Junking Out Vegan Style
Veganism can seem very restrictive when it comes to choosing your meals—mainly because it is restrictive when compared to an anything-goes diet—and that is one of the main factors that put people off of making the switch to veganism, even when they agree with the ethical core of the movement.
Contrary to popular belief, a vegan diet is not all salad and Quorn burgers. There are plenty of recipes and products that can be classed as vegan junk food, and in this post, we’re going to show you some of the best options, as well as where to find them.
All Things in Moderation
One of the most common misconceptions about veganism is that it is inherently a healthy lifestyle. It certainly lends itself to a healthy diet more readily than one that includes meat and dairy, but, like all things in life, it is absolutely possible to have too much of a good thing.
In short, eating vegan junk food all day, every day is still eating junk food, and it will not be great for your health if you overdo it. A tasty vegan dessert or stacked vegan burger is great on occasion, but try not to fill every meal with these foods.
Vegan Junk Food
Generally speaking, vegan junk food can be anything that is questionable from a nutritional standpoint. It is possible to make a vegan snack using so much sugar that your teeth will practically fall out on contact. Contrast this imagined sugary snack with an avocado, which is relatively high in calories, but also packed with other nutrients that are important for your body’s health and wellbeing. In other words, it is not the presence of things like fat and sugar that makes something junk food, but the imbalance of that fat and sugar when compared to the other nutrients.
Junk food typically tastes better to our outdated palates—which evolved in a world where things like sugar were scarce—which is the primary reason we eat it. Unfortunately, it often contains an excess of things like fat, salt, and sugar, and not as much of those other vital nutrients your body needs. Junk food is not necessarily limited to processed foods, though processed foods are more likely to fit the junk food bill than whole foods. As mentioned above, the trick is to keep things in moderation. A meal that is high in fat and low in everything else is fine every so often, just don’t make it every meal.
So, what are some examples of vegan junk food? If some of these surprise you, it’s probably because some of these foods are accidentally vegan. As in, they didn’t set out to make a vegan product; it just so happens that their process and ingredients are vegan-friendly.
Lindt Chocolate Bars
Wait! Before you rush out and buy one of their “milk chocolate” bars, we’re not talking about every flavor of Lindt chocolate bar here. Specifically the 70% cacao variants. Anything higher should also be fine for vegan consumption, but check the ingredients before you buy. Once you start getting into the 60% cacao range, things get decidedly less vegan. And the milk chocolate offerings are certainly not suitable for vegan tummies.
Naturally, a nice chocolate bar is an excellent treat in and of itself, but having vegan-friendly chocolate to hand also opens up a whole world of possibilities as an ingredient in other vegan recipes.
Having being decidedly not vegan in the past—previous Oreo ingredients have included pig lard and dairy-derived protein—Oreos have, somewhat inadvertently, landed on a recipe that is acceptable for vegans. The changes that led to this were more to do with public health concerns than any concerted effort to create a vegan product, but this is where they have ended up regardless.
This can be a confusing one for some, primarily due to the fact that much of Oreo’s marketing has centered around how they are a great treat to eat dipped in milk. The fact that the filling of an Oreo is creamy and white may also play its part. However, as always, with vegan food, it is the ingredients that matter, and these ingredients are just fine for vegans.
Though there’s not really any reason to believe Ritz Crackers wouldn’t be vegan, crackers are often assumed to be on the no-fly list. It could be to do with the fact that crackers are forever associated with cheese. In the case of Ritz Crackers specifically, it could be the rich, buttery taste that they have.
Whatever the reason, there is nothing to fear. Ritz Crackers are free from animal products, even if they taste otherwise. Whether the fact that they taste like something that features animal products is a good thing or not will be down to you personally.
And the best thing about crackers is they are bland by design. These are blank canvases for you to create a delicious snack on, so go crazy with your vegan accouterments.
Once again, before you get carried away and buy all the Doritos in your local store, we are not talking about all Dorito flavors here. As clever as modern food processing has gotten, they still haven’t found a way to create the incredibly cheesy flavors that you find in some Doritos packets without using, well; cheese.
Doritos Spicy Sweet Chili, on the other hand, is entirely free of animal products. No dairy in any form. If you’re looking for comfort food in the familiar triangular crunchy shape, or you like a snack with a bit of a kick to it, this is a great option.
Sour Patch Kids
This might be the most surprising inclusion on this list for many. Vegans are generally well aware of the use of animals in creating gelatin, which is an essential ingredient in a number of popular candies. Finding out most of the sweet shop is off limits now you’re vegan is something that tends to stick with you.
Sour Patch Kids, however, are gelatin-free. We don’t know what black magic they have employed to pull off this remarkable feat, but there you have it. Be careful, though; they might be vegan-friendly, but they are just as sour as ever, and vegans aren’t immune to pulling incredibly unflattering faces in public places.
Kettle Potato Chips
Admittedly, it shouldn’t be too hard for a salt-flavored snack made from potatoes to be vegan, but a surprising amount of chips aren’t—not so with Kettle Brand Potato Chips.
Not only do these chips make an excellent snack, but they can also double as a substitute for other less vegan products, such as crackers. That being said, there’s something incredibly satisfying about just eating the chips directly from the bag.
Another very surprising entry on this list is the popular candy snack, Twizzlers. These sugary strands of delight look and feel like they should feature gelatin, but no, they are as vegan as it gets. They are also a prime example of vegan food not necessarily being healthy. Everything in moderation, kids!
Where to Find Vegan Junk Food
Finding vegan junk food might be more challenging than you think. This is largely due to the fact that there is a strong emphasis on quality over quantity in the vegan world. The more significant restrictions of the vegan diet tend to lead vegans to want to savor their food more, so they will pay more for an amazing-but-small portion.
Junk food is basically the opposite of that, giving you more food at the expense of the more refined flavors you might get in a gourmet meal. This leads to many vegan establishments leaving junk food off of the menu altogether, which can make finding vegan junk food a bit of a chore.
The first and most obvious place to find vegan junk food is your local store or supermarket. As shown above, there are plenty of vegan junky snacks in packaged form that you will be able to pick up at any good grocery store.
If you’re after something a little more substantial than a pack of vegan chips, you shouldn’t have to look too far. Though popular restaurants like TGI Fridays and Burger King haven’t exactly become vegan outlets, most of these kinds of establishments at least offer some vegan options. If you are looking for a wide selection of vegan delights, somewhere like TGI Fridays should not be the first place on your list. However, if you are looking for junk food, having a wide selection won’t be that high on your priorities.
It is worth reiterating that, vegan or not, junk food is not healthy. It would be a boring life if we only ever did things that were good for us, but keeping things in moderation is important. It is not just a matter of putting on weight, which is one of the common consequences of too much junk food, but there are physiological effects from not getting enough of the nutrients your body needs and psychological effects that can harm your mental health.
By all means, enjoy a vegan burger and fries once in a while, but don’t make it a daily thing.