In late 2018, I decided to make a conscious effort to eat less meat. It’s something that’s sort of naturally happened over time in my house thanks to increased awareness of how livestock agriculture affects the environment and wanting to look for more economic protein sources. But, as always, changing how things have always been done takes time and energy and there can be a learning curve when you often rely on animal products to be the centre of your plate. Though I often rely on a vegan cookbook, or researching different ways to cook ingredients I already know and love, sometimes it can be hard to know where to start if you’re looking to follow a more plant-based diet and learn to cook more vegetarian or vegan meals.
I spoke to the founders of The 90 Series for a few tips on how to incorporate more plant-based eating in my routine—which is exactly what Marsha Doucette, Aris Andrulakis and Marcello Cabezas were hoping for when they started the plant-based potluck.
First, What Does Plant-Based Mean?
“Plant-based means vegetables, fruits, whole grains—anything that you can eat that does not come from an animal,” says Doucette. In that way, it’s pretty self-explanatory. But there are plenty of products coming to market that stretch the definition and are allowing for some plant-based creativity. Think about the Beyond Meat burger or “faux” meat options—plant-based does not need to mean boring. Also, eating a mostly plant-based diet is a bit more accessible to those of us who aren’t planning on going vegan. “You don’t have to be vegan to make a difference,” says Doucette, “simply change your mindset so you’re eating more plants and less meat.”
You Can Ease Into It
“Ultimately, we are biological beings and it can take a while to change eating behaviours,” says Andrulakis. This is why The 90 Series focuses on eating a plant-based diet 90 per cent of the time. You don’t need to cut meat out cold turkey (pun intended) if, like most of us, you grew up relying on meat protein. Opting for a couple days a week where you eat vegan or plant-based is a good start, or making sure your breakfasts and lunches are plant-based can help.
Start with something easy like Liv B’s Sweet Chili Tofu Bowls
Brands Are Getting Better
“Vegan and plant-based businesses are only now starting to offer taste and convenience en mass,” says Andrulakis, “and the acceptance by large-scale grocery stores to carry these plant-based products has helped the green movement.” While a few years ago you might have found it difficult to shop for vegan options at your regular grocery store, that’s changing. And while there will always be specialty stores that focus on vegan eating, the options are becoming more plentiful everywhere.
Find Simple Swaps
Finding ways to swap out meat for another ingredient that is nutritious, delicious and just as fulfilling isn’t always easy—but it is doable. Doucette recommends using lentils in place of meat, “not only are they delicious, but nutritious and cheap in comparison to meat products.” But if you’re looking to reduce your animal products you can think beyond meat. Opting for nut milk over diary milk and coconut oil over butter are both great options.
Discover new favourites like Gracie Carroll’s vegan sweet potato falafels
Find Your Staples
Any home cook usually relies on several staples that find themselves into meals weekly—sometimes even daily. Sometimes they’re specific fruits and vegetables, but often they are go-to starches or certain spices and nuts. For Doucette, she relied on green onion, red lentils, Sriracha, rice noodles and sunflower seeds for plant-based meals (“combine all the ingredients into one deliciously nutritious and easy meal!”). Andrulakis’ staples include black rice, Beyond Meat burgers (which you can buy at Whole Foods), rice noodles, Brazilian nuts and purple kale. Not sure where to start? Doucette recommends thinking about the flavours you already know you like. “Spices are your friend and can really amplify a vegetable dish into something amazing,” she says. “I personally love cumin and coconut oil and can add it to items like cauliflower, zucchini and sweet potato any day.” Find the staples that make you excited to cook and eat and the rest will fall into place.
(Story by Contributing Editor, Alexandra Donaldson)