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Veganuary came at the perfect time and was the incentive that I needed to get back to what I truly believe in, and that's a plant-based diet! As I write this, I'm on day 26 of plant-based eating. It's easier than ever. It's because this time around, I have the tools for success.(If you missed it, I share why I chose a plant-based diet here). It's going great, but I'll admit, at first, the transition was not easy and even frustrating at times. You essentially have to change your cooking habits and reinvent yourself as a home chef. You even find yourself looking in your fridge and thinking, "well wtf am I going to eat?!" There is definitely more cooking and prep that goes along with plant-based eating if you want to do it the healthy way and fewer options when you go out for dinner (although it's becoming more and more!). Ya, I could probably survive on chips and PBj's. Still, I really want to reap the health benefits, which means eating primarily vegetables and minimally processed foods. Like all great accomplishments, success means practice - there are so many benefits to eating plant-based, so don't get discouraged! The first step to becoming plant-based: start slow. Perhaps that means starting with going vegetarian (no meat but still eating eggs and dairy). Then, possibly choosing one day out of the week to eat plant-based (no animal products like dairy and eggs). This will give you a chance to try out new vegan recipes and products. Looking to make a change in your diet? Then you're in luck as there are so many awesome plant-based meat and dairy alternatives these days, and they're freakin' delicious! To be successful in your new plant-based journey, you'll need a few tricks and tools - here are some things that helped me.
Plant-Based Eating - Tips and Tricks for Success!
Purchase plant-based cookbooksI can't follow a recipe for the life of me, but I have so many plant-based cookbooks that I use for inspiration when I'm trying to figure out what to make for dinner. That being said, I recommend following the recipes if you're new to the plant-based game, which will teach you new skills in the kitchen. Here are some of my favourite plant-based cookbooks:
- "Oh She Glows Cookbooks" by Angela Liddon - I have this one, this one and this one. Angela shares very easy, very delicious recipes that your whole family will love.
- Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*CK
- Fraiche Food, Full Hearts by Jillian Harris (not vegan, but she shares how to "veganize" almost every recipe."
- The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples
My favourite plant-based alternatives*** I purchase the majority of these products through spud.ca, and they're delivered right to my door! If you'd like to give this health and sustainability-focused grocery service a try, use this discount code CRVAN-DALCAF for $30 off your first order when you sign up here! (valid until January 31, 2021 - after that, it will go back to $20) If you're used to cooking meat, an easy way to start cooking plant-based is to just keep cooking your go-to meals but swap the meat or dairy for vegan alternatives. Here are my faves: Meat: Beyond Meat Breakfast Sausages and Burgers, Fields Sausages, The Very Good Butcher. Mayo: Hellman's Vegan Mayo and Vegannaise (the Pesto one is the best). Cheese: Daiya Shredded Cheese, Parmela Creamery Smoked Gouda (SERIOUSLY AMAZING), Rawesome Cashew Cream Cheese, "Nuts For Cheese" Cultured Cashew Cheese. Pizza: Daiya (kids love the cheese one) and Oggi (made with beyond meat), Wholly Veggie! Milk: Earth's Own Oat Milk, Earth's Own Barista Coffee Creamer, Silk Almond Milk
Meal PlanFlip through your new cookbooks or Pinterest and get some meal ideas for the week, then write a grocery list based on that. This makes dinner so much easier! Some of my favourite plant-based meal ideas that I know the kids will eat:
- Veggie Burgers (homemade or store-bought) with homemade fries, veggies and hummus
- Frozen Pizza (for mid-week lazy nights)
- Easy Vegan Pad Thai
- Sticky Sesame Cauliflower
- Vegan Cabbage Rolls
- Spaghetti with Yves Italian Round Ground and tomato sauce (jar or homemade) and kale caesar salad
- Cauliflower tacos
- Soup/Stew! I make soups based on what needs to be used up in the fridge. Usually, I consist of soup using root vegetables, tomatoes and peppers that I roast, veggie stalk, coconut milk, ginger, garlic and lentils.
- "Meat and Potatoes" kinda meal - Fields Sausages with mashed potatoes, broccoli, balsamic beets and veggie gravy
I was a pretty shameful vegetarian in 2020. Actually, I wasn't vegetarian at all. It seems like, when I'm happy and life is running fairly seamlessly, my vegetarianism is solid. As is my environmentalism and overall zest for life. But when I'm struggling with anxiety or depression, which I experienced for the first time in my life over this past year, I honestly give so many less shits about everything. Depression is no joke - you completely lose a sense of who you are, and your morals and goals seem to go out the window. I remember learning something about the link between depression/survival and giving-a-shit in Socioeconomics, too. When people are just struggling to stay afloat, we're not really thinking about what we're eating or the environmental impact, but instead, just trying to survive. For me, it was eating whatever I could stomach just to get through the day. Sometimes it was grabbing a handful of cheese and crackers or a pepperoni stick. I'm grateful to have come out the other side of it now. With a new and improved, stronger and wiser version of myself coming out the other end of it (funny/not-so-funny how that happens…). My core values have surfaced, and I feel like now that I love myself again, I have love to give to others, animals and the planet. My goal for this year is to be roughly 90% plant-based! With the exception of eggs from my own happy chickens and the odd cheat moment.
But why go, plant-based? These are my motivating factors...
Compassion for AnimalsThere is nothing humane about the process of killing an animal - factory farms being the worst offenders. I believe something doesn't have to die for us to live. After you've watched some video footage on slaughterhouses and the dairy and egg industry, you'll understand. The whole system is absolutely twisted, and I just hate the idea that I'm funding the abuse of innocent animals. Facts about factory farming:
- Four or more egg-laying hens are packed into a battery cage, a wire enclosure so small that none can spread her wings. Being held in such close confines, the hens' peck at each other's feathers and bodies.
- Pregnant sows spend each of their pregnancies confined to a gestation crate—a metal enclosure that is scarcely wider and longer than the sow herself. Unable to even turn around, sows develop abnormal behaviours and suffer leg problems and skin lesions.
- In factory dairies, cows spend their entire lives confined to concrete. Some cows are injected with the growth hormone rBGH to boost production, leading to lameness and mastitis, an udder's painful infection.
- To facilitate confinement of these animals in such stressful, crowded, unsanitary conditions, painful mutilations like cutting off the horns of cattle, cutting off the beaks of chickens, and docking the tails of sheep, pigs, and dairy cattle are routinely performed.
Eating Plant-Based is better for your health!There is simply NO denying it - the evidence is there - a vegetarian or vegan diet is better for your health than high meat, specifically a red meat diet. Vegetarian diets have been shown to support health, including a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, certain types of cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and increased longevity. (Source) Netflix movie to follow up with: Game Changers
Plant-Based diets are better for the environment.The environmental impact of meat consumption is staggering, contributing to climate change, pollution, deforestation, depleting freshwater reserves and contaminating and over-fishing our oceans. Some stats:
- In the United States alone, 56 million acres of land are used to grow feed for animals, while only 4 million acres produce plants for humans to eat.
- More than 90% of all Amazon rainforest land cleared since 1970 is used for grazing livestock.
- The livestock industry contributes to global climate change, contributing between 12% and 18% to the total GHG emissions. (source)
- 1 kg of protein from beef needed 18 times more land, 10 times more water, 9 times more fuel, 12 times more fertilizer, and 10 times more pesticides than the same amount of proteins obtained from kidney beans.
- Vegetarian and vegan diets have a much smaller environmental footprint: a diet that incorporates beef meet regularly showed the highest carbon footprint (3160 kg CO2eq). Vegetarian and vegan diets had the lowest carbon footprint (55 and 1015 kg CO2eq, respectively) (source).
Eating meat can cause viral infections and global pandemics.Consumption of meat – especially wild meats – is believed to be related to virus infections, as many viruses have been found in wild meat trade markets (source). We are living it, folks - there is an urgent need to change our dietary habits to avoid zoonosis, which could cause another global pandemic again sooner than late.
Personal conclusionI get it - when you're used to thinking and cooking a certain way, change is not easy; we are creatures of habit. There's no judgment coming from over here because I am certainly NOT perfect. I cheat, but I try, and I continue to educate myself on meat consumption's health and environmental impact. I also continue to educate myself in the kitchen by trying new vegan recipes weekly (last week, I made these amazing vegan spanakopitas) while passing on my knowledge to my children to form new habits for the next generation. If your mental health isn't the best, it may not be on the top of your priority list right now. But when you're ready, all I'm suggesting is try your best and don't turn a blind eye to the facts - even going two-thirds vegan can cut carbon emissions by 60%! (source)