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How to Conquer Plant-Based Eating

Ditch the meat for more veggie-forward eats

Tracy Block Staff Reporter
Published:
Updated:
7 min read
7 Simple Food Swaps To Stay Healthy | MyFitnessPal
Rather than looking at vegetarian and vegan diets as restrictive, we like to see the opportunities that other ingredients provide to replicate flavors and textures.
Zachary Pacleb, chef and co-owner of Brothers & Co


The plant-based way of eating is a global trend on the rise, thanks to its range of both health and environmental benefits. According to a recent report published by FutureKind.com, 8% of the world population currently identifies as vegetarian, vegan, or something in between. In addition, 73% identify as omnivores (regular eaters of both animal and non-animal products), with 14% weighing in as flexitarian (only occasionally eating meat or fish), and 3% labeled as pescatarian (those who consume fish but not meat). If you’re interested in learning more about life as an herbivore, consider the below tips and tools that may be able to guide the transition.

Meet the Soulful Vegan

Award-winning author of Feeding the Hungry Ghost, Ellen Kanner also develops recipes for major brands and is the voice behind SoulfulVegan.com. “To me, food is more than dinner,” Kanner says. “I use it as a lens for exploring everything – education, the environment, culture, connection, community, wellness, social justice, and more. For me, food is a connector. However different or divided we are, we all need to eat.”


Kanner, who went vegetarian at age 13 both for her love of animals and “to piss off my parents a little,” stayed the course because, ultimately, making the change made her feel good. She then transitioned to veganism, almost 20 years ago, mostly as a result of being a food writer. “Once I came to understand the workings of the food system, I lost my appetite for dairy, not to mention the whole dairy industry,” she admits.

When it comes to going vegetarian or vegan, first, Kanner warns to be wary of the abyss of ready-made processed products. “Just because they’re plant-based doesn’t mean they give you what your body needs,” she offers. “One thing I urge people – which has become totally apparent during the pandemic – is the importance of learning to cook. You don’t have to be on Chopped; you just need to be able to feed yourself. It’s a basic life skill.”

Tips & Tools

If you’re interested in plant-based eating and could use a bit of support, Kanner offers a few starter tips. First, she says to set yourself up to succeed. “Stock your pantry and fridge with plant-based products,” she says. Next, “Obey the Rule of One,” which means changing one thing each week, like enjoying one more meatless meal, or buying one new-to-you plant-derived food. Then, make sure to tap into your plant-based community and resources. “Vegetarians and vegans are social and supportive,” says Kanner. “Whether you’re thinking to go plant-based for animal rights, the environment, or awesome eats, there’s a bunch of like-minded people and resources to connect with.”

Additionally, Kanner recommends checking out the following vegetarian- and vegan-driven apps:

21-Day Vegan Kickstart – From the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, you’ll find a guide to transitioning, along with tips, meal plans, and support to cheer you on.

Abillionveg – This is a one-stop-shop for all of your questions and needs, and connects you to an entire global plant-centric community, empowering you to do good – effortlessly. And, for every product you review, ABV will donate $1 to one of their 50 plant-based partners.

Veggly – If you’re single and looking for love, this is the dating app for you.

Pro Tip: Joining vegetarian and vegan Facebook groups and discovering plant-based bloggers and chefs to follow on social networks, like Instagram and Pinterest, can help you get both acclimated and engaged.


A Chef's Plant-Based Experience 

Zachary Pacleb is the chef and partner of Brothers & Co a catering company and food stand that operates out of local farmers markets in Seattle, Washington. Pacleb co-owns and runs the company with his brother, Seth, with the joint goal of highlighting the region’s seasonal bounty by sourcing locally farmed produce and supporting small farmers. “I started thinking more about creating vegetarian-friendly dishes shortly after culinary school,” Pacleb says. “That was about 10 years ago. I was working in different restaurants and seeing the growing awareness of dietary restrictions. I think most chefs enjoy cooking with a sense of challenge, and these dietary restrictions got me thinking along the lines of adapting recipes to be plant-based.”

Now, Pacleb says he is very conscientious about not just providing vegetarian options, but doing so creatively. Although not 100% plant-based, he and his partner practice a largely vegan diet at home. From vegetarian hot pot nights with friends to vegan snack obsessions, Pacleb regularly surrounds himself with plant-forward options. And, since COVID, he says the business has pivoted into making meal kits, which has resulted in delicious take-home leftovers, like mushroom fried rice and vegetarian ramen, an adaptation of a meat-heavy staple of which he is particularly proud.

In addition, Pacleb enjoys crafting vegetarian broth from local produce scraps, as well as the techniques of preservation, fermentation, and pickling. He’s also thrilled about Brothers & Co’s meat patty alternative made of house-made quinoa tempeh. “This has been one of our most exciting developments to date,” he says. “It cooks up like a meat patty for a burger or hash, and takes to any seasonings that you wish to incorporate.”

Exploring Food Hacks

Beyond his breakthrough patties, Pacleb offers a bevy of ingredient hacks to consider for those who might have trouble, withdrawal, or grief surrounding the dietary switch. He recommends cooking with produce items that have meaty textures, like eggplant, mushrooms, cauliflower, and jackfruit. “Rather than looking at vegetarian and vegan diets as restrictive, we like to see the opportunities that other ingredients provide to replicate flavors and textures,” he explains. “For example, we incorporate pureed sunflower seeds to our vegetarian broth to create a heartier, rich broth. Flax and chia seeds can give us viscosity, and chickpea water, aka aquafaba, can be used as an egg white substitute to make meringues or a foam.” 

Furthermore, Pacleb enjoys working with vegan cheeses from Dayo and Chao, as well as plant-based proteins from Beyond Meat, Field Roast Grain Meats, and Rebellyous Nuggets.

When it comes to spicing up plant-based cooking, Pacleb recommends working with:

Cumin, curry, and other warm spices, which are complementary to vegetables.

Soy-based Asian seasonings and marinades, which bring out the sweetness and depth of flavor.

Shio koji, a fermented rice, which enhances marinades and improves caramelization.

Smoke, because it lends umami flavors that are typically unique to meats.

• Fermentation and pickling, which both preserves and maximizes flavors not present in fresh vegetables.

Cumin
Soy
Shio Koji (fermented rice)
Fermentation

Sustaining the Journey

If you’re still in need of plant-based resources, Pacleb recommends downloading the Gonutss app, which is both free and user-friendly. “It functions as a translator or encyclopedia of sorts that can help home cooks find good food substitutes,” says Pacleb. “I like that it showcases raw materials, along with vegan products.” Furthermore, this is an app that encourages people to cook, rather than just directing people to purchase store-bought foods, according to Pacleb. “We are all about that!” he exclaims. “Their filters can also help users find recipes to accommodate multiple dietary restrictions, like peanut allergies or sugar-free, which is something that we encounter pretty often as chefs.”

Once you’re good and educated, Pacleb encourages you to visit your local farmers market, which will guide you on a delicious, seasonal journey as you support local vendors. Doing so leads to new discoveries each year, where you can enjoy flavorful fruits and vegetables at their peak.

“You have access to the growers who are eager to provide recipes or preparation ideas for their wares. You're also able to get handmade vegetarian and vegan products prepared without preservatives and chemical additives,” he says. “In doing so, I strongly believe this strengthens our relationship to the food we eat and allows our food to truly nourish us, not just physically. It also ties us into a greater community and ecosystem that we're largely disconnected from when we buy frozen, packaged foods from large corporations.” 

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How to Conquer Plant-Based Eating

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