Why Choose A Plant-Based Lifestyle?
by COLETTE PIENAAR
This is a lifestyle choice I made about 10 years ago. It started off when my inquisitive nature was nudged and I started doing some research into plant-based eating in response to a request for some vegan recipes for the detox program I was running at the time.
I thought it was just as easy as swapping out an animal protein for a plant-based protein, little did I know how much of an impact this voyage of discovery would have on my life and how much I would learn in the process. Since then the changes to my eating have had a marked impact on the way I feel, my health and how I view the world.
This is my story .. and I am sharing it here as a challenge to find out more about the food chain and reconnect with what you are eating and putting into your body.
Educate yourself, don’t be scared to try something new, allow your taste buds to develop and just go for it. We only have one body so why not eat to live a healthy and energetic life that is considerate of the environment and kind to the creatures we share it with.
Every recipe you find in this blog has been put together in an effort to find tasty varied food that I hope you will love eating as much as I do.
Choosing a more plant-based lifestyle tends to be a process for most people who have grown up eating animal products. I found that it was a decision I made and then gradually started introducing alternative foods it was a process of elimination for me and about finding alternatives, once I had become more confident with what I was going to eat to get enough protein in to feed my body it was an easy switch to make.
The best place to start is to define what it is to be plant-based and then find what works for you.
Vegetarian / Vegan
Vegetarianism – is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat (red meat, poultry, seafood, and the flesh of any other animal), and may also include abstention from by-products of animal slaughter.
Vegetarianism may be adopted for various reasons. Many people object to eating meat out of respect for sentient life. Such ethical motivations have been codified under various religious beliefs, as well as animal rights advocacy. Other motivations for vegetarianism are health-related, political, environmental, cultural, aesthetic, economic, or personal preference. There are variations of the diet as well: an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet includes both eggs and dairy products, an ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs but not dairy products, and a lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy products but not eggs. A vegan diet excludes all animal products, including eggs and dairy. Some vegans also avoid other animal products such as beeswax, leather or silk clothing, and goose-fat shoe polish.
Packaged and processed foods, such as cakes, cookies, candies, chocolate, yogurt, and marshmallows, often contain unfamiliar animal ingredients, so may be a special concern for vegetarians due to the likelihood of such additions. Often, prior to purchase or consumption, vegetarians will scrutinize products for animal-derived ingredients. Vegetarians’ feelings vary with regard to these ingredients. For example, while some vegetarians may be unaware of animal-derived rennet’s role in the production of cheese, and may therefore unknowingly consume the product, other vegetarians may not take issue with its consumption.
Semi-vegetarian diets consist largely of vegetarian foods but may include fish or poultry, or sometimes other meats, on an infrequent basis. Those with diets containing fish or poultry may define meat only as mammalian flesh and may identify with vegetarianism. A pescetarian diet has been described as “fish but no other meat”. The common-use association between such diets and vegetarianism has led vegetarian groups such as the Vegetarian Society to state that diets containing these ingredients are not vegetarian, because fish and birds are also animals.
I decided not to label myself because I felt it put too much pressure on me to eat in a particular way instantly so I took the next step which was to start creating alternatives for some of my favourite recipes.
So my kitchen experiments began. I started switching key ingredients out for my favourite meals like : Lasagne (I use Soya or Quorn mince), Steak (Quorn steak) & Chips, Chocolate Mousse (tofu or avo as the base), Scones (egg free) & Cream (cashew cream), Baileys (there is a delicious recipe from my friend Mel), Fried Chicken (Vegideli pieces), Milkshakes (alternative milks and lots of smoothies), Ice-Cream (Booja Booja … need I say more?), Friday Night Burgers (loads of options avail) …
I experimented with ingredients I had no idea existed and wow what an amazing world opened up to me. For me, it was about building confidence in the kitchen.
I was delighted when my hubby enjoyed my culinary creations and especially pleased when he started to feel some of the health benefits I had experienced, himself. I love this way of eating and the benefits it brings to both mind and body knowing that it is delicious, healthy and kind!
It always makes me smile when one of the first things people say to me when they realise I eat the way I do is …
If you don’t eat animal products then … what do you eat?
My response is usually …
Everything else !!
So I found alternatives for my favourite meals and my health improved, I started to feel more energetic, lighter at which point this change in my lifestyle became about health.
So I had discovered some fabulous new food to add to my eating plan I was feeling better, I felt satisfied but still wanted to feel free to eat what I wanted … just to be mindful and choose wisely is what I thought I could do … besides, why would I stick to this way of eating if my body needed animal protein to survive? Something we are all taught from a young age …
The truth is we don’t need meat to survive …
There are so many delicious alternative protein sources available to us, ‘surviving’ on plants is totally doable. Not only will eating this way have an impact on your health it will help you achieve the body of your dreams.
Once I had made the choice to change the way I eat and started talking about it to my nearest and dearest, it became about Ethics.
I realised that taking another life for me to live was quite simply murder. The ethical tug on my heart was loud and clear and my eyes were open. I had experienced what can only be described as a reconnect with what I was asking someone else to do. To slaughter and prepare an animal for me to eat. Every documentary I watched about the food chain taught me something new. Not only had my eyes been opened … the lights were turned on and OMG! How could I continue consuming animals … it just felt wrong to me and I made the decision to stop eating meat completely.
What was the thing that flipped the switch?
There were so many little discoveries I have made along the way and it has been a process for me. Education has been the key and also giving myself the space to find my way without judgement has taught me to empathise with others asking questions about plant-based eating. Taking the time needed to re-educate your palate and find alternatives you love is the best part.
Start finding out more about the food chain and connecting with the things we take for granted as humans. Understanding the process of farming – how crops are grown and animals are reared and the process this food takes to get our plates – then making the right choice for you.
From this moment on whatever you choose, know it will be with your eyes open.
That’s all I did, I opened my mind, read and watched and researched all I could, took one step at a time and found my path. With this in mind, I thought I would share some of my favourite documentaries. Give these a whirl, you will be glad you did. An educated decision about what you put into your body is all that is needed.
Please let me know how you get on and if you have any questions please shout.
MY FAVOURITE DOCUMENTARIES (avail on Netflix or Amazon)
FORKS OVER KNIVES
WHAT THE HEALTH
ORGANISATIONS TO FOLLOW
Compassion In World Farming
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
The Vegetarian Society
The Vegan Society
In the meantime, try the recipes and enjoy!