The Vegan Fallacy

By D. R. Hildebrand

Not too long ago I was in LA for work.  I arrived in the evening, starving, of course, and as soon as I reached my hotel I headed across Sunset Boulevard to the closest Veggie Grill I could find.  There are no fewer than ten of these godsends on the West Coast, and along with Loving Hut they comprise the closest thing I can think of to a vegan fast-food chain.

The Sunset Boulevard location is huge, though at 9:00 at night just about every table was taken.  I ordered the Papa’s Portobello with the Soup of the Day and sat down next to an energetic group of three, twenty-something surfer guys who couldn’t stop talking about the one thing they were all eating: carrot cake.

“Dude, holy shit, this stuff rocks!”

“I know, man.  We keep telling you, it’s incredible.”

They carried on until it became apparent that two were vegan, educating their non-vegan friend in the joys of, as one said, “actually eating real food.”  I sat there with little else to do but listen and try to pace my own consumption—the Papa’s Portobello was fantastic—when one of them made a comment that caught my attention.

“Dude,” he said (to his not-yet-vegan dude friend), “it’s good and it’s good for you!”

Oh geez, I thought, the ultimate vegan fallacy.

At first I wanted to laugh.  Then I glanced at them and realized they were each ordering seconds, and in all likelihood really believed what they were telling themselves.

To be clear, I’ve never studied nutrition.  I can’t explain why it is that some foods are good for us and others are not.  In general though, I think it’s safe to say that the carrots, walnuts, coconut, and perhaps a few other ingredients in this particular delicacy fall on the healthy, beneficial side of the nutritional spectrum.  I think it’s just safe to say, however, that non-dairy cream cheese, non-dairy margarine, a cup or two of cane sugar, and any sort of oil undoubtedly do not.

It seems a number of vegans equate cruelty-free for animals with cruelty-free for themselves, forgetting—or ignoring—that what isn’t the devil isn’t consequently a saint.  This is not to say we should all eat three salads a day with nothing but whole fruit and nuts for snacks in between.  It is simply to say that we should educate ourselves about the products we most often consume, and remember to be as kind to our own bodies as we strive to be others’.

We often hear non-vegans tell us about all the foods of which we supposedly deprive ourselves.  And it is tempting to shove the delicious vegan options of those foods straight down their throats.  It’s tempting to shove them down our own as well, but we would be wise to do so in moderation.  For cake will always be cake, junk food will always be junk, and at the end of the day a treat should remain just that—a treat—not the foundation of a meal, and never the basis of one’s diet.

Written by D. R. Hildebrand

David, who models under his middle name, Raphael, is represented by New York Models. His first book, Walking Marina, is an exposé of the male modeling industry, and is a commentary on beauty. David’s websiteFollow David on Facebook and Twitter.

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  • veggiegrrrl

    i love veggie grill and the fat content is so high, it’s rivaling mcvomit!

  • James

    I completely agree. As an LA resident I can count on less then 5 fingers the amount of healthy vegan restaurants out there. It is odd that new vegans equate vegan with healthy. I fell for that for a good while. Sure you aren’t putting meat and dairy into your system but fried, processed and high-fat vegan food isn’t good for you.

    • D. R. Hildebrand

      I’d say Veggie Grill has as many healthy options as it has unhealthy ones. Could you name a couple restaurants in LA that you like? I don’t know when I’ll be back but it would be nice to have one or two in mind.

      • James

        Seed in Venice is great as is Leaf in Culver City and Shojin in Little Tokyo. Cru in Silverlake is Raw(ish) and good. MCafe is Macro (mostly Vegan) and also healthy. That’s about it. You are correct that there are healthy options at most Vegan places but they aren’t pushed and promoted as the unhealthy ones. Native Foods has a ton of great healthy options but you have to dig for them.

        • D. R. Hildebrand

          Thanks for the recommendations! I think the vegan community feels pressure to produce “imitation” options, that everything non-vegan must be replicated as vegan to legitimate vegan cuisine. If vegan chefs want to take on this challenge, that’s fine; it just shouldn’t become our standard and definitely not our norm.

        • Dan Rose

          Shojin is a gem. I moved to NY a year ago and I’m still trying to find a great vegan sushi/macro spot like that. Have you also tried Stuff I Eat?