The words “vegan” and “plant-based” are typically associated with healthy living and for a good reason/cause. Plant-based diets can help lower the risk of disease and even slow cognitive decline. While we might switch to a plant-based diet with the best intentions, knowing that all vegan food is not equal is important.

Vegan food commonly sold in stores might sound like a guilt-free alternative or a gateway for the vegan-curious, but vegan fast food/junk alternatives are often worse for your health than the meat equivalent.

“Obviously the pros are that [veganism] is getting people to think about plant-based foods, but the con is that it makes us think that it is good for you when it can be equally or unhealthier,” says Megan Rossi, a Dietitian at King’s College London and author of Eat Yourself Healthy.

So, this post is to help you remember that just because a food is vegan doesn’t automatically mean that it is good for you.

4 Healthy Vegan Junk Food Swaps

Switching to a vegan diet can be challenging at the start. Not only do you need to change the way you shop, but the new diet can feel restrictive due to the elimination of meat, eggs, and dairy. Here are some examples of common vegan junk food products and recommended healthy alternatives.

 

1. Vegan Chocolate Topping

SWAP THIS – Cottees Topping Chocolate Thick & Rich

Vegan Junk Food - Cottees Topping Chocolate Thick & RichIngredients: Water, Sugar, Maize Thickener (1442), Cocoa Powder, Chocolate Flavour, Food Acid (330), Salt, Preservative (202), Vegetable Gum (415).Even though there are very few ingredients in this product it is full of numbers. Maize thickener is derived from GMO corn (unless stated otherwise) and that being in there—not to mention the food acid, preservative 202 is a synthetically manufactured that can cause all types of side effects, would put me off eating it!

 

 

FOR THIS – Healthy 3-ingredient chocolate fudge sauce by Top with Cinnamon

Healthy-3-ingredient-Fudge-Sauce-43This recipe is rich, creamy, easy, quick and guilt-free! Doesn’t this look like a much better alternative to all those numbers? Just make sure that the chocolate block you use isn’t full of fillers and additives. Mmm….chocolate sauce.Click here to try the recipe.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Vegan Ice Cream

SWAP THIS – Sanitarium So Good Chocolate Bliss Ice Cream

Ingredients: So Good Soymilk (75%) [Filtered Water, Soy Protein (3.5%), Corn Maltodextrin, Sunflower Oil (Contains Antioxidant (Tocopherols) (Contains Soy)), Cane Sugar, Minerals (Phosphates Of Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium), Acidity Regulator (332), Antioxidant (Ascorbic Acid), Vitamins (A, B12, B2, B1)], Cane Sugar, Glucose Syrup (Corn), Corn Maltodextrin, Cocoa (2.5%), Emulsifiers (477 471), Vegetable Gums (460, 412, 466, 407a), Flavours, Salt.

This ice cream screams of terrible sugars, oil and numbers even in the first few ingredients. Total Junk! Limit products like this!

 

FOR THIS – Chocolate and Hazelnut Vegan Ice Cream by The Minimalist Vega

Such an easy and tasty recipe! I love making homemade ice cream, but it does help to have a high-speed blender as it makes it rich and smooth in seconds.

Click here to try the recipe.

3. Vegan Cheese

SWAP THIS – Bio Cheese

Ingredients: Water, coconut oil (non-hydrogenated), modified starch (E1404, E1450), starch, sea salt, vegan flavours, acidity regulator, citric acid (E330), preservative: sorbic acid (E200) (0.2%). Colour B-Carotene.

Generally, when they put ‘flavour’ as an ingredient, it can mean several different chemicals in that one word. Again, lots of numbers and preservatives. I try to avoid fake dairy products as I know that there will always be lots of additives if they are store-bought, attempting to make it like ‘the real thing’.

FOR THIS – Sharp Vegan Cheddar Cheese Alternative by Go Dairy Free

artisan vegan cheddarBut if you want an alternative, this is a much better option. Additive-free and looks pretty amazing! Here is the Cheese Alternative Recipe on Go Dairy Free. If you did want a better store-bought one, here are a two great options to swap out the junk cheese for: Treeline Cheese and Miyoko’s Creamery.

4. Black Bean Patties

SWAP THIS – Gardein Chipotle Black Bean BurgersVegan junk food swaps | TheVWN.com
Ingredients: Water, cooked black beans, cooked brown rice, vegetables (onion and corn), expeller pressed canola oil, roasted vegetables (corn, red and green bell peppers), soy protein concentrate, tomato paste, potato starch, organic cane sugar, methylcellulose, sea salt, yeast extract, onion powder, spices, garlic powder, black bean powder, natural flavors (from plant sources), tomato powder, citric acid, lactic acid, instant coffee, molasses.

Now, these burgers aren’t too awful, but it’s important to flag a couple of ingredients. Methylcellulose is used to treat constipation and to help maintain regular bowel movements. Spices is a very vague ingredient and natural flavors as well. I also don’t feel that instant coffee has a place in the patty. So a few questions lead me to adding it to a junk list. 

FOR THIS –Vegan Black Bean Burgers with Lime by A Virtual VeganVegan junk food swaps | TheVWN.com
These bean patties, are the exact opposite, full of the great nutritional stuff! These are perfect with some homemade hummus or vegan mayo.

Try this delicious Vegan Black Bean Burger recipe from A Virtual Vegan.

 

 

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Carol Aguirre MS, RD/LDN