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10 Steps To Eating Fewer Animal Products

10 Steps To Eating Fewer Animal Products

Making the decision to change the way one eats is deeply personal and usually it happens gradually. I think it can only benefit one’s health to at least ponder what life would be like as a flexitarian, a vegetarian, or a vegan.

Here are ten steps to eating fewer animal products (with a few links to some of my favorite discoveries to inspire your plant-based shopping trip):

1. Think you'll miss that meat component to your meal? There are many meat alternatives. 
I confess: not all meat alternatives were created equal. Don’t disparage if you try one and it tastes like your car tire. I promise there are lots of delicious ones out there. Look to our lists for starters or better yet, go food-shopping with someone already well-versed in the diet you’re curious about. I find that people are usually happy to share what they’ve discovered. When I found I had celiac disease I’d always ask other shoppers in the gluten-free aisle for their favorites.  You’ll learn something new and feel good about the human race. Replace your chicken strips with seitan, add tofu to your vegetable stirfy, or cook up some tempeh for breakfast. If you have a gluten allergy, Beyond Meat products are plant-proteins that are vegan and gluten free.


Left to Right: Beyond Meat Beyond Beef Crumble, Upton's Naturals Seitan, Nasoya Firm Tofu, Lightlife Organic Tempeh, Beyond Meat Chicken-Free Strips.

2. Won't be satisfied eating vegetables alone? Some vegetables are more “meaty” than others. 
There are some vegetables that contain similar properties to that of meat and, after eating them, can even leave you with the same satisfied feeling. Mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, spinach, Chinese cabbage and eggplant are all foods that are rich in “umami” (a savory taste.) If you’re in the mood to dig in to a steak, grill up a big portobello mushroom instead. If you’re craving a piece of breaded chicken, satisfy your needs with breaded eggplant. There are plenty of ways to use "meaty" vegetables that will still leave you satisfied and full.

3. Concerned you'll no longer be able to dine out? Restaurants want you to be happy and they want you to come back. 
You don’t have to limit yourself to restaurants only specializing in vegetarian or vegan cuisine (even though I personally like to support them and these restaurants will offer you an abundance of choices). Every restaurant kitchen at the very least has vegetables, starches and grains. I’ve enjoyed many a meal out by taking advantage of the sides menu. There are meals hiding in there. I have even been known to pack my own butter substitute and Sour Cream. There’s nothing that can stop me from eating up. Remember, the more we ask for these foods, the more the market will pay attention. The money of vegetarians and vegans is just as green (if not more so).

4. Think you'll be missing your protein? Protein doesn't only exist in meat. 
And, if you’ve watched the documentary Forks Over Knives, you already know that we’ve been told we need more protein than we really do. Protein is important for growth and development and is a major material used by your body to help the muscles, skin, blood and organs work thoroughly. It's important that you give your body the protein it needs in at least one meal a day. Protein is in vegetables, beans and legumes, tofu and tempeh, hummus and tahini, nuts and seeds, rice and quinoa, and even protein powders if you’re challenged in the kitchen or if you're a smoothie-lover. 
 



Left to Right: Diana's Bananas Dark Chocolate Frozen Bananas, Purely Elizabeth Granola, Food for Life Gluten Free Bread, Amy's Gluten Free Pizza.

5. Worried about your iron? A plant-based diet is not iron or calcium deficient.
A lot of people recommend taking vitamins and supplements once you cut animal products out of your diet. I do take a B12 supplement but by eating a whole foods plant based diet I’m getting most of what I need from my food. You can get your fix of iron and calcium through a diet rich in vegetables and grains. Iron-rich foods include whole grains, tofu, pumpkin seeds, lentils and sea vegetables. Natural calcium supplements include beans, nuts, seeds, leafy greens and sea vegetables. Sea vegetables, like nori used to wrap sushi, are incredibly useful for our bodies. They are high in protein and minerals that help detoxify the blood, act as anti-inflammatories, reduce blood pressure, strengthen our bones, and help with the growth of our hair and nails.

6. Think your weekly meals will be boring? Plant-based diets turn ordinary cooks, into incredible chefs.
When you’re forced to create meals out of vegetables and animal free products, you suddenly become a master chef. Your cravings for different foods mean experimenting differently with produce and trying recipes that you never would have tried before. 
Plant-based recipes don’t mean your eating sprouts only. Craving tacos? Try them with mushrooms or grilled plantains! Want a burger? Make yourself a black bean patty! The amount of plant-based recipes available are endless and the more comfortable and familiar you get with your veggies the more you'll find yourself experimenting.

7. Need your daily milk fix? Cutting milk out of your diet is better for your health.
The truth is, our bodies aren’t meant to drink milk that isn't our own. Drinking cow’s milk actually increases the acidity in our body which pulls calcium out of our bones. More and more people are finding themselves with lactose intolerance, experiencing gas and discomfort after drinking dairy, and generally rejecting it in their systems. Milk is full of saturated fats which can contribute to heart disease, has been linked to diabetes, and has even been linked to asthma. Dairy cows are also pumped with hormones that force them to produce more milk. When you drink milk from dairy cows, those hormones go straight into your body. There are lots of amazing milk substitutes that don't come with any of these problems. Almond milk, rice milk and coconut milk are all excellent (and delicious) alternatives.
 


Left to Right: Native Forest Coconut Cream, Califia Vanilla Almond Milk, Project Juice Cashew Mylk, Pacific Hemp Milk, So Delicious Cococnut Milk.

8. Finding yourself limited? Quitting dairy doesn’t mean quitting butter, cheese or ice cream.
In fact, switching to non-dairy products will not only be better for your health, but will most likely go unnoticed in your daily routine. The vegan alternatives to dairy products are getting better and better. Every cheese and yoghurt from Kite Hill is delicious - it's hard to resist eating the chive cream cheese spread straight from the tub. Earth Balance makes an incredible “butter.” Tofutti “cream cheese” is delicious on a bagel. Miyoko’s cheese is amazing on a cheese board. Hampton Creek's Just Mayo makes everything taste good. Vegan Gourmet is perfect, and the range of vegan ice creams from So Delicious is better than you could ever imagine!


Left to Right: Vegan Gourmet Cheese, Treeline Cheese, Earth Balance Butter, Kite Hill Almond Milk Cheese, Tofutti Cream Cheese and Sour Cream, Vegenaise.

9. Eggs are tricky.
Nutritionists seem to go back and forth about the health benefits we receive from eggs.  The nutritional benefits that eggs are said to hold - protein, lutein and a variety of vitamins and minerals - can be found in other sources. When it comes to cooking and baking there are so many substitutes for eggs. I like to use mashed bananas instead of eggs when baking. I swear things taste truly better using this substitute even considering that I am a terrible cook. However, if you do choose to continue eating eggs, hopefully they are coming from a trustworthy source.  For me it’s easier to not eat them. Even if someone says that the chickens are well treated, roam free and have not been pumped with antibiotics, I don’t have the stamina to investigate whether the chickens laying the eggs also receive individual care, medical attention when suffering and the promise of a full life-span regardless of whether they are still able to  provide a product for human consumption. This is something that matters very much to me. I have met too many layer hens that arrived at Farm Sanctuary in deplorable condition from so-called humane farms or cage free facilities. You might ask, "what if I have my own backyard chickens?" I’d ask: do you really know how to take good care of them? Do you have a qualified vet nearby? The rise in backyard chickens has created an increased demand from hatcheries. Chickens cannot be sexed in the egg so for every layer hen hatched to be used for eggs- whether backyard or industrial, a rooster is born. For industrial farms this means hundreds of thousands of roosters are killed each year, using electrocution, grinders or other horrific methods. Chicks sent through the mail also include these male victims- and rooster chicks are used as packing material in mailer boxes or to keep female chicks warm- leaving thousands each year homeless from the backyard chicken industry since most town ordinances do not allow roosters.  Chicks arrive at post offices and if they are not picked up in time they are returned to the sender. Chicks die in those boxes.

10. Concerned about breaking your new diet? Depriving yourself won't do you any good.
If you begin a plant-based diet or even decide to become a vegetarian and you don’t have days where you are tempted by something animal-based, then good for you! There are bound to be times where you just want to "cheat." Like when that grilled cheese looks so delicious and that piece of salmon sushi becomes irresistible. Depriving yourself and resisting every temptation won't do you any good. In fact, cheating on occasion and sampling that one product will not only meet your craving, but will probably even put you off wanting to eat it again any time soon when you realize you could have done without it! Once you get into the plant-based world and start to feel so good, those little cheats become less and less appealing. Realizing that you can allow yourself the occasional slip up might lessen the fear of change. You won’t forget how much a plant-based diet is better for you, better for our animals, and better for our planet!

Posted in: Discover & Learn   Recipes: In The Kitchen   

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Miles Linklater said…

Great article and very helpful.

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