welcome to #debunked, where in each edition i debunk a myth! in this week’s edition, we are talking about veganism, specifically, how many believe that it is too expensive to be a practical lifestyle.
i’ve thought about this a lot, and i think the number one reason why people think being vegan is too expensive is that they think that vegan replacement foods (i.e. vegan meats/cheeses/yogurts/soy products) are necessary to a vegan diet, and since they tend to be pricier than their animal counterparts, that veganism is a first-world luxury diet deemed too expensive for most people. it’s a fair idea for people to believe, but i am here to say that it is false. while these products can be delicious, (i do enjoy my share of them) they are not essential to a healthy vegan diet.
i also hear people say that they want to be vegan, but don’t have access to a whole foods/fresh market/health food store or they can’t get exotic fruits and smoothie bowl ingredients they see all over instagram. i’m here to tell you that you can STILL TOTALLY BE VEGAN even if all you have access to is stores like walmart, kroger, food liner, winco, or publix!
so – before i begin, a quick history lesson: in the paleolithic and neolithic eras in human history, people survived through eating mainly plant-based proteins. a hunter-gatherer skeleton found in afro-eurasia confirms that plant protein was a sustaining source of human life – and it still is! the glucose that our cells run on comes from carbohydrates – beans, rice, potatoes, pasta, fruits, veggies and whole grains! without carbohydrates, we go into ketosis, which can be very dangerous as it is deprivation to our cells. carbs = life – they will NOT make you fat if you prepare them well! don’t forget it. 😉
the main concern i hear about veganism is lack of nutrition (i.e. not enough protein, iron, b12, d3, k-complex, etc). however, you can get everything you need on a vegan diet without replacement foods! these are essential vitamins to a human’s diet, all of which can be consumed on a vegan diet:
- vitamin a: vital for good health and longevity; benefit eye health; boost immunity; foster cell growth (a powerful antioxidant) — can be found in cooked sweet potato, cooked carrots, cooked kale, cooked butternut squash, romaine lettuce, dried apricots, cantaloupe, sweet red peppers, and mango
- vitamin k: helps blood to clot; builds strong bones, prevents heart disease — can be found in cauliflower, brussels sprouts, spinach, cabbage, and kale
- vitamin d: vital for calcium absorption and strong bones — can be found in sunlight! however, if you are not in the sun a lot, be sure to take a vegan d3 supplement! you can find these at whole foods, fresh market, amazon.com, or at your local health food store.
- vitamin c: an antioxidant which helps repair and regenerate collagen; essential for beautiful and youthful skin — can be found in broccoli, citrus fruits, tomatoes, cabbage, red bell pepper, brussels sprouts, papaya, strawberries, and leafy greens
- vitamin e: supports proper immune function; an antioxidant; protects skin — can be found in almonds, sunflower seeds, olives, spinach, asparagus, and leafy greens
- folate: regulates cellular functioning; produces and maintains cells; important in pregnancy; helps prevent DNA changes that lead to cancer; makes red blood cells; prevents anemia — can be found in sea veggies, asparagus, collards, mustard greens, romaine lettuce, parsley, cantaloupe, spinach, tomato, and broccoli
- b vitamins (b6, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, thiamin): provide energy; maintain brain function; essential for healthy hair — can be found in bananas, nutritional yeast, mushrooms, spinach, seaweed, green beans, peas, broccoli, avocado, coconut yogurt, sunflower seeds, collard greens, squash, sweet potato, yam, nuts (except peanuts)
- b12: the most common vitamin used against vegans! it creates strong hair, nails, and skin; maintains a healthy digestive system; reduces fatigue; regulates central nervous system; minimizes stress — can be found in probiotics/enzymes, nutritional yeast, sea veggies, and blue-green algae, but i find the easiest way to get it is by simply taking a supplement! simply buy a b12 supplement from your local grocery or health food store, just make sure that the pills don’t have gelatin or beeswax.
my purpose in typing this list is to show you that simple plant foods can meet all of your nutritional needs for low prices!
the easiest and cheapest protein and iron sources, in my opinion, are:
- beans and rice
- rice noodles
- nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, etc)
- seeds (pumpkin, chia, flax, hemp, sunflower, etc)
- soy (milk, tofu, tempeh, seitan)
- green peas
- nutritional yeast
almost all, if not all of these can be found at your local grocery store, no matter where/how rural you live!
my general hacks for buying fruits + veggies + vegan foods for cheap:
- buy frozen, organic if you can! they keep longer and are definitely cheaper.
- buy in bulk! your supply will last longer and will most likely have a more wallet-friendly unit price.
- on that note — check unit prices! the smaller the $ per ounce, the cheaper the food is.
- just check ingredients labels! if you see something on sale/for a low price, see if it’s vegan! SO many things are accidentally vegan – just check to see.
i would say that absolutely anywhere you go will have the following:
- rice (boxed or bulk) (usually one of the cheapest things you can buy but depends on which kind you’re getting)
- beans (canned or raw) (usually one of the cheapest things you can buy but depends on which kind you’re getting)
- pasta ($1-$2 a box)
- fruit (bananas, dates, citrus, berries, frozen) (depends on type/quality, usually pretty cheap though)
- veggies (raw, frozen) (depends on type/quality, usually pretty cheap though)
- tofu (yes, even places like walmart! it’s usually near the produce section) ($1-$2 per block)
- don’t like tofu? that’s okay! either get your protein from another source or try preparing it differently!
- vegan supplements as i mentioned previously (or you could just amazon them)
- lentils (usually about $1.50 per pound)
- peanut butter ($2-$5 depending on brand)
- nondairy milks – usually almond or soy ($2-$3 per half gallon)
- bread/bagels ($2-$2 per loaf)
- oats ($2-$3 for a big can or box of instant packs)
- veggie broth ($2-$3)
- canned tomatoes ($1-$2 per can)
- marinara sauce/salsa/soy sauce ($1-$3 per jar)
- tortillas/chips ($2-$5 per bag)
- cereal (check ingredients labels to make sure they’re vegan – doesn’t mean they’re optimal for your health, but still a good breakfast food!) ($2-$5 per box)
- protein bars (i recommend clif) ($2-$10 depending on which brand/quantity of what you get)
- and… junk foods! remember that these ARE vegan:
- potato chips
- sorbet and popsicles (dairy free of course)
- chocolate sauce
- cake mix (duncan hines, betty crocker… just CHECK INGREDIENTS LABELS!)
- and more… just READ THE LABELS!!
yet, as we all know, veganism is a lifestyle, not just a diet. be sure to only buy products that are not tested on animals, many of which CAN be found at your local grocery or drugstore! some of my favorite brands include alba, pacifica, elf, wet n wild, physicians formula, herbal essences, and yes to. http://www.crueltyfreekitty.com has great lists of cruelty-free drugstore brands.
so, in summation:
- you CAN be vegan without access to gourmet foods and fancy grocery stores! all you need are the basics – keep it simple. if you can afford it, try to eat organic/source your foods locally. however, in the bigger picture, don’t feel pressure to be fully organic. simply eating a vegan or plant-based diet is already doing SO much… don’t stress about being organic or not.
- you can be on a budget and a healthy vegan – just make every meal count and make sure to buy only what you need – sources of protein, iron, and vitamins!
the world truly is progressing, and more and more plant foods are appearing at even the smallest general stores. i hope this helped clear up any confusion or questions on this matter! stay tuned for more editions of #debunked in the future.