The truth is, that eating vegan is not synonymous with eating healthy. Many people think that if you’re vegan that means that you claim to eat “better” than other people. I’ve had someone assume that I don’t use the microwave because I’m vegan. Or that I don’t eat gluten. Or that I do juice cleanses and drink smoothies every day. But the truth is, that being vegan is a framework for choosing what to eat, but it has very little to do with how to eat.
Full disclosure: My go-to empty-fridge meal is called hummus pasta. It’s just cooked pasta covered in a heaping spoonful of hummus. I’m not proud of it and it’s definitely not winning any blue ribbons for “Most Nutritious Dinner,” but it’s delicious and in a pinch, gets the job done. Many people have that one vegan friend who just eats french fries and pasta all the time. Fatty fried foods can be vegan. Sour Patch Kids are vegan. Red Bull is vegan.
Eating vegan is simply the avoidance of animal protein in any form. Intrinsically, eating vegan has nothing to do with health.
On the other hand, eating a plant-based diet can have an enormous positive impact on your health. A thoughtful vegan diet consisting of adequate nutrients, vitamins, and minerals is not particularly challenging to adopt. Prior to going vegan, I wasn’t eating very healthfully. I ate junk food late at night and never thought about the quantity (or lack thereof) of the vegetables I was occasionally eating. I’ve always enjoyed fruits and vegetables, but I hadn’t spent much time intentionally consuming them. When I went vegan, I decided to avoid animal protein and improve the quality of my diet simultaneously.
While there are so many fantastic resources on the internet for finding nutritional information, I think it’s easy to get a bit lost in the shuffle when you’re first going vegan. You can read on one website that you have to take a B12 supplement, while another website tells you that your vegan diet is whole and perfect and better than any other diet. But who can you really trust to give you great nutrition advice?
The answer, in my opinion, is your intuition. Or rather, experts whose advice and credentials you trust and your intuition. Not bloggers on the internet.
If you are considering a vegan diet, I suggest you read up on everything you can in published sources regarding nutrition. Shortly after I went vegan, I took a college course in nutrition. My professor, Dr. Lisa Young, is an expert on portion control and adequate nutrition through whole, minimally processed foods. During her class, I gained valuable insight into the body’s relationship with the nutrients that we provide for it. From my experience in that class, I’m confident that the way that I eat is healthy and beneficial. I know that I’m healthy because I eat a well-balanced diet and my blood tests confirm that, despite the occasional dinner of hummus pasta.