What’s on your plate has a direct impact on the planet. We tell our kids to eat their vegetables, but setting an example is the best way to prove that you mean what you say. Avoiding animal products benefits the health of your family and the planet. There are so many delicious vegetables, fruits, and grains out there, the recipe possibilities are endless!
Many studies have shown plant-based diets to be more beneficial for your heart health than diets high in meat and dairy. Some plant-based foods known to be associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular conditions/diseases are whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts. Also, diets high in fiber help lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol; as we get older, these conditions inevitably become more prevalent, so adopting a diet focused more on plant-based options is beneficial to one’s health as you age. Furthermore, vegetarian individuals have been shown to have about half the risk of developing diabetes than nonvegetarians. Those who have adopted a plant-based diet were found to ingest more important nutrients like magnesium, potassium, iron, and other vitamins and in turn consume less unhealthy fats than those who had meat and dairy in their diets (National Institute of Health).
Benefits to your Family, Community, and Planet:
where can you buy plant based foods:
Plant-based diets can be achieved regardless of whether or not you enjoy cooking or know how to cook. If you normally cook your meals, there are many options within virtually all grocery stores. Expanding your grocery list to include more fruits and vegetables is a great first step in vegetarian/vegan cooking. If you don’t know how to cook, there are both resources to help you learn and pre-packaged plant-based meals.
Don’t know any vegetarian meals? Luckily, countless recipe books have been published that provide lots of vegetarian meal ideas. There are books such as The High-Protein Vegetarian Cookbook that provide meals high in the nutrients you would normally get from meat and dairy. While some produce tends to be pricey, there are also books that consider financial and time restraints like The $5-a-Meal College Vegetarian Cookbook. There are even convenient phone apps such as the Food Monster App that provides you with over 15,000 recipes. Recipe books like these also give you insight into the benefits of various fruits, grains, and vegetables, their role in each meal, and the best way to cook them to make them healthy and delicious.
For those of you who prefer not to cook, emerging brands such as Gardein, Daiya, and MorningStar offer wide varieties of frozen meals consisting of, but not limited to meat free: chicken nuggets, fish fillets, hot dogs, burger patties, beef tips, and even pizzas! These convenient companies also provide dairy-free substitutes like various dairy-free shredded cheeses and egg-free mayonnaise.
Vegetarian snacks are just as convenient and can range from healthy choices like fruits (apples, berries, mandarines, etc) and nuts (peanuts, pistachios, almonds, etc) to a bit less healthy like chips and crackers (many are vegetarian but not vegan; ones that are vegan include Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos, Fritos, and Original SunChips).
In summary, expanding your palate and visiting your local grocery store’s produce section is a good way to begin cooking plant-based meals and adopting a healthier diet. If cooking is not for you, there are super convenient meal and snack options to choose from thanks to innovative brands promoting plant-based diets.
resources this action saves:
Eating less meat is crucial for the well being of the planet. Raising livestock such as chickens, pigs, and cows generates as much greenhouse gas emissions as all automobiles around the world combined. The most potent greenhouse gases from animal agriculture are methane and nitrous oxide. Methane is mainly produced by the fermentation of manure storage. This greenhouse gas is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. 1 Because of this, the livestock industry is known to cause 18% of all man made greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than non- livestock related transportation.
Animal agriculture not only is a major contributor to climate change, but it also accounts for 30% of all freshwater consumption in the world. This amount is alarming considering only 2.5% of the planet’s water is safe for consumption. According to National Geographic, a single egg requires 53 gallons of water to produce, a pound of chicken requires 468 gallons, and a gallon of cow milk requires 880 gallons. 2 It is evident that by switching to plant based alternatives, we can drastically reduce our water consumption footprint. Studies show that a meat-free diet can cut our water footprint by nearly 55%. The United Nations Environment Assembly says that plant based meat alternatives require between 75-99% less water, 90% less land, and 87% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than regular meat production.
Animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of deforestation. Animal agriculture puts a heavy strain on much of the Earth’s finite land. A third of the planet’s land surface is devoted to growing and raising 70 billion animals. It is expected that by 2050, consumption of dairy and meat products is expected to rise up to 76%. 3 This increase will have detrimental environmental effects on the planet as a whole. The livestock sector is also linked to 75% of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rain forest, which is one of the most important ecosystems on the planet. Furthermore, nearly a third of biodiversity loss has been linked to animal agriculture. Deforestation not only causes biodiversity loss, but it also accounts for releasing billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, while driving thousands of species to extinction each year.
Switching to a vegan diet is one of the biggest contributions people can make to reduce our impact on the planet. A study conducted by the University of Oxford found that switching from a heavily animal based diet, to a more plant based diet reduces your carbon footprint by 73%. 4 By adopting a more plant based lifestyle, less habitats will be destroyed across the planet, enormous amounts of freshwater will be conserved, dead zones across the planet will be reduced, and the air we breathe will be cleaner.
expectations to have when adopting a plant-based diet:
Adopting a plant-based diet naturally entails some emotional and physical changes to your life. There are various methods of dealing with these changes and making the transition to a new diet much easier.
Some people experience a bittersweet nostalgia-like feeling when they transition away from eating meat and dairy. This usually happens if there are fond memories such as holiday traditions of eating certain foods with your family. However, separating the fondness felt for spending time with family from the food that was eaten is a good way to prevent feeling attached to your old diet. 5
In addition to some emotional changes, there may be physical ones as well. If your old diet was particularly unhealthy, it is possible for some to experience symptoms like fatigue and headaches when the transition first starts. An effective way at avoiding this and shortening the period required for your body to adapt to your new diet is to consume mainly whole foods. Whole foods nourish your body and will give it the resources it needs to adapt quickly to a plant-based diet.
Finally, it is important to be aware of the steps required to maintain the nutrients your body needs from diet to diet. The main concern for opting for a plant-based diet is whether it is possible to consume all of your body’s nutritional needs. While it is possible to get nearly every vitamin and mineral from plant-based foods, it is very important to make an effort to maintain your Vitamin B12 consumption. Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin for human wellbeing and, unfortunately, only originates in animal products. There are a couple easy solutions to this dilemma. For those considering a vegetarian diet, B12 can be found in animal byproducts such as yogurt, cheeses, and eggs (Medical News Today). For those looking at a fully vegan diet, virtually all grocery and pharmaceutical stores carry Vitamin B12 supplements; simply taking a B12 tablet each morning with breakfast is sufficient to maintain your body’s B12 requirements. 6
Although the transition into a plant-based diet can bring a few undesirable bodily responses in the first couple weeks, the eventual result is a life-changing choice that will ultimately benefit your health in countless ways.
Where to learn more:
Switching to a more plant based diet is not an overnight task. It is important to go at your own pace, and determine what works best for you. It is also important to have resources on where to get information and learn more. The Vegan Society (vegansociety.com) is a website all about how to transition into a more plant-based lifestyle. It offers countless amounts of information about the benefits of a plant-based diet, as well as nutrition overviews, recipes, as well as a blog and discussions post where people can ask questions, share tips and information, as well as exchange recipes.
Another useful website (vegan.com), offers key information and essential advice. This website is also known to be the world’s greatest vegan food compendium, where there are enough recipes for everyone to enjoy. There is a vegan cooking guide, as well as a list of best selling vegan foods and where to buy them. This website makes it very easy to find vegan alternatives, vegan restaurant options, as well as a grocery guide that features the best deals on amazon for plant based products.
There are also plenty of online youtubers that provide useful information on switching to a more plant-based diet. For example, Liv B has a youtube channel comprised of quick and easy plant-based recipes, using simple ingredients. Her channel aims at showing people how easy and accessible a plant-based lifestyle is. Other youtube channels like this include: Cheap Lazy Vegan, Caitlin Shoemaker and Hot for Food.
Furthermore, there are also many books available to transition into a plant-based lifestyle. The China Study by T. Colin Campbell is the ultimate book for learning about the benefits of a plant based diet. It explains the science behind a plant-based diet and explains the health benefits associated with eating less meat. Chloe’s Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli, is a great book for eating a more plant-based diet for beginners. She explains what foods to always keep stocked up, and which foods are essential for a plant-based diet. She also includes a wide variety of recipes for a vegan and gluten free diet. A great book for beginners is The Happy Herbivore by Lindsay S. Nixon. This book offers very delicious and easy to follow recipes, with simple ingredients that aren’t hard to come by.
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