ALIVE & FIT MAGAZINE Vol.16 Issue 61 Summer 2022: Veg-Based Eating 101

Plant- based diets are phenomenal for humans, animals and of course helpful for healing the planet. The Meatless Monday movement began in 2003 as an international campaign to encourage the masses to take a pass on eating meat one day a week. The once trendy term isn’t thrown around often as of late but switching to plant-based and even going vegan is gaining traction. It’s sensational to see people minimizing meat and growing globally. Restaurants are popping up and famous faces from cinema, music and sports are sharing plant-based love on social media. Change is never easy in life. Many people are feeling the pressure to make a move away from meat. On the other hand, those following the Canrnivore, Keto and Paleo diets are shaking their heads at the notion of kicking animal products to the curb. Maybe the Meatless Monday is the right mindset. One day a week without animals on the menu is one happy holistic leap to the garden.  One must crawl before they walk or run. There’s no debating plants are power houses of wellness. Eating a plethora of all things dirt derived helps increase energy, vitality, vim, and vigour. Let’s begin the battle by simply prioritizing plants as the focal point on the plate.

What is plant-based? It’s a term that some see as a plants only lifestyle while others see more as a flexatarian mindset. At the end of the day, cutting down on animal consumption in any form should be the goal. Vegetarianism began as a way to abstain from consuming meat but dairy and eggs remained on the menu. Factory farming has had many vegetarians drop the lifestyle while others go grass-fed and free-range. The class of plant- based eaters who go for growing goodness with the exception of eggs are referring to themselves as octovarians. There are also pescatarians. This sect sticks to plants predominately but focus on a variety of fish and shellfish as their only source of animal protein. Vegans are total vegetarians for lack of a better explanation. Vegans are the strictest, encompassing a lifestyle not just their fridge contents. Vegans abstain from using any products that are animal based or hurt animals for human desire. Fur, leather, goose feathers plus beauty or cleaning products containing animal by-products are a huge no. Many people are shocked to learn red lipstick is due to Carmine, crushed cochineal bugs. Honey is a hot topic of debate so skip the sweetener and opt for marvellous maple syrup. 

Going plant-based can be overwhelming in the beginning. Meal planning and prep is the foundation to overall health. It’s a breeze to offset meal mayhem with a healthy stocked fridge, portable snacks for on-the-go and oven ready meals in the freezer. There are tons of hip hangouts rocking plant-based menu options plus pop ups, meal kits and food trucks with fabulous food fare. 

Start with the first step.

Nutrition 

Plants are a wealth of health. Plants boost the immune system naturally. They contain vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and phyto-chemicals. They also contain fibre, helping support a dynamite digestive system. Happy gut happy life! Beneficial bacteria boost the microbiome. There’s mounting evidence to support the link between a healthy gut and brain. Plants are heaps of healthy carbohydrates, providing fuel for fun. Fruit is nature’s candy. An apple a day does keep the doctor away and the dentist! Loading up on nature’s bounty helps maintain a healthy weight provided it’s not fried and sugar stocked. Loading up on loads of lush leafy greens and a healthy harvest reduces inflammation in the body and helps lower your cancer risk. Nuts and seeds are healthy fats, unlike the saturated fat found in animals. A Mega amount of magnesium is found in fresh fruits and veggies, helping support healthy blood pressure. A plant-based lifestyle is associated with a lower risk of diabetes, stroke and heart attack. Plants are packed with protein whether it’s a bowl of brown rice, chick peas or a fist full of almonds. Fruits and vegetables have a high polyphenol content, which is linked to lowering the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. A Whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet focuses on what to eat rather than what not to eat. Going plant-based is about being healthy and avoiding processed foods overall. Looking for longevity? Here’s to hoping to a fantastic future with doctors prescribing a plateful of plants. There are tons of people saving the world and animals but still ignoring the benefits of following a plant-based lifestyle to support their health inside and out. 

Make a List

Write down a list of your favourite foods. What do you eat the most? Is it animal or plant- based? What flavours do you favour? Is there a country whose cuisine is charming? Do you love take out or an at home chef? Make a list of sensitivities, allergies, intolerances, and yuck foods. Take a small step. Change one meal, one snack and increase one day at a time until you are eating plants in abundance.

Breakfast:

The easiest meal to start swapping animal products for plants is breakfast. Nut beverages in lieu of cow’s milk on cold and cooked breakfast cereals are the foundation of plant-based morning fuel. Choose an unsweetened chocolate beverage made of coconut, hemp, oat, quinoa, cashew, almond, or even chick pea with a banana and a scoop of nut butter for a blender delight. Whether you are crazy for croissants, wowed by waffles, passionate about pancakes or bagel obsessed, label reading will also help you go plant-based. There are even cream cheese substitutes in an awesome range of funky flavours. Yogurt is widely available in coconut and soy even almond and cashew. Bye-bye butter, there are an outrageous amount of plant-based alternatives. Eggs are an easy go-to. Missing eggs is a concern for many, but then along came the most sustainable plant on the planet to the rescue. Mung beans, a 4,400-year-old legume are now a liquid replacement. They are easy on the environment, may replace factory farms and an egg-ceptional fluffy tasty stand-in with heaps of health benefits. Smoothies are a great place to go green and forget focusing on fruit. Skip milk for plant based beverages or make it all about the agua in protein shakes. Why whey powder when there are vegan options? Many plant-based options include exotic add-ins, forgotten vegetables, helpful herbs and the magic of medicinal mushrooms. Top-notch plant protein powders are even fermented for gut goodness. 

Snacks

Life is hectic and healthy snacks are simple. Truthfully most people are sensational at snacking plant-based. Raw nuts, seeds, rice cake with nut butter or the schoolyard staple of fruit top the timeless list. Go easy on taco, potato or quinoa chips. They are processed and not considered nature’s nourishment even though avocado oil out ranks corn oil. There are tons of top-notch instagram and facebook posts plus gazillions of websites and blogs displaying right-on the money recipes. Take your favourite recipe and swap the milk and butter for alternatives. One egg can be created with one tablespoon of chia or flax combined with three tablespoons of water. It sets after 5 minutes and ta-da! In breads, muffins and cookies use one small overripe banana or ¼ cup vegan yogurt per egg. Never toss out the liquid from a can of chickpeas. The all-star aquafaba is a fabulous froth for lattes, meringues, and perfect for pavlova, mayonnaise, macaroons, and a marshmallow fluff friend. Prep is the perfect answer for snack time slip-ups. Make energy balls, granola bars, muffins, and cookies for plant- powered grab and go moments. 

Main Meals

Go big or go home! There are piles of plant-based products that are a meat stand-in’s such as faux wings made from cauliflower and pizza with veggie ground. There are bean based burgers to pea protein chicken fingers and even totally tofu sausages. Faux fur coats are fabulous but faux foods shouldn’t be the staple of plant-based meal planning.  It is achievable to substitute meat without sacrificing flavour while still focusing on healthy whole food plant based (WFPB) eating. Chili for example is literally the same dish sans meat, given you use beans in the current recipe. Level up lasagne with ground cashews for cheese. Taco meat is top-notch with finely chopped walnuts or mushrooms and slews of spices. Fall in love with legumes and the battle is won. Bless burritos with a bounty of beans and rice, accompanied by the goodness of guacamole. Wheat pasta is plant paradise but quinoa, bean, corn, rice, kale, and chick pea stock the shelves in the current wheat and gluten-free world. Eating out is easy peasy.  There isn’t a country that doesn’t dine on meat-free options. Thailand offers curry and coconut rice with flavourful sauces. Middle Eastern eats include falafels or simple rice with healthy hummus and tahini. Let’s not ignore Indian, Italian, Chinese, and Ethiopian with their indescribable injera bread. Travelling the world following a plant-based lifestyle is an endless dining delight. Instagram and facebook are flooded with a ridiculous number of recipes from accounts in far away places, how-to’s and celebrity vegans posting the latest and greatest.

Going whole food plant-based is healthy, pure and simple. Yes, it’s possible to swap everything with a plant and yes, most people are fooled. To be crystal clear, sugar, fat and salt on plants is as unhealthy for you as on meat. Raw and straight from the dirt is holistic health but steamed, juiced, blended, grilled, and baked is the closest connection to a lifetime of vim and vigour. Experts in the WFPB world define a healthy plate as 50% fruit and mono-starchy vegetables and the other 50% starchy vegetables, whole grains and/ or legumes. Fall in love with fresh local fruits and vegetables. Grow a garden of goodness and cook using handfuls of herbs. Carbohydrates are a category of macros just like protein and fat. None of these are evil and they don’t promote obesity. Nature provided all of these in plants to fuel the body, fight disease and promote overall health and wellness naturally. Evil is processing once healthy options and adding a laundry list of additives to ensure food is tasty, addictive and shelf stable. Processed promotes inflammation throughout the body. Eating fast food is not healthy for you and should be a takeout treat. Plant-based fast food must be limited, very limited for a lifetime of wellness inside and out. I hope you are inspired to go plant-based one day a week to start and bring back MEATLESS MONDAYS….

READ my ARTICLE at ALIVE & FIT MAGAZINE