Eating Vegan: The “Vegan Celebrity” Phenomenon

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Lately, it seems like it’s super hip for a vegan celebrity to hire a nutritionist and a personal chef and give veganism a go, but is this always a good thing?

Zach’s done some great coverage of the vegan celebrity phenomenon.  While I think that celebrities going vegan is a great way to raise awareness about the whys behind veganism, I think it makes the how seem out of reach for regular folks who can’t afford a personal chef and a diet of faux meat.

This started to bother me last week, when my pops called to talk to me about Bill Clinton going vegan. While we were chatting, he commented that Clinton had a personal chef preparing his meals and probably had a nutritionist. This wasn’t the first comment like this that I’d heard, and the more I thought about it, the more it bugged me. We even got a comment about this on our Eat Vegan on $4 a Day giveaway:

Well, yeah.  It’s easy if you’re a Hollywood star, and have a staff to clean your house, shop for food, cook your meals, and do the dishes, etc., etc.

Eating vegan for the rest of us is time consuming, expensive, and a pain, although not as much of a pain as it is for the animals when we eat them :(

The thing is, while I’m sure it’s nice to have those things, you certainly don’t need any of it to eat a healthy vegan diet, and it doesn’t have to be a pain. We’ve talked about eating vegan on a budget before and even eating healthy on a time budget, but I think those topics bear re-hashing, because there’s still a misconception out there that veganism costs a lot of money and means spending lots of time in the kitchen, and that average folks with full time jobs can’t swing it.

The Budget Vegan

Faux meat is expensive. Vegan dairy substitutes are expensive. They’re also not very healthy for you. I like to think of these as “sometimes food.” Sure, splurge on a $5 pack of vegan sausages or a $6 bag of fake cheese for a special occasion, but for your day-to-day, you don’t need these foods to eat a vegan diet. Here are some cheap, easy meal ideas that don’t involve faux anything:

  • Beans (canned or from scratch) and rice with diced onion and tomatoes.
  • Tacos full of beans, shredded lettuce, sliced avocado, and sauteed onion.
  • Steamed tofu and veggies with brown rice. It’s even easier if you cook this in your rice cooker with steamer basket attachment.
  • Veggie stew, made in the slow cooker.

You might also check out some vegan blogs and forums for great recipes! Here are a few of my favorites:

Really, that’s just the tip of the vegan recipe iceburg. You can pick up some great vegan cookbooks to help you plan tasty, inexpensive vegan meals, too! No chef required.

Vegan Nutrition

You don’t need a nutritionist to eat a balanced vegan diet. You just want to make sure you’re getting a good balance of protein, carbs, and fats. How much of each you need really depends on your activity level, but USDA recommends 45-65% of calories from carbohydrates, 10-35% from protein, and 20-35% from fat.

Most folks don’t worry about getting enough carbs or fat on a vegan diet, but for some reason there’s a lot of fretting about getting ample protein. It’s pretty rare for vegans to suffer from protein deficiency. You can read more about getting enough protein as a vegan in our article Eating Vegan: Where Do You Get Your Protein?

The only nutrient that’s a bit tricky for vegans is vitamin B12. You can take a supplement, if this is something you’re worried about. If you’re already taking a multivitamin, chances are your B12 is covered – just check the back of the bottle.

If you are looking for expert information on vegan nutrition, I’d recommend following The Vegan R.D. Ginny Messina is a vegan nutritionist and a wealth of information! You can find lots of great info by searching her archives, and if there’s something that she hasn’t covered, you can contact her through her website. When I emailed her, she took a little while to get back to me, but she did respond and was very helpful!

So, what do you guys think? Is the vegan celebrity phenomenon helping the vegan movement or hurting it? Or is it a little bit of both? Have you heard folks complain that they’d try veganism if they could only afford to hire a personal chef like Oprah?

Photo Credit: Alan Light

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6 thoughts on “Eating Vegan: The “Vegan Celebrity” Phenomenon”

  1. These same folks likely complain that they’d be “fit” too if they could hire a personal trainer like Oprah! The fact is many people don’t view their health as a priority, especially when there are pills available to slow the advancement of disease. We are a nation of excuses — plain and simple.

  2. “they’re also not very healthy for you.”

    Apart from sodium content, many “vegan” fake meats are made of natural ingredients and are no better or worse for you than “accepted” fake meats such as, tempeh and tofu. Tofurkey and field roast, in particular, are delicious and 100% natural alternative to your blah list of beans and beans and beans. There is also mounting evidence that the soluble fiber in soy milk is quite good for you.

    As in all things the important thing is to have a varied diet and not succumb to food fetishism.

    1. I hear ya. Many fake meats are not very healthy, though, and they’re certainly not budget-friendly, for the most part. I guess I was thinking more Morningstar Farms than Field Roast, though, when I mentioned the health thing. Field Roast is definitely my fake meat of choice, when I have the cash!

  3. I am an average person with a fulltime job AND my own freelance art and design business who has been vegan for 12 years now. How ever have I managed without a staff to do my cooking and cleaning for me and a nutritionist to tell me what to eat so I don’t shrivel up and die from lack of protein?

    I tend to think that the vegan celebrity thing is generally good, just for getting the idea out there. But if the idea people are getting is that being vegan requires a ton of money to pay a personal chef and a nutritionist then that’s definitely not a good thing.

    I don’t think the time needed to cook vegan meals is any different than the time needed to cook meals involving animal products. Vegan or not, the packaged food industry has spent a lot of money trying to convince everyone that cooking is a horrible, difficult task that nobody has time for. Aside from people who are truly pressed for time or have to work three jobs to make ends meet, I think it’s a matter of deciding on your priorities and acting accordingly. Eating freshly prepared healthy food is a priority for me and so I don’t think twice about spending some time in the kitchen. And over the years I’ve come to truly enjoy cooking and view it as a creative outlet. People don’t bat an eye at spending four hours watching TV, but spending 30 minutes cooking is viewed as a waste of time. There are things you can do to save time, such as doing a big batch of cooking on the weekend, or pre-chopping ingredients so they’re ready to go.

    As to cost, just like eating animal products, you can do vegan cheaply or expensively. If you eat Field Roast every night, then yeah, it’s going to add up. Same if you eat filet mignon all the time(or whatever the fancy meat is these days). The real shame is that our food system is so messed up that unhealthy processed foods sometimes end up being cheaper than healthy whole foods and vegetables.

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