Once upon a time, being a vegan meant having to live off an ultra-healthy if not ultra-boring diet because there were no processed foods out there to buy.
Today, however, that’s not the case – and thank God.
But can we have too much of a good thing?
Well, yes. It’s so easy to think of all vegan foods as being more healthy because of the lack of animal fat but not all processed plant-based grub is equal.
The Times has enlisted the help of nutritionist Maya Oakley to try a variety of supermarket options and she says that many of them were high in fat, salt, sugar and preservatives.
While that might not be too surprising, she also went on to say that many had almost no nutritional value – which sort of goes against everything the clean eating sector of veganism would have us believe.
She also warned against always opting for soya-dependent products because too much can alter our hormonal balance. It’s often listed in foods as being rehydrated and textured – processed which tend to lower its nutritional value.
Her top tip? Go for foods which have four ingredients or fewer.
Disappointingly, Linda McCarney‘s Vegetarian Beef Roast came bottom of Oakley’s list – despite it having decent macros (on MyFitnessPal it’s listed as being pretty high in protein and low in saturated fat). Mind you, her only objection to it seems to be that it’s entirely made from soy.
Another low baller was a Rice Mac & Cheese from Amy’s Kitchen which she said included 16 oils, flavorings, colorings, and protein, as well as a third of your daily salt intake.
Livia’s Kitchen Raw Millionaire Bites came somewhere in the middle thanks to its roster of natural ingredients but was marked down for being calorie-dense (hello, they’re a dessert, what do you expect?!), while Vivera burgers, a can of jackfruit in water, and Cicioni nut cheese came out top.
Of the Almond & Cashew non-dairy cheese (£8.49, Ocado), she said: “Made from four simple ingredients – fermented cashews and almonds, water and a pinch of salt – this is a good vegan alternative to cheese. The nuts provide decent levels of protein.”
While Oakley undoubtedly has a point, one does wonder exactly how realistic these nutritionists think it is for anyone – regardless of ethics – to live on a diet free from all sugars, bad fats or flavorings.
The key, as with everything, is to eat things in moderation. By all means, have your Linda sausages but maybe try to pack the rest of your plate out with a load of fresh veg and fiber from whole grains.