I had a few emails from readers about my last blog post. They were surprised at the number of canned and processed foods in my list of fast meals for vegans who hate to cook! Aren’t vegans supposed to eat whole plant foods?

Well sure—whole plant foods are the best foods for everyone, vegan or not. And, for many reasons, cooking meals from scratch is the ideal approach. But making responsible food choices is a balancing act and we have to create room for some compromise. It’s not just a matter of choosing the foods that keep us healthy and are kind to the earth and reduce animal suffering. Most people have to also consider cost and time constraints as well.

If we want to reduce the suffering of farm animals, it’s important to make it as easy as possible for people to eat plant-based diets that will keep them healthy and happy—and that are realistic. A long list of restrictions—no added fats, processed foods, chocolate or white bread—isn’t necessary for healthful eating, and it can make vegan diets more than a little daunting.

A diet based on all or mostly convenience and processed foods is not going to be healthy. But it really is possible to strike a balance. Choose whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and beans cooked from the dried state as often as you can. And when you need to opt for convenience, choose wisely: Frozen vegetables, spaghetti sauce from a jar, reduced-sodium canned beans, veggie sausages, soymilk, prepared curry sauces, and peanut butter are all processed foods that can play roles in healthful diets. If they make it easier for you to stick to a vegan eating plan, all the better!