It’s about time that we, as a collective, put the cows out to pasture, for good.
I often get asked about the role of plant-based meats on a plant-based lifestyle. I certainly see them as having their place as a transitioning tool. In this article, we dive into a deeper understanding regarding what they are and how to use them as a stepping stone, rather than as the end goal. It may come as a shock to know that plant-based meats are continuously increasing in popularity and that they have been around for quite some time. However, regardless of whether your reasons are personal, physical, environmental or otherwise, there’s a lot to explore before embarking on this transitory journey to a more fulfilled, healthier lifestyle. Deciding to make changes to your lifestyle and wellbeing can be overwhelming, and oftentimes we think we need to ‘wing it’ before we get it right, but having a greater understanding of plant-based nutrition and a few tips and tricks up your sleeve will make the transition much easier. Not to mention that going in prepared ensures less chances of faltering. With strength and inspiration, you’ll absolutely embrace the exciting and immensely rewarding journey into a plant-based lifestyle.
So, what are plant-based meats made of?
The meat that tastes like meat, has a meaty mouth feel but doesn’t? Is this possible, science? It is, and it’s becoming increasingly more and more popular in our shifting society. Generally, you’ll find plant-based meats are made from soy, mushrooms, beans, peas, mung beans or wheat gluten (also known as seitan). A mix of these proteins, plant oils and natural pigments are used in the most popular alternatives to mimic the hydration, aesthetic and textural aspects of meat. Most meats use nuts, seeds and veggies as binding agents, and certain products may have added vitamins and minerals, which you’d usually find in animal proteins. The major bonus of plant-based meat products is that, unlike normal meat, you won’t find any cholesterol. Not to mention, their production leaves our Earth with far lower carbon emissions by utilising less land and certainly much less energy and water.
Plant-based meats may assist with one’s mindset, when transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle. If you approach your journey with the mindset of lack, feeling as though you may not be fully satisfied and that your diet is missing your old favourites, then you may constantly find yourself in exactly that space. When changing your diet and moving away from sugars, meats, dairy and processed food, the most important thing is not to focus on what you’re missing out on, but to rather focus on the multitude of incredible plant-based food and flavours this natural world has to offer us. Starting small, but thinking big with your goals is integral. It may also be beneficial to write down all of your reasons for embarking on this flavoursome adventure. Put this list in a place where you will see if on a daily basis, such as the fridge. It will serve as a daily reminder to keep you motivated.
Nutritionists have often seen people become too reliant on vegan fast-foods and dairy alternatives during their transition towards a plant-based lifestyle. Although it’s delicious to cover almost everything in cheese, you could unintentionally begin to rely on these alternatives, which could lead to repetitive meals with more processed foods than you’d budgeted for. Not diversifying your meal plans and snacks can really hinder your experience, making you crave your old favourites and possibly cave. Use these plant-based alternatives as a side to a nutritious meal – for instance, a big bowl of greens with vegan nuggets may be a great way to get the best of both worlds. During your transitionary process it is acceptable to use spices to flavour vegetables so that they are more palatable.
Where do I start? When in doubt, start slow.
Okay, you have your ultimate goal in mind, but if you’re a complete beginner, you may not know where to start. Consider creating some structure for yourself. Try reducing your consumption of red meat to just once a week, and poultry to only twice a week. This might seem trivial, but it’s better to start slow than to expect too much of yourself and let yourself down. If this happens though, embrace the lesson and take the time to readdress your goals and plans. After a month or so, continue reducing the amount of animal products you intake, until further and further down the line you have replaced all animal products and processed foods with wholesome, plant based goodness.
Out of sight, out of mind.
Change your routine walk around the shops, rearrange your cupboards, and replace what is necessary with plant-based alternatives. Not having the temptation in your direct presence does wonders for focus!
Saving money, time and preparation for a small bit of planning can make your experience and transition into a plant-based lifestyle much easier. Being able to see ahead and ensure you’re diversifying in terms of flavours and nutrients can also bring a sense of solidarity and excitement to your journey. This also ensures you’re on top of the amino acid and protein balance you’ll require.
Places Of Safety
Make sure you know where your go-to salad bars, vegan delis or restaurants are for when you’re out and about and feel the pangs of hunger! Many times, you’ll find plant-based meats on menus coming to your rescue in social situations where you may struggle to sit at a long table of meat eaters. These situations are also fundamental opportunities for growth, where you can also draw upon your ability to say “No, thank you” with pride and compassion for yourself and health.
The opportunities, combinations and substitutions are absolutely endless. Don’t be afraid if you simply can’t stop thinking about your favourite meat-based meals. The use of plant-based proteins to help out in those moments where nothing else will do, will assist with many of the emotional aspects experienced when shifting your dietary environment. You’re allowed to feel loss! You’re allowed to miss it, and, you’re allowed to allow it! Be creative in your attempts to recreate your favourites. You never know, you might just out-do the old and make a new one! Herby, Italian tomato sauce with bean and lentil balls on a spinach or zucchini pasta. What about a gluten-free burrito, filled with toasted chickpeas, fresh crunchy vegetables and topped with a creamy avocado and a zingy, fresh salsa. Trust in your body, listen to it, and nourish it. The opportunities and cuisines are absolutely endless!
Patience in the Process
Being gentle and patient with yourself during this process is important, and allowing the time to revisit and restructure your goals is immensely beneficial. If you find yourself drooling over your old favourites, plant-based proteins could be the curbside you’re looking for. Using sliced plant-based sausages with your favourite vegan cheese for your Friday pizza night; or a bean and mushroom plant patty to fill the hamburger shaped hole in your belly, will certainly help you keep on track. Though it’s tempting to want to rely on these comforts and cravings, the pinnacle of your plant-based journey should be that of an entirely plant-based diet; filled with a variety of the most delectable vegetables, nuts, legumes, grains and fruit. However, be patient in your own process. Trust in yourself and in your innate strength, draw on your passion for this Earth and your family as inspiration, and practice relentless self-forgiveness for the remarkable journey you’ve decided to embark upon.