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Plant-based eating isn’t an exclusive club. You don’t have to be wealthy or white to join.
I looked around the yoga studio at my classmates. They were seated on folded blankets with their legs purposefully crossed, intently focused on the teacher at the front of the room.
The topic was the importance of a plant-based diet and the yogic principle of ahimsa, or “nonviolence.” Attending talks like this were part of the reason I became vegan.
l wanted to focus, but I was too distracted tallying the room. As is often the case, the count was one. I was the only person of color there.
Everyone wants to feel their best, but wellness hasn’t always been welcoming to all.
When it comes to nutrition and health, the myth that vegans must fit a certain mold is particularly harmful.
Conditions like diabetes and heart disease plague
There are seven key myths that perpetuate the idea that being vegan is only for certain privileged people. Here’s why they’re wrong.
I disprove this myth every day as a woman of color who eats a plant-based diet, but it’s not just me.
Though we may hear about them less often than their white counterparts, there are countless vegans who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color).
In recent years, many BIPOC celebrities have shared their passion for plant-based eating.
Other BIPOC celebrities are doing more than just supporting this lifestyle. They’re living it.
Less well-known BIPOC have been eating this way for years. The Rastafarian religion began about a century ago in Jamaica, and many of its members adhere to a plant-based diet, known as Ital.
Have you ever bought a bag of lentils? They go for $1.69 at my local supermarket and provide 13 servings per package. That’s $0.13 per portion. Protein doesn’t get much cheaper than that.
You may be thinking that beans and rice are cheap, but produce can be pricey. Think again. Veggies, including organic ones, don’t have to be expensive.
Companies like Misfits Market find creative ways to make eating green more affordable. They offer a box with 10 to 13 pounds of organic mixed fruits and vegetables for $22 per week.
Another option is joining Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to get more affordable farm-fresh food. Or if your only choice is supermarket produce, choose local in-season fruits and vegetables to keep costs down.
Vegan eating can be the same cost or even cheaper than an omnivorous diet.
If you increase your intake of vegan specialty foods and processed meat and cheese substitutes, your grocery bill might increase too. To spare your budget, stick to foods straight from the earth, including those frozen or canned.
Vegan meals don’t have to be lengthier or more complex to prepare than meat-based ones.
A sautée of broccoli and tofu is vegan. So is a bowl of black beans with rice, salsa, and guacamole. A mason jar of overnight oats with almond milk and berries? Yup, that’s vegan too.
Social media may have contributed to the myth that vegan food is complicated. When you look at popular vegan Instagram accounts, their grids are covered with beautiful photos of mouth-watering dishes.
These gorgeously plated meals are fun to look at because they’re not something the average person can make at home. But being vegan isn’t about making meals that look Insta-ready.
If you ate potato chips all day, you’d technically be following a vegan diet. You’d also be woozy.
That’s because chips have little nutritional value. If you consume nutritious, balanced vegan meals instead, hunger shouldn’t be an issue.
Simply eating a plate of vegetables isn’t a meal. You also need macronutrients like fats and proteins. A varied diet is especially important for vegans so that they can get complete proteins and not miss any essential amino acids.
If you start eating a plant-based diet and find that three meals a day isn’t enough, you can work with a nutritionist specializing in plant-based eating to make sure you have a balanced food plan.
As an alternative, simply check out sample vegan meal planners.
Preparing meals at home is gaining popularity over eating out, largely out of necessity due to COVID-19. This makes right now the perfect time to go vegan.
On the other hand, some of us are back to work with no time to prep meals and no vegan-friendly takeout options.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being a part-time vegan.
You’ll be in good company. Venus Williams identifies as a “chegan,” someone who tries to eat plant-based as much as possible but also partakes in non-vegan noshes from time to time.
Eating 50 or even 10 percent more plant-based meals is a great first step. You can add in vegan meals at a rate that’s sustainable for you.
Don’t let the fear of never eating your favorite non-vegan food again keep you from taking small steps toward your food goals. Just start with eating a little less.
One of the best ways to connect with loved ones is over a great meal.
What happens when you go vegan and get invited out to dinner with colleagues or friends?
Most restaurants have plant-based options. At a Moroccan restaurant, choose the veggie tagine, a dish made in a clay pot. At Asian spots, replace meat in your stir-fry with tofu. At the steak house, stick to the veggie sides.
Eating out as a vegan is getting easier as non-vegan restaurants add more plant-based alternatives.
For example, the vegan Impossible Burger is on menus everywhere. Restaurants, fast food spots, and coffee shops have joined the Impossible bandwagon. Now even Burger King has an Impossible Whopper and Starbucks has an Impossible Breakfast Sandwich.
When you want to have more choices than just the Impossible version of a menu item, invite your friends to a vegan restaurant.
Even if you get your friends or family to try vegan eating, manage your expectations of their reactions. They probably won’t be as excited as you are about plant-based grub.
That’s why the most difficult part of eating out with friends often isn’t finding a plant-based option. It’s staying humble.
If you make the switch to a plant-based diet and feel great about it, it’s natural that you’d want to share it. Resist the urge, at least over a shared meal.
Most plant-based eaters aren’t militantly trying to convert others. They know that food is a personal choice. What works for you might not work for someone else.
Plus, a lecture on going vegan might just turn someone off a plant-based diet altogether.
Now that you know a plant-based diet can work for you, prepare yourself for the change.
If you want to keep making the meals you’ve been cooking for years but just need to swap the meat out, check out this list of vegan substitutes.
If you’re concerned about getting enough protein, check out these plant-based protein sources and add them to your shopping list.
Still hungry? Cue these nutritious and delicious vegan snack ideas.
Pro tip: The Forks Over Knives website has a collection of vegan recipes.
Food equity is a major part of today’s antiracist movement.
BIPOC deserve access to wellness and deserve to know that health can be within their reach. Debunking the myths about a plant-based diet is one step toward that goal.
Health and disease don’t discriminate. Our diets shouldn’t either.
Colette Coleman is a writer passionate about health, wellness and plant-based eating. She holds a B.A. from Yale University and studied yoga and meditation with Sri Dharma Mittra in New York. Connect with Colette on Instagram here.