Did Veganuary Not Make You Feel Better? We Might Know Why
By Tyler, Global Vegans
Veganuary 2021 has just finished, with more than half a million people from across the globe having pledged to give up animal products for the first 31 days of the year. This means half a million people finally embracing the many benefits of an animal exploitation-free lifestyle, which could just be the stepping stone to a vegan future. Or so we hope.
But, we can’t shake the feeling that lots of new vegans might have fallen into the snare of large corporations offering pseudo-support to Veganuary and its primary objectives. We can imagine the marketing teams at some of the largest and most deplorable restaurants and food manufacturers rubbing their hands together at every new opportunity to vegan-wash their brand. Now, it feels like a competition between the most money-grabbing organisations: who can shout ‘vegan’ the loudest?
The result? A lot of new vegans trying everything from the McDonald’s MockMuffin to the Domino’s Chick-Ain’t pizza instead of filling their kitchens with whole grains, fresh vegetables and pulses; a lot of new vegans not feeling the health benefits they were told a vegan diet would offer them; a lot of new vegans struggling with a lack of energy, digestive issues, headaches and irritability.
For Veganuary partakers who experienced a new lifestyle - one we hope they kept after the clock strikes midnight on January 31st - grabbing a Subway T.L.C (Tastes Like Chicken) may seem like a great idea. It’s vegan, so it must be healthy - right? Well, not necessarily...
Plant-based meat alternatives are still heavily processed, with some of the leading brands using more than 20 ingredients to replicate the taste and texture of the products consumers are used to. These often include common allergens and difficult-to-digest ingredients, such as soy, wheat gluten, mycoprotein, simple sugars, maltodextrin and genetically-engineered soy leghemoglobin.
If you’re not experiencing the many health benefits of a vegan diet, ask yourself: What has my diet looked like since I first went vegan? Have I eaten a balanced diet of whole grains and plant foods? Have I made sure my diet contains enough calcium, iron, omega-3 and B12? Or, am I swapping plant-based meals for greasy, preservative-packed and salt-laden meat alternatives sold to me by big-name (and often non-vegan) brands?
If you answered yes to the last question, you aren’t alone. UBS recently found that the number of people who had tried meatless meat alternatives in the UK, US and Germany rose from 48% to 53% between March and November 2020. Of the 3000 people studied, half of them ate meat alternatives every week. Now, it’s not to say that meat alternatives don’t have a place in veganism - but they shouldn’t be a regular part of your diet. They should just be acknowledged and appreciated for what they are: convenience food.
Since January 1st, it’s been impossible to ignore the relentless advertising from companies like Nando’s and Burger King desperate to cut a slice of the vegan market without delving deeper into what makes the lifestyle so important. For large corporations, tapping into the plant-based market has nothing to do with the health of their consumers and everything to do with profit. It’s all about convincing new vegans to swap the meat in their diets for something equally as processed, whether a genetically-engineered fake beef burger or box of wheat gluten chicken nuggets.
Is anyone surprised? Of course not.
Remember - these profit-obsessed companies have a very clear target audience: the vegan-curious or meat reducers. It works in their favour if they can monopolise the vegan convenience food market without their consumers being too vegan. After all, they still have a whole menu of torture and suffering they plan to promote the minute Veganuary ends.
Of course, given the choice between meat and plant-based alternatives, we’d choose the latter every time. They don’t rely on animal exploitation, they use far less land and water, and when enjoyed on occasion, are often healthier than the meat products they replicate.
However, we’d advise all new vegans to move away from the mentality of a meat and two veg diet and expand their palate to embrace our planet’s natural goodness. Fruit, vegetables, nuts, pulses and grains are likely key ingredients in many of your favourite meals, so get creative in the kitchen with curries, stews, soups, tagines, stir-fries and pasta dishes that will rival anything large corporations could sell you.
Our lasting tip? If you wouldn’t eat a burger three times a week, don’t eat vegan burgers three times a week - no matter how much KFC wants you to.