are not feeling sustained, and interchange foods you don’t like. Diet should be fun, not a chore.
6. Try new things – you cannot continue to eat the same diet and not get bored. Always take time to find new recipes when you find yourself in a rut and play with new ingredients.
7. Visit a doctor – blood work can also tell you a lot about what you are missing your diet and doctors can usually tell you about what you can do to fix where you are deficient. Get multiple opinions and do your own research to find what is best for your diet.
Thank you so much for reading and I hope you have learned something 😊
#vegan #education # health #food #nutrition