(Mostly) Plant Based Diets


At work today, one of my coworkers wanted to celebrate Valentine’s day by cooking a steak dinner for all the staff. A kind gesture to staff to be sure. In the Teams group, people were sharing how they wanted their meat cooked: well, medium, rare. On the day of the meal, the entire office smelled of meat. Several colleagues came up to me to ask why I didn’t participate. It’s funny how defensive some people can get when you don’t follow the mainstream culture, especially on something as central as food. I imagine they might think “What’s wrong with this guy? (Because it can’t be something wrong with me or our culture!)”

I want to be clear, while I choose a (mostly) plant based diet, I do not advertise it or try to convert others. If they ask (and many do) I will attempt to explain the 3 pillars of veganism to them (see below.) It does get tiresome however. And so this post. In future, I will send them a link to this post.

My journey

Like the vast majority of people throughout different cultures and times, I was once an omnivore (omni = all, vore = eat) and ate most things. And I certainly know that sharing a meal together is a time honoured way to connect and strengthen bonds. Certain dishes form a central part of  many cultural and religious traditions. I personally thought little about what I ate or where it came from and blindly accepted my culture’s norms.

About 10 years ago I had a friend who was vegan. I didn’t think much of it. In my social media feed however, I began to see posts and recommendations for documentaries about food and plant based diets. I did not seek these out. Eventually, I watched one. And then another. Soon I had seen a handful of them. Some of these were:

After watching the third film, I could not remain ignorant anymore. I knew I had to make a choice. I went with a (mostly) plant based vegan diet. I am not rigid about it and, as I said at the top, I do not advertise it or try to convert others. However, people do ask. If you really want to know, watch some of the films in the list above (warning: many are, and should be, very disturbing). If not, here are the three pillars, in brief:

  • It’s good for health
  • It’s good for the environment
  • It’s good for the animals

The Three Pillars

Below is a more detailed explanation of each point:

It’s good for health

I freely admit that this is the weakest pillar of the three. You could drink pop and eat fries every day and say that you are “vegan.” There are a number of health-concerns about plant based diets:

  • You won’t get enough protein (There are many plant-based sources)
  • You won’t get enough calcium (There are plant-based sources)
  • You won’t get enough Vitamin-D (There are plant-based sources) 
  • You won’t get any Vitamin-B12 (There are plant-based supplements)
  • You’ll end up eating more processed foods from meat & dairy replacements (This is a danger and one that I have somewhat fallen prey to)

When it comes to what we eat, I like what Michael Pollan said:

Eat food[1]. Not too much. Mostly plants.

[1] And by food, he means things that have been minimally processed. It’s the consumption of lots of highly processed foods which is making us overweight and sick.

It’s good for the environment

There is no question that the production of meat and dairy have enormous negative impacts on the planet. See a few of the above documentaries for more information. Having said that, our current farming methods are not good for the environment either. We need to move to a more permaculture-based farming system.

It’s good for the animals

It should be obvious that both meat and dairy involve the murder of animals at the least and lifelong suffering at worst (especially in factory farms.) See a few of the above documentaries for more information.

Some of the main non-health related concerns

  • It’s too hard to find vegan foods at grocery stores and restaurants (This is improving!)
  • My family and friends, culture, and/or religious traditions do not  support a pure plant based diet (This is a real issue but attitudes are changing.)
  • I love the taste of meat and dairy (The plant-based substitutes are getting better each year.)
  • I don’t want to have to constantly explain my dietary restrictions to people (This is slowly changing as alternative diets are becoming more common.)

Final thoughts

Lastly, I should mention that there are degrees of plant-based diet adoption. My father-in-law was a 21 meat meals a week person (breakfast, lunch, & dinner – 7 days a week.) I am a 0 meat meals a week. Like most things in life, it’s not black & white but shades of grey. Some folks follow the fish on Fridays rule. Others practice meatless Mondays. Some have tried Veganuary. Some people don’t eat red meat. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing decision. A lot of people get confused on the different labels:

  • carnivore – eats only meat (no fruits or vegetables, etc.)
  • omnivore – eats everything
  • pesce-pollotarian – doesn’t eat red meat: no beef or pork (chicken and seafood is OK)
  • pescatarian – same as above but no chicken (seafood is OK)
  • vegetarian – same as above but no seafood (milk/cheese and eggs OK)
  • vegan – same as above except no milk/cheese or eggs (some exclude honey as well)

There are of course many variations of the above. Another term is flexitarian (practice a flexible diet.) Some people claim to be fruitarians (only fruit) and even breatharians (only sunshine and air) but those are clearly impossible diets and such claims only bring disrepute to the concept of reducing animal product consumption.

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I like to explore, learn, teach, and laugh!

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