Plant-based eating: how and why to do it more often

It can be challenging keeping up with all the different ways of eating, and to be able to work out what’s best for you versus the hype. There are loads of health benefits around plant-based eating and even avid meat-eaters can learn to eat more plants for both their enjoyment and health. There are many delicious fruit to tempt us; an array of fresh vegetables to dive into; scrumptious nuts and seeds to snack on; flavour bombed herbs and spices, and great whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, freekeh, rye and bulgar.  Sometimes you just have to know what’s available and how to prepare it. These days, I often find myself enjoying a vegetarian meal without even realising it.  The main reasons for eating more plant-based food are for your health, the environment and compassion for animals.

Be Healthy!

Eating lots of vegetables and fruit is great for your health.  It has been linked to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer.  They are full of vitamins (such as A, C and K), minerals (like potassium) and are high in fibre.  Most national health foundations recommend at least five servings of vegetables (excluding potato) and fruit per day.  An enjoyable and healthy way to get your nutrients is to ‘eat a rainbow’ over the course of a day. This refers to the different nutrients, vitamins and minerals that come with the different colours.

Eating plant-based, however, isn’t automatically healthy.  If you eat loads of fried food, white bread, junk food etc, you’re not doing your body any favours.  You need to think about the quality of the vegetables and fruit and the way they’re prepared.  Generally speaking though, eating a good variety of vegetables and fruit, prepared fresh or cooked in healthy ways, is ultimately good for your body.

Note that healthy does not necessarily mean low in fat.  Please don’t rule out healthy fats such as olive, coconut, avocado and macadamia oils; eggs, salmon and other fish, nuts, seeds, olives and avocados from your diet.  Eating these healthy fats, in moderation, is better for your health than eating white processed food such as flour,  pasta, rice and bread and most low-fat processed foods (unless your doctor recommends them).  When they take the fat out of food, they need to replace it with something else to make it palatable, and that’s usually carbohydrates, Carbohydrates either are or turn to sugar on digestion and that’s not great for us.

So, eat a rainbow of veges and fruit throughout the day, at least 5 portions combined, prepared simply, and you’ll be doing a lot for your health.

The Environment

A plant-based diet treats our environment much better than a meat-based diet.  For example, it uses only a third of the land that’s needed for a meat and dairy diet.  Animals required crops and water to feed them, and many people in poorer countries are forced to plant crops, such as grains, to feed animals rather than growing crops for their own consumption.  This impacts on food security for these countries.

Producing one kilogram of beef requires 15,500 litres of water, compared to 180 litres for 1 kg of tomatoes and 250 per kg of potatoes.  That’s a huge difference on our water security.

So, by eating more plant-based food, we are saving land, water and crops that can feed more people on this earth.

Compassion for Animals

Animals are beautiful creatures that feel, similarly to how we feel.

It is up to each person, individually, to decide whether or not they want to include them, and how much, in their diet.

If you decide to eat meat, as part of your diet, please consider the quality of life of the animal.  Everyone knows that battery hens (for meat or for eggs) have a horrendous life;  that unsustainable fishing wreaks havoc on the fish populations and their environments; and that many of the mammals we eat are raised in detrimental conditions, let alone how they die.  It’s way too easy to turn a blind eye to that.  I know I have.  So this blog is as much for me as it is for you.

So, this is a call out to us all to think with compassion for the animals on our earth… to eat plant-based food and reduce (or eliminate) our meat intake; to source our meat and eggs (if we choose to eat them) with responsibility, by asking our researching about the providence and the life that they lived and how they died; saying no to battery animal lives and seeking meat where animals have lived a good life on the land; by asking about the source of fish and seafood to make sure you’re not destroying habitats;  and ultimately to consider just how much meat do you really need to eat.

Ways to eat more plant-based food

  • Start eating at least one more plant-based meal each week. Build up a repertoire of delicious vegetarian meals and keep the recipes in the kitchen.
  • Keep fruit where you can see it and be tempted to eat it such as in an open fruit bowl in the kitchen and a transparent container in the fridge for ripe fruit.
  • Designate certain days as each meat-free eg: Meatless Mondays.  Plan ahead to know what you’re going to eat.
  • Make delicious vegetarian soups for lunch or for an easy winter dinner, such as lentil, pumpkin, minestrone or French Onion Soup.
  • Add grated vegetables like carrots, sweet potato, zucchini, cabbage to minced meat dishes such as lasagne, moussaka and bolognaise. You can use less meat or make a bigger amount and freeze it
  • Always have a vegetarian dip in the fridge, such as hummus, tzatiki, guacamole, beetroot or capsicum. You can have them as easy snacks and substitute spreads instead of butter.  Have some crudites instead of biscuits and bread.
  • Keep 1 or 2 tasty viniagrettes in your fridge to make an easy salad extra yummy.
  • Enjoy nuts and seeds as tasty snacks, or replace all or some of your flour in baking with ground nuts.
  • Make sweet treats with dates rather than processed sugar.
  • Build up a library of plant-based meals from different cuisines to enjoy the different flavours eg: Indian – dhal, palak paneer; Italian – pizzas, pesto pasta, insalata caprese; Indonesian – gado gado salad.
  • Replace creamy sauce with creamy cashew sauce (vegan)
  • Substitute dairy milk with almond, soy, rice or oat milk (vegan)
  • Substitute eggs with ground flaxseed mixed with water (vegan)

Types of diets that are more plant-based

  • Flexetarian: a primarily vegetarian diet though allows ocassional meat, fish, seafood and poultry.
  • Whole-foods plant based (WFPB): a primarily vegetarian diet though allows ocassional meat, fish, seafood and poultry.
  • Pescatarian: eat vegetables, fruit, nuts & seeds, whole-foods, herbs & spices, dairy, fish, shellfish, dairy, eggs, honey.
  • Vegetarian:  eat vegetables, fruit, nuts & seeds, whole-foods, herbs & spices, dairy, eggs, honey.
  • Vegan: eat vegetables, fruit, nuts & seeds, whole-foods, herbs & spices.  No meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, honey or any food coming from an animal.  Can eat oysters as they have no central nervous system.
"We can make a commitment to promote vegetables and fruits and whole grains on every part of every menu. We can make portion sizes smaller and emphasize quality over quantity. And we can help create a culture - imagine this - where our kids ask for healthy options instead of resisting them."
Michelle Obama