Canada’s brand new Food Guide has stirred up a bit of dust. It’s a radical departure from business as usual – a timely beacon pointing us in the right direction! For once, industry lobbyists have been prevented from exerting undue influence over Health Canada’s recommendations. Commercial interests are still vying to massage new labelling and marketing regulations yet to be finalized – including those directed at children. But by simply encouraging greater intake of whole plant foods and a significant decrease in animal product consumption (along with sugar and heavily processed foods), our new science-based food guidelines already have the potential to help reduce lifestyle diseases and improve the well-being of millions of Canadians. Gone is the long-standing category of dairy as a necessary ‘food group.’ And meat is no longer centred as an optimal protein choice when plant-based sources are available. In this way the guide inadvertently aligns with a major study released just last month by the Lancet Medical Journal. A collaborative effort involving 37 scientific experts from 16 countries over three years, the EAT-Lancet Commission concluded that our existing food systems are “a major contributor to climate change, leaving civilization in crisis.” It calls for a “dramatic reduction in the consumption of meat and dairy and a sharp increase in plant-based foods.”
16 year old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thurnberg, who has captivated the world with her unfettered call to action in the face of adult apathy, knows that reducing fossil fuel use simply isn’t enough. Practising a vegan diet is an integral part of her response to our climate emergency. So far, millennials have been credited with driving the shift towards 100% plant-based food choices noted by market analysts, but with influencers like Greta inspiring school climate strikes around the globe, perhaps Generation Z will be the one that takes meat and dairy off the table altogether wherever the option exists to do so. In the meantime, Canada’s new food guidelines can be used to help motivate the widespread dietary changes leading scientists recognize as not only advantageous to personal health but necessary for our collective survival. Crucial to advancing healthy food choices, of course, is accessibility. We must tackle poverty and inequality in this country in order to ensure that no one has to choose between paying the rent and acquiring sufficient nutrition for themselves and their family!
Canada’s new Food Guide also highlights the value of both preparing healthier meals at home and sharing food with others. Restaurants, cafes and other food venues are an important part of the social fabric too, so for those able to afford the privilege of eating out once in a while, supporting 100% plant-based eateries can certainly help encourage more to follow. In addition to Cafe La Vie (Duncan), Powerhouse Living Foods (Nanaimo) and Rawthentic Eatery (Courtenay) are three new vegan restaurants to check out north of Victoria – Plantitude ( scheduled to open this month in Ladysmith), Fresh Start (Campbell River) and Eve Olive (Nanaimo). Vegetarian restaurants Rawmbas (Nanaimo), Bravocados (Tofino) and Whole Glow Cafe (Cumberland) specialize primarily in 100% plant-based cuisine. Baby Salsa Mexican Restaurant and Coach & Horses (both popular dining establishments in Nanaimo) now offer their customers a fully vegan menu in addition to their traditional fare. Mudsharks in Courtenay is currently experimenting with daily vegan menu items as well; now would be the perfect time to drop by, enjoy a tasty meal and offer some welcome feedback!
Drop by Denman Island’s Virtual Vegan Potluck Series on Facebook for lots of tasty new 100% plant-based recipe ideas (and more) to experiment with affordably in your own home kitchen. ❤
Climate change may be responsible for fooling the fruit trees already blossoming on Vancouver Island, but it’s still the middle of winter here in the Pacific Northwest and the soup is on!
Hearty Winter Lentil Soup
Ingredients (all organic if at all possible):
2 T. water (or sub 1 T. olive oil)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 small shallots (or 1/2 medium onion, diced)
4 big carrots, thinly sliced
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp. each, sea salt and black pepper
3 C. yellow or red baby potatoes (roughly chopped)
4 C. vegetable broth (I use organic Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base )
2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme
1 C. uncooked green or brown lentils, rinsed
2 C. uncooked chopped greens (kale or collard)
1. Heat large pot over medium heat. Add water (or oil), garlic, shallots/onion, carrots and celery. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and stir. 2. Saute veggies on low heat for 4-5 minutes or until slightly tender. Be careful not to burn the garlic. 3. Add potatoes and season with a bit more salt and pepper. Stir and cook for 2 more minutes. 4. Add veggie broth (made with 2 T. of Better than Bouillon), rosemary and thyme; now increase the heat to medium high. Bring to a rolling simmer, add lentils and stir. Once simmering again turn the heat back down to low and continue to simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes – or until lentils and potatoes are tender (but not mushy!) 5. Add your leafy greens, stir and cover. Cook for 3-4 minutes to wilt. Taste broth, and adjust flavour as needed. Add more vegetable broth if mixture becomes too thick. 6. Enjoy as is, or serve with rice, flatbread or roll. Garnish with chopped parsley (optional). 7. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to one month. Reheat on the stovetop and add more vegetable broth to rehydrate as needed. Enjoy!