I get it. Even a junk food vegan saves animals and the planet and is probably still healthier than they were if they used to consume the SAD (standard american diet). While that is all great, there’s a whole host of reasons why, if you are a junk food vegan, you should be transitioning to a healthy vegan diet of whole, unprocessed plants.
A junk food vegan is someone who consumes heavily processed foods, i.e. Tofurkey, Oreos, Ben and Jerry’s dairy-free ice cream and eats very little fresh fruits and vegetables, grains or legumes. While these types of foods can be good for those new to a vegan diet and for the occasional treat, they aren’t healthy and won’t benefit you in the long term.
Here are my top reasons why you shouldn’t be a junk food vegan:
You won’t realize the health benefits of a vegan diet…of course, even if you went vegan for the animals or the environment, you probably still anticipate a higher level of health from leaving animal products off your plate. Unfortunately, if you’re a junk food vegan, you might not experience the myriad of health benefits going vegan entails. You might not have increased energy, sleep better, lose weight, and lead a life of complete bliss (okay, I made that one up). To realize the full health benefits of going vegan, you need to fill up your grocery cart with fruit, make giant salads and generally eschew highly processed foods.
Your palate won’t adjust to healthy foods…it’s a little known benefit, but completely true that as you begin eating healthier foods, your body begins craving those foods. If you’re stuck in faux meat land and wolfing down foods with copious amounts of added sugar, oil and salt, your palate will never adjust to just how good healthy food tastes. Yes, that’s right. At some point you may prefer a giant salad to a greasy vegan pizza or veggie burger and fries. I know it sounds ridiculous, but you might be surprised that given enough time, you will start to prefer simple, whole, unprocessed foods.
You won’t be setting a good example…non-vegans (or soon-to-be-vegans, as I like to refer to them) won’t be impressed by your veganism if all you eat is heavily processed food-like substances. Like it or not, if you tell people you’re vegan, they expect that you eat healthy…and look healthy. In other words, if you’re significantly overweight they aren’t going to be super excited about adopting a vegan diet. On the other hand, if you look trim, your skin glows and you exude good health, they’re going to be all that much more willing to jump on the vegan train. Like it or not, our society places a premium on aesthetics, and as a vegan there is an expectation that you walk the talk, so to speak.
You won’t feel regret after every meal…sure, junk food tastes good, but regret not so much. You might not regret your poor food choices right away, but eventually all the added salt, sugar and oil will take it’s toll on your health and regret will be a constant companion. Realize that cravings can and do subside, and that sticking to an unprocessed, whole food vegan diet might be hard in the moment but will pay off in the long term.