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“I’m officially going vegan right now — 22 days… I’m not playing. I’m challenging myself,” he said in a Tuesday Snapchat video (because where else?) while unloading his just-delivered pre-packaged meals from 22 Days Nutrition, the gimmicky $627 meal plan by Marco Borges that’s been endorsed by none other than his life-coach clients Beyoncé and Jay Z. “My guy Marco, he’s explaining to me how to do this program,” Khaled said in his video, Borges at his side.
Khaled is just the latest in a growing line of hip-hop artists who have sworn off the eating of animal products. Along with sometime adherents Jay and Bey (who now “lean toward” veganism rather than completely embrace it), there’s hardcore PETA activist RZA, longtime vegan Jermaine Dupri, Stic Man, blueberry-muffin lover Waka Flocka Flame, and, until recently, Andre 3000, a former vegan who stuck to it for 15 years before falling off the wagon.
Khaled joining them is not all that shocking, considering he’s been outspoken about jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon and wanting to eat more healthfully. According to Bon Appétit, his chef Dee Hodges, “tries to cook clean — mostly gluten free and dairy free, but also non-GMO and without pork and shellfish,” all at Khaled’s request. So perhaps the 22-day challenge — so-structured because of research that says it takes 21 days to create a habit — will stick and become an actual lifestyle? It’s hard to say, since the DJ is also a huge fan of eating egg-white breakfasts, wearing leather, and selling big plates of fried chicken, grilled steak, mac-and-cheese, and red velvet cake at his Miami Finga Licking eatery.
But those latter points, admittedly, would be a measure of success for an ethical vegan — someone (like yours truly) whose lifestyle, not only diet, eschews products that contain animal-derived ingredients, as part of an overall philosophy. But there are plenty of people who simply leave animal ingredients out of what they eat, usually for reasons of health or weight loss (á la Bill Clinton), and through a diet often referred to by the trendier “plant-based” term.
It was a distinction that some, including this Ecorazzi writer, jumped on, noting, “Throw another celebrity misuse of the word vegan on the pile! The record producer, radio personality, DJ, and record label executive no doubt forgets that eating vegan (ie: plant-based) and being vegan are very different things. I’m pretty sure he’s not going to start burning his beloved leather shirts for 22 days. I mean, the man has a Finga Licking, meat-happy restaurant, people.”
Another critic, on Reddit, had a problem with Khaled trying the diet so short-term, as well as his perceived aim to use it as a weight-loss plan. At the end, the commenter noted, “he’s either going to: a) not lose as much weight as he thought, and then say it was due to the vegan diet, at which point the narrative becomes, ‘this vegan thing is bullshit and doesn’t work, not worth it’ — which he sends out to his millions of followers; b) he doesn’t get enough calories in, and feels tired or weak, at which point he sends the same thing out to his millions of followers.” The commentor added, “I love when ANYONE goes vegan, but it’s pretty easy to see this going in that direction.”
But there are ways for Khaled — and anyone who’s interested, for that matter — to avoid that route, according to vegan activist Jasmin Singer, who has written about her experience losing 100 pounds after switching to a whole-food vegan diet in a new memoir, Always Too Much and Never Enough.
“The thoroughly avoidable pitfalls some folks have when they go vegan include sticking with too-limited a diet, and not taking advantage of the plethora of plant-based grub that’s widely available,” Singer, also co-host of the Our Hen House podcast, tells Yahoo Beauty. “There is literally a vegan version of every single kind of animal product out there, and part of the fun of embracing plants is discovering this whole new world of delicious, decadent, accessible food that’s not based in exploitation.” Chilling with RZA wouldn’t hurt, either. “Finding and fostering community, including seeking out mentors,” she says, “is another important ingredient to the longevity of the newbie vegan.”
No matter what someone’s original impetus is for going vegan, adds Singer, it’s often learning the truth about how animals suffer on factory farms that makes the practice stick. “When people learn about how animals are brutally treated behind closed doors, while at the same time becoming aware of the abundance and yumminess of vegan food, long-term veganism is much more likely,” she notes.
As far as finding acceptable replacements for go-to meals such as his egg-whites breakfasts, Khaled might want to consider tofu scramble, the new Vegan Egg product from Follow Your Heart, or “a protein-rich, hearty smoothie with added healthy fats, such as hemp seeds.” (The 22 Days Nutrition meal plan features breakfasts including a cinnamon-apple granola crumble and a berry-chia pudding that’s high in omega-3 fatty acids.) “A whole foods, vegan diet is naturally high in protein,” Singer says, and combos including beans and whole grains provide a perfect protein, “so he definitely won’t have a problem, as long as he challenges himself to think outside the box.”