When I first went vegan I heard about these wacky people in the plant based community who were not eating oil I was like: no.

That seems totally undoable. Just one more crazy vegan thing I don’t want to try.

So for the first several months of my vegan life I included oil and just focused on figuring out what to eat now that animals were no longer on my plate.  (That’s what I recommend most people do).

It wasn’t until I about six months into eating this way, and reading and listening to just about everything I could get my hands on related to veganism that the whole “no oil” thing started to appear less insane.

Oil versus Healthy Fats

When I tell people I avoid oil the first thing they say is, “But fat is healthy for you!”

And they’re right. Fat is an essential macronutrient and something we need to include in a healthy diet. The problem with oil is that it is a highly processed, calorically dense source of fat. Saying oil is a good source of healthy fat is like saying white flour is a great way to get more whole grains into your diet.

Saying oil is a good source of healthy fat is like saying white flour is a great way to get more whole grains into your diet.

Think about the difference between the sugar in an apple versus table sugar. If you eat a medium sized apple you’re getting roughly 19 grams (or almost 5 teaspoons) of sugar. BUT, packaged with that sugar is fiber, a bit of protein, vitamins, and water. In the same amount of table sugar you get nothing but calories and processed carbs.

The same comparison works with oil. Half an avocado is about 10.5 grams of fat and it comes packaged with b vitamins, fiber, folate, potassium etc… A tablespoon of olive oil contains roughly the same amount fat and provides almost none of the health bonuses you get from eating a higher fat whole food like an avocado. Additionally, although we’ve all heard olive oil is a heart healthy food, it actually decreases endothelial function and triggers plaque build up in your arteries.

Also, what’s more satisfying? Avocado spread on a piece of toast or a tablespoon of olive on your salad? For me I’m always going with the avocado.

Once I drastically cut back on oil I noticed that when I did eat foods with it as a “treat” I felt like total garbage. I remember going to our favorite breakfast spot one weekend for a tofu scramble with hash browns, something I love and have ordered a million times. After we got home I felt like I’d been hit by a train. I was so sluggish, my brain felt foggy, and my digestion slowed to a standstill. It was like being hungover. I realized then what a huge effect oil had on my body. Since that experience it’s been easy to avoid oily foods and focus instead on getting fat from healthy whole food sources.

Phasing Oil Out of Your Diet

When I decided to phase oil out I thought about when I used it most often at home. For me that was when I sauteed veggies or made salad dressing. I started by learning how to water saute, which involved buying a good nonstick pan, and watching some Youtube videos for tips (I’ll leave some links at the end of this post). I found that once i got the hang of it, water sauteing was super easy and no one seemed to notice the difference.

Salad dressings were a little tougher since I usually bought them from the store. I googled around quite a bit and found several nut or avocado based recipes to try (again, I’ll link some favorites below). It takes a bit more effort to make your own, but it’s absolutely worth it. For the times  I don’t feel like whipping up a dressing I make sure I always have Trader Joe’s Fat Free Balsamic or Green Goddess dressings on hand.

When we go out to restaurants I don’t worry too much about eating oil, I just try to choose things that don’t sounds like they’ll be smothered in it because I want to avoid  that post tofu-scramble experience I mentioned earlier. One way to have balance about eating oil is to avoid it at home and not stress when you’re out for a special occasion (unless you’re going out for a special occasion multiple times a week).

Last Thoughts

If  you’re new to veganism and cutting out oil seems way too overwhelming then I’d say don’t stress on it for now. Unless you have major health issues you need to deal with immediately, focus instead on getting comfortable with eating a plant based diet and finding new favorite foods and meals.

As with all things, don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good. Keep making baby steps in the direction you want to go and you may find that like me, six months down the road you’re suddenly preaching the no-oil gospel to all your (annoyed) friends and family.

Resources

Below are links to videos and articles that helped me understand why it’s best to keep oil out of a healthy diet and how to cook without it.

Why Olive Oil is Not Healthy For your Heart –  Forks Over Knives  

Say No To Oil – Happy Herbivore

Why I’ve Finally Stopped Eating Oil – No Meat Athlete

What About Extra Virgin Olive Oil? – Nutrition Facts

No Oil!  – Webinar with Dr. McDougall

How to Saute Without Oil – Chef AJ

Oil Free Cooking Basics and Hacks – Mic the Vegan

How to Cook with No Oil – Caitlin Shoemaker

5 Easy Vegan and Oil Free Dressings – High Carb Hannah

Clementine Dressing with Wasabi and Ginger – Fat Free Vegan Kitchen

Lemon Tahini Dressing – Downshiftology  

Easy Vegan Ranch Dressing – The Minimalist Baker