Considering making a change to your diet? Manasa Saripelli documents her journey from vegetarian to vegan. Hot tip: spices are essential!
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I come from an Indian background and have always been vegetarian; however, the transition to veganism was not at all easy. Unlike other vegans, I did not quit cold turkey. Instead, I slowly phased out foods that I felt I over-consumed. Milk was the first to go, followed reluctantly by cheese and ice-cream.
I have now been vegan for four years as a part of a package deal to live more sustainably and reduce my impact on the environment and my contribution to climate change. Over that time my compliance to veganism has slipped from time to time.
Failing to live up to my new dietary commitment could have made me reluctant to continue trying. Instead of being deterred, I was empowered by reminding myself that every time I made the choice to avoid animal products, it helped to reduce global warming.
A vegan diet can be good for the planet.
Living in a country that has next to no policies in tackling climate change — the biggest threat to human life and health in the 21st century — can be incredibly disillusioning. But as individuals, we have the power to make a difference even when our government chooses to remain short-sighted.
Choosing what we eat and do not eat can have a very real impact on greenhouse gas emissions that fuel global warming. As consumers, every purchase we make signals to the industry what it is we want, and the basic economic law of supply and demand ensures our wants are met. Farming’s contribution to climate change is significant. Over 16% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, two-thirds of which are from cattle and sheep. Beef cattle are the cause of most large-scale land clearing.
The less meat and dairy foods we consume, the fewer the emissions, and the better it is for our planet. Eggs have a lower carbon and ecological footprint than dairy foods, but are still higher than plant sources of protein.
A vegan diet can be good for you.
Aside from the environmental benefits veganism brings, it also has many health benefits. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables contributes to lower rates of type 2 diabetes and heart disease and may reduce some cancers.
One of the complaints people have about vegan food is that it’s bland. These people clearly have not heard of spices! One of my favourite vegan meals or snacks is a Mediterranean-inspired baked chickpea, red onion and sweet potato salad that is bursting with flavour. The dressing is what makes it so delicious: who could go wrong with olive oil, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, paprika, ground cumin, garlic and a bit of salt and pepper?
So if you are considering a vegan change, make the spice rack your new best friend, and I promise that you will have a fun and tasty time saving the environment one generous sprinkle at a time!
Tips for changing your diet.
Make changes to your diet that are achievable, affordable, and enjoyable. These are eating patterns that can become part of your lifestyle long-term.
Experiment with ways to cook and eat a wide variety of fresh vegetables, fruit, grains and nuts.
Limit your intake of processed foods, added fats, salt and sugars, and avoid ultra-processed foods altogether.
A vegan diet can be a healthy option, but you must pay attention to meal planning to ensure adequate nutrition. If being a vegan or a vegetarian is not for you, you can still make a difference by aiming to reduce your meat intake, especially red meats and processed meats. Reduce portion sizes, have meat-free days, and use alternatives such as legumes, nuts and seeds, and seafood from sustainable sources.