How will you celebrate this year’s Earth Day?
Maybe you’ll plant a tree. Or perhaps start a garden.
Maybe you’ll compost your food waste.
Speaking of food and plants, let’s talk about plant-based diets.
The term — which means that you consume plant-based protein, instead of protein from animal sources — has been popping up everywhere.
Did you know there’s plant-based dairy, too?
Some examples of plant-based protein sources include beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds, chia seeds, and other legumes.
The center of a plant-based meal usually is a vegetable, a grain — such as quinoa, rice, or spaghetti — or a plant-based protein, for instance, beans or lentils. By comparison, in the average American diet, meat is the center of the meal.
Even Burger King now offers plant-based hamburgers, and you can find meatless options throughout the Disney parks with vegan cheese and sauces.
Dozens of other restaurant chains also offer plant-based menu options as a way to attract this customer base as this food movement grows in popularity.
Some people choose plant-based proteins, only. Others, however, incorporate animal-based protein, and dairy, too.
So, if you have been thinking of eating more plant-based foods but don’t want to go entirely vegan, you have options.
Here are the differences between the varying degrees of plant-based diets:
- Vegetarian (the most recognized one): A vegetarian won’t eat animal meat for protein (meat, poultry, seafood), but will consume eggs and animal-based dairy from an animal’s milk (cow, goat, sheep, etc.). This also is known as lacto-ovo vegetarian.
- Pescatarian: Will eat fish and seafood (but no meat or poultry). They also will eat eggs and animal-based dairy products.
- Ovovegetarian: Won’t eat meat, poultry, seafood or dairy, but will eat eggs.
- Lacto-vegetarian: Won’t eat meat, poultry, seafood or eggs, but will consume animal-based dairy.
- Vegan: This is the strictest eating plan. Vegans don’t eat anything from an animal, including dairy and eggs. Plant-based milks, such as almond milk, soy milk, cashew milk, etc., are fine, and dairy foods, such as yogurt made with one of these plant-based milks (soy yogurt) also are acceptable. Plant-based cheeses and butters also exist at grocery stores and some restaurants offer it.
Whether you want to go plant-based a few days a week or permanently, it may be best to start slowly to let your body adjust to the extra fiber while building the new diet into your lifestyle.
By easing into it, part-time, you can discover new recipes that you and your family enjoy.
Remember, it’s a big commitment if you plan to make the switch permanently. So, just as is true for most lifestyle changes, consider starting off a few days a week to help you get used to the idea.
Note: Vitamin B12 is found in animal sources, and so a supplement is recommended for those eliminating animal proteins, dairy and eggs from your diet.
One plant-based recipe I like to make it is spaghetti and “cheat balls.”
Both carnivores and herbivores alike can enjoy this meal.
By Shari Bresin
Shari Bresin is the Family & Consumer Science agent for the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension Pasco County.
Spaghetti and “Cheatballs”
- 1 onion, chopped small
- 1 (14-oz) can black beans, well-drained (Note: If you’re using fresh beans, you want about 1 2/3 cup and make sure they are very well-cooked because you will be mashing them.)
- 1 (14-oz) can great northern beans, well-drained (Note: If you’re using fresh beans, you want about 1 2/3 cup and make sure they are very well cooked because you will be mashing them)
- 3 slices bread (crumbled)
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional-adds spicy flavor)
- 2 teaspoons oregano (or Italian if preferred)
- 1 cup flour (but you may need more to ensure the mashed beans will stay intact while cooking)
- Olive oil
- Sautee onions until soft
- Place beans in a mixing bowl
- Mash the canned beans together using a potato masher and/or fork. (You may add a little water to help mash.)
- Add onions to mashed beans, along with spices, bread crumbs and flour
- Mix well
- Roll balls about 1.5” in diameter
- Cook in olive oil, turning cheatballs with tongs every few minutes until all sides are brown
Note: Sauce and spaghetti are cooked separately to your preference.
Published April 21, 2021