People assume that following a vegan lifestyle means eating only the healthiest foods and having a diet full of fruits and vegetables, but that’s not always true.
There are many unhealthy food options out there for vegans and if you’re not careful, you can develop a diet that consists mainly of junk food.
What is vegan junk food? Vegan junk food can be defined as anything that’s low in nutrients but high in things like sugar and fat, and usually processed.
There are lots of vegan junk food options including cookies, ice cream, and chips that can be enjoyed in moderation but shouldn’t be a primary part of a regular eating schedule.
Although there’s nothing wrong with the occasional treat, vegan junk food should only form a small part of your diet. To ensure you’re getting a good balance between the good and deliciously bad foods, check out this guide to treats and snacks when you’re following that plant-based life.
What is Vegan Junk Food?
Vegan junk food could be classified the same as regular junk food: highly processed foods that are usually high in sugar and fat.
The only difference here is that vegan junk food doesn’t contain any animal products like meat, dairy, or gelatin, but it’s just as bad for you as the original kind.
When you make the switch to a vegan diet, there’s a learning curve as you figure out which foods you like and which ones are actually good for you.
It’s a common trap to assume that all plant-based or vegan-friendly foods are nutritious, and some people end up eating more than they should if they want to maintain a balanced diet.
As with anything, junk food should be consumed in moderation when you’re a vegan.
There’s no harm in having the occasional unhealthy treat or better still, looking for more nutritious plant-based versions of your favorite junk food, so you still feel as though you’re satisfying those cravings when they come.
Can Vegan Junk Food Be Healthy?
One of the best things about going vegan these days is being able to tap into the market of plant-based foods that were never there before.
If you’re someone who likes snacking on junk food, this means being able to access foods that taste as if they’re unhealthy but aren’t that bad.
There are healthy alternatives to vegan junk food that manage to squash your cravings without causing a guilt fest afterward.
The key is avoiding heavily processed ingredients, artificial colors and flavors, and foods that make up for a lack of dairy and animal products by loading them full of oil and sugar.
Some of the healthiest vegan junk foods include ingredients like dried fruit, natural sweeteners, and dark chocolate, so it’s all about the small substitutions.
Learning how to read the labels of foods before you buy them will ensure you’re getting something a little bit naughty without being full of processed ingredients, so you can meet somewhere in the middle.
The Downsides of Vegan Junk Food
Following a vegan diet has lots of benefits to offer, but it also requires a lot of knowledge about the types of foods to eat and how to prepare them to get the most from them.
Vegan junk food does have its place within this type of diet, but there are downsides to eating it that you need to be aware of:
No nutritional value
Every time you eat something, you need to consider what nutritional components it has. Whether it’s protein, fiber, sugar, carbohydrates, or something else, it’s good to choose foods that give you something that fills you up when you eat them.
Most junk foods are processed and rarely have nutritional value unless it explicitly states it on the packaging.
Going vegan is a good chance to cut back on your grocery bill, but when you start putting lots of junk food in the trolley it can add up.
Comparing a more nutritionally dense snack food with store-bought junk food, you have to eat more junk food to feel full, and it will likely be a waste of money in the end.
High in calories
A quick look at the nutritional information for your favorite vegan junk food will probably reveal how high in calories it is.
While there’s nothing wrong with eating the occasional snack like this, eating high-calorie foods constantly will cause your caloric intake to be higher than the energy you burn. In some people, this can translate to weight gain, and not in a healthy way.
There are some junk foods classed as accidentally vegan that don’t contain any animal products, but you sometimes need to look closer.
Ingredients like white sugar get their white color as they’re processed and refined, and this is commonly done with bone char, making them technically not vegan.
Other products might be manufactured in the same place where dairy and egg products are made, and there can be some cross-contamination.
Knowing When to Eat It
Life wouldn’t be fun without junk food, especially when you’re already eating a more restricted diet like a vegan one.
The key to enjoying junk food as an occasional treat is knowing the best time to eat it, and studies have shown that there are better times than others to do it depending on the type of foods you’re eating.
If your vegan junk food craving is high in fat, try to eat these early in the morning around 10 am, or even earlier if you’ve got room after breakfast.
This will ensure you’re using the fat as a source of energy and you can burn it off throughout the day without feeling too guilty.
For a carbohydrate-heavy hit, eating around 1 pm is ideal because it will stop you from snacking through the rest of the day and keep you satisfied.
Sugar lovers will want to eat their vegan junk food in the early afternoon at about 2 pm, giving you a burst of energy for the usual slump at this time and plenty of time to burn it off.
Home Made vs Store Bought Junk Food
Whether it’s a vegan or meat-based diet you’re following, it’s almost always healthier to prepare meals and snacks for yourself at home, even if it doesn’t taste as good.
This way, you know exactly what’s going into the food you eat, can modify it to your taste preferences, and ensure it meets all of the nutritional requirements you have.
Making vegan junk food isn’t that hard to do, thanks to the plethora of online resources where people share their delicious plant-based recipes.
You can create goodies like bliss balls, dried fruit, chocolate bark, popcorn, and even bake cakes and muffins that are full of plant-based ingredients.
However, there are still benefits to buying store-bought junk food, and sometimes you need the type of sugar fix that homemade stuff can’t deliver.
Just make sure you’re only having this junk food as an occasional treat and not every day, and that the rest of your diet is balanced and nutritious.
Tips for Treating Yourself as a Vegan
Going vegan takes a lot of forethought and planning, but the benefits are immense. If you’re trying to find the balance between a healthy plant-based diet and still enjoy your favorite treats as a vegan, we’ve got some tips that will help.
Cook for yourself
If you know that you’re going to reach for a packet of vegan cookies once a week, why not learn a recipe you can make at home that has a lot less sugar, fat, and processed ingredients?
Do some meal prep and cook yummy treats in advance so you have something quick to reach for when you’re in the mood for junk.
Set some boundaries
We all need boundaries with our eating habits otherwise they can turn unhealthy, and this includes the junk food we eat.
There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to something bad occasionally but stick to boundaries like only having one cookie or allowing yourself some junk food on a Saturday afternoon. These little rules will let you live life without letting the junk take over.
Don’t buy in bulk
If you’re going to treat yourself, just buy a small portion of the food, and resist the urge to go large. Once the food is there, you’ll be more likely to keep eating it, so make sure you’re only buying enough to satisfy the cravings.
Read the labels
Learning how to read the nutritional information on food packaging is something everyone should know, and not just vegans.
A quick scan of the food label will tell you everything about what you’re about to eat and sometimes understanding it better will prevent you from choosing that particular food.
Add some plants to every meal
To ensure you’re getting enough nutrients, make a point of adding at least one source of vegetables to every meal you have.
Even if you do splurge on some junk food, you won’t be missing any important nutrients and vitamins so you won’t have to feel so bad about it.
Find a healthier alternative
Sometimes there are healthier ways to fulfill those cravings you’re having without any of the guilt that happens afterward.
Tacos made with lettuce leaves instead of shells, kale chips instead of fries, and dried fruit rather than sour candy are just a few healthy switches you can make.
The world isn’t going to end just because you pig out on Oreos and tortilla chips on a Saturday night watching movies.
Try not to beat yourself up about snacking on junk food occasionally, especially if you do your best to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly.
Everything in Moderation
Becoming a vegan has loads of health benefits, but simply ditching the animal products and meat isn’t enough to earn them all.
There’s a time and a place for junk food, so make sure to treat yourself occasionally without letting it become a regular part of your diet, ensuring you live a healthy vegan lifestyle.
Shopping for vegan foods has gotten a lot easier in these modern times but there’s still plenty to learn if you’re new to this way of eating.
To help you navigate the supermarket, we’ve answered some commonly asked questions about vegan foods that will give you a better understanding of what you’re shopping for.
What is Vegan Butter Made Of?
Vegan butter or plant-based butter is made without any animal products, but usually features one or more types of oil that have been whipped to form the consistency of regular butter.
These most commonly used oils for vegan butter are avocado, olive, palm kernel, or coconut oil, and sometimes a combination of a few of these are used.
Is Tofu Vegan?
Yes, tofu is a vegan food product that’s used as a replacement for meat in many dishes, thanks to its neutral flavor and high levels of protein.
Tofu is made by curdling soy milk which turns it into a solid block, and you can then cut slices from it and fry or bake it, just as you would chicken or meat.
Can You Cook With Almond Milk?
Almond milk isn’t just good for your cereals and coffees, as it can be used to cook with, just as you would with dairy milk.
Choosing an almond milk brand that’s designed for heating will ensure the best results, and one without sugar and salt additives that could potentially spoil the taste of the food you’re cooking.
Lorraine Pinnix is a passionate nutritionist and loves seeing people living healthy, and fulfilled lives. She believes that food is an essential piece of staying fit and strongly believes in going vegan. PureGrowthOrganic is a passionate work that details her research in helping you go on complete organic diets. She is available for questions, comments, and follow-ups.