On December 1st, 2009, I embarked on a journey that has yet to end. I distinctly remember sitting in the cafeteria as a 7th grader, talking to a friend who was a vegetarian. Her older sister transitioned to a vegetarian diet, so naturally, she followed suit and was telling everyone in the school about it. Her story caught my attention, and I was fascinated with the idea of eating meat-free meals. Of course, I went home, told my parents about my switch and I haven’t looked back since, 10 years later!
So, after 10 years of being a plant-based, what have I learned? And why should you consider making the switch?
Plants are Nutrient Rich
The most common question I receive is, “how do you get your protein?”, and my answer is always “plants”. Legumes, nuts and soy are protein dense plant products, but don’t forget about those leafy greens! My friends call me the “Salad Queen” and I easily consume the majority of my protein needs through salads topped with roasted potatoes, chickpeas, nuts, seeds, and more! Plants not only contain protein, but they are also rich in the vitamins and minerals that we need every day. That’s a double-whammy! Everything you need, all in one!
Plants More Sustainable
There’s plenty of research and statistics out there, but I’m more of a conceptual person. So think about it this way: animals need land, feed (which is primarily plant-based) and water to survive. In comparison, plants only need land and water to grow. As a result, a large portion of our farmland is dedicated to growing plants used to feed animals, which utilizes even more water along with the cattle that increases methane in the air.
Ultimately, if our population were to reduce our meat consumption, there would be less animals on our land, therefore, more land and farming efforts can be dedicated to growing produce that are for human consumption. We’d be saving our water consumption along with reducing greenhouse gas emissions
Plants Cost Effective
High-quality meat is expensive. Providing the land, feed, water, medical attention to animals is expensive. Then there's transportation, processing and sourcing costs. It all adds up! Ultimately, consumers are left to cover all of those expenses. It's also more expensive for farmers to raise animals that are hormone-free and grass-fed. Whereas, purchasing fresh produce, preferably locally, is more cost effective and you’re supporting local farmers.
So, Where do you Start?
I’m not saying that you should make the switch completely, but just to start small. I encourage you to challenge yourself and consume one meat-free meal a week. Then aim for two or three meals a week.
I promise you, the switch is easier than you think! In reality, you are most likely already eating at least one meat-free meal a week without even realizing it. Pass on the sausage with your eggs in the morning, opt-in for a vegetarian chilli, or order a vegetable stir-fry. Every meal has an option without meat or offers a plant-protein substitute.
Last, but not least, find a friend who can take the challenge with! I love sharing my tips, tricks and recipes with my family and friends. Plus, an accountability buddy makes the process more fun!
I hope that you consider taking the challenge! Every plant-based meal prepared and consumed is leaving a more positive impact on your body, your wallet and the environment. Over time, the small changes you make will lead to a big impact over time!