We have all had that one friend… that one person who, when attending a birthday party, barbeque or other event, needs special consideration that there be food present that they can eat – and hopefully enjoy! Whether it’s allergies, sensitivities, or self-imposed restrictions, needing to accommodate restrictive 21st century diets can be cumbersome.
Well, today, we encourage you to BE that friend.
With 7 billion people in the world and growing (according to the UN Population Division, the global population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2055), it’s time for ALL of us to consider being that friend. The one who consciously eats and supports locally, and within the means of what the planet can sustain.
A mini science lesson. Carbon dioxide (Co2) is the most abundant contributor to greenhouse gasses – human sources being the burning of fossil fuels, land use changes and industrial processes. Methane (CH4) is the second highest contributor, but traps roughly 30 times more heat than CO2! Methane is mostly a result of cow burps. (Seriously.) So, until scientists figure out a way to genetically modify cows (or cow feed) to limit the belching, a solid move to combat global warming is for us as individuals to decrease the demand on meat and dairy.
Often times, the conversation tends to focus on reducing fossil fuel emissions, but curbing emissions from food production should play an equally important role! See this graph for one of the most comprehensive cause and effects of Global Warming and Climate Change that we have seen, sourced from Wikipedia. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_climate_change)
Methane is not livestock’s only contribution to what ails the planet – these sentient beings also require fields upon fields of crops as food source. Cows are herbivores, and in nature will eat wild grasses. In factory farms however, they eat corn, soy, wheat and other protein rich (GMO) foods, along with supplements of hormones and antibiotics, to increase their weight to get them to market faster. (These crops are known as monoculture crops, and have their own environmental drawbacks, more on them later.) The grazing land that livestock does get contributes to deforestation, soil erosion, river siltation, and contamination of organic matter. Raising animals for food is “one of biggest causes of water pollution in the industrial world.” (PetaIndia.com) This goes for poultry and pork too!
The oceans are also affected by the need to feed the people – environmentally speaking. Eating wild caught fish hurts fish stocks that are already highly depleted from historical overfishing, pollution (can we say raw sewage?) and the mismanagement of rivers and lakes. Fish farms were intended to solve some of these issues but have done so much more harm than good that in Canada, the BC Provincial Government agreed to phase these industrial polluters from its coastal waters (due to illnesses, antibiotics and sewage contaminating wild species, among other issues). A shortage of fish has ripple effects across the entire food chain, not to mention the Indigenous Peoples whose traditional rights, territories and practices are affected.
Though going vegetarian or vegan is the best choice for the environment, not all plants are created equal –
certain plant species and farming techniques have negative effects. Agriculture in North America relies heavily on wheat, corn, soybeans, cotton and hay, which are typically monoculture crops, meaning one crop planted per season, per field. Monoculture crops have higher yields, but also higher degradation of soil, higher fertilizer and pesticide use, higher water consumption, more runoff into rivers and streams, greater loss of biodiversity, and greater negative impact on pollinators – and another little discussed effect is the contribution to air pollution and long-term health problems from the fertilizers, pesticides, and dust.
Okay, so all this said, there is hope! And you can pro-actively play a role!
Here are 2 basic concepts to keep in mind when making your grocery lists:
“In a world cluttered with advice and pressure around what not to eat, we want to provide people with more food choices to empower positive change. For this reason, [WWF and Knorr] have identified 50 foods we should eat more of because they are nutritious, have a lower impact on our planet than animal-based foods, can be affordable, accessible and taste good.”
Knorr partnered with WWF to outline crops that not only are sustainable, they are also the most beneficial to your health. Incorporating these 50 foods into your diet as much as possible, and encouraging those you know to do the same, can help point the needle in the right direction.
Here are 10 of the more common choices from the list – the more you start including these in your diet – the better!
- Mung Beans
- Soy Beans
- Hemp Seeds
- Alfalfa Sprouts
- Orange Tomatoes
PDF of full list, including principles & methodology (starting on page 52): https://www.wwf.org.uk/sites/default/files/2019-02/Knorr_Future_50_Report_FINAL_Online.pdf
We know that organic is the way to go, but not only can it be cost prohibitive, organic is also not always available – luckily, familiarizing with the “Dirty Dozen” provides a great starting point. They are the most pesticide laden of all the fruit & veg, so by going organic for any of these listed, you are taking steps to do yourself, and the environment a favour.
- Kale, collard and mustard greens
- Bell and hot Peppers
Plant based positives – plants that pack a punch!
Here are some top plant-based sources for:
Protein: Soy (tofu, tempeh, edamame), lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, almonds, spirulina, quinoa
Iron: Soy (tofu, tempeh, edamame), lentils, chickpeas, beans, cashew nuts
Calcium: Soy (tofu, tempeh, edamame), beans, peas, lentils, almonds, brazil nuts, seeds
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Chia seeds, Brussel sprouts, algal oil, hemp seeds, walnuts, flax seeds
Visit this calculator to discover what quantities of nutrients you need a day for maximum health: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/webform/daily-nutrient-requirements-calculator
6 Top Tips in Making the Switch
And lucky for us, it’s really never been easier to go plant based! Mainstream culture is waking up to food caused environmental and health related issues, and there are now easily accessible substitutes for nearly anything your heart desires! You can go with store bought vegan salamis, cheeses, burgers – an acquired taste to be sure, but once you acquire it, you have it! Or, our preference, home-made package free alternatives! More advanced, and more time consuming, but also more skill building and, well, satisfying… mastering a cashew cream sauce or a dairy free dressing that isn’t just your standard oil & vinegar, is pretty fulfilling (and filling!)!
Transitioning to plant-free is a process, and it presents challenges. Here are our top 6 tips and advice to help you on your journey.
- Start simple. Start with one meat-and-dairy-free day a week. You don’t have to go straight for tofu! – try spaghetti and sauce, sans meat – there are plant base ground beef substitutes that can fool the hardiest meat lover. Try sloppy joes or tacos using lentils in place of beef. If you are easing into plant-based, but not yet ready to stop dairy – meals like meat free nachos or pizza are great options to start. “Bowls” are also a great way to go – stir fries with rice and veg – you barely miss the meat!
- Have snacks on hand. Get to know your favourite plant-based snacks, and make sure to always have some on hand. Snacking can prevent you cutting corners and sliding into poor habits at mealtimes. Healthy snacks include fruits, nuts, trail mix, roasted chickpeas, hummus and veg… there are so many options – both sweet and savoury.
- Prep with your family. Going vegetarian or vegan can be a big change for the whole family! Check out Alive’s “Prep with the Family” post [Find the whole “12 Months of Wellness Challenge” here: https://www.alive.com/wellnesschallenge/] that talks about the importance of basing a child’s diet on wholesome plant-based foods, along with all kinds of tips for meal planning for these most important years of a child’s growth and development.
- Follow others for inspiration. Here are some Instagram accounts you can follow for (drool worthy) plant-based diet inspiration:
And for 100% dairy free, plant based, vegan artisan cheese products – be sure to follow Vancouver’s own @blueheroncheese! For the adventurous – order “The Art of Plant-Based Cheesemaking” to learn how to use nuts, seeds and legumes not only to make your own cheeses, but also butter, yogurts, and sour cream!
- Join a community. By community, we mean a Facebook group! Join to become part of the conversation, or “like”, to go along for the ride!
Search Facebook with terms like “Veg Recipes”, “Broke Vegan”, “Beginner Vegan”, “(your area) Vegan”, and see what results resonate with you!
- Do your homework. Visit your go-to grocery store when you have time to peruse the aisles – what pre-made meat and dairy free items appeal to you? Getting familiar with what’s available to you can really simplify life – especially when attending potlucks or expecting company – there really are so many creative and satisfying options!
Once you add some new plant-based favourites into your rotation, you won’t even miss “the old way”. Your tastes will start to change, and you’ll enjoy the peace of mind that comes from not having to worry so much about your health!
True plant-based living touches all aspects of one’s life – from reducing consumption, reusing/repurposing what already exists, refilling with package free staples – (including dish, laundry and hand soaps *wink*) – taking transit, it’s all about connecting more deeply with the natural environment, and making the best choices to preserve it for ourselves, and for generations to come!
Heck, maybe “that one friend” can help you on your journey!