Like-for-like junk food replacements aren’t necessarily better for you just because they’re vegan. Switching from a sausage roll to vegetarian sausage roll isn’t necessarily a healthier choice, and nor does it mean you’ll lose weight.
“Some products or meals may contain a lot of saturated fat or salt, which we should aim to limit”, says Dr Steenson. You can compare the amounts of these nutrients by looking at the label or using the traffic light symbols on many products.
Dr Newman adds: “People think, ‘Oh, plant-based diet, I’m going to automatically lose weight’, and sometimes they do it solely for that purpose, which in some cases can be harmful. Weight is a hugely complex issue. It’s not just a simple equation of food in and energy out, it’s determined by a whole host of things: our food environment and what shops we have access to, how we’ve been brought up, even things like if we do shift work or if we’re stressed.
“A common trap is that rather than having dairy ice cream you might have vegan ice cream, which is not a health food. But having said that, there are healthier choices. Take burgers for example – a beetroot burger or bean burger is going to be healthier than a processed soy burger. But they’re probably all slightly better choices than a standard beef burger.”
Plant-based food labelling, especially when combined with ‘low-fat’ or ‘high-fibre’, might confuse shoppers, according to Dr Kassam. She warns it can “make people think they’re eating something healthy, but really it’s all been turned upside down. Anything with a label should be viewed cautiously. If you are eating foods with labels, look for those containing fibre or fewer ingredients and be mindful of the salt, fat or sugar content.”