Going Green In 2019

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“Eat food. Not a lot. Mostly plants.” - Michael Pollan

“I want to eat more plant-based, but where do I even start?”

“How do I become vegan?”

These are questions I receive instantly upon any individual learning that I identify as a vegan. While my refusal to consume animal products used to cause uproar at the dinner table (how can you live without CHEESE?! Are you INSANE?!), the response is changing. Mindsets are shifting. The notion of being vegan used to be met with a comment like, “You’re nuts!” Now, it’s more often met with, “So you must eat a lot of nuts. What else do you eat? I’d like to learn more.” This is definite progress.

Now more than ever, individuals are opening up to the idea of consuming a plant-based diet, or at the very least replacing meat in more meals per week than just on Monday. People are asking more questions about where our food comes from, digging deeper into the ‘farm to table’ process, and demanding more transparency in the food industry.

There are a myriad of reasons one could become vegan (and maybe some reasons one should become vegan..). I believe it’s important for everyone to question where their food comes from, and the impact it has on our ever-changing world. But I won’t use that space for this. We’ll save that for another time! Because it is still important.

This article will serve to provide a few tangible ideas if you’re considering shifting your meal time focus away from animals, and on to plants. Be warned, this isn’t your typical ‘how to’ post. There is no clear-cut formula, and your relationship to food is an ever-changing, evolving one. Let’s get started.

Recognize Your Current Narratives Surrounding Food.

Food is a deeply personal topic to all of us. How you were raised, the food and food experiences you were exposed to as a child, teen, and young adult, will all influence the relationship you have to food today. This doesn’t even take into account the media messages we’re inundated with on a moment to moment basis. We have been conditioned to consume, much of which happened beyond our control during formative years.

Simply start becoming mindful of the labels you attach to foods, and the stories you tell yourself about what a ‘healthy’ diet consists of. At the same time, start tuning in a little more closely to how foods make you feel when you consume them. How are your daily energy levels? How are you sleeping? How well are you recovering from day-to-day stress?

Become conscious of your choices first. Ask yourself questions. Challenge current beliefs. Only then consider change.

Think Big. Act Small.

What are your favourite recipes? Much of what we already consume can be easily adapted to be plant-based. Are there a few small changes you can make in the meals you’re currently consuming, to become more plant-centric?

Example: Chicken Curry. Replace the chicken with red lentils. Red lentils take 12 minutes to cook, are high in iron and protein, plus a whack load of other vitamins and minerals you wouldn’t find in chicken. Even easier? Replace the chicken with canned chickpeas. No cooking required. Try this indulgent curry recipe: https://www.thefullhelping.com/pumpkin-chickpea-cashew-curry/

Example: Scrambled Eggs. Replace the egg with medium-firm tofu. Crumble the tofu and sauté with your vegetables. Add garlic powder, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast to give it the creamy/eggy flavour. Try this recipe: https://minimalistbaker.com/southwest-tofu-scramble/

Baking? Swap dairy milk for a ANY plant-based milk. Almond, cashew, soy, coconut. You won’t notice the difference. Swap eggs for ‘flax eggs’. Mix 1 tbsp of flax seed with 3 tbsp of water and let sit for 5 minutes. Mix into your recipe in place of an egg. Try these small swaps in your next cookie or muffin recipe!

It doesn’t have to be complicated. Small changes will add up over time to yield big results.

Think Bowls > Plates. Think Forks > Knives.

Many of us likely grew up on a traditional diet - you had a plate, and on it you had your meat, you had your vegetables, and you had your starches - maybe rice or potatoes.

If you want to adopt a more plant-centric approach to your meals, you’re going to need to ditch the plate you grew up with. You’re going to need to get over the idea that you need to see a clear cut piece of ‘protein’ on your plate in order for that meal to be considered whole. Most of the meals I eat now are served in bowls, and contain as much protein as my ‘plate’ once did. Try out this basic buddha bowl & tahini recipe!

Forget blogs. Buy a book.

A quick google search for ‘plant based recipes’ or ‘vegan recipes’ will yield over 1 billion results in 0.5 seconds. Where to even begin!? Our unlimited access to information is both a blessing and a curse. The more options we have, the more difficult the choice, and the less likely we are to be satisfied and enjoy the choice we land on. This is the paradox of choice.

When trying to make change, it helps to reduce decision fatigue. The less options you have, the easier it will be to consider trying something new.This is where a good ol’ fashioned hard cover book will come in seriously handy!

A good cookbook will contain a few recipes for each meal time, along with beautifully crafted photos to inspire your green thumb and taste buds. Most plant based/vegan cookbooks will include a forward with valuable information regarding plant-based kitchen staples, helping you prep your kitchen for success.

Cookbooks also go through a much more rigorous recipe testing process than your average food blog. You can be assured that by the time a recipe makes it to print, it’s been through the works, and likely tested by average home cooks to ensure it’s repeatable in a variety of kitchen contexts.

If I can recommend just ONE cookbook for anyone aspiring to eat more plants, without a doubt I always recommend, Oh She Glows. I have cooked my way through many a recipe book, and this is one I continuously come back to. It’s simple, straightforward, beautifully designed, and the recipes are ALWAYS a hit amongst my family and friends.

Strive for progress, not perfection.

Don’t expect to be perfect, and don’t try to be. Think of your engagement toward food as an ongoing evolution. The more knowledgeable we become as a society, the more we will continue to shift our consumption habits. Food, and our relationships to it, will always be transforming. Remind yourself that small changes add up in a BIG way.

About the author:
Olivia has a degree in Kinesiology and has worked in the fitness industry for the last 8 years. Her deep dive into veganism three and a half years ago sparked a serious interested in cooking and nutrition. Currently she is working toward developing Plant-Based Cooking Classes to offer in Winnipeg, in the spring of 2019. Olivia is currently completing a rigorous online course to receive a certificate in Plant-Based Culinary Training. Next on her education horizon is to become a Registered Holistic Nutritionist through the Canada School of Natural Nutrition. 

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