Ethical eating has become a hot topic recently, especially with consumers seemingly lurching towards veganism. Many food brands have started releasing vegan products, such as the infamous Gregg’s vegan sausage roll in the UK. But whilst veganism is seen as the apex of ethical eating, is a vegan grocery list really that much better than a vegetarian one?
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Whether you like it or not, we all need to be eating more vegetables and less meat. The #1 ranked Mediterranean diet looks at eating more legumes and veg and reducing meat in order to achieve optimal healthy eating. The new planetary diet looks at scaling back both meat and dairy to an absolute minimum. Flexitarianism is fast becoming another ideal, reducing meat, but not eliminating it, with the goal or making people healthier, more ethical, and being more sustainable.
However, the number of people enjoying meatless diets is increasing. More people are becoming vegetarian and vegan than ever before. January 2019 saw the most successful Veganuary yet, with over 250,000 people officially taking part in the campaign.
So, if we’re rebuking meat, what is the best alternative? Should you go vegetarian and allow yourself dairy and other animal products? Or go the whole plant-based hog and plump for veganism?
We’ll look at several important areas and compare both vegan and vegetarian shopping lists, to see which is better.
Vegetarian vs Vegan Grocery List
Whether the economy is in boom or bust, there’s never a bad time to be cost conscious. So, for many, the cost of a vegetarian or vegan shopping list will be one of the most important factors.
The good news is that being vegetarian or vegan is generally cheaper than buying meat.
However, keeping the costs down depends entirely on how you practice your vegetarianism or veganism.
If you stick to just vegetables, you’ll do just fine. You can even save more money by making sure you have plenty of canned food or frozen food on your vegetarian or vegan food list. These are generally cheaper than fresh food and is proven to be just as healthy.
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Prices will start to rack up if you start buying meat substitutes, like plant-based beefburger imitations, non-dairy cheese, and the like. They’re delicious and can help curb your urge for these types of food, but they come with a hefty price tag. However, their growing popularity does mean they’re slowly becoming more reasonable. Opting for organic food is another factor that will make your vegetable grocery list dearer.
The one thing that is definitely more expensive is dairy-free milk alternatives. Soy, rice, almond, cashew, and coconut milk are all much more expensive than dairy milk, making a vegetarian grocery list more affordable.
Winner: vegetarian shopping list
Research has found that vegetarians and vegans are generally much healthier than meat-eaters, and tend to live longer. However, some have said that they also generally tend to have healthier lifestyles, so this shouldn’t be put this solely down to their diets.
However, eating only vegetables is certainly a great way to cut back on unhealthy things like saturated fat found in meat. Also, increasing your fiber intake keeps you full for longer, meaning you’re less likely to reach for unhealthy snacks.
Vegetarianism is considered quite healthy as you don’t lose out on the healthy nutrients you need. For example, getting your protein, which most people usually get from meat, is no problem as you can rely on nuts and seeds as a high protein food source. Items in this category rich in protein include chia seeds, sesame seeds, peanut butter, and seed butter. This is also true for veganism.
However, the very important vitamin B12 can be a problem for vegans. It is responsible for making nerves, red blood cells, and DNA. This vitamin can be found in eggs and dairy, but not in vegetables.
This means it’s more difficult for vegans to get crucial B12 into their bodies. They’ll have to opt for fortified cereal and milk alternatives or buy dietary supplements. Therefore, a vegan shopping list puts you at more risk of developing B12 deficiency.
Winner: vegetarian shopping list
What’s more convenient?
Let’s face it. Eating out is a pain for both vegetarians and vegans. Restaurants often offer uninspiring and bad value vegetarian meals, if they offer any at all. It’s even more difficult for vegans as eggs, butter, honey, sour cream, and cheese are completely out of the question.
When it comes to a vegan or vegetarian shopping lists, these can be as convenient or inconvenient as you make them. Relying on buying standard fruit, vegetables, and legumes to fill your stomachs will be easy to do in most places.
But if you start opting for more obscure food items like nutritional yeast, or particular substitutes like wheat or soy protein, it becomes a little more difficult to find stockists.
The inconvenience doesn’t stop with restaurants and shopping lists when it comes to veganism. Veganism is generally not just confined to your vegan shopping list. If you’re vegan, you also need to avoid animal products such as leather clothes and shoes, or even paintbrushes made from animal hair. However, this does depend on how “strict” a vegan you are.
Vegetarianism, however, can be much more flexible. Whether you want to couple your diet with more ethical lifestyle choices is up to you. As for grocery shopping, it’s not that much of a chore unless you make it so.
What’s more ethical?
Now we’re getting into the meat (pardon the pun) of our comparison: ethics.
One of the main reasons many people turn either vegetarian or vegan is because of the meat industry’s practices. It can be pretty brutal. Even if animals are free-range and given organic feed, they’re still being slaughtered at the end of the day. There are also a lot of environmental issues that the meat industry is being criticized for (see below).
However, the dairy industry can be just as hideous. Cows are artificially inseminated to produce calves in order to get them to lactate more. They are also given chemicals to constantly lactate and produce unnatural levels of milk. Male calves are slaughtered or sold the make veal, whilst female calves are put in tiny pens before going through the same process as their mothers.
Some dairy farms don’t even let cows out into the open air, keeping them inside giant structures 365 days a year!
Eggs can also be just as cruel, with hens being kept in tiny cages if they’re not free-range.
So, vegan is more ethical right?
Well, not exactly.
Whilst it does exonerate itself from animal cruelty, some vegan products cause human cruelty. For example, cashews and cashew milk production has seen workers suffer low-paid and slave-like conditions, suffering from debilitating burns on their hands due to exposure to chemicals used in the de-shelling process. There are similar stories about other “healthy” and “ethical” foodstuffs such as almonds and quinoa too.
Savvy vegans and vegetarians can ensure they buy products that avoid these pitfalls. But on a whole, it’s hard for either diet to be completely ethical without a lot of research, education, know-how, and resources.
What’s more sustainable?
Whilst ethics is a vastly important issue, the environment is just as important these days. But which shopping list is more sustainable?
The animal industry alone contributes a lot to global warming and climate change because of the methane it omits. But is switching to a more plant-based diet really going to save the earth?
Soy production has caused mass deforestation due to the amount of land needed to grow them. Avocado production is also draining natural water resources in some areas, causing droughts.
Then, the carbon-cost of produce distribution needs to be taken into account. Most Western climates aren’t adept at growing many grains and legumes such as brown rice, lentils, quinoa, and soy. Therefore, they have to be flown or sailed half-way across the world to get to you, using fossil fuels. The same can be said about avocados, bananas, coconut oil, and even maple syrup. If you’re eating out of season, even local items like sweet potatoes are grown and flown to you from other countries.
Also, unless you’re going organic, these farms will also be using pesticides which is causing a decrease in soil quality as well as polluting rivers. Not to mention the concerns about residual chemicals entering humans via non-organic fruit and veg.
This makes an entirely plant-based solution far from perfect until more sustainable agriculture methods are implemented. But it is better than the sizable detriment to the environment the animal industry is having.
Winner: vegan shopping list
And the Winner Is…
Vegetarian shopping list!
This is because it is better on cost and health.
But that’s not to completely discredit a vegan diet. Many may still want to pursue this as they consider it more ethical, although this is more complicated than you might think. It also has the potential to be more sustainable, providing bad plant-agriculture practices can be improved.
Whatever you decide, the message is clear: eating less or no meat is better for both you and the planet.
Do you think a vegan diet is more ethical and sustainable? What’s the most expensive product you’ve had on your vegan grocery list? Have you tried making your own almond milk at home? Let us know in the comments.