Historically, veganism and plant-based diets have been incredibly important to various religions and ethnicities. Practiced for centuries in Buddhism, Hinduism, and other religions, veganism isn’t a new concept. However, it has grown increasingly more popular in the modern age, with Global Data stating that 6% of Americans had adopted a vegan lifestyle by 2019. Whether for health or environmental benefits, veganism and plant-based diets are an amazing option for those who are able to adhere to dietary regulations. Unfortunately, veganism isn’t a viable option for everyone due to financial, time, and health restraints. Here are some important thoughts to take into consideration when looking at the accessibility of a vegan lifestyle.
To clarify, my definition of accessibility includes both physical and financial accessibility, as well as logical sustainability and overall happiness.
1. Veganism Isn’t The Most Affordable Option
Veganism and plant based diets have amazing health benefits and can be a beneficial lifestyle change for a lot of people. Unfortunately, veganism isn’t the most affordable dietary option. For low-income families and individuals, buying all fresh fruits and veggies can become incredibly difficult on their bank accounts. Plus, while fresh produce is incredibly yummy, it does spoil a lot faster than frozen or processed foods. For busy individuals who don’t have time to prepare meals frequently, this can be a huge waste of money if the food spoils before they are able to eat it.
2. People Can’t Comfortably Live On Canned Vegetables
Building off of the last point, I’ve heard the argument from proponents of veganism and plant based diets that anyone can afford it as canned and frozen vegetables are always cheap. And while this is true, that’s really not a healthy or sustainable way to live. Canned vegetables are usually full of sodium, and canned fruit is commonly preserved in sugar-heavy juices. Plus, that’s not a truly happy way to live – your food won’t taste as good as some other available options. If people aren’t happy when they’re eating, those habits will only last for so long.
3. Food Deserts Make Plant Based Diets Incredibly Difficult
What some people don’t consider on the topic of plant based diets and veganism is that some people live in food deserts, which make it incredibly difficult to find vegan options. Food deserts exist in urban or low-income areas where finding affordable and good-quality fresh food is difficult. People who live in these areas may not have the access to fresh foods necessary to live a vegan lifestyle – on the topic of financial availability, veganism should be considered a privilege, not an expectation.
4. Eating Out Doesn’t Always Offer Vegan Options
One of the biggest struggles for sustaining a vegan lifestyle or plant based diets is finding viable options when eating out. This is a huge struggle for those living in food deserts, but it can also be a difficult obstacle to consider for anyone living in a smaller town or city with fewer food options. While fast-food restaurants have begun to offer more vegan-friendly options, those options aren’t available everywhere and it’s not reasonable to assume that everyone can make a healthy meal off of side options or salads.
5. Dependents May Not Have Control Over Their Diets
For those individuals who live at home and eat what their family does, veganism and plant based diets aren’t always an option. Dietary restrictions are a primary issue for individuals when considering their own diets, and this becomes a larger issue when trying to make meals that fit everyone’s dietary needs. So while some may wish to transition to a vegan lifestyle, sometimes they aren’t able to if they are not providing for themselves.
6. Time Can Be A Problem
Another huge constraint that comes with veganism and plant based diets is time. You need ample time to make yummy vegan meals (which I agree can be just as good as meals that include meat). However, working individuals may not have the necessary time to cook these meals or properly prepare their fresh fruits and veggies to eat in diverse meals. This can lead to spoiled fruits and veggies, a financial waste, and a sense of disappointment for the individual attempting to adhere to a vegan lifestyle.
7. Previous Health Conditions And Food Allergies Are A Major Issue
Here is one of the biggest issues with attempting to transition to veganism or plant based diets–there are some health conditions that make it almost impossible to live a completely vegan life. Some genetic predispositions make it impossible to get necessary nutrients from a purely vegan diet – these genetic factors include gut microbiome makeup, vitamin A conversion, and amylase levels.
Similarly, food allergies can make it difficult to sustain plant based diets. For example, grain, gluten, and allergies to certain nuts, fruits, and veggies can severely impact available food options with a vegan diet.
8. For Some, Veganism Poses A High Risk Of Developing Eating Disorders
A huge factor that people need to consider when thinking about vegan and plant based diets as an option is a risk of eating disorders. For those who have a history of E.D.s, an intense, restrictive diet can cause a relapse in unhealthy eating tendencies. This can be detrimental to individuals who have experienced E.D.s or are at risk of developing E.D.s. While veganism is a healthy dietary option, it should not be considered if it comes at the risk of mental health problems.
9. Iron Deficiency And Anemia Are Big Risks
One well-known risk of veganism and plant based diets is the risk of iron deficiency and anemia, which may make the lifestyle inaccessible to some individuals for health reasons. Vegetarians can experience anemia due to a lack of iron in their diet. Vegans can also experience an anemic problem due to B12 deficiencies from the exclusion of dairy, eggs, and honey from their diets. For those who already have anemia or iron deficiency problems, vegan and plant based diets may not be a viable option.
10. It Can’t Always Be Treated As All Or Nothing
One reason veganism and plant based diets may not be accessible for everyone is that it is constantly considered an all-or-nothing lifestyle change. However, this is not entirely true for everyone. While some are able to adhere entirely to vegan dietary and lifestyle regulations, others may not always have that option all the time due to financial, geographical, or physical factors. It’s important when looking at a vegan lifestyle to consider the things you are logically able to accomplish and sustain, and we should all understand that even the smallest efforts can have a great impact on the environmental factors we hold to be important.