By Michelle Berry.
If you consider yourself health conscious, love animals, and are passionate about the environment, you may want to consider transitioning to a whole-foods, plant-based, or vegan diet. Maybe you shy away because you think the idea of going plant-based or vegan is bland, restrictive, or just too overwhelming. Well, it’s worth taking a peek and doing a bit of taste testing before you abandon the idea altogether. Why not explore the rising popularity of whole-foods plant-based (WFPB) meals and the vegan lifestyles of online enthusiasts, advocates, and influencers who are happy to dish about all things plants?
You’ll soon find most if not all of your myths and misconceptions about plant-based eating being challenged by gold-medal athletes, environmentalists, and respected doctors alike. Most notably and at the forefront of this movement is T. Colin Campbell, lead scientist of China- Cornell-Oxford Project and co-author of The China Study published in 2005. The popular (though controversial) study, presents an extensive examination of the connection between the consumption of animal products and our most common chronic diseases.
Definitions between, plant-based, vegetarian, and vegan do vary. So, in its simplest form (thank you dictionary. com) plant-based eating means: relating to or being a food consisting entirely or mainly of whole or minimally processed plant parts, such as vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, legumes, and seeds.
Social media has been a boon for veganism and plant-based eating. The curtain has been lifted on the horrors of factory farming, the devastating environmental impact of raising livestock to satisfy Americans’ insatiable appetite for meat, and the science-backed evidence that switching to a whole food, plant-based diet can not only prevent but in some cases reverse our most common diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammatory auto-immune disorders, anxiety, depression, and cancer. The trend toward eating more fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, lentils, seeds, and nuts is a result of this increasing awareness. It indicates that we ought not so easily turn our eyes and minds away from these realities any longer.
Hungry for more? A simple internet search with keywords “plant-based recipes” will reveal a vast and exciting world full of mouth-watering options that can tick all the boxes: hearty, comforting, creamy, rich, decadent, savory, saucy, crispy. You name it—and at all cooking levels from basic to gourmet.
Love shortcuts? Not to worry, with the increasing demand for alternatives to meat, dairy, and eggs, food manufacturers are answering the call. From Just Egg and Gardein Chick’n to Violife Cheeses and Forage Yogurt (and more every day), these products mimic the flavors and textures we’re not quite ready to give up while satisfying a growing desire to live with more compassion and less guilt.
All this interest and buzz has helped me open up and connect with friends and family about how I live on a vegan diet. Through my Facebook group Michelle’s Plantry (a simple click on FB to join), I encourage exploring healthy habits and trying new foods, ingredients, and flavors. Members share recipes, pantry and refrigerator clean-outs, ingredients, and our favorite products, and focus on easy ways to add more veggies and whole grains to meals. Sprinkled in are bits of other topics: gardening, mindfulness, the positive and negative energy of foods, kitchen organization, intuitive eating, listening to our body, nutrition, yoga, and compassion for ourselves and others. It’s a place to plant seeds of inspiration for healthier living through plant-based foods.
My drive to expand awareness and try new options has grown and remains strong, knowing that this lifestyle not only feels light, easy, and more connected to nature, but can also improve health and well-being and have a far-reaching impact on lessening suffering for all creatures.
If you want to give this a try, keep it simple—not everything has to be homemade or from scratch.
A Simple Breakfast: Cooked oatmeal with your favorite fresh fruit or nut toppings, pure maple syrup, splash of almond, oat, or other non-dairy milk.
A Simple Lunch: Mash canned chickpeas with a fork, add chopped celery ribs and leaves, red onion, tomato, pickles, vegan mayo, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Mix and make a sandwich on whole wheat bread.
A Simple Dinner: Saute sliced onion, zucchini, tomato, capers, mushrooms. and pressed garlic in olive oil and add marinara sauce. Serve on cooked pasta.
Aim for minimally processed foods and as close to whole, local, and organic as possible. Be patient and kind with yourself, remember to have fun and think of yourself as a food scientist, alchemist, creator. Your kitchen is the foundation for good living: a place to learn, share, grow, and feel uplifted, energetic, confident, and connected.
Michelle Berry lives in Pembroke with her husband, two sons, and boxer. As the only vegan eater among family and friends, she enjoys introducing plant-based recipes to her community. She also loves teaching yoga. (You saw that coming. Namaste.)