Many foods have a health halo thanks to wonderful marketing teams. We’ve all seen the phrases like “super food” pasted all over the front of the food’s packaging, as if that phrase has any scientific meaning (it doesn’t). Having the “vegan” label on foods is also sometimes given that same health halo. It’s as if you are to believe that as long as a food product is free from animal products that it is inherently better for you.
Let’s talk about food deserts (???????? not ????????)
Living in the US, it’s pretty easy to have a nutrition-lacking diet. Many packaged/convenience foods are full of calories but void of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients our bodies need. Unfortunately some Americans live in what we call “food deserts” where access to fresh, whole foods is scarce. Hopefully that doesn’t apply to you, dear reader, but the reality is that many Americans only have liquor stores and quick stop shops to purchase the food they need. It is likely that individuals living in food deserts have a diet filled with processed, packaged foods and only minimal intake of nutritious fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods. (If you can’t stop thinking about desserts, then I have you covered).
For some of us, we don’t live in a food desert, but we still choose to consume highly processed fast foods for other reasons. My point today is that you can’t decide to start a plant-based diet assuming that it will “fix” the way that you eat. It’s very easy to eat a plant-based diet that is full of non-nutritious foods (like vegan protein bars), just like it’s easy to have a flexitarian diet full of overly processed foods (like cheez-its and cheetos). There are a ton of foods that are vegan that don’t provide a lot of nutrition (like oreos and vegan toaster pastries). If the bulk of your diet is filled with highly processed foods, it doesn’t matter what type of eating style you choose. Your body is starving for more nutrition.
What’s my point?
The take-away for going plant-based with your diet is that you should bring an awareness of the type of fuel you are putting into your body. I like to think of the human body as a high-end luxury car- because it is! Our bodies do amazing things every day and deserve to be treated well! You don’t want to put the cheap gas in a Ferrari, right? So then why would you put anything less than the best fuel into your body? Respecting yourself and your body enough to fuel it properly is a good foundation for any diet, whether you continue to include meat or exclude it completely (and you can eat healthy either way!)
So the next time you’re grocery shopping, take a moment to inventory your cart. Are the foods you’ve selected mostly whole and minimally processed? Are they something that someone from another culture would recognize as food? If the answer is yes, then you’re probably on the right track with your plant-based journey.
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