This blog has been adapted from Arjan Stephen's presentation, Sustaining Ourselves & Our Planet: Guidelines for Shopping for Plant-Based Foods, from Veggie Fest 2016.
Vote With Your Forks
Michael Pollan said, “The wonderful thing about food is you get three votes a day: every one of them has the power to change the world.”
Your fork and your wallet are your most powerful tools for change. Every time you grocery shop, you’re changing the world for the better - you shop with your values and you vote with your wallet.
For those of you who are vegetarians and vegans, you’re already doing a great job. You know by not purchasing meat and animal products, you’re showing compassion to our animal brothers and sisters. You’re leading by example and showing your friends and family how great vegetarian food can be. And you’re putting your hard-earned dollars in the hands of companies who are going to uphold your values – and this gives them more resources and ability to grow, and puts more vegetarian food on more tables.
Why Eat a Plant-Based Diet?
Eating a plant-based diet is both compassionate and delicious! But here are three more reasons why eating plant-based is not only good for your tastebuds, but for your wallet, health and the planet too!
1. It Saves Money
- Meat accounts for 10% of Americans’ food spending.
- Eating vegetables, grains and fruits in place of the 200 pounds of beef, chicken and fish each non-vegetarian eats annually would cut individual food bills by an average of $4,000 a year.
2. It's Better for Your Health
- Live longer - if you switch from the standard American diet to a vegetarian diet, you can add about 13 healthy years to your life.
- Ward off disease - vegetarian diets are more healthful than the average American diet, particularly in preventing, treating or reversing heart disease and reducing the risk of cancer.
- A low-fat vegetarian diet is the single most effective way to stop the progression of coronary artery disease or prevent it entirely.
- Cardiovascular disease kills 1 million Americans annually and is the leading cause of death in the United States.
- The mortality rate for cardiovascular disease is lower in vegetarians than in non-vegetarians. (1)
- Lower cholesterol – vegetarians eat less animal fat and cholestrol and vegans consume no animal fat or cholesterol.
- More nutrition - vegetarians eat more fibre and more antioxidants.
3. It's Better for the Planet
- Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. (2)
- Less resources are needed for sustainable organic plant agriculture.
- 5% of water consumed in the US is by private homes, whereas 55% of water consumed in the US is for animal agriculture. (3)
- 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef
- Livestock or livestock feed occupies 1/3 of the earth’s ice-free land. (4)
- Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction. (5)
If you don’t believe the power of your fork, just take a walk through your grocery store. Even the most conventional grocery stores have exploded with vegetarian food options. It has never been a better or easier time to be a vegetarian!
4 Shopping Tips for Buying Plant-Based Foods
If you're curious about a plant-based diet, these four shopping tips will help you add a little more plant-based foods to your cart.
1. Shop the Perimeter
Shop the perimeter of the grocery store – this is where the produce and fresh food lives.
- The Environmental Working Group releases lists of produce with the most pesticide residue, and the least
- This will help you prioritize what is most important to buy organic
- We at Nature’s Path of course recommend choosing organic, but obviously this isn’t always possible, especially if your local grocery doesn’t have a big organic section or if you’re eating out
3. Stock Up on Plant-Based Protein Sources
Vegetarian diets are more than vegetables! Get creative when looking for plant-based protein sources such as:
- Beans – 100 grams of black beans has more protein than 100g of beef! Plus less fat, less sodium, more fibre, more iron,
- Nuts and nut butter
- Whole grains
- Chick peas
4. Try These Vegan Substitutes
- Ground beef -> Lentils
- Dairy milk -> Almond milk
- Mayo -> Avocado
- Scrambled Eggs -> Crumbled Tofu
- Cheese -> Nutritional Yeast
- Egg Whites -> Aquafaba
Hopefully I’ve convinced you to consider putting a little more plant foods and organic in your carts. It will have a positive effect for you and your families. Keep voting for vegetarian and organic foods! The more you do, the more there will be. Choose well and good things grow.
(1) Joel Fuhrman, MD, author of Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss.
(3) Jacobson, Michael F. “More and Cleaner Water.” In Six Arguments for a Greener Diet: How a More Plant-based Diet Could save Your Health and the Environment. Washington, DC: Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2006.
(5) Oppenlander, Richard A. Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work. Minneapolis, MN : Langdon Street, 2013. Print.