By Raymond Bill
You have likely heard the terms “plant-based” and “vegan.” But what do they mean, anyway? Is there a difference? Whether in consideration of overall health, morality, or latest trend, there are many reasons why more people are switching to a meatless diet. By 2025, the vegan meat industry alone will be netting $7.5B annually, world-wide, with the entire vegan food industry exceeding $24B annually! However, vegan and plant-based are not interchangeable. A person can easily identify as one and not the other.
Vegan describes a lifestyle that is tied to ethics and affects not only your diet, but the clothes, make-up and accessories you wear. If any product requires animal use in any way, it is avoided. Plant-based refers strictly to one’s diet, requiring only the consumption of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, based on health and not necessarily morality. Some argue that a plant-based diet may allow for limited amounts of meat or eggs, but this is contradictory to the concept of, “plant-based.”. It is up oneself to decide how they define their personal diet.
Whether it is for just one meal per week, or a complete lifestyle change, if you have chosen to explore a plant-based diet, that is vegan friendly, I will be sharing with you my personal journey, including tips and recipes that the whole family will enjoy!
My teenage children agreed over the summer to join me in switching completely and suddenly to a plant-forward diet with total elimination of all animal products, including eggs, dairy, and even honey. I struggled at first since I had always believed that a healthy meal requires meat, starch, and vegetable. These were the building blocks to every family dinner since early childhood. And do not get me started on cheese! Now, I have learned how to focus on the meal in a way that fuels the body while not sacrificing flavor and presentation. As it turns out, many of my favorite dishes can easily be made plant-based, if they are not already.
When I want to make a quick and easy dinner, I have a few dishes with ingredients always on hand and ready in minutes. Pasta primavera and vegetable stir-fry with rice/grains are beginner level meals that allow a personalized touch while maintaining healthy levels of vitamins and protein. Eventually I would discover the world of tofu, seitan, and even nutritional yeast flakes, but I will touch on those later.
Follow my column for easy to intermediate plant-based recipes and product reviews. I will be sharing meals that will impress friends and family (without taking hours in the kitchen), and tips to maintain your diet when on the go or dining out.
In this brisk winter weather, I find comfort in a hearty lentil soup. Here is a quick, beginner recipe that is easily adaptable. To save time, celery, carrots, and onions can be found in the produce section of most grocery stores pre-diced.
You will need:
- 16oz dried green lentils
- 1 14oz can crushed tomatoes
- 8-10 cups vegetable stock
- 4 carrots, diced
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced (more is always acceptable)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes or chili powder
- 2 bay leaves
- Fresh thyme (strip leaves from 4-5 stems)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Directions: In a large stock pot, on medium-high heat, sauté diced onions in olive oil until desired caramelization. Add celery, carrot, garlic, and seasonings. Cook for 10 minutes until softened, then add remaining ingredients. Bring to a slow boil, reduce heat to low-medium and cover. Cook for an hour or until lentils are soft (this soup gets better over time). Your range may affect cooking time depending on gas vs. electric. Remove bay leaves before serving and garnish with fresh thyme or parsley (optional). Enjoy!