When you think of the term “plant-based,” what comes to mind? Is it a never-ending stream of vegetable dishes? Is it the frightening thought of quitting cheese for good? If these kinds of thoughts are what’s keeping you up at night, let me put you at ease; neither of those statements are true! Oftentimes misinterpreted as veganism, a plant-based lifestyle is just that: plant-based. That means that you can have that occasional bowl of ice cream or split those cheesy nachos with your friends on a night out. The important thing is that you’re finding vegan alternatives most of the time. (Also worth mentioning, there is so many more vegan or plant-based options than just vegetables!
There are many reasons people prefer to live a plant-based lifestyle. One of the most common reasons being that many people don’t feel right about contributing to the mistreatment animals face from the farming industry. On the other hand, many decide to go plant-based because it’s better for their own health. Personally, I follow a plant-based lifestyle for both reasons. Because of a stomach condition I have, my body simply reacts better to plant-based foods. However, what is important to remember is that different food regimes work for different people, and it may be healthier for you to not go plant-based! The choice is completely yours based on your personal preferences!
If you decide that you want to try a plant-based lifestyle, a good way to start is by making substitutions where you see fit. Something that is very helpful for me is making make small changes when I won’t be able to taste a difference, but I know I‘ll still be able to enjoy the meal with the substitution. In my opinion, oat milk in my cereal is just as good as, if not better than, real milk, so I don’t mind making that swap! However, when I go to Chipotle, I HAVE to get steak, cheese and sour cream in my bowl, that’s a non-negotiable!
Another helpful tip is to not try and find direct substitutions for animal products, because a lot of the time, you might be disappointed. Rather, find alternatives that will still make that meal taste delicious! For example, people often have a hard time finding vegan cheese that tastes the same as real cheese. So, instead of trying to melt fake cheese on your veggie burger (which is a task in itself… trust me, vegan cheese doesn’t melt well), try opting for a different topping, like salsa or guacamole. When I put something that flavorful on my veggie burger, I hardly miss the cheese!
Following a plant-based lifestyle can be extremely beneficial and is a lot less scary without that looming sense of permanence. This is your journey, and you have the freedom to indulge in the occasional animal product where you see fit. Whether a plant-based lifestyle is your first step towards going completely vegan, or you have no plans of ever fully giving up animal products, it is completely and wholeheartedly possible to make an immense difference for both yourself and the animals without sacrificing your favorite foods!
-By Kate Cogland