Menu Banner

Category: Plant-Based Eating

  1. Friday, February 15, 2019

    Friday Show & Tell: ‘This Week for Dinner’ is finally on Instagram, plus some great podcasts about plant-based foods

    It’s Friday Show and Tell time!Screenshot of This Week for Dinner's Instagram page @thisweekfordinner

    This Week for Dinner is on Instagram!

    So, my blog turned 12 last week. I totally forgot about the blog’s birthday, so, you know, Happy Birthday, Blog! Good job on 12 years and all that. Anyway, I’ve been on Instagram forever but have never focused exclusively on food content because, well, Instagram was sort of my happy place where I did whatever I wanted. It still is, but I have finally pulled the trigger and got This Week for Dinner going on Instagram. I would love love love it if you want to follow me over there. I’ll share content from the blog as well as the podcast (which will be starting up again soon!), the weekly menu and great food! The handle is simply @thisweekfordinner.

    Recent Podcast Recommendations

    Two of my favorite podcasts had some great episodes lately talking about plant-based food. They’re really well done and super interesting, so I definitely want to share them with you!

    Science Vs from Gimlet Media

    Science Vs

    I love Science Vs, it’s a delightful science podcast by Gimlet media and the host Wendy Zukerman is one of my favorites. Anyway, they recently did an episode about vegan diets, looking at different vegan and anti-vegan claims (like vegans are better for the environment and you need cow’s milk to be healthy) to figure out what was true. You can listen to the episode here: Vegans: Are They Right?

    But what I really want to share is the follow up episode about milk alternatives, or shmilks as Wendy calls them. It’s a super short episode that looks at the environmental impact of soy, almond, oat and cow’s milks. At the end of the episode, my 11-year-old Anna said, “Well, it looks like probably our whole family should start using your oat milk, huh, Mom?” You can listen to the episode here: Soy, Almond, Oat Milks: Are They Udder Bull?

    Freakonomics Radio - The Future of Meat Episode Recommendation

    Freakonomics

    Freakonomics is another of my favorite podcasts. Their recent episode The Future of Meat is fascinating and great food for thought. Pat Brown, CEO of Impossible Foods, is interviewed extensively and he has really thoughtful ways of looking at the future of food and meat production. (Fun fact: my husband Nate’s company synthesized DNA for Impossible when they were developing their ground beef product. Cool, huh?)

    That’s all for today! And, as always, show and tell is for the whole class! Feel free to share whatever you want in the comments below!  

     


  2. Thursday, February 14, 2019

    Plant-Based Eating Hack #1: Non-Dairy Plant-Based Ice Cream

    As part of my new year’s resolution to focus more on plant-based eating, I promised you I would share all kinds of tips and ideas throughout the year. Today is the first of these posts, which I will call “Plant-Based Eating Hacks.” A bigger focus on plant-based eating doesn’t mean you have to go vegan, but those of us who aren’t vegan or vegetarian are often unfamiliar with the great options out there for plant-based eating. Let’s explore those options together! Today we’re going to start with a classic dessert we all know and love: ice cream. Yep, we’re talking about non-dairy, plant-based ice cream with nary a drop of cream in sight!

    scoops of salt & straw vegan ice creams

    Three years ago I had the chance to travel to Vermont to visit the Ben & Jerry’s headquarters. It was ridiculously cold, I had a 5-hour flight delay in Chicago and I discovered on this trip that I have sacroiliac dysfunction (which basically just means excruciating pain). Despite all the cards stacked against me and the fact that I hobbled about like a 150-year-old woman addicted to ibuprofen, it was hands down one of the most fun trips I’ve ever been on. We toured the factory (including the production floor!), ate ice cream straight from the production line, and even got to create our own new ice cream flavors in the test kitchens. The experience was unforgettable. Ben & Jerry’s hosted this media trip as part of their non-dairy frozen dessert product launch. I was the only writer on the trip who was not vegan. At the time I was a full-fledged dairy consumer and knew very little about veganism, quite frankly. But I walked away from the trip with two things. First, really wonderful vegan friends who were open and ready to teach me in the least-judgy way imaginable. Second, a love for non-dairy, plant-based ice cream.

    Why Non-Dairy, Plant-Based Ice Cream?

    Here’s the thing: you totally do not need cream to make good ice cream. I know, it sounds like crazy talk. But since I cut dairy a year ago, I can attest to the fact that my non-dairy, plant-based ice cream options have left me completely happy and not missing “real” ice cream at all. And, as we learned in my plant-based eating kick-off post, cows are a huge drain on the environment. Eating red meat and dairy makes for a reeeeeealllllllyyyyyy big carbon footprint. If you can sub out that dairy with something equally delicious, why wouldn’t you?

    I’m going to share two great non-dairy, plant-based ice cream options that I love with you today. And then I’m going to ask you all to share your own favorites in the comments! Let’s make this the best collection of plant-based ice cream recommendations around!

    Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Frozen Desserts

    As I mentioned, about three years ago Ben & Jerry’s launched their non-dairy frozen desserts line. At the time I believe there were 4 flavors, but today the line has expanded to 11 flavors (and I’m sure it will keep growing). All of Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy frozen desserts are made with an almond milk base (which is delicious, btw) and are certified vegan.

    Display of Ben & Jerry's Pints at the Factory in Burlington, VT

    And since I have yet to write about that trip from many moons ago, I have to share some pictures with you.

    Tour of the Ben & Jerry's factory in Burlington, VTPictured: Top – Shots of the Ben & Jerry’s factory floor in Burlington, VT; Middle – Ice cream straight off the line; Bottom – Product testing for quality control

    The Ben & Jerry's Test Kitchen - creating new non-dairy frozen dessert flavorsPictured: The Ben & Jerry’s test kitchen where they develop new flavor – we had the chance to create our own non-dairy frozen dessert flavors. My partner Becky from Glue & Glitter (bottom left) and I decided our ice cream should be called “Beck & Janey’s.” Aren’t we clever?

    Salt & Straw Vegan Ice Creams

    Salt & Straw is a Portland, Oregon-based ice cream shop that that serves unique and quirky ice creams that taste amazing. They have started to expand to other states and the kids and I recently visited their Anaheim location. Salt & Straw has made a commitment to make 20% of their product line plant-based by the first of of this year. From what I recall on my last visit, their non-dairy ice creams are all made with a coconut milk base.

    Sign announcing Salt & Straw's new focus on vegan ice creams

    My 7-year-old meat eater son Owen is very resistant to my plant-based food changes, so when he happened to pick one of the vegan flavors at Salt & Straw, I just kept my mouth shut. I only let him know his ice cream was vegan after he was done eating. He looked shocked and then just laughed. If you can fool Owen, you can fool anyone.

    I know not everyone has access to Salt & Straw, but when you visit your favorite ice cream shops, keep an eye out for non-dairy options! Last summer the kids and I visited Honeycomb Creamery in Cambridge, MA. They had a few vegan options, including an ice cream made with a cashew milk base, which was divine. I’m telling you, now is the time be alive if you’re wanting to eat more plant-based foods. The trend will only continue and these ice cream companies are proving that plant-based ice cream can be done in a truly delicious way.

    Scoops of Ice Cream from Salt & Straw in Anaheim, CA

    Tell Us Your Favorite Non-Dairy, Plant-Based Ice Cream Brands!

    Now that I’ve shared a couple favorites, it’s time for you to fess up! Tell us your most favorite non-dairy, plant-based ice cream brands and flavors in the comments below!

    Vegan Bloggers I Met at Ben & Jerry’s. These blogs are fantastic resources for plant-based eating!  


  3. Tuesday, January 29, 2019

    2019 New Year’s Resolution: More Plant-Based Eating

    Each year I pick a New Year’s resolution that ties what I do in the kitchen with some sort of positive environmental impact. (Click here to see past years’ resolutions and related posts.) My 2019 resolution is no different: more plant-based eating. This goes beyond just eating less meat and I have lots of ideas for making this year’s resolution a success!*

    Fresh produce, oat milk and canned beans for the 2019 New Years Resolution for This Week for Dinner More Plant-Based Eating kick-off post

    Over the past year, due to some health reasons, I’ve really changed how I eat (there’s another post about that experience coming soon!). One of the changes has involved finding dairy substitutes. I haven’t given up meat completely, but I have started looking at more plant-based options. Looking for milk alternatives kicked that process off for me and really got me thinking about more plant-based eating overall.

    So why should we care about plant-based eating? Bottom line: animal-based food takes more of a toll on the environment (especially food coming from cows). When you talk about vegetarianism or veganism, many omnivores get nervous and feel like it’s just too hard to make that kind of switch. But focusing on more plant-based eating doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go vegetarian or vegan. There are lots of ways to incorporate plant-based foods and ease yourself into a new way of eating. In addition, looking at where the highest environmental impacts are in the food system and then adjusting from there can have a really big impact, beyond just plant-based foods.

    For example, take a look at the chart below (data taken from an article published in Nature assessing land use changes and climate change). It is both surprising and unsurprising. First, a vegan diet clearly has the smallest negative impact on the environment. But what pops out at me is the impact foods sourced from cows have. A vegetarian that eats dairy has a larger carbon cost than a person who eats poultry and eggs but skips dairy and beef. That is excellent food for thought.

    Chart showing the carbon costs of different diets, with vegan having the smallest carbon footprint

    As I was getting ready for my resolution, I came across a journal article published in Nature. I turned to my friend Dr. Megan O’Rourke, Assistant Professor of Sustainable Food Production Systems at Virginia Tech, with some questions I had. Megan and I have known each other since middle school (in fact I introduced her to her husband of 20+ years!). As Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech, Megan examines the value of biodiversity in agriculture and the environmental impacts of different food systems. Megan’s interest areas include sustainable agriculture, organic production, international development, land use change, and agroecology. She has extensive international and policy experience working with the Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service as the organization’s climate change advisor. In addition, Megan studied farming systems and deforestation in Cambodia where she worked for the United States Agency for International Development as their senior climate change advisor.

    Dr. Megan O'Rourke of Virginia Tech in CambodiaThat’s Megan on the right! This is a photo from when she was in Cambodia. Image Source: Virginia Tech

    As Megan and I got to talking about food issues, I felt like I just couldn’t keep her to myself and, lucky for us, I convinced Megan to contribute to the blog. Now I get to share Megan and all the awesome stuff in her head with you. Welcome, Megan!

    Over the next year (and hopefully longer) I will share tips and tricks for more plant-based eating and Megan will offer her expertise. I’m really excited about this year’s resolution and for you all to join in on the journey.

    To kick things off, here’s a little something from Megan (she does a good job of filling in between the lines of the chart above):

    Recent research is showing how eating a plant-based diet may be good for slowing climate change. You may be thinking, what does a plant-based diet have to do with slowing climate change? Everything we eat has a carbon cost and some foods have lower carbon costs than others. Too much carbon in the atmosphere is what traps solar energy and causes things to heat up. The total carbon cost of food includes how much carbon is directly emitted during production from inputs such as fertilizers, tractor fuel and pesticides. It also includes an opportunity cost for using the land for agriculture.

    The carbon costs of agricultural inputs are pretty straight forward to wrap our heads around; growing stuff takes energy and releases carbon. But understanding carbon opportunity costs is a bit trickier. Think about a forest and a corn field. The forest has much more plant mass than a corn field and stores more carbon, so cutting down a forest to grow corn has a large carbon opportunity cost. If you think about how much land and inputs are required to produce beef (about 2 acres per cow) compared to corn (2 acres for about 20,000 lbs) you start to realize that eating beef requires a lot of land and has a much larger carbon cost than eating a plant-based diet. In fact, one pound of beef has a carbon cost almost 75 times higher than a pound of corn and 40 times higher than a pound of rice. In addition, not all animals are created equal.  The carbon cost of beef is 14 times higher than chicken and nine times higher than pork.

    When we start to compare different diets, we also come up with vastly different carbon costs.  If we compare a typical western diet with a 50% less meat, vegetarian, no beef or dairy, and vegan diets, we find that a vegan diet has the lowest carbon costs.  The total carbon costs of each diet are about 9, 6, 5, 3, and 2 tons of carbon dioxide per year, respectively.

    Now does this mean that everyone should run out and become vegan?  Well, maybe. Climate change is one of the most serious environmental threats facing our planet. But there are, of course, many other things to consider. Lifestyle and proper nutrition are important personal choices. Preference for local foods is another. Animals can be produced on dry hilly grasslands in places like Oklahoma, which are terrible for growing many plant-based foods (remember the dust bowl?). Environmental impacts besides carbon should also be considered. Many more species of birds and plants and insects can coexist with livestock on grazing lands compared to in the typical monoculture crop field. While this new research makes a compelling argument to shift to a more plant-based diet, it’s one more data point to help us make informed choices and navigate our complex food system. — Dr. Megan O’Rourke, Virginia Tech

    *In case you’re wondering. Last year was the first time I completely failed at my This Week for Dinner new year’s resolution. I had planned to learn how to can food. Well, I did not can one piece of food last year. Not one. Nate canned some peppers, so at least a little bit of canning happened in our house. So, nevermind, I totally completed the resolution…by proxy! 😉