Plant based progress over perfection
If you had never run before and one morning decided to put your running shoes on and go and trot out a marathon, it wouldn’t be likely that you would casually stroll back in four hours later having completed that goal! Likewise for speaking a new language: wouldn’t expect to be fluent in a day! And the same is true for going plant based. If you are currently a meat-eating, dairy-drinking, ice cream-licking, egg-cracker and have never even experimented with vegetarian food, the jump is going to be near impossible. This is why we champion progress at Plant Based Planet.
That marathon is a lot more likely if you start with a couch to 5k and build up from there and Duolingo has taught us all that five minutes a day actually can help us to learn a language. When it comes to becoming plant based, committing to the first step is where success lies. With one goal in mind, it’s a lot easier to make small transitions and focus on one little change at a time. Plant Based Planet exists not only to help people to take steps towards being more plant based but to share the information that has helped us along our own path.
The rise of Meat Free Mondays
The most talked about change is ‘Meat Free Mondays’. Did you know that Meat Free Monday was a campaign launched by the legend that is Paul McCartney and his daughters Stella and Mary McCartney in 2009? Their aim was to raise awareness of the environmental impact of eating meat. The concept was that is people could have one meat-free day a week, it would make a real impact on greenhouse gas emissions. On top of the active change that it makes in that one day though, there is the opportunity for people to experience more variety in their foods and to try out vegetarian recipes that become part of their weekly ritual. The average family has just six meals that they cook on rotation week in, week out. If one of these meals can switch to being non-meat based, it’s easy to see that the number of days without meat will increase to more than once a week.
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The freedom of choice through information
We don’t believe in putting anyone’s lifestyle choices down, but we do want to help be part of giving people more options. Nearly one fifth of man-made greenhouse gases comes from the meat industry globally, a greater impact than the whole transport sector put together. That’s the sort of stat that can really drive change. It gives a clear way to start to make a difference with one little change and it’s what we are all about. Not only can this sort of change reduce further impact on the environment, but it will also be a necessary shift if we are going to reverse the trend in consumption. Figures from the Meat Free Monday campaign show that meat and dairy products currently provide up to a third of the protein consumed by humans worldwide. But we aren’t slowing down, the estimates show that our demand is set to double between 2000 and 2050, up to 465 million tonnes of global meat consumption.
The impact of eating meat on the environment
But what about the other two thirds of protein consumption? Plant based protein isn’t a new idea, it has been critical to human survival since our earliest traceable roots. After all, animals get their protein from plants to build protein within their own bodies. For the planet though, to create one calorie of meat takes around 40 calories of fossil fuel energy, whereas it only takes two calories of fossil fuel energy to produce one calorie of plant based protein. In a world where we can feel powerless to make change, it’s actually pretty reassuring to hear that if your household cut meat consumption in half, it would do more to reduce emissions than reducing your car usage by half (estimate by Compassion in World Farming). We say that as people who have already learned that eating plant based protein can be a real pleasure and a source of discovery rather than feeling like something is missing!
Discovering plant based protein – and enjoying it!
“A third of all cereal crops, and well over 90% of soya, goes into animal feed not food for humans.” This stat is mind-blowing – the idea that so many people in the world are going hungry when so much food is made just to feed animals that go on to feed so few humans. Plant based protein is important for our future and the planet’s. When it comes to plant based protein there are three main tracks of thought:
- By changing the meat on your plate with a similar substitute. For example, a soya, pea or mushroom protein burger that looks, tastes and can even act like meat with grill lines, strong texture and a little pinkness – some even ‘bleed’ like a rare burger would! This is a really easy first step for meat free Mondays and beyond, simply switching from a processed product that contains meat to a processed product that doesn’t when you do your supermarket shop. There is a substitute for pretty much everything, from breakfast sausages to mince, chorizo to kebab meat! Many are so similar that even regular meat-eaters can’t tell the difference, not that we advocate sneaky meat reduction…
- By replacing the meat on your plate with something that acts in the same way. You can find these sorts of products easily in most vegetarian sections of the supermarket now, in fresh and frozen. They include bean burgers, jackfruit burgers, falafel burgers etc! There are hundreds of great, simple recipes to make these yourself at home but it’s a very easy step to start with ready-made ones and directly translate one of your repertoire meals that contained meat to one that doesn’t. Even better, these products are usually significantly cheaper than both meat and meat substitutes and can be really filling! If you want to take it a step further and be plant based rather than vegetarian, it’s just worth checking packets to make sure that milk and egg haven’t been used in production, you might be surprised how many of the off-the-shelf products use milk powder or egg to bind ingredients. As these are common allergens, it’s easy to spot them in the ingredients list as they will be in bold.
- This option involves shifting up your repertoire to discover new recipes. The growing number of vegan cookbooks makes this an increasingly fun task with suitable options for everything from family lunches to dinner parties. Lentil moussaka, baked tofu skewers, satay tempeh, overnight oats with nuts and seeds, scrambled tofu, edamame pasta, the possibilities are endless! As well as whole recipes, you can switch how you think about the protein on your plate by using edamame pasta in place of egg pasta, a very high protein source. Or add nut butter to curries, seeds to salads and discover the versatility of the many types of beans there are.
All three of these ways are part of personal progression. You might like to start with substitutes that feel safe and easy before discovering similar replacements then go on to make your own versions which leads to entirely new recipes! It’s a great example of how you can ease into meat reduction, and bring the household with you, rather than changing from the familiar to the new all in one go.
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Becoming plant based beyond meat reduction
We found that it was only when we started to become conscious of what was in our food that we started to discover just how many foods contain animal products! It’s still a surprise to discover that most meat flavour crisps are actually labelled as suitable for vegans, but some salt and vinegar crisps contain milk powder – it can be a bit of a minefield! The best advice we have is to go easy on yourself if you discover something you have eaten contains an animal product. Unless you have an allergy, it isn’t going to harm you and being plant based isn’t a game where you need to keep a ‘clean sweep’, it’s a lifelong choice.
If you’re not a big meat eater anyway but you love yoghurt, milky coffees or eggs for breakfast, it can take some testing to find the right thing that hits the spot and stops you from feeling like you’re missing out. Experimenting with different plant milks can open up all kinds of new flavours and if you really can’t find one that hits the same spot for you as a milky coffee, it might be more fun to discover a new hot drink for the same occasion, a brilliant chance to find a new favourite. If coconut yoghurt doesn’t do it for you, then finding a completely new dessert that gives you the same happy feeling might be the way forward. At Plant Based Planet, we plan to grow the business and help people along the way towards becoming more plant based, starting with one of the swaps we found the easiest of all: sweets that taste great and never feel like a compromise, without any animal contents. The path to progress isn’t always straight and obvious. Just like those first couch to 5K runs, once you find the joy, the rest comes easily!