Vegetarian & Vegan Diets – the Good & the Bad

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Vegetarian & Vegan Diets – the Good & the Bad

Last Reviewed: 16/05/2022

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Vegetarian and vegan diets can be extremely healthy or extremely unhealthy, depending on what you eat. Let’s look at some examples of the good and the bad.

Vegetarian Diets

A healthy vegetarian diet that includes dairy, might look like this:

Breakfast:        Wholegrain toast, poached egg, 1 orange, tea/coffee with low fat milk
Snack:              Low fat yoghurt, small handful of nuts
Lunch:              Pita filled with salad and 30g (1 oz) of low-fat cheese, piece of fruit
Snack:              Smoothie (home-made) with low-fat milk, half a banana, 1/2cup berries, ice
Dinner:             Stir fry tofu, veg and brown rice
Snack:              2 cups air popped popcorn

A not so healthy version might include these foods:

Breakfast:         Fried tofu and eggs
Snack:               Potato chips & juice
Lunch:              Fried rice & veges
Snack:               Coconut Yoghurt (if high in saturated fat)
Dinner:              Pasta (white) with tomato sauce
Snack:               Granola bar

The main problem with the not so healthy version of this vegetarian eating pattern is there are practically no fruit & vegetables and the diet contains too much saturated fat (from the fried foods) and processed foods (potato chips, granola bar).

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Vegan Diets Vs Junk Food Vegans

Generally, a vegan diet is made up of lots of fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, nuts and seeds, grains and legumes. A well constructed vegan diet can be extremely healthy and meet all your nutrition requirements, including all your protein and amino acid requirements. Often a vegan diet will be lower in calories, saturated fat, free sugars and salt than a diet that includes animal protein (meat). This means your vegan diet will help protect you from heart disease, obesity, diabetes and some forms of cancer. Because vegans do not eat any form of animal products, they need to take particular care with their vitamin B12 and calcium intake. A poorly constructed vegan diet may require supplements, however supplements should only be taken after a full nutritional analysis from a qualified dietitian or nutritionist.

In contrast to a whole food plant-based vegan diet, a diet that is made up of mostly processed foods is going to be very unhealthy. Here are some examples:

  • Frozen ‘vegan’ meat. Often loaded with sodium (salt), artificial ingredients, processed oils and preservatives. Choose options that have beans or legumes as the first ingredient listed on the label – which means the product has these foods in the greatest proportion.
  • Vegan desserts. Check what you are actually eating – read the food label. Often these foods are high in sugar and calories.
  • Coconut yoghurt – watch the saturated fat content. This also means, high in calories.
  • Vege chips – read the label. Often loaded in saturated fat and sodium.
  • 2-minute noodles

The bottom line is, a well constructed vegan diet, made up of whole-foods and plant-based, will be one that significantly reduces your chanes of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.

If you would like to learn about how to construct a healthy vegetarian and vegan diet, consider subscribing to The Food Cruncher to learn about all things nutrition.
Michelle @ The Food Cruncher.

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