I am about to open a Pandora’s Box on Food. And I would love to hear opinions. I am being honest when I say that I want to learn or least would like to consider myself open to hearing opinions differing from my own. Conversation, Discernment, Logic.
Here we go-when I first dove into health food preparation 20+ years ago it was just that. Headfirst, had no idea what I was getting into other than preparing “Health Food”. Little did I know what that world entailed. Not just vegetarian and vegan foods, but also the world of food allergies (I like antagonists better, we will do a bit on that for another day), and food substitutes. It blew me AWAY the common food allergens – wheat, dairy, nuts, gluten, egg, and eventually soy; and the health issues they create.
But what truly got me 20+ years agon and now with the meat substitute revival is just that-the FAKE meat products that continue to be all the craze. Before you get offended, hear me out.
We critique the fast-food industry for their “on the go’ over simplicity f food that they have made available for us. How terrible and processed and fatty and preserved this food is. Now look at the fake meats, chicken, hot dogs, sausages, cheeses, and frozen desserts. Read their ingredients. Can you pronounce their ingredients any easier than other processed foods on the shelf, refrigerator section or freezer? People are worried about putting animal fat in their bodies for fear of heart attacks yet if you remember, processed fats/created fats/hydrogenated fats are what is killing us. The only problem with animal fats is when it is conventional fats because that is where all the toxins hang out. I guarantee you our grand[rents or great grandparents now ( I forget we are inn a new century), did not have nearly the heart disease issues and diabetes that we have now. And they were eating animal product and baked goods. BUT THEY WERE UNREFINED, as far as the flours and grains go. And the animal product, the animals were eating of the earth and not being force fed what we think makes them taste better. My heart and stomach churned watching Andrew Zimmerman think it was so cool how they are leaving a whole cows’ bodies open to disease by having a whole directly to their stomach to see how their stomachs are digesting different foods to make their cheeses tase better. Now that is something, I can get on the animal cruelty bandwagon about. But it is science. REALLY?
Back to food substitutes. 20+ years ago I nearly fell down when my assistant Judy began to educate me on what vegans wanted to be eating/what we were to be preparing for our hot tables for lunch and dinner selections at the store I worked at. Fake chicken nuggets, fake mac and cheese, fake chicken salad, tofu egg salad, fake beef (seitan) stir fry and once Thanksgiving came around, we must make sure we stocked Tofurkeys. My first question after being educated on what vegans will and will not consume, was “Why, if vegans are against eating animal product do, they insist on having meat substitutes? Doesn’t that perpetuate what they’re protesting against?” I have been completely honest with my vegan friends and colleagues over the years and shared these questions with them as well. Some share their beliefs and answer my questions, some will no longer work with me. I am okay with that because I love to make plant-based foods. I honor people’s food choices and respect the method of food prep (I WILL NOT cook veggies in a meat pan for example or use the same cutting boards, the same way I do for food allergies-everything is separate). And I am forever grateful for both Judy and my mentor Pam Brown for educating me on proper vegan cooking.
So how can fake/processed meat and cheese be healthier for you than the real product? Why would you rationalize that it is better for you when it is processed versus eating animal product? Why would you put yourself through the torture of convincing yourself that you are eating something that is obviously fake? Why do you think that once it is not made from animal product that it is healthier for you and therefore can eat more of it? Fake cheeses made with fats, that are more refined and/or made with processed nuts that still have fats the SAME WAY CHEESE DOES. So, you are still only supposed to have that one or however many ounces portion size. The same on the fake meats. Portion size is the same as animal product. AND it processed.
Personally, I will take the gamble on organic meat and dairy or goat or sheep cheese vs. the fake stuff. Yes, I will continue to find whole food ingredient substitutes for my food allergy and vegan friends, family and clients who need to avoid certain foods. That is why I do what I do. To find HEALTHY alternatives for those who are digestively challenged.
Pam Brown and her husband Moses were vegans who taught me s much during my first year in Health Foods. Pam taught me that for a vegan (pretty much for everyone), the importance of having dark leafy green veggies EVERY DAY for their nutrient density that vegan will miss, as well as beans. They did not eat fake/created foods. They were not “American vegans” who live on processed vegan foods, although they were Americans. Pam made all her own desserts for them to nosh on. She is the perrons who told me that vegans for the most part are as sick if not sicker than meat eaters because of all the processed foods they were/eating. “You cannot eat potato chips and French fried and profess you are a healthy vegan.”
Bottom line in my opinion, fake meat and cheese is just as unhealthy for you are processed omnivore foods. You choose to be vegetarian or vegan, I am all for it. Please eat properly and educate yourself on the amazing benefits these lifestyles have for you when eating this way.