It’s all over the news…in Bloomberg and even The Economist- 2019 is being called the Year of the Vegan. Canada’s Food Guide has even taken the bold step of all but eliminating meat and dairy from its recommended food choices and replacing it with fruit, vegetables and whole grains 1.
If this scares you, or makes you want to bury your head in a juicy double cheeseburger, you’re not alone. The word “vegan” comes with so many negative images that many people are choosing to refer to this type of diet as “plant-based”, rather than vegan. But whatever you call it, eating less animal-sourced products can lead to a healthier diet and, as it turns out, is really easy to do!
Going cold turkey
For some people, making the move to a plant-based diet is done in an instant, but for most people it is a gradual process. Here are five ways that you can slowly start to work more plant-based meals into your food choices:
A great way to start eating more plant-based meals is to adopt a VB-6 approach to eating. Developed by Mark Bittman, this stands for “Vegan Before 6” and means that you choose to eat only plant-based foods before 6pm. Load up on fruit, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and pasta. And for dinner – eat whatever you like. You just might find that, over time, dinner becomes more plant-based, too!
Swap it out
When preparing meals, take a look at each ingredient and see if there is a plant-based alternative that you can easily swap out. For example, if you’re making spaghetti and meatballs, try using vegan meatballs and cook them in your favourite sauce. (Vegan meatballs are available at most grocery stores in the frozen food section). Or, start even smaller and try nutritional yeast instead of Parmesan cheese. Despite its unappealing name, nutritional yeast taste remarkably like grated Parmesan! How about mashed avocado spread on your bread instead of mayo? Sub in almond or cashew milk in recipes instead of cow’s milk. There are so many quick and easy ways to include more plant-based options in your diet.
One at a time
Take one animal-sourced item out of your diet at a time. A good place to start is with dairy. There are so many plant-based milks available and you can use them exactly as you would dairy milk in any recipe, on cereal, or simply as a delicious beverage. Next up…eggs. Many vegan baking recipes are identical to regular recipes minus the egg, and the results are identical, too!
Be a little sneaky! When preparing your favourite ground meat dishes like meatloaf, burgers or Bolognese sauce, use half the amount of meat and replace the other half with lentils, black beans or a plant-based ground “meat” product. No one will notice the difference and you’ll be reducing the fat and calories, while increasing the fibre and nutrients! There are plenty of recipes available online to try.
Flip the plate
Most people have been raised to think of meat (fish and poultry) as the centre of the plate and the sides as…well, sides. When you flip that around and focus on veggies and grains as the stars of the show and meat in a supporting role, your meals will be higher in fibre and nutrients and lower in saturated fat and calories. Eventually, you’ll find that your meals are just as delicious and filling without any animal protein at all!
And, if you’re concerned about not getting enough protein by removing meat from your plate, don’t be! A healthy adult needs an average of just 50g of protein a day and that can easily be achieved through a plant-based diet!