AS someone who doesn't eat red meat, plant-based foods have always taken up a bigger space on my plate.
In fact, most of my meals are plant-based with the occasional inclusion of seafood or chicken.
It's a fact that plant-based diets are gaining popularity, as more people are concerned not just about their health, but also the state of the planet.
It takes less natural resources to produce plant-based foods compared to meat and animal agriculture has a huge impact on the environment, so a plant-based diet makes sense for our bodies and the environment.
Globally, communities are becoming more environmental and health-conscious. This has led to an increasing number of people reducing their meat intake and embracing plant-based diets.
The topic of plant-based food alternatives also took centre stage at the recent 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 27), as the global food system is responsible for over 30 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, and 57 per cent of these are derived from the processing of meat, dairy products and crops for animal feed.
Consultant dietitian Indra Balaratnam agrees that there is a moving trend towards plant-based foods but as with every trend, people are confused sometimes and get caught up in the whole wave without understanding the foundation or basis of it.
"As a dietitian, I see some clients moving towards a plant-based diet but they are eating the wrong sorts of food. They are consuming deep fried plant-based foods, foods high in fat or eating too many desserts. This goes back to an unhealthy diet."
Eating is sustenance, she adds. We all like to eat but we need to think about how we eat and how much we eat.
Plant based foods include grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, plant-based milk and even plant-based meat alternatives. Technically, any kind of food that is not of animal origin explains Indra.
These are all available in the grocery store and there are many choices now in the market.
To make the switch to a plant-based diet, it's best to do things gradually, explains Indra. Take small steps instead of making drastic changes which would not be sustainable in the long run.
It doesn't mean one has to be very restrictive with one's diet either. There are many different ways to approach it and flexibility is key.
You don't have to give up all sorts of foods that you like. Keep it flexible. Eating healthy means making small changes and there are many ways to go onto a plant-based diet.
Vegetarians, for example, don't take meat or fish but they may consume milk and eggs.
On the other hand, vegans don't consume any animal-origin foods and only eat plant-based ones. There are also those who call themselves "flexitarians", who consume a lot more plant-based foods with occasional meat based dishes.
Indra says on a daily basis, make small gradual changes, like going meatless for one of your meals, swapping your usual snack with healthy nuts or adding an additional serving of fruit and vegetables at every meal.
It's also important to make the right choices when it comes to plant-based foods.
Besides opting for whole foods which are naturally healthy, consumers should read labels carefully if they are purchasing packaged plant-based foods.
Look for products which are high in protein and dietary fibre and low in saturated fat, salt and added sugar.
"Look at the ingredient list. You want to see ingredients that are familiar, things like vegetables, fruits, nuts or seeds. If you see chemical names, strange sounding terms, then be wary," says Indra.
This is the same rule to follow when selecting any kind of food product, she adds and ultimately, the goal is to not just follow a diet trend, but make wise choices on a daily basis to ensure we give our bodies the right nutrients and keep our health protected.
THE GOODNESS OF GOING GREEN
*Rich in vitamins A, C and E
*High in antioxidants and dietary fibre
*Low in saturated fat
*Reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
*Lower blood sugar and the risk of high blood pressure
*Lower cancer risk
*Increase life expectancy
GIVEN the increasing demand for plant-based foods and meat alternatives, many major food brands have jumped onto the bandwagon to fulfil customer needs.
Nestle, for example, has its Harvest Gourmet range to offer Malaysian consumers healthier alternatives for everyday meals that they love.
Harvest Gourmet uses high quality plant-based ingredients that are crafted into convenient products for in-home and out-of-home consumption, including nuggets, cutlets and burgers as well as minced and chargrilled products to ensure variety.
Yumeat, another brand in the market, offers plant-based luncheon and minced meat made of soy and wheat to those looking to make their meals more varied and healthy.
The luncheon meat contains seven times more fibre, 23 per cent less sodium, and 53 per cent less fat than the average meat alternative to appeal to health-conscious consumers. Both versions can also be added to any meal because they can be sautéed, grilled, fried, steamed or stewed.
Order plant-based dishes at discounted prices with GrabFood Promo Code.