Lauren Depass looks at the pros and cons of a vegan junk food obsession...
Many of us love a salad, but let’s face it, a pizza tastes better. Fruit salad is delicious, but nothing quite hits the spot like chocolate fudge cake.
Rewind ten, even five years ago and a vegan’s diet would mostly consist of salad, pitta bread and houmous.
Gone are the days where we’d pay £15 for a salad in a restaurant, because that was the only option.
The rise of vegan junk food over the last few years has been astonishing. With companies such as Fry’s, Vivera and Follow Your Heart now becoming household names, despite some of them being around since the early ’70s and ’90s.
According to documentaries What The Health and Forks Over Knives, plant-based eating is the epitome of good health and can reportedly help with health issues. The connotations of a plant-based diet are changing, but are they changing for the better?
Of course, a vegan diet is still the ethical choice when it comes to eating, however, are we letting the ethics cloud our judgement when it comes to the health aspect?
It’s never been easier to become an unhealthy vegan and while it’s still incredible that we’re caring for the animals, should we be doing more to take care of ourselves?
It makes the transition much easier
Although a jackfruit sandwich is tasty, it can lack a certain something for those who enjoyed the taste of meat – leaving them feeling slightly uncomforted when seeking comfort food.
If you’re trying to convince yourself or even someone else to go vegan, it’s a lot easier to do so knowing you don’t have to give up on ‘juicy’ burgers, ‘cheesy’ pizza and ‘milky’ chocolate.
Vegans no longer have to feel like they’re on a ‘diet’ 24/7. Vegetables are delicious, but we all have cravings. Taste aside, the world has become extremely fast-paced and, when finishing work, sometimes the thought of cooking can make you want to go without eating at all.
Knowing you can simply pop to the supermarket and pick up a store-bought ready meal or nuggets to sling in the oven can be the answer to all your prayers.
It raises awareness
Prior to 2018, the majority of non-vegans believed vegans simply lived off tofu and salad leaves. Now, almost every leading supermarket in the UK has a dedicated vegan section (and not just in the free-from aisle!)
These sections are often amongst non-vegan sections, meaning many will stumble upon them during their visit; leaving people curious and open to trying new things.
No matter what your beliefs, if you’re constantly hearing of new vegan foods in your local fast food restaurant or in the shops; you’re going to be more consciously aware options are out there.
Veganism has now become a much more social diet
Having dinner with friends, joining in on family pizza night or stumbling into a fast food restaurant at 2am with your friends following a heavy night out has never been easier (well, in normal times, anyway).
Prior to the rise of vegan junk food, many would struggle to dine out or dine in with non-vegan friends and family. You would find yourself turning down invitations for dinner due to the lack of choices, but this is no longer the case.
With Papa Johns, McDonalds and now even KFC jumping on the vegan junk food bandwagon, you are left with unlimited options when it comes to accessing fast and tasty meals.
It’s easier to get the balance wrong
With vegan junk food going mainstream, the temptation to stray from a healthy, balanced diet is amplified. Despite starting the week promising to eat healthy home-cooked meals and take a lunch to work, the Greggs sausage roll is constantly whispering sweet nothings in your ear.
The constant new product launches plastered over billboards, posters and your Instagram feed doesn’t help either.
According to Health Careers, the demand for meat-free substitutes increased by 987% in 2017 and has most likely only increased further.
Unkind to the bank balance
Ever reached the end of the month and wondered why your bank balance is 20p and not £300 plus? That could be vegan junk food.
With demand increasing rapidly, the mark-up on many junk foods is incredibly high. This can leave people with the misconception that being vegan is expensive and put them off it altogether.
The truth is, if you stick to enjoying junk food for what it was designed to be – a treat – you may feel less dread when checking the bank balance a week before payday.
That burst of energy you originally felt when turning vegan and eating more vegetables has evaporated and you’re not sure why.
How often have you either said to yourself, or heard the phrase, ‘Well it’s vegan, so it’s obviously healthier than normal junk food’?
Having this type of attitude towards any type of junk food can be dangerous and misleading. It not only dilutes your willpower to eat healthier foods, it also means you’re less likely to check the ingredients.
It’s good to remember processed food is created in a science lab, not grown magically out of the ground. A large amount of processed food, vegan or not, leaves you open to health risks later on in life.
Losing sight of the simple pleasures of being vegan
One thing that veganism gives people is the chance to explore a variety of new foods. A simple thing like cooking becomes an experiment as you open your eyes to new flavours and ingredients. The rise of vegan junk food has in a sense taken this away.
More and more vegans are slipping back into comfortable habits they had prior to turning vegan. Chick’n burger and chips becomes a regular meal in your household. You may even reach the end of the week and realise you only cooked one meal from scratch, the rest were heavily assisted by the oven or microwave.
My personal opinion…
OK, you’ve got me. I was until recently a junk food vegan. I enjoyed cooking, but found myself ordering takeaways and reaching for the easy option in the supermarket way too often.
My initial vegan glow had worn off and I was tired daily. It wasn’t until considering the above cons that I decided to make a change for my health.
My initial reasons for becoming vegan were for animal welfare and, truthfully, they still are, but it’s time to take care of my own health too.
Don’t get me wrong, vegan junk food is delicious and definitely will not disappear entirely from my diet – I mean… come on… vegan sausage rolls, am I right?
Lauren Depass is an aspiring novelist, freelance writer and blogger at A Yorkshire Soul (ayorkshiresoul.com). You will most likely find her writing about going vegan, relationships, beauty and mental health.