Greening up your Menu, How to Eat More Plant Based in 5 easy Steps!

When the new Canada Food Guide was released, it seemed to be everywhere. Everyone sharing it on social media and all over the news, I even noticed it hit international news with an article in BBC news.  Why is this new food guide such a “hot” topic? What about it seems to be fuelling conversations all over Canada and worldwide?

Canada Food Guide

The new food guide is now represented by a plate as opposed to food groups or a food pyramid, as it was in the past. Half of this plate is completely filled with vegetables and fruit. A quarter of the plate is designated for whole grain foods such as rice, pasta and whole grain breads. The last quarter is filled different types of protein including eggs, meat, dairy and plant based proteins. The biggest change that I notice, and what I think seems to be causing most of a stir, is that there are no longer  meat and dairy food groups that stand on their own, yet it is all grouped together in “proteins”. This encourages people that they can swap between meats/dairy and plant based proteins as they want and need.

These new guidelines are great news for the Environment! Encouraging people to eat more plant based proteins can help reduce greenhouse gasses and water use associated with meat and dairy production.

An article I found in The Globe and Mail describes these effects of the industry in Canada:

“Intensive animal agriculture is one of the leading sources of greenhouse-gas emissions and uses more water than any other human activity. (In Canada it’s the single largest consumer of water, according to the 2012 report from the World Society for the Protection of Animals.) Concentrated livestock operations can be major water polluters. Factory farms, as a whole, generate far more manure than can be properly disposed of. Nitrates, phosphates, bacteria and viruses present in manure can seep into groundwater and pollute surface water, killing marine life and threatening public health.”

The changes to the food Canada Food Guide can be a huge step for Canadian’s toward consuming less meat and dairy products for our health of course but could also have huge effects to the state our Environment in helping us reduce those emissions and pollutants associated with the industry.

This new Food Guide inspired me to think of my own journey into eating less meat. It’s been almost a year that I’ve embarked on this plan to eat less meat and dairy. It’s had its ups and downs of course. Over the year, I went through phases where I didn’t eat meat but I was eating eggs, cheese and yogurt and sometimes fish. I also went through stages where I cut out all meat and dairy and tried a completely plant based diet (no meat or animal products). I’ve shifted back into eating cheeses again and eggs and other dairy but only in baked goods.  It’s been a journey for sure, but I’m still working toward a more plant based diet and enjoying it!

I’ve thought of the steps that I’ve taken to help me in this journey here are my FIVE steps towards eating a Plant Based diet:

BBQ, Veggie style

Step 1-Start Slowly

You’ve decided you want to try eating less meat and dairy products. That’s great!  I say go for it, but start slowly, if you need to. This is your journey and you decide what works and doesn’t work. There’s no prescription or method just start.

Maybe start by replacing one meal a day or one day in the week that you designate as “meatless”.  Have heard of “Meatless Monday”? It’s a non-profit initiative that was started in 2003 in collaboration with the Center for a Livable (CLF) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Their goal was to reduce meat consumption by 15% for personal health and for the health of our planet. They felt this could be achieved by using Monday (a day where we are most likely to stick to our goals) as a day to cut(out) the beef.  

Resources provided by Meatless Monday

If you find that one day a week is working well, add another day or another meal.  Some people decide they only want to eat meat when they are out a restaurant or at a dinner party. Do what works for you at the time and don’t let it stress you out. Cutting back on one meal or one day is a huge step and that’s can make a big difference.  

Step 2- Set Yourself Up!

This step was crucial for me as I have ZERO willpower when it comes to food. I am a notorious cheese and chip addict. Or at least I was (still working on it).  I had to set up my pantry and fridge to have the right ingredients to choose from to make it easy to follow my plan. Lucky for me, I live in a country (Mexico) where there are several growing seasons.  I was able to find a local produce provider that delivered fresh veggies each week. This weekly delivery has been a huge help for me in having a good variety of veggies and fruit to fill our fridge. If you live somewhere where you have access to a market or a local food box provider, I highly recommend it!

My daughter reaching for grapes from our food box

This may not be an option for those living in the north where nothing grows for most of the year. Although, grocery stores in most places these days have a huge variety of fresh fruits and veggies to choose from. Stock up on some of your favourites or some new ones you’ve always wanted to try.  

Next was the pantry. I decided to skip the meat section and buy lentils, chickpeas and beans instead and stocked up on rice, quinoa, chia amd nuts and seeds. I found all of these in bulk  which helped cut down on cost and waste. Win-win! I had to do a little research into how to prepare and cook with dry beans and what I can do with seeds and nuts to help bring them into my diet. This brings me to my next step.

Step 3- Get Creative!

Now that the kitchen is all set, the rest should be easy right? It can be hard to shift out of using those go-to recipes especially after a long day of whatever keeps you busy.  I found it easiest to start with those favourite recipes and making them “meatless”. I love pasta and so this where I started. I found a great roasted veggie lasagna recipe from one of my favourite cookbooks (Looney Spoons) and made it over and over again. After mastering that recipe, I branched out a bit and found a spaghetti bolognese that uses lentils instead of beef in the tomato sauce. I was apprehensive at first but tried it and loved it! It was great know that I was getting my veggies and protein all in one dish.  

Homemade lentil bolognese

I found myself experimenting a lot more as I ate more plant based. I was cooking delicious indian food, veggie chilli and bean burgers.  All of which I would found on different websites and blogs.

Here are few of my favourites blogs and cookbooks I used to get inspired:

Oh She Glows: A Canadian food blogger, recipe developer and Cookbook author.  Her meals are all plant based and some gluten free. She has recipes from breakfast foods to snacks and main meals. All look delicious!  She even has an app that features all of her recipes.

Minimalist Baker: This site features simple plant based recipes that require 10 ingredients or less, one bowl or 30 minutes or less to prepare.  These recipes are from sweet to savoury and new recipes are added every 3 days!

Thug Kitchen

Thug Kitchen: A hilariously written plant based cookbook who’s title states “Eat Like You Give a F*ck”.  To be honest, I bought this cookbook for my husband thinking it had some good Californian street food recipes in it. It wasn’t until I read the recipes and flipped through that I noticed something was missing…meat! It’s has really simple and delicious vegan recipes from enchiladas to bean burgers, tacos and even banana cream pie. Yum! We use it all the time.

Step 4- Find Community

Once you’ve started you’ll begin to notice other people on the same journey as you. All at different stages and from all walks of earth. I found myself subscribing to more recipe blogs and connecting with people on social media. But one of my favourite resources throughout this journey was podcasts.  There is a lot of info out there on plant based eating and wellness in the podcast world. From: Nutrition Facts Podcast by Dr. Gregor, who speaks on up-to-date  scientific facts on overall health with an emphasis on nutrition to The Rich Roll Podcast where  doctors, athletes and wellness practitioners are interviewed and share their stories.

The online community is vast but we can’t forget about the “real” world. It can feel a bit isolating at times or feel like you don’t want to inconvenience people with your new diet choices. But, reach out to your friends and family.  There are people who will support you and share their experiences and can offer useful advice. My mother-in-law, who grew up on meat and potatoes, makes the best black bean burgers and I had friends you would cook vegan options for me at dinner parties.  It was not only nice for me to be able to share in the meal but nice for my friend to have experimented with a new dish and help make me feel welcome.

You can also seek out new restaurants to try. A good reason to get out and explore new parts of your city or town. You can get inspired by foods from other cultures as well. Indian food often has several vegetarian options and there are plant based options are popping up everywhere. You just have to be open to it.

From Vegan Richa

Step 5- Inspire Others

Share your story!  

You don’t have push it on people just share a good recipe you made or talk about where to get the best veggies. People will see the changes you’ve made and will become interested naturally. Have open conversations about your struggles and and successes. You may find you’re influencing people just through your own action. Keep it up!

Earth Mamas International would love to hear your stories!

Share how you’ve adopted a more plant based diet:

Are you interested in trying to eat more plant based?

How did you start?

What advice would you give to people starting out?

Thanks!  We LOVE hearing from you!

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