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What is plant-based? And why?

We’ve all heard of vegetarian and vegan, perhaps pescatarian (a person who does not eat meat but does eat fish), but what is ‘plant based’ eating and how is it different to vegan? There’s no formal definition to ‘plant based’ but to most people it means principally eating plants (vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole grains) and reducing one’s intake of animal products such as meat, fish, dairy and eggs.

500,000 UK adults gave up eating meat in 2020

The top 3 reasons for UK adults following a plant based diet are:
46% Health
45% Ethical
38% Environmental

There has been a significant shift towards plant-based diets over recent years. Research indicates that 5% of the global population were vegetarians and 3% vegan in 2018, and this continues to grow considerably. Movements such as Veganuary reported that over half a million people signed up for Veganuary in 2021, compared to 400,000 in January 2020 (+46%, y-o-y), with more than 800 new vegan products launched.

Plant-based means food that comes from plants and doesn’t include ingredients such as meat, fish, dairy and eggs.

There are many reasons why someone will choose to follow a plant-based diet. Consumers are increasingly choosing foods for health reasons. Many reports suggest that reducing meat consumption has a number of health benefits, whilst at the same time a diet which is high in legumes, veggies, nuts, whole grains and fruit results in a significantly lower risk of chronic diseases including heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, and Alzheimer’s.

25% of dishes on UK menus now labelled as vegan, vegetarian or as having a vegan alternative

Others may choose to reduce their meat consumption for environmental reasons. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), methane was the second largest contributor of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in 2018. Cows and sheep produce more methane gas than other farm animals, and this methane gas contributes to climate change. Animal farming also requires significantly more natural resources than in crop farming.

There is pressure to reduce these GHG emissions and to control the usage of resources, so agencies are encouraging environmentally conscious consumers to move away from meat consumption to the more sustainable plant-based diet.

Others will follow a plant-based diet for animal welfare reasons.

Whatever the reasons, and whether the choice is to reduce meat consumption (for example ‘Meat Free Mondays’) or to eliminate animal products from your diet completely, nowadays it’s easier than ever to find alternatives. There are many meat replacement products available for those who prefer this type of product on their plate, whilst others will find they simply don’t miss the meat when the dishes available are so flavoursome and appetising.

For the foodservice industry this is a topic you can’t afford to ignore. 1 in 4 dishes on UK menus are now labelled as vegan, vegetarian or as having a vegan alternative available. Consumers will continue to look for products which fit their lifestyle choices and they expect menus to include fantastic plant based options.

Is it more expensive to eat plant-based?

Whole-food, plant-based eating doesn’t necessarily need to be more expensive than a diet rich in meat and other animal products. Whilst some of the specialist products are not cheap, consider that fresh produce goes a long way, and whole grains, potatoes, and beans are some of the most affordable bulk foods you can buy. It is therefore entirely possible to create fantastic plant based menus on a budget.

Plant proteins

A common question when considering a move to plant based eating is around how to get enough protein. There’s no reason to miss out on protein, here are three favourite protein-rich products which are versatile, hearty, and delicious.

Tofu has been an integral part of the Japanese diet for thousands of years. It’s essentially a simple curd made of soy beans, water, nigari (a sea vegetable) and a dash of salt. Once the water is squeezed out it becomes a solid block. Tofu has a mild almost inert flavour which means it can be used in savoury or sweet dishes.

Tempeh is a traditional plant-based protein that’s been a staple in many Southeast Asian dishes for hundreds
of years. It’s made with fermented soy beans squeezed into blocks that can be sliced, diced, grated or blitzed. It has a deep, nutty, umami flavour, but will absorb other flavours readily. Its firm, chewy texture means it can be cooked in a variety of ways including pan frying, deep frying, baking or stewing.

Seitan is a very high protein product made from wheat gluten and originates from Indonesia. A great alternative to soy based meat substitutes, chewy and fibrous, it has a mild meaty flavour.

Examples of foods enjoyed on a plant based diet

  • Fruits: Apples, bananas, grapes, strawberries, citrus
  • Vegetables: Peppers, corn, lettuce, spinach, kale, peas. Root vegetables including potatoes, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, beets
  • Whole grains: Grains, cereals, and other starches in their whole form, such as quinoa, brown rice, millet, whole wheat, oats, barley.
  • Legumes: Beans, lentils, pulses

How can Pelican help with plant-based solutions?

We’ve been collaborating with suppliers to get insight into their product ranges and the availability of plant products, from everyday items such as whole grains, to more specialist ingredients like seitan and oak milks. We can also guide you to some amazing vegan desserts, tried and tested!

Please contact us for more information on 01252 705214 or
We are here to help.

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