Maybe you’ve already been leaning toward plant-based eating for a while—opting for a big dollop of hummus in your wrap instead of lunch meat, and boosting your signature pasta sauce with carrot shreds instead of beef. Maybe you’re thinking more about how what’s on your plate impacts your health and your environmental footprint. Or maybe you’re mindful of saving more money. Whatever is leading you to plant-based eating, this is the perfect time to explore its many (delicious) benefits.
January, for some, is Veganuary—the pledge to eat a vegan diet for the first month of the new year. But we thought, what about something a little more attainable? So that you’re not flipping your fridge and your routine upside down overnight, and instead, trying to fit just a little more plant-based eating into your life for 31 days. No judgement if the neighbour’s steak on the barbecue has you changing meal plans or if you need your usual milk in your first cup of coffee. This is about the little swaps (or a lot of swaps) when it works for you and when it feels right. Chances are, you’re going be feeling (and tasting) the difference pretty quickly.
1. The benefits to your health
Why do so many people feel healthier when they let go of meat, dairy and eggs? Since traditional dairy production is hormone-based, people often feel a positive shift with their weight and skin because their own hormones are more balanced. Antibiotics found in chicken and cows can also throw off the healthy bacteria in our gut—again, impacting weight, digestion and skin issues.
So that’s what you’re leaving behind, but what are you gaining? More fruits, vegetables, whole grains, pulses and nuts means more anti-inflammatory micronutrients, which have been shown to help prevent heart conditions such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. It also means more antioxidants keeping your skin healthy and resisting sun damage.
2. The benefits to the earth
What about the health of our planet? It’s the small acts that really add up, and that means eating more plants is a simple way to make a big difference.
Here’s why: animal food production requires a big chunk of greenhouse gas emissions, land mass and fresh water. According to a study by The Lancet, animal products account for about three-quarters of the total greenhouse gas emissions created in food production, which is responsible for 30 per cent of all emissions1. Agriculture accounts for 70 per cent of fresh water use and 40 per cent of earth’s ice-free landmass.
If we all swap beans for beef a few times a month, we could save a lot of water and reduce the impacts of climate change.
3. The benefits to your budget
With meat and dairy prices on the rise (staggeringly so), many people are moving toward a plant-based diet for economic reasons: plant-based eating can be a lot cheaper!
In 2022, at one point in Canada, dairy and egg prices were up nearly 8 per cent, butter was up 16 per cent, frozen beef prices soared 14 per cent, and ham and bacon prices surged 15 per cent2. With so much going on in the world, it’s unlikely we’ll see a return any time soon to pre-2022 prices.
In the name of food affordability, Tuesday Tacos made with refried beans is a smart, filling and pretty tasty option. As is Friday night popcorn dressed in vegan garlic butter.
One more reason to take the 31-day plant-based eating challenge? It’s easier than ever! For fast and flavourful weeknight meals, you’ll find heat-and-eat vegan comfort foods like shepherd’s pie in the frozen aisle and Nature’s Fare Markets’ chef-inspired Meal Kits like Moroccan-style Tagine. For appies, desserts and snacks, try out everything from coconut milk yogurt and ice cream to irresistible chips, chocolate bars and brie that rival their non-vegan counterparts any day.
If you love cooking, experimenting and seeing what your family will notice, there are heaps of great plant-based cookbooks to get you started with hacks for everyday swaps as well as recipes for crowd-pleasing desserts and dinners.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be all-in. It can be one simple swap a day. You can do it!
Article was published in The Good Life Magazine.