Vegan. Vegetarian. Flexitarian. Pescatarian. No matter you define your diet, it is always a touchy topic. The inevitable questions about why and how. My husband and I were hardcore vegans for a good 6 months. Two years later, we incorporate a small amount of fish and seafood into our diet on occasion. We still have a strict policy of not buying fish, seafood, dairy or eggs in our home but we have definitely relaxed out diets over the past few year particularly when dining with family and friends. Despite this, I would say that we are still mostly plant-based eaters. There is unquestionable benefit of incorporating more plants into your diet. There is also irrefutable evidence to suggest that eating more whole foods fuels your body in ways overly processed foods cannot. Here are some ways to incorporate more plants into your diet (Psst… also check out my post on my favourite vegan grocery items!)
Undoubtedly, the simplest swap you can make is to use plant-based milks instead of dairy. There is a plethora of plant milks available from your typical almond and cashew milk to oat milk (my fave!) and even macadamia milk. The possibilities are endless. They substitute well in recipes asking for milk. Coconut milk in a can is my all time favourite for savoury dishes.
Seitan or Tofu
For those who want the mouth feel of meat but want a healthier alternative, seitan or tofu based options are a great alternative. Seitan (or vital wheat gluten) is the protein from wheat but transforms itself in a multitude of ways. Seitan is definitely not for those who have celiac disease or those on a gluten-free diet but I love how versatile this ingredient is and how easy it is to make seitan steak, sausages, burgers, you name it!
Now I must admit this one is tough. Most of the dairy-free cheeses are just not like real cheese. It has a texture and aftertaste that takes some getting used to. Earth Island Cheese is my favourite so far and is now available in supermarkets like No Frills and Loblaw.
In addition to making simple swaps in your diet, exploring your local farmers market, learning about your local farmers and connecting with like-minded people on social media can help jumpstart your plant-based journey…
Summer is my favourite season for food because of the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables that are locally grown. You get to discover things you don't normally see in your local supermarket (coronation grapes anyone?). And you get to support small businesses in your area. How great is that?
Some of my favourites in the Markham area:
19th Avenue Farmers Market (19th Avenue and Woodbine) Not only do they sell an incredible selection produce but they sell vegetable plants early summer and beautiful plants all season long! They also have a great end-of-season produce box that is a great bargain and an amazing opportunity to try some new fruits and veggies.
Organics Family Farm (19th Avenue and Reesor Road) Hands down the BEST local strawberries I’ve ever had. They also carry bread, some organic vegetables, local honey and some awesome fruit pies fresh out of their outdoor oven.
Reesor Family Farm Market (Ninth Line and Elgin Mills Road) Good selection of fruits and vegetables and a very nice selection of fruit spreads and baked goodies.
Community Shared Agriculture
CSAs are a great way to support your local farmer while getting a nice share of the freshest produce on a weekly basis.
This will be our second year participating in Joyfully Organic Farms‘ CSA and it is definitely one of the highlights of the summer. Every Thursday, we pick up a goodie bag with around 5 or 6 different vegetables. It is a great way to be introduced to a variety of produce that you may not otherwise try and forces you outside your culinary comfort zone. The above photo is an example of one of the bags we got one week!
Blogs, YouTube, Instagram...
There are countless blogs, YouTubers and Instagrammers who have such amazing plant-based recipes that you will never run out of meal ideas!
Honourable Mentions to My Favourite Blogs:
Mary’s Test Kitchen -Vegan. Fried. Chicken. Enough said. I made it so many times I have the recipe memorized by heart. The Milk Bread recipe is another recipe I make again and again. You cannot go wrong with any of her recipes!
It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken – Vegan Seitan Steak. Just WOW. She also has a great recipe for DIY dog treats that my dog absolutely loves. I swear, she is a wizard at making anything taste good. Banana peel bacon is next on my to-make list.
The Viet Vegan – the most amazing Apple Crisp. I never knew making apple crisp was this easy. Plus, her YouTube videos are so entertaining to watch. I love learning about all the vegan Asian grocery items that are available in the GTA.
Oh and did I mention that all of these ladies are CANADIAN? :
TL/dr – Incorporating plants into your diet has never been easier. Just making one swap at a time helps your health and the planet. Check out blogs, YouTube and Instagram for endless inspiration!