If you’re considering to go vegan or interested in understanding whether plant-based eating is enjoyable and healthy, read on. Veganism and plant-based living come with many misconceptions – a lot of which I was guilty of accepting as my own truths until making the leap.
On the other hand, having gone vegan for some time now I see the validity – to a certain degree. It’s true to some extent that being vegan can make you frail, or may not be as nutrient dense, because it’s also true that practicing improper eating habits and having a poor relationship with food and nutrition in general can do the same regardless how you choose to eat. I also agree that going vegan is hard at the start. However, according to a study from non-profit Faunalytics, about 84% of vegans/vegetarians ditch their diet but at the same time, about 84% of former vegans/vegetarians shared they were not actively involved in a vegan/vegetarian association or community. I’m certainly not saying all vegans/plant-based eaters need to join a group to be successful, but more so, highlighting that doing anything new takes time and patience for us to put what we’re learning into real-life practice.
Including and especially going vegan. Even the adoption of successful, sustainable plant-based living requires us to shift our mindset and look deeper at not just the truth behind these misconceptions, but how we can adjust our behaviour in ways that align moving forward.
Here are the biggest myths on veganism and plant-based living I’ve experienced on my journey and things I’ve done to help me course correct for sustainable, healthy and cruelty-free living.
Myth no.1: Going vegan/plant-based is hard.
Reality: Doing anything for the first time is hard what you make it.
Personally, this is probably the only myth that can get pretty real – especially without having the right knowledge and application it’s actually quite easy fall unhealthy and/or frail. There’s definitely a huge difference in the way you shop and cook altogether – even making a reservation and the way you read a menu. But like any other new skill, this too takes time to develop. Another thing to consider: if you’re someone who doesn’t know how to cook then practicing any lifestyle or diet is going to be hard, sorry to break it to ya. I say this because I also confused the two at the start.
Tip: Enjoy being the student. Accept the hurdles of things like meal prep and holiday get togethers as challenges on how you can “veganize” the experience. This is something I’ll always find challenging simply because I want a meal that’s just as healthy as it is flavourable, but that’s what keeps me creative and enthusiastic. Also, there are plenty of great recipes and plant-based cooks all over the internet to help keep you inspired. Learn different ways to prepare and pair your food, take the time to understand the different nutrients found in plant-based foods – it really never ends!
Myth no.2: Being vegan/plant-based is too $$$$
Reality: It’s an investment
It’s easy to take notice that 100 grams of non-dairy cheeze costs anywhere between 2-3 bucks more than its non plant-based version but there’s more to it than just that. Most vegan products such as cheeze, veganaise, frozen pizzas, and other packaged goods have way longer expiry dates, which actually stretches your dollar. Another important thing to consider is being mindful of how you’re currently eating. If your day-to-day diet consists of pre-packaged/ready-made food, then yes, it can get pretty expensive. But a big part of this myth lies overlooks and avoids addressing the need of veering from pre-packaged eating and instead, practicing the habit of preparing meals from fresh and whole plant-sourced foods. There are some staples like yogurt, cheeze and non-dairy coffee creamers that makes my wallet cringe but I’d rather that any day than my body and well-being. It’s easy to say it’s expensive, but that’s just at the surface level. When you factor in all the extra time and effort and stay consistent, the results eventually start to compound in more ways than one. And to me, that’s the difference between investing and spending.
Tip: If you’re not meal-planning by now, ya better get crackin’. Planning and prepping your meals in advance not only supports you with eating healthier, but helps you maximize and get the most of your time and spend. Developing habits like repurposing food and freezing freshly prepared curries and soups will also help minimize waste. Something that you may also find helpful is preparing your own homemade dressings, butters and plant-based milk from scratch because I know how pricey that sh*t can get.
Myth no.3: Vegans/plant-based diets lack protein.
Reality: Any diet can lack protein.
This really should be placed at the top as most vegans are often asked where and how they get their protein. The truth, however, is that most vegans/plant-based eaters take for granted the amount of protein consumed since all plants contain some amount of protein. Unless what you eat is centred around fruit, vegan junk food or low in calories (e.g., practicing a caloric deficit) or short on legumes, any diet you follow will lack protein – not just plant-based. The bigger claim/argument specifically on the topic of plant-base proteins is that their incomplete, which is also a myth at large. For more than 40 years plant proteins were viewed as “incomplete”; that other plant proteins must be consumed during the same meal to complement and obtain a full range of Indispensable Amino Acids (also known as “IAAs”) – essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce and must be supplemented through diet. Research has collapsed that argument on this popular belief, proving the consumption of an overall mix of plant-based foods throughout the course of the day can provide a full range of IAAs. Further research shows plant-based diets typically meet or exceed the recommended protein intake and needs for all ages (including athletes) when caloric requirements are met.
Tips: As a suggestion, try adding quinoa, gluten-free oats, chick-peas, tofu and lentils to your grocery list for plant-based proteins.
Myth no.4: Plant-based meals are bland.
Reality: Any meal can be bland.
To be honest, the biggest reason I remained an on-and-off vegetarian/meat eater most my life was because I couldn’t imagine life without goat, cheese, goat cheese…and on top of that, enjoying it too. ‘Problem was after watching an hour’s worth of PETA ads on Facebook, I went head-first into the vegan scene from simply learning too much about the meat and dairy industry to ever want to go back. This was a really hard part of my experience especially at the start because not only did I have very sh*tty cooking abilities, I knew jack about nutrition. I barely knew the basics eating the way I had my whole life so it wasn’t pretty at all.
However, this mindset was also short-lived. Culturally, there are many dishes/cuisines I grew up with that were already vegan without effort: fried plantain for breakfast, curried chickpeas and spinach for lunch… this could go on. Realizing this gave me a base/starting point I could use to gain confidence in this new arena.
As I stayed consistent so did my curiosity, which continues to expand to this very day. When I cook these days, I’m always thinking about how to bring texture, smell, vibrancy, flavour…all that together in a way that still remains tied to my philosophy.
The truth is that it’s very easy to enjoy a plant-based meal that’s just as nourishing as is it flavourable as it is balanced and as it aesthetic. Point is, you can have your cake and eat it too. Fast forward to today, I can easily say that I enjoy my cooking over most restaurants. I’m not restricted, my food is fresh, I eat a whole lot better than I did in the past (and now even in most restaurants), and there’s always plenty of leftovers.
Tip: Make this your personal myth to break. As mentioned earlier, there are a TON of plant-based cooks sharing their personal recipes on how they’ve veganized their favourites like fish and chips and butter chicken. You’d be surprised how fast you can learn to prepare delicious and nutrient dense plant-based meals. Pinterest is also another place I go to for inspiration when creating or trying new recipes. Also try shopping at grocery stores that offer more international produce to incorporate more variety and keep things interesting.
Hopefully sharing this perspective not not only shines a light on the benefits of incorporating more plant-based foods but helps us also see that to make any change will always require a new way of thinking and being, and the patience of applying and learning throughout.
There are many other misconceptions surrounding veganism and plant-based living so please raise your thoughts in the comments below or share with us how you’ve overcome some of your biggest challenges going vegan.