Pet Peeve: ‘lazy’ vegan diets

Before I get into the meat of a proper rant, I’d like to preface by saying do what you like. Eat what you like, say what you like, label yourself how you want to. It should go without saying that what follows is my opinion only, and while I have what I feel are quite legitimate reasons to hold this opinion, that doesn’t make it gospel.

So.

When I say ‘vegan’ (other than a shiver down the spine in anticipation of yet another lecture about how belts are murder), what is almost certainly conjured is an image of clean, healthy eating. Lots of lovely, fresh vegetables and fruits piled high on the plate, or else pallid imitations of ‘normal’ foods rendered in bean puree, but healthy nonetheless. Clean.

Yet there’s an insidious trend taking place: so-called ‘lazy’ veganism. This is where much of the vegetable matter is replaced with pasta, or white rice, or other decidedly sub-optimal food choices whose only redeeming quality seems to be a lack of animal contribution*. And the only reason I can see for putting this kind of ‘diet’ about is in an effort to get folks on the vegan train who might otherwise be opposed. Like saying, “See! It’s not really that different from what you’re already eating; it’s fast and tasty!”

While reducing demand for animal products is a noble pursuit for a number of reasons, I nevertheless think that trying to lure people in by hamstringing an otherwise decent dietary move is unwise, at best. Allow me to explain.

  1. Eating without animal products isn’t as hard as it’s made out to be. We (humans, that is) seem to have much more flexibility in terms of when and how we acquire nutrients than we’re often told. There’s old, debunked nonsense about food combining, or about good sources of protein, etc. All you really need to know is how to spot early signs of B12 deficiency.
  2. Getting most, or all, of your caloric intake from vegetables is way cheaper than supplementing those veggies with packaged pastas or rice. Want a starch with dinner? 10lbs of potatoes can be had for about $2 CAD. The day I can get a caloric and nutritional equivalent out of whole grains for that price is a double coupon day (which we don’t have ’round these parts).
  3. Jamming a bunch of refined carbs and simple starches into your diet, while taking away a lot of fat and solid protein, is going to make you feel hungrier. And you might gain weight. And you’ll be cranky, because you’re always feeding a sugar hunger, because in all likelihood you’re eating a bowlful of white rice with a couple of snow peas on top. And that’s no way to live your life. So you’ll ditch veganism and become even more thoroughly entrenched in the way you ate before. And because you’ll gain weight that way too, you’ll create a false correlation that eating vegetables is just as bad as eating garbage.

The laziest way to veganism is to eat salad all the time. Buy a box of prewashed greens, buy a bag of salad mix, buy a bottle of vegan-compliant dressing, and mix. Done! That’s still not great, and you’ll be hungry from an overall lack of calories, but it’s still better than saying it’s perfectly acceptable to eat veggie ramen just because it’s meat-free. Most things that come in packages are undesirable as sustenance. These are foods that cannot survive in the wild; that must be protected by plastic or cardboard. Soda is vegan, too. But any sane adult will tell you that soda has no place in a healthy diet. Nor do chips, or Oreos, or any of the other voluminous number of junk foods that can claim a vegan pedigree.

So just stop it. Eating vegan is already lazy. How hard is it to wash off some carrots and chew them? It’s at least half a heck easier than handling and cooking meat.

*Other than harvesting, which can kill hundreds – even thousands – of wee critters, but vegans don’t like to talk about that bit.

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