Are You a Junk Food Vegan?

Are You a Junk Food Vegan?

First off, I’d like to say that I sincerely admire anyone that has chosen to live a vegan lifestyle. Just the thought that more animals lives have been saved because of your food choices warms my heart, and I take my hat off to you. But what about you? Have you been looking after animals and not yourself?

The transition to becoming a vegan can be challenging, and people often feel very restricted when they stop the consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs. I know we certainly did when we first made the switch.

This is why we tend to fall back on the foods that we know and find convenient. Convenience, in this day and age, is widely accessible to most people. There are millions of products on supermarket shelves that promise us a one-step process to a complete dinner, which typically looks like this – unpack and microwave.

It’s easy to cave into these choices, particularly if you’re running on a tight budget, you’re low on time, or have multiple mouths to feed.

But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you consume animal products or not, you either eat well or you don’t. All you need is a little bit of determination and reprioritisation to improve your eating habits and help yourself understand the ‘why’ you should be eating whole foods plant-based diet. First though, let’s look more closely at what a junk food vegan is.

The Junk Food Vegan

 

A junk food vegan is a vegan who regularly consumes highly processed foods which are essentially made in science labs. Some popular choices are the famous Oreo biscuits as well as a variety of vegan “cheeses.”

I’ve encountered so many junk food vegans that it really sh*ts me when I see/hear others assuming that because you’re vegan, you must be healthy. This is not true in probably half the people that have adopted the vegan lifestyle.

You can be vegan and still have a very poor diet. Ideally, your diet should consist of mostly whole plant-based foods which include vegetables, legumes & beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, superfoods, healthy fats, grains and fermented foods. This is what we try to eat 85% of the time.

With the rise of junk food options in our supermarkets, cafes and fast food chains like McDonald’s and Domino’s, it’s becoming harder for vegans to embrace a whole foods diet truly. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have an issue with these foods making up a tiny percentage of your diet, heck, I’ve already tried the pizza, but for people transitioning, the buck may just stop there.

My Food Journey

 

I’ve been conscious of healthy eating for over a decade now and always felt like I didn’t fit in because I wouldn’t either drink Coca-Cola at school or microwave every meal I came into contact with.

Every year that went past, the more I learned, and the more I empowered myself with the right food choices. This made me feel more distant from certain people in my life because we didn’t see eye to eye when it came to healthy eating. Those situations alone can make people feel uncomfortable to share a table together. I know it has for me. Being the picky one didn’t help when going out to dinner and being invited over for a meal. So be prepared for that. Always remember that it’s your body, not anyone else’s and you shouldn’t care what others think. Respect yourself, but also be respectful of their choices. You can’t go over for dinner to a friends place and force your way of living onto them.

Today, I feel like I have a really good understanding of what my lifestyle should include and what it shouldn’t. This was accelerated last year when I studied Health Coaching as I learned over 52 different dietary theories. I managed to navigate through all of them and still believe that the vegan lifestyle is the right one for me. Every day that decision grows stronger as my digestion has improved, my energy levels have increased, and I feel morally fulfilled. That by far has been the most significant benefit. I feel at peace with my eating choices. For myself, the animals, and the planet.

In my adventure of veganism, I’ve come across some foods that I’ve found quite confusing and downright wrong. I personally wouldn’t even classify it as food. I look at the ingredients of everything that I buy, and also just coming across some of these foods online, I would never even consider picking them up in the supermarket.

For the purpose of this post, I did some research into what some of these junk foods contain and I wasn’t surprised. I wanted to share with you eight healthier homemade alternatives to inspire you to put the packet down and make it at home for yourself. I promise that the substitutes will be tastier and healthier! Your imagination in the kitchen can go a long way, so make sure you continue to experiment.

 

 4775921SWAP THIS

Cottees Topping Chocolate Thick & Rich

Ingredients:
Water, Sugar, Maize Thickener (1442), Cocoa Powder, Chocolate Flavour, Food Acid (330), Salt, Preservative (202), Vegetable Gum (415).

FULL of numbers, even though there are very few ingredients in this product. 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!

 Healthy-3-ingredient-Fudge-Sauce-43FOR THIS

Healthy 3-ingredient chocolate fudge sauce by Top with Cinnamon

This 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.

 

SWAP THIS

MAGGI 2 Minute Noodles Oriental

Ingredients:

Noodle Cake: Wheat Flour, Vegetable Oil (Antioxidant (319)), Mineral Salts (508, 451, 501, 500), Vegetable Gum (412).

Flavour Mix Sachet: Flavour Enhancers (621, 635, 631), Soy Sauce Powder (Contains Soy and Wheat), Mineral Salt (508), Flavours (Contains Wheat and Soy), Onion Powder, Sugar, Ginger, Iodised Salt, Garlic Powder, Colour (Caramel I), Vegetable Fat (Antioxidant (320)), Food Acid (Citric).

WOW! Just wow. Does it really need explaining as to why this should never ever enter your mouth? Every time I see this amount of numbers in a product that has a shelf life of probably 5+ years, it’s not even food.

 black-pepper-stir-fried-noodles-5FOR THIS

Black pepper stir fried noodles by Pinch of Yum

Simple, healthy and full of flavour! Tofu and tempeh is a sometimes food in our house and we have it generally every 1-2 weeks as I find that too much soy messes with my hormones. We do use Tamari and Braggs Liquid Aminos in our cooking as well for flavour. When it takes 15 minutes to make, there really is no excuse not to switch over.

 bio_cheese__89470.1408677780.1280.1280SWAP 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.

Does anyone know what vegan flavours mean? Generally, when they put ‘flavour’ as an ingredient it can mean a number of different chemicals in that one word. Once again, lots of numbers and preservatives. I have never bothered with fake dairy products as I know that there will always be lots of additives if they are store bought and want to make it like ‘the real thing’.

 artisancheddarFOR THIS

Sharp Vegan Cheddar Cheese Alternative by Go Dairy Free

But if you really want an alternative, this is a much better option. Additive-free and looks pretty amazing! If you did want a better store bought one, here are a few options 1, 2 and 3.

 1843785SWAP THIS

Original Oreo Cookies

Ingredients:
Sugar, unbleached enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate {vitamin b1}, riboflavin {vitamin b2}, folic acid), high oleic canola and/or palm and/or canola and/or soybean oil, cocoa (processed with alkali), high fructose corn syrup, cornstarch, leavening (baking soda and/or calcium phosphate), salt, soy lecithin, vanillin–an artificial flavor, chocolate.

My general rule is if sugar is one of the first three ingredients in a product, I don’t buy it (one of many rules that I apply to shopping). Oreos have high fructose corn syrup, which is one of the worst sweeteners currently being made with GMO corn. You can find it hidden in so many products. In my view, these aren’t actually vegan because they can contain palm oil. Palm oil is well known to be causing deforestation and therefore the slow extinction of certain species. I define veganism by no harm being done to animals. Palm farming kills many animals as a result.

 FOR THIS

Peppermint oreos dipped in dark chocolate by This Rawsome Vegan Life

Don’t these just look AMAZING?! I love chocolate, so naturally, biscuits like Oreos seem so appealing, but then you see what’s in them and I would much rather make my own and know that they are a guilt-free treat. I would choose these over the store bought ones any day of the week.

 TOFJumboRendering250wSWAP THIS

Tofutti Jumbo Cheese Ravioli

Ingredients:
Fine durum flour, olive oil, Tofutti better than ricotta cheese ® (water, expeller blend of natural oils: palm fruit, soybean and olive, non-GMO (tofu, soy protein), maltodextrin, dairy-free cheese cultures, dairy free romano cheese, vegetable lactic acid, natural blend of gums: locust bean, guar, cellulose, xanthan and carrageenan, brown rice, agar-agar, gum arabic, organic apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, white pepper, tomato flavor, oregano, organic sugar, vegetable mono and diglycerides, citric acid, sea salt.)

I have to give them one thing, the fact that they have included a couple of organic ingredients. That’s pretty much where the positives end. Again, there is palm oil. There is also a few different vegan cheeses, which makes me wonder what exactly is in each one of those? Maltodextrin is just a different form of treated grain starch – generally corn. In other words, just another word for a form of sugar.

 vegan-ravioliFOR THIS

Fresh eggless, vegan pasta dough recipe by Elegantly Vegan

One of my favourite foods growing up was pasta. I mean, who doesn’t love pasta? Especially stuffed pasta. Drool. I would personally fill it with a mushroom and herb mix. Pasta is so easy to make at home and tastes 100% better than anything you’ll find in the supermarket.


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.

Corn maltodextrin twice, cane sugar twice, glucose syrup, and sunflower oil. This ice cream screams of terrible sugars, oil and numbers even in the first few ingredients. I would not eat this ice cream.

 
FOR THIS

Chocolate and Hazelnut Vegan Ice Cream by The Minimalist Vegan

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.

 UnknownSWAP THIS

Nuttelex Original Spread

Ingredients:
(All from vegetable sources) Sunflower oil, Canola oil (Non-Genetically Modified), vegetable oils, water, salt, emulsifiers (471, sunflower lecithin), natural flavour, vitamins A, D2, E.

Yes, these oils are from vegetable sources, but that doesn’t necessarily make them healthy! This is just a vegan version of margarine, and we all know by now (hopefully) that margarine is not the healthy alternative to butter. Again, the natural flavours ingredient could really mean anything! You get what you pay for, and this product is just highly processed vegetable oils with vitamins added in to look ‘healthy’.

 
FOR THIS

How to Make Vegan Butter By Vegan Baking

The ingredients are quite basic (besides the coconut vinegar? Never heard of it!) and I’m sure this is one of the foods that some vegans miss when they switch their lifestyle. I know I have certainly missed it when I want to spread some on toast or make something that little bit more creamy. I would use rice bran oil in this recipe.


SWAP THIS

Gardein Chipotle Black Bean Burgers

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 bad, but I want to flag a couple of the ingredients. Methylcellulose is used to treat constipation and to help maintain regular bowel movements, why is it in a burger patty? Spices is a very vague ingredient and natural flavour as well. I also don’t feel that instant coffee has a place in here?!?

 
FOR THIS

Vegan Black Bean Burgers with Lime by A Virtual Vegan

These patties, on the other hand, are full of the good stuff! I try and make a bigger patch of patties and freeze some for when you need something on the side of a meal or for a burger. Perfect with some homemade hummus or vegan mayo.

 

I hope these alternatives have inspired you to try some of these healthier options yourself! Are there any foods that you make at home that you can buy the junk food version of in the supermarket? Share what it is and the recipe down below in the comments.

Last updated 21/1/2018

44 comments… add one
  • Fran 20/05/2015

    Not an idea, but a question. What’s a good vegan recipe to substitute for whipped cream? Thanks.

    • Hope 20/05/2015

      Whip up some coconut cream and confectioners sugar.Delicious!

  • Will 20/05/2015

    I’m not even Vegan (retired vegetarian) and all of these look amazing. Especially that Oreo substitute recipe. Great post!

    • Thanks for stopping by Will. Glad you found the post useful! It’s definitely worth putting in a little more time for something that’s much better for you 🙂

  • louise 20/05/2015

    What a fantastic post!!
    We initially consumed a lot of processed alternatives, not so much these days as we have become more confident in our plant based cooking.
    I just luuurrrve your recommendations for whole food alternatives! Yum!!
    Thank you M&M!!

    • Aw thanks Louise! We’re glad that you’re able to incorporate more plant based meals.

  • Peta 21/05/2015

    Fantastic post! Thanks for the inspiration M&M.

  • The Two Zen 22/05/2015

    Nice post! Thanks for the inspiration, especially the alternative for Oreo 🙂

  • I totally agree! There are so much weird food out there, even labeled as vegan which contains some weird sh*t. This is a great post to help new vegans make better choices.

    And I’m so grateful and humbled that you linked to my pasta dough recipe. Thanks a bunch and keep up the good work!

    • I know right?!? I honestly just don’t get it. Gluten-free foods are just as bad!

      Glad you liked it and thanks for creating such an awesome recipe for us to share 🙂 x

  • Haley 23/11/2015

    First off, THANK YOU for posting this – I’ve been such a junk food vegan lately lol. Glad to know I’m not alone 🙂
    Second, I’m working on a post for my blog about why a vegan diet is easier in college than we think, and I linked readers to this post because I found it so helpful! Please let me know if you’d like it to be removed, but here is the link to read: http://www.hungryhaley.com/advice/2015/11/19/vegan-in-college-why-its-the-best-choice
    I look forward to hearing back from you! Thanks again for this awesome post 🙂

    • Hi Hayley,

      Thanks for connecting and for sharing our post! Good luck with your blog 🙂 Happy for you to share it.

      Thanks,
      M & M

  • Rob 12/12/2015

    OK, fine. But as a vegan I never found palm oil to be a huge issue. You must hate honey too, huh? I am fine with most of what you say here. But we will have to agree to disagree on Palm Oil. Yes, I love and I mean LOVE my Earth Balance on toasted Ezekiel Bread in the morning. And I use honey (raw) in my peppermint tea at night before bed. Palm oil comes from a plant, and therefore it is vegan. Honey comes from bees, it is natural, and therefore it is vegan. Want to challenge me this? I dare you.

  • Dylann 14/12/2015

    Honey comes from bees… Last time I checked, bees are animals, no? You have to exploit them to take their honey, disadvantaging them and leaving them worse off. Honey isn’t vegan. Palm oil is problematic because of the way it is produced. It’s technically vegan, but many vegans are pragmatic and careful thinkers and can see the clear link between palm oil production and the deaths of endangered species. Not a great thing.

  • Maya 14/12/2015

    Honey is an animal product and thus not vegan.

  • J 14/12/2015

    Hi Rob –
    Sometimes I think discussions about this can get incredibly heated, and I think each to his own, but the devastation a lot of palm oil causes to rainforests and the animals who live there make a lot of vegans want to choose to go without – I think I have read somewhere that earth balance use sustainable palm oil – not grown in the rainforests, some people find it easier to avoid palm oil all together as it can be hard to check where it is from with each product.
    And I personally was confused about honey for some time – I think local honey is ok, but massed produced honey take too much food from the bees – after all they make it for themselves to eat.
    Just to make it easier for myself I avoid all honey – luckily I love maple syrup – and pure maple syrup contains more vitamins and minerals as well as less sugar than honey! But tastes more decadent – so no harm done.
    You gotta do you 🙂

  • Rob 17/12/2015

    Hey, Dylann, were you sleeping in biology? Thought so. Bees are insects, dummy. Big difference between an animal and an insect. Go back to 9th grade and learn it. Oh, and honey bees, do not eat honey. They produce it. They eat nectar and pollen. Queen bees eat a byproduct called royal jelly. And larvae are fed what is a mix of partly digested nectar and pollen to form a gooey high protein food known as beebread. Another science lesson for idiots. Bees are not exploited to skim the honey unless you are talking a factory situation. Honey bee hives, when too much honey accumulates in them become honey bound. Any beekeeper will tell you, that the honey must be periodically extracted so this doesn’t happen. This can kill the bees. So, actually, dummy, its not exploitation, it is helping the bees. Again, go take a 9th grade science class.

  • Rob 17/12/2015

    Maya, Bees are not animals. They are insects, dummy. Go take a 9th grade science class. You and Dylann are two of a kind. Idiots must run in flocks.

    • Jo 14/01/2018

      Stop acting like a rude, childish bully, you jerk.
      Btw, honey ISN’T vegan. You are free to “do you”, but COMMON SENSE dictates that honey ISN’T vegan because you are TAKING something from another living thing that you have no right to take anything from. Get a clue.

  • Nancy 20/01/2016

    Troll alert! Yikes, no need for playground-bully mode.
    To Masha: Great ideas for replacing overly-processed vegan foods with more natural, whole foods alternatives. I’ve been eating vegan for a few months now and am finding that when vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are thoughtfully prepared, they are delicious and completely satisfying, and there’s no need to process and manipulate them into meat and dairy substitutes. They stand beautifully on their own.

  • alysa 03/03/2016

    at some point, the author states that the Artisan Vegan Butter recipe linked is better than the packaged store bought one, and I’m wondering if this is based on the ommited “natural flavors” ? Besides that, both recipes contain water, salt, lecithin, and an oil base. The oil used in the linked recipe is a refined coconut oil while the packaged one uses various refined vegetable oils. Do you believe a refined vegetable oil such as coconut to be “better” than other refined vegetable oils? If so, is there data to support this? I doubt it… they are chemically very similar when refined, but still curious what the authors opinion is.

  • ModVegan 10/03/2016

    The substitutes you recommend look delicious. But I don’t always have the time to make things from scratch, and I have no problem consuming moderate amounts of processed foods. Sure, whole foods are better for you. But weight, cholesterol numbers, blood pressure, etc . are total non-issues in our family (we’re all very healthy from that standpoint). I make my own bread, but I have zero problem putting vegan spread on it. We aren’t health food vegans, but we aren’t eating animals, and that’s good enough for me.

  • Teresa 28/05/2016

    Great read! I definitely can relate with you the choices you make for your lifestyle; plus when shopping as well. I will say with any and everything its all about the transition which evokes change for the betterment of you and the world. I sometimes find myself getting annoyed at junk food vegan eaters but I have to catch myself and say, “Teresa, you were there also!” And that’s the one thing that I have to remember every time. It’s that letting go of the ego of what others are doing. But as you stated in the beginning of your article its great that people are making the transition to the diet but when your new to it, oh boy the hurdles and the tossing back that comes along with it. This lifestyle is a spiritual awakening because you are learning yourself and trusting what your body wants and doesn’t want. “The Journey!” So just want to say thanks again for the read and stay on your journey Love One! Peace and Blessings!

    • Thanks so much for your comment Teresa, can totally relate and agree! Take care 🙂

  • Michelle Galvan 27/12/2016

    All of these are highly processed. Lean towards whole foods ….just because it says “vegan” doesn’t mean it’s good for you ????

  • Emily 17/02/2017

    I think post is great but do you really think this is for families of small children with parents having full-time work? We’re a vegan family but to make everything from scratch would mean spending all of my non-working time cooking. The already-made meals are often free of preservatives/strange additives but contains a fair bit of oil and salt. But that just have to do for now. We eat a lot of veggies apart from our “junk food”.

  • Melissa 10/07/2017

    Maybe I’m in the minority, but your alternatives seem highly processed as well.

    • How so Melissa? They are all made from raw ingredients that are mainly whole foods?

  • Susan 15/07/2017

    What an awesome blog, very educational, thank you!

  • Jay 20/09/2017

    “Oreos aren’t vegan because they contain palm oil”

    Vegan- contains nothing made from animals or animal products or that comes from an animal or animal product.

    Palm oil – made from a fruit from Africa.

    ………..?

    • Yes, but if you read up on palm oil, that whole industry is having a devastating effect on the orangoutangs. So if the production of this ingredient (that is in pretty much in everything) has an impact on a species of animal and taking their home away from them, wouldn’t you consider that a problem as an ethical vegan?

  • Taylor 07/11/2017

    Vegan of 6 months here. I’m going to try the herbed cauliflower carrot falafels tonight! Though I’ll use garbanzo flour instead of almond flour. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Antonio 06/01/2018

    Great article!

  • Nicole 20/10/2018

    Thank you for this article! I was recently trying to connect with more vegans via FB and it seems like every group I join is just full of vegan junk food and so many faux meats with questionable ingredients…. which works for some people, but not for me! I’ll definitely take a look at some of your recipes!

Leave a Comment

Top