Plant-Based Eating – Not Just for Hippies
I’ve been down this road before regarding cutting down on meat in our family’s diet. It is a struggle to come up with varied, filling, and tasty vegetarian meals to serve to my guys that they will eat willingly. It is especially given all that is going on in my life. I’m leading two lives being a history hero by day and a cyber warrior by night. It is all good. I’m using both sides of my brain and regaining awareness of the world around me again I have not had in ages.
Helping the Environment
Being an environmental stewart has been part of my life for decades, but moving to an island has brought it front and center. We recycle, use reusable containers, reusable bags, conserve water, and compost. It isn’t easy in a culture built on ease and convenience. It is tough to remember to bring my own reusable straw. And many places will not fill your reusable bottle if it isn’t their branded cup. As a PR person, I get it from a branding perspective, but as someone who wants to do the right thing, it is frustrating with ending up with a collection of plastic drink cups. Maybe that’s a sign I need to give up my unsweetened iced tea habit from fast-food places. Add in the fact that many grocery stores have everything wrapped plastic, it is hard to get away from plastics. In fact, it seems that everything we use on a daily basis is made with plastics.
Going Towards Plant-Based
Acknowledging the above, we still have a lot more to do. One way we are working towards a more Earth-friendly life is getting serious about plant-based eating. Plant-based eating is being either a vegetarian or a vegan. Now those two words are loaded for people. That is sad since most of the planet, plant-based eating is the norm, not the exception. Meat is a special treat. The terms have become socially and politically-charged in Europe and the US. But over history, there have been movements to encourage people to eat more fruit and veg. I’m a supporter of eating more of a plant-based diet. For me, it isn’t political or a social statement, my body just feels better the more fresh fruit, veg, beans, and legumes I eat. What you eat is your choice and I will never shame anyone into eating plant-based, but I’d suggest you try one recipe a week. Start a tradition of Meatless Monday. We are up about 4-5 days a week now.
Pantry is Key
Outside of how it makes me feel, it is also budget and time friendly. Meat is expensive especially if you are purchasing, for example, natural or organic beef. Beans, rice, and legumes are priced well and you can purchase them in bulk. The key to plant-based eating for me is having a well-stocked pantry. In my basement, I have shelves of canned goods like various types of tomatoes, beans, and coconut milk as well as containers of veggie broth, rice, lentils, and pasta. I keep onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes down there as well. My freezer has frozen veg such as corn, peas, and mixed veggies and naan bread. Types of fresh peppers, cauliflower, cilantro, minced garlic, crushed ginger, curry pastes, cheeses, and other sauces are always in my fridge. On my counter, I always have apples, lemons/lime, avocados, and tomatoes. I buy the spices in bulk I use a lot of at an Indian store or Asian grocery. If one isn’t near you, it is worth it doing one big stock-up making an adventure about it. Go with a list. Once you have the pantry stocked just purchase the fresh items you need. There are times my grocery bill is $20 in a week since all I need is the fresh stuff.
We aren’t 100 percent plant-based. We love dairy products a little too much. And my guys enjoy chicken and pork. (And so do I) Fish is on the menu at our house, too. We aren’t vegetarian or vegan. That would be very hard for us, but as I said earlier we are at 4-5 times a week eating plant-based with some added dairy depending on the recipe. That said we are moving slowly towards plant-based by cutting down on dairy and have cut out beef from our grocery list.
If you are interested in a plant-based diet then I have some easy recipes to start with in my vegetarian section such as Lentil Ragu over pasta pictured above.
Or this recipe for Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos with Avocado-Lime Creme. Simple ingredients to pick up at your local grocery store. I used Indian store chili powder for the sweet potatoes causing it to be very spicy. So depending on where you got your spices, amounts will change. Grocery store chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon is enough, but for me having the Indian store spices which by the way are typically stronger than the grocery store spices, I will need to cut it in half. I forgot to get yogurt so I used sour cream. Also, I used a bagged kale salad with red cabbage. Recipes like this are flexible. Adapt it to what you have on hand.
- 1-2 medium sweet potato, cubed
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- Flour Tortillas
- 1 can black beans, drained, and rinsed
- Kosher and freshly ground black pepper
- Avocado-Lime Creme
- ½ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
- 1 small avocado
- ½ garlic clove or a small one
- Juice of 1 lime
- Kosher salt & fresh black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400° F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Toss the sweet potatoes with olive oil, chili powder, salt and pepper, and spread onto the baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
- In a food processor or blender, combine the yogurt, avocado, garlic, lime juice, and a few generous pinches of salt and pepper. Pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Take the Turtle Approach
Take baby steps in moving to plant-based eating. Introduce it slowly into your lifestyle as you build up a pantry and an understanding of what foods you like. The food is colorful and flavorful with lots of different textures. It will be an adjustment in mindset over the meat, starch, and veg approach most of us grew up with as kids. A good documentary to watch is Forks over Knives. Find out what works for you and then go for it.