Considering food culture in my home and the fact that tacos exist, I do not see myself transitioning to a strict vegetarian or vegan diet anytime soon. Though, just because I’m not vegan or vegetarian doesn’t mean that I don’t put in any effort to eat less meat for the sake of the planet and my own body. If you are anything like me, unable to give up some of your favorite foods but want to integrate more plant-based foods into your diet, here are 5 tips that help me eat foods I can feel good about consuming:
- Identify Your Reasons
The key aspect of making changes to your diet, or any change at all to your lifestyle, is to first ask yourself why you want to change it. Otherwise, you won’t be motivated to put in the effort. There are many reasons to go plant-based, whether that be wanting to lower your contribution to a harmful food industry or to climate change. Personally, I decided to make major changes after taking UCLA’s Food Cluster, where I learned that not eating meat is the most significant action you can take on an individual level to slow the rate of climate change. As a bonus, I read a horrifyingly graphic journal about the practices of the meat industry, which honestly just puts unappetizing images in my head whenever I eat meat. You definitely don’t need to go to that extent (though it is a great motivator to eat meatless), so long as you understand why plant-based eating is important to you!
- Switch to Oat Milk
My friends and family can attest to how big of an advocate I am for oat milk with my annoying elevator pitches urging them to at least try it once. In all seriousness, oat milk deserves all the hype that almond milk gets! Oat milk is not only superior in taste, but it’s also the most sustainable milk alternative, requiring much less water than the Tinder-boy-level thirsty almond. Especially if you’re a coffee, matcha, or general latte drinker, it’s quite literally the easiest way to avoid dairy products and opt for a plant-based option. I can guarantee that your drink will be elevated to a creamier and more delightful drink with oat milk or oat creamer!
- Set a Specific and Achievable Goal
Since I do not adhere to a strict diet, I do like setting up some type of numeric and tangible goal that I can realistically follow on a daily basis. Thus, I commit to making at least one of my meals of the day to being meatless, and if I do more, which I usually do, that’s even better! I generally tend to make my breakfasts meatless, as I think it is one of the easier ways to go since– unpopular opinion– I am repulsed by bacon and other breakfast meats. Nonetheless, if you are goal motivated or need some structure, I highly recommend setting out to eat one plant-based meal a day, or following another measurable goal that works for you. I advise also not trying to set your goal too high, as chances are if you can’t stick to an entirely plant-based diet, you might just discourage yourself by failing to meet those goals.
- Revamp and Reuse Your Current Dishes
As someone who is not great at cooking and is also super busy, I get overwhelmed at the thought of having to learn a bunch of totally new recipes. Oftentimes, it’s actually just as simple as making a swap. Instead of your usual meats, you can opt for items like cauliflower, tofu or oyster mushrooms, and essentially prepare and season them as you would your meats. More so, you can opt for black bean or beyond burgers instead of beef ones, vegan chicken (patties, nuggets or pieces) instead of chicken, soyrizo (a personal fave) instead of chorizo, and so on. On the same coin, sometimes you don’t even need to change your recipes, it can even be as simple as taking note of your meatless dishes that you enjoy and trying to make them more often.
- Find Inspiration
Interestingly, part of what motivated me to truly commit to eating more plant-based foods was late nights scrolling through TikTok and seeing literal mouth-watering recipes that I had to fight the urge to not make at 2 in the morning. I think actually seeing those foods being made pushed me to feel like it was something I could do, and something I was excited to do. There are countless food TikTok accounts that focus on vegan or vegetarian foods, but to give you a start, check out @iamtabithabrown, @eat_figs_not_pigs, @willedmond, @lahbco and @jeremyscheck. Even if you don’t follow their recipes step by step, I’ve gotten great recommendations for vegan ingredients and replacements for my mom’s traditional Mexican recipes.
Eating plant-based doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and that’s been an important attitude I’ve had to provide me with a sustainable, healthy and enthusiastic relationship with food. There is no necessity to box yourself in and avoid vegan and vegetarian options just because you don’t entirely adhere to the diet. We’re all allowed and should feel driven to actively seek options that simultaneously nourish our bodies and support the health of Mother Earth as well.