“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” - Michael Pollan
Along with Matcha everything, the plant-based movement has seen a major growth in popularity over the past couple of years. Strictly plant-based restaurants are popping up in major cities worldwide with vegan food trucks slowly following suit. Large coffee chains are beginning to cater to this shift by carrying non-dairy milks other than just soy. Vegan and vegetarian cookbooks are taking over bookstore displays so you can finally say goodbye to boring bowls of lettuce and hello to vibrant and nourishing bowls of goodness.
With more and more celebrities proudly flaunting their plant-based lifestyles, it seems like just another trend that will quickly die out. The near sudden spike of plant-based everything makes it hard to ignore, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. The rise of vegan social media influencers has contributed greatly to the plant-based movement gaining such popularity; feeds plastered with elaborate smoothie bowls, innovative recipes, and overall drool-worthy photos makes the lifestyle seem more attractive and attainable.
A diet rich in whole plant foods boasts various benefits from weight management, anti-aging, disease prevention, environmental sustainability, and many more. According to Meatless Monday, cutting back on meat consumption just one day a week can reduce your carbon footprint and reduce your risk of chronic preventable diseases like type two diabetes.
Best of all, buying less meat means cutting a few dollars off your weekly grocery bill. Plant-based protein sources like chickpeas and lentils cost significantly less per-pound than animal-based proteins. A pound of dried lentils, which can last for weeks, costs a fraction of the price of a pound of chicken breast. The good news is, you don’t have to go totally vegan or be a superstar to reap the magical powers of plants. Here are a handful of ways to get you started:
Chances are, at least one of your meals during the week is meatless. With a few minor adjustments, a full day’s worth of meals can easily be turned plant-based. Mondays are the perfect time to start fresh, but Meatless Monday can be on any day of the week.
Food for thought: it takes approximately 1,900 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef, whereas producing a pound of vegetables only takes around 40 gallons of water.
Try swapping your morning eggs and bacon with tofu scramble and the ever popular avocado toast. Order a veggie stir-fry or chickpea curry the next time you’re at a restaurant. Opt for beans as the main protein source if you’re grabbing a burrito bowl for lunch. Veggie sushi rolls are equally as delicious as their seafood counterparts. The options are endless!
If you have no idea where to start and need recipe ideas for Meatless Mondays, look no further. Pinterest and Youtube are your best friend when you’re in need of some food inspiration. With endless recipe resources, creating delicious meatless meals at home can go far beyond just rice and beans. Why not try your hand at cauliflower buffalo wings or pulled “pork” jackfruit sandwiches? If you’re not so keen on trying new recipes, try swapping out the meat in your typical recipes for plant based proteins and use the same seasonings or marinade. After all, it’s all about the seasoning!
The Daily Dozen App
Based on the book How Not To Die by plant-based doctor Michael Greger, this app is the easiest way to learn how to incorporate a variety of whole plant foods everyday without having to read over 700 pages of information or pay for a nutrition course. The best part? It’s totally free for iOS and Android users.
The Daily Dozen app keeps track of your daily intake of a variety of food from spices, berries, leafy greens, and whole grains with a simple check mark. No portion guessing, macronutrient counting, or food scales involved. With the option to set daily notifications, it’s like having your very own nutrition coach everywhere you go. It’s a great tool whether you’re transitioning into a fully plant-based diet and want to make sure you’re eating a balanced diet, or if you simply just want to up your fruit and vegetable intake.
The Happy Cow App
The Happy Cow app is essentially like Google Maps, but for vegan and vegetarian restaurants. If you’re looking to dine out for Meatless Monday and are feeling a little adventurous, check Happy Cow for restaurants in your area. This app is also wonderful if you’re a plant-based traveler looking for places to eat in a foreign country. Lots of restaurants will even have the Happy Cow logo at the entrance to make it easier for you to find them.
Not a fan of fruits and veggies?
Smoothies are one of the best ways to get multiple servings in one go. Sneak a few handfuls of spinach into your smoothie for a boost of greens and fibre without sacrificing the taste. You won’t be able to tell the difference aside from the colour. If you’re more hardcore, try adding some grated ginger and tougher dark leafy greens like kale or chard into the mix. Frozen bananas make a wonderful base for smoothies to add an element of natural sweetness in addition to a creamy texture.
Sneak vegetables into your pasta sauce. If you have kids or if you just haven’t made friends with vegetables yet, this trick works like a charm. Add a grated carrot or zucchini to your sauce the next time you’re making pasta for lunch or dinner. The vegetables will soften, seamlessly blend into your sauce, and soak up all of the delicious flavour.
Buy Local & Seasonal
Local produce always tastes so much better, plus it’s always great to support farmers in your area. Buying produce in season is not only cheaper, but it also delivers the most nutritional bang for your buck. If you live in a cold climate where certain foods aren’t available during the winter, buy frozen. Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked when they are in season and frozen to preserve their taste and nutrition at the best stage possible.
Cooking Methods Matter!
Most of the time, hatred for vegetables stems from them being prepared the wrong way. Remember that bowl of Brussels sprouts at holiday dinners that would barely get touched? That’s because they were probably boiled until they were mushy and didn’t even look green anymore. Steamed or roasted veggies are the most tasty. Steam vegetables until they seem to appear brighter in colour and still have a bite to them - about 3 or 4 minutes. Roast veggies in the oven at 425F for about 15 to 20 minutes. First drizzle in olive oil, season with salt and pepper plus your favourite seasonings. Garlic powder and a squeeze of lemon juice is a simple but delicious combination.
Whichever route you decide to take toward eating more plants, always choose the method that works best for you. Don’t be afraid to try new foods, because you’d be surprised at how enjoyable a plant-based diet can really be!
Contributed by Jocelynne Flor.
Jocelynne is a plant-based blogger translating her experience and knowledge into a simple food & lifestyle guide anyone can follow. Find simple and nutritious plant-based recipes and lifestyle and wellness tips on her blog Jocelynneflor.com.