Home Play With Your Food Graph: “What Vegans Eat”

Graph: “What Vegans Eat”

by Erika Nicole Kendall

So… apparently this little graph has been making the rounds, and finally got to my inbox.

From I Love Charts:

While I laughed – heartily – at “grass,” looking at the list of “what vegans actually eat” did nothing but make me sad.

“Burgers,” “bacon” – bacon? – “buffalo wings,” “cheese steak sandwiches,” “mac-n-cheese,” “marshmallows,” “fried ‘chicken,'” “hot dogs,” “sushi,” “tofurky?”

So, basically, in order to educate people on what vegans eat, you present me a list that is almost 1/3 to 1/2 soy? Probably genetically modified, probably unfermented?

In short, about half of all you have to offer me, vegan, is processed food? No thanks.

I’m not even 100% vegan and I make way better vegan food than this.

What’s my beef? (No pun intended… okay, maybe just a little…)


No matter what alternative eating lifestyle you embrace… it is not synonymous with clean eating. Being a vegan doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be eating clean. Think about it – if you hit the “healthy” section (!) of the grocery store, what do you see? You certainly don’t see produce.You see boxes. Cans. Packages. You see “vegan cheese (and it melts!).” “Vegan chik’n.” “Vegan sausage.” Meatless versions of everything. All kinds of substitutions.

C’mon – processed, processed, processed and processed. If you’ve adopted your lifestyle based on the fact that you could “replace” cheese with something processed… you’re going to suffer the same fate. Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow.. but it absolutely will come.

When you live your eating lifestyle based on processed food replacements and substitutes for what you used to eat… I can’t imagine what makes one think they’d be spared from the consequences of “un-clean eating” just because their eating habits become more restricted.

All my clean eating vegans out there… tell me y’all aren’t eating what this chart says you’re eating. Help do your people some good and talk about what’s on your plate!

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Jewel November 3, 2011 - 10:54 AM

LMAO! New vegan over here. I don’t touch any of the faux meats or cheeses. My attitude is that I left meat and cheese and other things for a reason. I am not a soy fan. I eat as healthy and whole as possible with whole grains.
PS I buy organic even on foodstamps(there is no shame).

Love ya!

Ashley November 3, 2011 - 11:25 AM

Lol I laughed when I saw this graph too. I try to limit my intake of any processed foods…if I want “cheeze” I use soaked cashews and nutritional yeast, if I want “meat” (which whatever for me, it’s mainly for my omni family/friends) I use mushrooms or beans. The only soy I really use ever is tempeh but even that is pretty rare. I, however, am a super lazy vegan an veggies are so easy to chop up and bake or sauté that I prefer that to anything else anyway lol but tofutti and tofurkey and some of those other vegan brands are not good for you just cuz they are “vegan”, they still have MSG or trans fats and that does not a clean lifestyle make, so I’ve never even tried them honestly.

Lauren (PB&G) November 3, 2011 - 11:34 AM

I agree that the chart doesn’t do vegans justice but a vegan diet is the same as any other diet: using your brain to eat the things that you know are good for you. Eating some fried “chick-un” is only slightly healthier than eating fried chicken and should be eaten in moderation, same as cookies, marshmallows, tempura, mac and cheez..

I watch for GMO ingredients and fake stuff. My rule is that if it has more then 5 or 6 ingredients and I can’t pronounce them, I probably shouldn’t be buying it. I usually make my own fake “meat” when I crave that meaty protein rush and I hardly ever buy the processed stuff.

Tachae November 3, 2011 - 12:18 PM

You should do one about the “organic” frozen meals. My friend prides herself on eating those when she can afford to eat healthy. To make things worse, they cone from Wal-mart ….okay? WAL-MART, for a dollar and eight cents. $1.80 there it is on dollar form…, I’m no expert, but anything made wholly organic, that can be BOXED and sold for 1.80?! I’m a little suspect…

Kait November 3, 2011 - 3:19 PM

“Junk food vegans” is the proper term.

Let me present my meals today:

Breakfast: Pumpkin/Kale smoothie (made with almond milk), homemade Kind bar

Lunch: 1 c Curried Lentil & Squash Soup, 2 slices 100% whole wheat (no artificial or preserved anything) bread, 2 c black bean & butternut squash burrito filling (my wraps went bad).

Mid-afternoon snack: carrots + celery sticks with 1.5 TBSP freshly ground almond butter and 1 medium apple.

Dinner: Roasted potatoes and yams with homemade “cheese” sauce made using almond milk, nooch, miso, and some spices. And probably some more soup.

So yea…I eat a lot of fake stuff! 😉

Cherished November 3, 2011 - 5:04 PM

I’m not a vegan but I don’t like eating meat substitutes. I would much prefer the other choices.

I would also like to make my own veggie patties. To me the frozen ones in a box taste like the box them come in.

I like the term Flexitarian’ too.

I think we shouldn’t eat more meat than if we had to hunt it ourselves and I’m pretty weak so that means little meat for me.

Thanks for bringing to our attention again about processed food of any kind.

Lakisha November 4, 2011 - 5:39 PM

Im a new vegan, 7 weeks in, and I have tried some tofu and tempeh. tofu just tastes funny but the tempeh tastes much better. I still get in plenty of FRESH fruit and veggies. Its all about moderation.

Paula November 4, 2011 - 8:56 PM

That ‘what people think vegans eat’ chart is funny! According to some people I’ve encountered who discovered that I was vegan – that questionable grey area would constitute as cardboard.

When I made the decision to adopt a clean, vegan diet, fake, imitation and “like” animal products – were clear off of my radar. What I did try (prior to my transition), was disgusting! Plus, I’m a grown woman, if I wanted to keep tasting cheese and bacon … I would’ve just kept eating it, lol. So, I’m good on the impostor food.

I’m a veggie-freak, as my diet now is primarily plant-based. But, with the variety of all that’s out there, I never get bored with meals, nor am I urged to indulge in VegCheez (spread on a piece of cardboard).

Lorretta A.Walker November 5, 2011 - 6:57 PM

I have been vegan for over a year, and I focus on eating as clean as possible. To be a true clean eater, you have to read labels. I try to eat as many GMO free food as possible. I do primarily cook from scratch, but I will occasionally buy the minimally processed food (if it’s organic, non GMO, and has a few easy to understand ingredients). Thank you for the pie graphs, sister Erika. The illustration puts a vegan diet in a whole different perspective. In my prior life as a non clean eating vegetarian, I have been guilty of many of the processed examples in the graph. I have come a long way, thanks to your blog and the various vegan oriented bloggers in the blogosphere!

Tara Melissa November 6, 2011 - 9:25 PM

I did a vegan challenge (now I’m back to flexitarianism, which for me is mostly vegetarian, with limited intake of animal products) and while I avoided substitutes for dairy and meat (I had vegan chicken way back once, and I swear it tasted just like the real thing – then I started wondering what kind of things that food product had to go through to look, feel and taste like chicken, and I was disgusted), I had a hard time fitting in protein without relying on tofu.

I made couscous, quinoa and beans on occasion, but I kept falling back on tofu (and edamame). If I were to do it again, I’d try to not rely on them so much.

amokiyah November 18, 2011 - 1:25 PM

i’m a newer vegetarian, aug, who is wanting to become vegan. the only animal product i was eating was greek yogurt, i stopped that and picked up a nasty cheese habit. ugh. i have gotten lazy, due to crazy work/home schedules and have found myself doing the “junk food” vegetarian thing. i can’t lie, @ all! but i haven’t gone back to the meat/fish, so i guess that’s the positive. i’m going to use the long holiday weekend to get myself back on track. and i DETEST most of the fake meats, they are just not for me and are waaayyyy to expensive, so fortunately that has not been an issue. i also laughed my butt all the way off @ “grass”! really?! hahahaaa!

Khaleeqa November 18, 2011 - 2:59 PM

I am a vegetarian I eat mostly vegan the only time I don’t is if I go out for an event or date and there are no vegan options. I was vegan for a long time and I didn’t over indulge in fake meats or cheese I prefer the real thing. Additionally many of those fake cheese/meat products are overpriced.

However, I feel that in the vegan/vegetarian community there is an elitist tone toward people who do partake in those products. Yes those products are more processed but in my experience in losing tons of weight and maintaining weight loss they are much better then eating the flesh of another animal. No one is perfect. And to be honest your body is going to process these items quicker than the real thing. (example real cheese vs almond cheese)

I am not advocating that people have these items in their diet on a regular basis but I am quite tired of the vegan/vegetarian community making people feel bad about partaking. No one eats perfect 100% of the time forever so I’d much rather someone indulge in boca burger vs the real thing.

Erika Nicole Kendall November 18, 2011 - 3:42 PM

I’m sorry, but I could not disagree more. You need genetically modified food? Your body processes genetically modified food better than actual animal flesh? No. LOL

It’s not about “cutting meat” making youlose weight. It’s cutting the calories that comes with the way you were consuming it. I’m a supporter of veg-based lifestyles, but let’s not obscure the truth for the sake of trying tonplay PR for a lifestyle. Stop playing. LOL

Khaleeqa November 18, 2011 - 8:46 PM

In my comment I never said you need GM food in your diet. I said if you are going to partake in one over the other then I would much prefer the veggie based product over the meat. Not all veggie processed food is bad/GM it depends on the brand (Amy’s makes an awesome whole veggie burger). You can ask any nutritionist they are going to tell you that your body will break down almond cheese way faster then real cheese..c’mon stop playing lol. In addition as someone mentioned in the comments you can make your own “fake meat” at home that would be deemed “processed” but its way healthier and easier for your body to digest then the real thing. This is not even touching on the quality of real burgers that most people eat which are often made up of 100 different animals or animals that are infectious, cancerous and living in fowl conditions.

I understand that you website is mostly about health and weight loss but not everybody who is a vegan/vegetarian does so solely for those reasons. Some people want to have a “kinder” diet. So if that means forgoing a real burger for the betterment of our environment and my health I am down.

Applaud you for bringing up these topics but I don’t think I am obscuring the truth to do PR for this lifestyle. The tone of my comment was rooted in the frustration I have with the elitism of the vegan/vegetarian community.

Erika Nicole Kendall November 18, 2011 - 10:57 PM

I’d like to think it was pretty clear that I was referring to GMOs specifically and not that which is made both ethically and holistically (which is why I’m mildly confused by the person who agreed with you), and that’s not an issue of elitism. It’s an issue of keeping a healthy body, something many of these products simply do not aid one in providing.

Clean eating, in regard to your other comment, is not about weight loss. It is a means of acquiring it, the primary means that THIS BLOG supports. Please don’t minimize what I do here or try to put words in my mouth. There are several posts where I not only explain the premise but how it applies to veggie-based lifestyles altogether. A “kinder” diet doesn’t have to come at the expense of an individual’s health, and I stand by what I’ve already said. Some of that stuff is trash.

Food that is “processed” at home is in no way comparable to what’s made and sold in most stores. You guys want to compare apples to kool-aid, then by all means, go for it. I, however, can’t hang. I’ll have to politely tap out. I don’t consider “black bean burgers” to be “fake meat,” nor do I consider “cheez” to be “fake cheese.” I consider a McRib “fake meat.” I consider “american cheese” to be fake cheese. We aren’t working with the same definitions, here, and you’re defending something that isn’t up for judgment, right now. Ani Phyo and Ronald McDonald aren’t one in the same on this topic. At all.

Khaleeqa November 18, 2011 - 11:09 PM

I by no means was trying to minimize your work/ site. I share your articles with friends and family all the time. I post your links on my fan page. I think what you are doing is fabulous and I am constantly inspired.

In regards to this topic I was just sharing my opinion as a vegetarian/vegan tis all. I think we both have the same opinion about what is healthy/good eating but its a different way of expressing it. Thanks for opening up this discussion because it continues to give people transparency about what they are eating.

Erika Nicole Kendall November 20, 2011 - 8:49 AM

I understand, and agreed. 🙂

Khaleeqa November 18, 2011 - 8:58 PM

I do agree with you that eating clean is the best way to go no matter what your goals are you should limit your processed food intake. As I do. Too often people just make assumptions about what “fake meats” are and write them off as processed or GMO not all are created equal and regardless (like you advocate) people need to limit consumption of these items.

Lakisha November 18, 2011 - 7:52 PM

Khaleega, I agree with you. I havent been vegan long, two months, but I do believe that “fake meat” is healthier than animal flesh. I wouldn’t even want to eat the free range, hormone free meat, nor give it to my child. I sometimes even make my own fake meat using black beans, vital wheat gluten, nutrional yeast, and many tasty spices. All fake meat is not created equal, there are some brands out there that use wholesome ingredients to make their product. All fake meat is not genetically modified.

“I am not advocating that people have these items in their diet on a regular basis but I am quite tired of the vegan/vegetarian community making people feel bad about partaking. No one eats perfect 100% of the time forever so I’d much rather someone indulge in boca burger vs the real thing.”

You hit the nail right on the head with that statement.

Janine September 29, 2012 - 7:27 PM

Oh hell no! I’m a vegetarian that’s 80% vegan, and I would never touch those nasty chemical bombs (aka, ‘meat replacements’). I get my protein from beans, seeds, nuts, and whole grains… and I make a killer homemade seitan, without the tons of salt. In my experience, people who rely on meat replacements to make meals are much less successful as vegetarians or vegans. They’ll usually go back to their old ways in a few months or a year, because they’re not actually changing their food environment for the better. They’re just eating pale imitations of what they were eating before.

GreekGirl June 2, 2013 - 11:32 AM

It was time someone mentioned this! It’s really sad, you know… I eat vegan almost half the days of the week and my sis is a full time commited one,and the only processed things she’s had were some crackers she didn’t even finish! She has all kind of veggies and legumes, rice, wheat, fruits there’s no need for that s**t! When I want to eat meat, once or twice a week I can go to my butcher and grab some minced beef and hit a bolognesse no need for that hideous soy substitute!The other days of the week I consume dairy and eggs so more of a vegetarian diet

kami June 27, 2013 - 8:05 AM

Vegetarian girl over here. Now I do eat eighty percent of the time. Sometimes I do dairy. I gave up processed foods including vegan items. I just rather use real cheese or make my cheese out of nuts. i do not like fake imitation products. My list is black eye peas, black lentil, green lentils, red lentils, black beans, yellow and green split peas, kidney beans, adzuki beans, chickpeas, yucca , plantain, all types of nuts, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, chia seed, raw sugar, kale, mangoes, bok choy, swiss chard, pineapple, salads, leeks, beets, nectarines, banana, collard greens, calaloo. tomatoes, all types of cooking flours not soy, dark chocolate, organic cheese, snow peas, all types of peppers, peaches, plums, brown rice ( purple and volcano rice, pearl rice, quinoa, millet, strawberries, pears, guineppe, avocado sour apple, melonsand other tropical fruits.

kami June 27, 2013 - 8:17 AM

I meant I eat vegan most of the time. I am trying to eat clean so I am not buying processed food. Now I am focusing on making whole foods from scratch. For the past three months I been focusing on eliminating soy out of the diet. Now when I go out to vegan restaurants they rely on soy products so much I end up ordering sides. I prefer to go out to eat at a place that relies on whole foods ie. Indian, ethiopian, sometimes trinidadian, and other cuisines that do not rely on fake meats.

Ceej June 27, 2013 - 2:27 PM

I’m slowly making the transition to vegetarianism, and I also am not down with “fake meats”, highly processed meat-substitutes, things high in soy, or things that “taste just like meat”. I don’t want the taste or the texture or meat anymore. While I do eat clean, I heard a term that made more sense that vegetarian: plant strong. It seems to be clean but plant-protein heavy, and light on the soy. Have you heard about this Ericka? What do you think?

Erika Nicole Kendall June 27, 2013 - 11:19 PM

I am in FULL support of it. I often at this way during the summertime. Meat is just too hot and heavy during those hot months for me. Besides, watermelon is so much more fun. LOL

Marah July 11, 2015 - 10:10 AM

I admire, envy, and model all you clean vegans. I am a junk food vegan, paying the price and working every day to try to clean up. Not everyone can quit comfort foods, sugar, etc. in one day. Therefore I am thankful for these faux burgers and junk that allowed me to be an active advocate for the animals. The animals were first priority. This chart is a great tool to show people who will not even consider going vegan because they think vegan is chart #1. If they realize they were wrong, at least they can’t logically use that argument to keep contributing to the horrific torture of animals. For Standard American Diet people, this chart is step 1.
You all reached the goal. Congratulations.
Please keep a little empathy for those of us still climbing.

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