Veering away a bit from fashion today to cover a highly-requested topic – plant-based eating!
While this post isn’t specifically about fashion, what I eat each day is closely tied to how I look at the world around me, including how I get dressed.
I am coming up on my one-year anniversary of following a plant-based diet, and wanted to share a bit about why I choose to eat this way and some of my tips for making the change if it is something you’re considering.
I’m posting this now for a reason. Veganuary is a great time to consider trying a plant-based diet. Veganuary is an initiative out of the U.K. that encourages people to try a a vegan diet for the month of January, and it is how I got my start with plant-based eating. I committed to a plant-based diet for one month, and then loved it so much that I never went back to eating animal products. I am slowly integrating veganism into other areas of my life, but it is a major lifestyle change! So that’s why you’ll see me refer to myself as plant-based, and not vegan. Veganism is a larger philosophy than plant-based eating, and applies to people who have eliminated the use of all animal-derived products in their lives.
While the number of self-identified vegans and vegetarians around the world has remained mostly flat, interest in plant-based products is growing as people seek to reduce their consumption of animal products. According to Gallup, sales of plant-based food grew 8.1 percent in 2017 and exceeded $3.1 billion last year. Even McDonald’s recently launched a vegan burger! While you may not want to fully commit to a vegan lifestyle, Veganuary can help you explore some of the benefits of plant-based eating, and, who knows, you may end up loving it, just like I did!
There are reasons for everyone to consider consuming fewer animal products. The most obvious reason is that animals suffer for our palates, but they don’t have to. It has been proven that animals are able to feel pain and fear, and refusing to eat animal products, or choosing to eat fewer animal products, is a simple way we can all make a difference.
Additionally, plant-based meals, when properly planned, offer an array of health benefits, such as lower cholesterol and a reduced risk for diabetes.
Lastly, modern agriculture puts tremendous strain on our land and water resources. Animal agriculture contributes to deforestation and animal waste often contaminates waterways. While you may make every attempt to buy humane, grass-fed, free-range meat, the reality is that the majority of our meat comes from modern factory farms. Additionally, many of the certifications you see on meat is simply marketing and greenwashing, and has little-to-no-bearing on the actual treatment of animals or the environment. You can learn more about commonly-used certifications here. For example, the phrases “cage-free” and “pasture-raised” are only loosely monitored by the USDA.
My Personal Experience
I embarked on Veganuary 2018 with a friend of mine, which was wonderful because we helped keep each other accountable and could share our tips with one another.
For me, and I think for most people, the biggest challenge I faced was eliminating dairy from my diet (cheese…). I’m not here to impose my beliefs on you, just to share my experience, so I would encourage you to do some research on the dairy industry and form your own opinion. The cruelty that is inherent in dairy is one of the things that made it much easier for me to give it up. I also found that eliminating dairy from my diet cured my eczema and reduced the amount of acne I experienced.
The first week of Veganuary was hard. I didn’t know what to eat, so I was always hungry from just picking on salads or frozen vegan tofu nuggets. My stomach bothered me as I adjusted to the new diet. And I was really, really cranky for some cheese.
But, that was all temporary. I’ve learned how to make filling, plant-based meals, plan for occasions where vegan options might not be available and have only slipped up a few times.
My Tips for Plant-Based Eating
Ensure you’re getting all the right nutrients.
Vitamin B-12 is the only vitamin that cannot be sufficiently supplied in a plant-based diet, so you will need to take a supplement and look for foods fortified with B-12. A B-12 deficiency can lead to anemia and nervous system problems, so please make sure you take care of yourself! You will also want to watch your iron intake, though iron needs can be met through leafy greens, lentils, beans and other plant-based foods.
Don’t fall into the frozen meal trap.
There are lots of delicious vegan treats that you can just heat and eat. And damn, I do love a good tofu nugget. But these foods shouldn’t replace all the times you would have previously eaten meat – they’re simply not that good for you. Meat substitutes are a great crutch when you’re just learning how to make plant-based meals, but you will also need to change your preconceived notions about what a meal should look like. With plant-based eating, you don’t need to have a protein, vegetable and starch portioned out on a plate in order to call it a meal. Making things like veggie harvest bowls, or assembly-required meals like chickpea tuna lettuce wraps, will become the norm. Instead of making so many meat substitutes, learn to cook truly plant-based proteins such as tofu and seitan.
Stock your pantry with the basics and you’ll always have something to eat.
Plant-based eating has a reputation for being expensive, but it really isn’t. What is expensive is poorly-planned plant-based eating, where you purchase a lot of meat substitutes or make overly-complicated recipes with obscure ingredients. It doesn’t have to be this way! Some of the basics that I always make sure I have in the house are black beans, chickpeas, vegetable broth, quinoa, brown rice, barley, lentils, nutritional yeast, tofu or seitan, cashews, vinegars, oils and spices of my choice, agave syrup, nut butters and pasta.
There’s a joke in the plant-based community that the hardest part of this diet isn’t getting the right nutrients, it’s dealing with idiots. (Haha!)
What I mean by that is that people can sometimes be unkind about plant-based diets, and they may ask you loaded questions about if you get enough nutrients or your political views. It’s important to stay positive and remember that oftentimes, people who are critical of plant-based diets may feel a sense of guilt over eating animals, yet they don’t want to change. So it is easier for them to make fun of plant-based diets than it is to confront their existing eating habits. Always respond to any unkind questions with kind words about the benefits of plant-based eating, and offer tips and resources if they are interested.
My Favorite Recipes
I am a fashion blogger, not a food blogger, so definitely don’t expect recipes from me anytime soon. But below are a few links to some of my favorite recipes from people with more plant-based eating expertise than me. Some of them are simple, and some are a bit more complex if you have the time or are feeling adventurous.
Eggplant Florentine – Purple Carrot (this is a plant-based meal kit service that we sometimes use when we feel like we are in a cooking rut.)
Tofu Scramble – Bon Appetit (omit the cheese!)
Butternut Squash Chipotle Chili – Cookie + Kate (the link says vegetarian but that applies to all the recipes on this site – this chili is vegan.)
For more recipes, you can also check out some of these great vegan cookbooks:
Well! That was a lot to cover for one post, and it’s just an overview! Any questions for me? Leave me a comment!