When people ask me about my plant-based lifestyle, a lot of times the first reaction I get, after asking how I survive without cheese, is “Wow, I could never do that.” While I totally believe that anyone who wants to go plant-based can make the switch, I also totally understand that this is something that can seem odd, overwhelming and downright unappealing. However, you don’t need to totally cut out meat and dairy to make an impact! Making same changes can make a big difference. If everyone in the world simply lessened their intake of animal products, this would hugely benefit our environment by slowing the use of our limited resources such as land, water and fuel.
These are a few ways that you can start making a difference today by tackling one meal at a time. Try one or two (or all) of these suggestions and know that you are making a positive impact. And hey, you might even discover some new foods and dishes you like along the way!
Breakfast: Got milk (alternative)?
I have found that making the switch from cow’s milk to an alternative was one of the simplest ways to eliminate dairy from my diet. The nice thing is that there are lots of choices for what to pour over your morning oatmeal or into your cup of coffee! Almond and cashew and blends of the two are popular options. Not nuts about nuts? Don’t panic! Soy, coconut, rice, flax, pea protein and rice milk also line the shelves of most grocery stores. Experiment to find your favorite! I started off with almond milk and then discovered I liked the creamy taste of cashew milk a little better. However, I will say that although almond milk is environmentally and ethically better than cow’s milk, it still requires a lot of water to produce. For these reasons, lately I have favored flax milk and pea protein milk for my bowls of cereal.
Another added bonus of milk alternatives is that they last longer than cow’s milk. I originally started buying nut milks for this reason because when I was grocery shopping for only myself in college, I could never use up a container of milk before the expiration date. Also keep in mind that if you are looking to use your “milk” as a source of protein, look for pea protein milk or another alternative that has added protein.
Lunch: Power to the plant protein!
Speaking of protein, when it comes time to fix your lunch, look outside of meat and dairy for your protein source. Challenge yourself to incorporate more plant based proteins in your meals. Some of my go-to choices are beans like chickpeas and black beans, grains like quinoa, seeds like hemp and, if I am in a rush, quick options like veggie burgers and tofu.
In my opinion, one of the biggest steps in becoming more plant-based is a change in mentality. If you throw away the traditional view that a meal must include meat to be complete, you will be able to open your eyes the variety of plant-based ways to get your daily protein. Again, I am not saying you have to immediately shift to never eating meat again, but consider looking to plants instead of meat or dairy next time you pack your lunch for the day. I used to consciously only meat at most once per day and this allowed me to think outside the box when I packed meatless lunches on most days.
Snacks: Feel Fresh.
Most of the time, especially during the week, I want my snacks to be quick and easy. I’m hungry between meals and I want to fill up without feeling like I’m too weighed down to tackle my next workout or project at work. Convenience is key. If you think about it, grabbing an apple or a handful of raw nuts is just as easy as reaching for a cheese stick or bag of processed chips. Aim for whole foods that will make you feel as fresh as they taste. We all need some junk food every once in a while but considering the easy, whole food options around you when it’s time to reach for a quick fix will help set you up for a successful rest of your day.
Dinner: Eat out like a vegan.
So your friends want to go out to eat for dinner. When you’re staring at the menu, remember that your dollar is your vote. When you pay for something, you are voting to keep that option by creating demand. I challenge you to look at the menu from the vegan perspective. Or, if that is too much for you right now, the vegetarian perspective. Order one of the meatless, dairy-free options and vote to keep these menu items and increase the number of similar choices. The more people who order and ask about vegan dishes, the more restaurants and chefs will work to create them. Bonus: this really helps narrow down your options if you, like me, have trouble making decisions. Another idea is to ask your friends to go to vegan-friendly restaurant and support the business. You don’t have to be fully vegan or plant-based to enjoy the yummy food!
To make things easier when ordering your dinner, don’t be afraid to ask for reasonable subtractions or substitutions. Asking for pasta without shredded cheese on top, salad with an oil dressing instead of the cream dressing or a sandwich without meat are OK things to order. Don’t be the pain that your waiter dreads serving but don’t shy away from asking for simple adjustments to a dish. Also, if you are in doubt about the contents of an item, just ask! The last time I ate Mexican, I ordered veggie fajitas and asked if the guacamole salad included with the dish had any dairy in it. It did not but because I asked that, the waitress kindly informed me that the black beans are usually served with cheese on top and that she was happy to ask for the cooks to avoid including any dairy in my dish. You don’t have to launch into a monologue about why you are ordering plant-based (although this is another way to spread the message) but by mentioning your request for a dairy-free and meatless dish, this works to create the demand for this type of menu option.
I hope that these tips allow you to look at plant-based eating as something that is very possible for you to incorporate into your current lifestyle. Picking one meal to focus on right now might be the best way to get started. Again, any way you can inform yourself or make small changes is a help to you, the animals we live with and our environment so be proud of what you are accomplishing!
Pin this post for later:
Let me know if you try any of these plant-based tips and share your experiences! What other ideas do you have? What are your favorite ways to eat plant-based? As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts and stories in the comments.