As you may have seen or heard, last month Oprah featured a show detailing how hundreds of her staffers went vegan for a week. They were helped out by Kathy Freston, author of Veganist. If you’re a vegan and you read a lot of blogs or Twitter, you may have seen a lot of rants about how Kathy loaded the staffers up with Gardein, Daiya, and Tofurkey products. This angered a lot of vegans, because it makes up look like we’re all eating a vegan version of the Standard American Diet (SAD), eschewing fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Kathy wrote an article for the Huffington Post a few days ago, defending her use of processed vegan products as an important part of the transitional diet. The gist of her reasoning is that she was trying to get those people to be able to eat as close to their omnivorous diet as possible, with vegan substitutes, to make it easier and make people more likely to stick with a vegan diet. After all, it’s still healthier (mostly true) and still prevents animal cruelty (very true). However, I disagree with her doing this- it’s still going to scare the average Oprah viewer off of veganism.
Any idea how expensive those vegan substitutes are?????
At my local Whole Foods, the cheapest place around to buy frozen Gardein and Daiya, the Gardein costs between $5-$6 per package. At local health food stores, Gardein regularly comes in between $6.50-$7.50 per package. Most packages have 2-3 servings, which means you’ll have to buy two packages to feed a family of four. In addition, if you’re really just copying the SAD, you’ll likely need twice that amount. $12-$30 on faux meat for one meal just isn’t economical- and that’s not including the rest of the meal.
That’s exactly why people say it’s expensive to eat vegan, or even just “healthy.”
Some refrigerated Gardein products can also be found at Trader Joe’s sold under the house label, and are cheaper than at Whole Foods. I’ve not seen frozen Gardein at Trader Joe’s.
I’m not saying that these processed products should be avoided entirely, but the shopping cart that was shown on Oprah had to have had several hundred dollars worth of vegan food in it- for a week’s worth of food. If you’re a viewer sitting at home, how is that in any way, shape or form going to encourage you to go vegan? Oprah’s staffers clearly got quite a bit of free food products as shown during the episode, which is awesome for those people, but not realistic for the rest of us.
Gardein’s not bad for you- it is made from whole grains and legumes, but eating those healthy things in a processed form every night isn’t all that good for you, either.
Here’s a couple of ways I’ve had it:
Daiya is very, very, tasty and made from “all-natural” ingredients, but is basically a source of fat and calories with no nutritional benefit. Don’t get me wrong- I love Daiya, but I’m also not the best model for healthy eating.
Vegan Pizza covered in Daiya!
I’m sure that the episode was good marketing for Gardein and Daiya and Tofurkey. Good for them- I support these companies and want them to stick around. I’m sure that some viewers will increase their animal-free meals because Oprah encouraged them to do so, but I don’t think it was good for veganism in the grand scheme of things.
If you’re looking for more economical ways to be a healthy eater, all I can say is : greens, beans, and whole grains. They’re tasty, they’ll fill you up and not wear out your wallet. Some of the recipes on my blog (but not all) are in this vein. A really good blog for cheap vegan eats is Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a day. There are tons of healthy, tasty, fast and economical vegan foods out there. Why not try some of those?
If you’re interested in reading more about a whole foods non-processed diet (the cheapest way to eat vegan), consider reading The China Study. I’m reading it right now. And it made President Bill Clinton go mostly vegan!