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Plant-based eating trend grows banner
Plant-based eating trend grows banner

Plant-based eating trend grows

Plant-based diets are set to be one of the biggest food and health trends this year, as aspirations for healthier lifestyles motivate us to prioritise fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and botanicals.

According to Mintel’s latest Global Food and Drink Trends report, “Power to the Plants” is one of the six key food and drink trends for 2017, illustrating a 25 per cent increase in vegetarian product claims and a 257 per cent rise in vegan claims in global food and drink launches.

More than 463,000 New Zealanders now report they were “always” or “mostly” vegetarian, an increase of 27 percent in the last four years.

The rise of the ‘flexitarian’ lifestyle sees people looking to vegan or vegetarian products as an occasional drink, snack or meal, rather than as part of a total diet overhaul, experimenting with simple swaps and additions to their diet.

Nut milks

Some of the standouts of this rising plant-based trend are nut milks like almond milk and coconut milk, which have grown 24% in New Zealand over last 12 months, perhaps because they can be easily integrated into everyday lifestyles.

Following a legislation change last year, several nut milks on the market are now fortified with vitamins, including vitamins B12 and B2, and provide over a third of daily calcium needs per 250mL serve (just like light dairy).

As well as the delicious nutty taste, almond milk has 1/3 less calories than light dairy milk and is free from cholesterol, lactose, gluten and dairy, making it a healthy and versatile option for many flexitarians.

The best dairy-free milk for you will depend on your overall diet and the amount of calcium, protein, B12 and fat you're getting from other foods.

In response to the growing plant-based eating trend, many influential health and fitness personalities are embracing vegetarian and vegan recipes to share with their audiences, as evidenced by foodie blogs and Instagram accounts country-wide.

Check out these simple recipes using dairy-free milks.

Eating for the environment banner
Eating for the environment banner

Eating for the environment

Across the world, from 8.30 to 9.30pm on 25 March marks the 10th anniversary of Earth Hour.

It’s a simple idea that’s become the world’s biggest movement for climate change - switch off your lights for one hour to help cut down on your environmental impact and raise awareness for how we affect the future of our world with our everyday choices.

We’re incredibly lucky to live in a time when we have access to so much. Whether it's technology, transport, pleasant work and living spaces or just the clothes we put on our backs – all of these things help us to live productive, comfortable lives.

But everything we consume has an impact on the environment - from the production of raw materials, processing, transporting the finished product, potentially powering it for its useful life and how it’s disposed of.

There’s a cycle to everything we consume, so it’s important to be mindful about the impact our consumption has on the environment. And there’s one thing we consume more regularly than anything else – food.

Commercial-scale food production has a huge impact on the environment. Greenhouse gas emissions can be directly attributed to the process of farming food and everything we do to it once it leaves a farm – processing, transporting, cooking or even throwing it away.

When it comes to environmental impact, not all food is created equal.

Guidelines to reduce the environmental impact

While different methods of production can lead to variations of environmental impact, there are some general guidelines that can help you make good dietary choices for both you and the environment.

Minimise the meat

The Environmental Working Group Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health report looked into the environmental impact of producing a range of foods. They charted greenhouse gas emissions from both growing the foods to the transportation and processing needed before being ready to serve on our plates.

Of the 20 foods they analysed, the top 9 spots for greenhouse gas emissions went to animal foods.

Lamb was responsible for the most greenhouse gas emissions – more than 13 times more than that attributed to the highest ranked plant food. Raising large numbers of animals for consumption has a huge effect on the environment and uses considerably more resources and leads to greater greenhouse gas emissions than their plant counterparts.

As Rosemary Stanton writes in her paper A plant based diet – good for us and for the planet “Not everyone needs to or wants to become vegetarian, but reducing our dependence on meat is a good recipe for our own health and also that of our planet. Diets dominated by plant foods are almost certainly the way of the future”.

Buy whole

If you want to take your environmentally friendly plant foods to the next level, stick as much as possible to shopping in the fresh food section of the supermarket. Canned and frozen vegetables can be great time savers and good to have on hand for emergencies, but the extra processing they go through adds to their environmental impact. By making the effort to go fresh whenever possible, you can avoid excess packaging and processing.

Buy local

This is not just great for the environment, but also great for your community.

Find your closest farmers market and head down there on the weekend to pick up some environmentally friendly fare. The less produce has to travel during production, the less of an impact it has on the environment, so try and support local producers for some fresh, great quality produce that’s good for you and the environment.

Buy only what you need

When we‘ve wasted food at the end of the week it has a twofold effect on the environment. Firstly, the production of that unneeded food was responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and then after it gets thrown away and becomes landfill, it starts to break down and release further greenhouse gases.

In New Zealand 122,547 tonnes of food waste are generated each year. And the average Australian throws out about 350kg of food a year – the emissions created just by this landfill are equivalent to those produced by electricity used to power a 3-person household for 58 days.

The great news is that with a bit of knowledge, eating for the environment isn’t difficult at all and has extra benefits to your health, your community and your wallet. It’s also something we have the opportunity to do something about multiple times every day – so why not start at your next meal?  

Try this...

Decreasing the animal foods in your diet doesn’t have to be a huge change. If you’re looking for a place to start, how about Meatless Monday? Join this global movement by simply starting each week with a day of meatless meals – and we’ve got a whole range of great recipes to get you started.