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Jennifer Irvine is Founder of several award-winning healthy food delivery services and her company has just launched Plant-based Balance Box making plant-based eating simple with nutritionally designed meals prepared by chefs without meat, dairy, or other animal products. 

She feels very strongly about the pitfalls of vegan food alternatives and how over-processed vegan foods are often worse for you than the meat equivalent, and in some cases potentially damaging to your health. 

Jennifer believes that what we eat affects us both mentally and physically and how not eating the right foods, is contributing to the nation’s current mental health and obesity crisis.

Jennifer comments: “Around the turn of this century, we were all eating too much meat when we should have been eating meals based on seasonal vegetables, this has played a role in the obesity health crisis. Vegetables as a side dish rather than the main celebration was the mistake we made. A lot of the modern diseases link back to this poor diet such as the rise in bowel cancer and other cancers, there is a direct link to poor diet and digestive movement. Your body needs vegetables not just for vitamins and minerals, but also for good gut health, and to keep things moving.”

Pitfalls of a vegan diet  

Jennifer feels strongly that with the new wave of veganism over the last few years, the issue has been that not everyone has the time or the education to properly be vegan, and this has led to cases of malnourishment.

Unlike traditional vegans, modern-day consumers are looking for convenient options which are often highly processed foods, with some of the worst culprits being fake milk and fake cheese.

Lots of plants contain protein but not complete protein. Jennifer advises people to have at least 30 different varieties of fruit and vegetables in a week, she stresses we need the variety and should be eating more things such as edamame beans, mushrooms, quinoa, white beans, and chickpeas.  

People need to be wary of taking on a vegan diet and must do their research, there are great alternatives out there from a taste perspective but nutritionally lacking such as unfortified nut milks, which are delicious, but don’t have the same nutritional value as cow’s milk. 

Over Processed Vegan Meat Alternatives 

Fake meats are usually ultra-high processed, for example to get a fake meatball to taste like a normal one you have to add lots of fat to it, in turn the body doesn’t digest it well. There are lots more calories in such meals, people need to understand that it doesn’t mean it’s natural just because it’s plant-based. We need to eat food in a more natural whole form, so nutrients are absorbable and digestible. 

Tips for people wanting to switch to plant-based diets:

  • Do your research and find out what a perfectly balanced diet looks like, so you know how to plan. 
  • Record and keep a food diary, there are lots of electronic diaries available which will help you identify why you are not getting the right nutrients.
  • Enjoy it and embrace it – visit farms and farmers markets and choose really fresh produce for your meals, make a celebration of it. 
  • Look at healthy food swaps, for example make a vegetable pie rather than a cottage pie, swap the potatoes for a butterbean crust so you’re getting more protein and add in sea vegetables such as kelp, dulse or purslane which are unprocessed and rich in iron.
  • If you’re looking to change the family’s diet look at making it fun for the kids and grow your own vegetables.

Plant-based eating, when properly planned can have fantastic health benefits but planning nutritionally balanced meals that don’t sacrifice on taste or health can be a headache.