In unique junk food

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

VE­GAN di­ets are con­sid­ered by most as healthy and en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble, with celebrity poster chil­dren tout­ing ben­e­fits like weight loss, clear skin and in­creased en­ergy.

But even ve­g­ans – who es­chew all an­i­mal prod­ucts like meat, eggs and dairy – crave junk food.

As the move­ment be­comes more and more pop­u­lar, temp­ta­tions in­clud­ing donuts, pizza and mock ham­burg­ers al­low ve­g­ans to eat just as badly as ev­ery­body else.

“There are a lot of un­healthy op­tions. It’s hard to re­sist at first,” Jes­sica McCully, 28, said at a ve­gan food fes­ti­val in the Los Angeles area, a fake chicken taco in her hand.

McCully is a new con­vert to “mock meat” thanks to her girl­friend, and says that in just two months of adopt­ing a ve­gan diet, she feels hap­pier and “more en­er­getic”.

Ac­cord­ing to a Har­ris In­ter­ac­tive study, be­tween 7 and 8 mil­lion Amer­i­cans iden­tify as ve­gan, es­pe­cially in the US epi­cen­tre of clean eat­ing, Cal­i­for­nia.

Today’s an­i­mal prod­uct-free diet goes beyond the stereo­typ­i­cal len­tils and gra­nola, with restau­rants of­fer­ing gourmet ve­gan dishes like watermelon salad with al­mond cheese and toasted pis­ta­chios, or zuc­chini flow­ers stuffed with macadamia ri­cotta.

Of course, the diet is not all haute cui­sine – there are also plenty of restau­rants serv­ing “com­fort” ve­gan food, in­clud­ing tofu or mock meat that has been breaded and fried. Los Angeles even holds an an­nual “Ve­gan Ok­to­ber­fest” – al­low­ing ve­g­ans to im­bibe while sam­pling from an as­sort­ment of in­dul­gent snacks.

At the ve­gan food fair in Ana­heim, a sub­urb of LA, bowls of quinoa are hard to find.

Lori Whi­taker, a long-limbed blonde with a golden com­plex­ion, stood in line at one stand to buy a pizza. “I like my junk food; I won’t lie,” the 54-year-old said.

“You can get a ve­gan pizza, a ve­gan taco – I think this is great be­cause a lot of peo­ple think ve­g­ans eat only cel­ery and car­rots.”

In LA’s hip­ster Sil­ver Lake neigh­bor­hood, Donut Farm sells sug­ary, fried con­fec­tions just like ev­ery other donut shop – but their treats come in trendy flavours like green tea and salted caramel.

“I think a ve­gan op­tion is still go­ing to be a bit health­ier,” said sales per­son Chris Boss, who added that the bak­ery’s recipes call for or­ganic flours and sugar, and in­gre­di­ents like co­conut milk.

The treats do have less choles­terol and no trans fats, he said.

But at the end of the day, “it’s a ball of fried dough with lots of calo­ries”, Boss said.

Many con­verts to ve­g­an­ism cite health rea­sons, but sup­port for an­i­mal rights re­mains a key mo­ti­va­tion.

“Usu­ally it’s with hor­ror at how our fac­tory farm­ing works,” said An­nie Jubb, a ve­gan life­style con­sul­tant. “It’s mo­ti­vated by hor­ror and com­pas­sion.” But Jubb ad­mits that not all ve­g­ans are healthy.

“They could be eat­ing chips and fried food,” she said. “Eat­ing soy burg­ers, soy ba­con three times a day ... soy is not a health food.”

The or­tho­dox ve­gan, who counts Oscar-win­ning ac­tor Leonardo Di­Caprio as one of her past clients, al­lows her­self the oc­ca­sional in­dul­gence, or­der­ing in a com­fort food sta­ple – ve­gan mashed pota­toes with mushroom gravy.

“We’re in this busi­ness to pro­vide peo­ple healthy, nour­ish­ing food,” said Ry­land En­gel­hart, co-owner of Cafe Grat­i­tude, a Cal­i­for­nia chain of “plant-based” restau­rants serv­ing dishes like faux chorizo sand­wiches and choco­late-pollen smooth­ies.

“But you can’t ex­pect peo­ple to jump overnight to a diet of kelp noo­dle salad with bean sprouts and sauteed tem­peh,” he said.

Still, En­gel­hart said, ve­g­ans need to be care­ful to main­tain a bal­anced diet just like every­one else.

“It can get to a point where we’re not just tran­si­tion­ing peo­ple, but main­tain­ing them into be­ing sa­ti­ated by non-meat junk food,” he said. “It is still junk food.”

The Cafe Grat­i­tude team, though, leans medic­i­nal: at its sis­ter res­tau­rant, the Mex­i­can-themed Gra­cias Madre, cock­tails in­clude in­gre­di­ents like essential oil of cannabis.

“We are all about plants, right?” said En­gel­hart with a smile. –

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