Going vegetarian to save the planet… OK, but how?
We must drastically reduce our meat consumption to fight the environmental crisis, says the latest IPCC report. Laudable goal, but how do you get there when you're used to beef steak rather than tofu? We posed the question to four newly vegetarian Montrealers and to Loounie, a food designer specializing in plant-based cuisine.
Four people, four different horizons. One thing in common: they all ate meat daily.
Jocelyne was “raised on meat”; Carl was an “insatiable carnivore”; Theo thought it was “impossible” for him to become a vegetarian, while Golden dreaded his lack of cooking experience. Despite apprehensions and culinary habits, they have taken the step of vegetarianism out of environmental conviction, for animal well-being or for their health. Not without difficulties.
A culture of meat
Despite their different experiences, they all encountered the same challenge, that of changing habits food.
Caroline Huard, alias Loounie, confirms it: “It's a mental load, we have reflexes, routines in the kitchen that we have to change.”
We live in a meat-based culinary culture.
Carl and Théo made their transition overnight, but Golden and Jocelyne gradually. Loounie is leaning towards the second option. She advises, before eliminating certain foods, to start by integrating new ones, to avoid nutritional deficiencies, but also the feeling of deprivation, and thus ensure that the change lasts over time.
Carl Grant/Photo: Courtesy
Starting by learning about the basics of a vegetarian diet and trying out recipes to find the ones that will please seem to be two essential steps. In this sense, Golden suggests testing one recipe per week. He explains that “in the long run, we build up a new base of recipes sufficient for everyday life, and we gradually reduce the quantities of meat consumed”. In Théo's experience, it is better to plan your meals carefully at the start. But afterwards, we are able to do our grocery shopping easily with new reflexes.
Theo Ndereyimana/Photo: Courtesy
Meat classics in a veggie version
Loounie emphasizes the importance of learning to translate his classics (for example, veggie spaghetti sauce) and to cook new ingredients, such as legumes or tofu. Jocelyne found tofu “tasteless before learning to cook it”. But after the fact, it turns out to be an essential ingredient that can, for example, replace hot or cold chicken, in salads, sandwiches or even meal bowls.
Caroline Huard aka Loonie/Photo: Courtesy, Loonie
So is spending time cooking inevitable? Certainly, a personal investment is necessary at the start. But, for those in a hurry, many vegan options are offered by restaurants and grocery stores. Among the wide range of products offered, some are rather expensive and others are ultra-processed. After a period of adaptation, Golden claims to be able to make a lunch at home very quickly. Her favourite? “Vegetables and hummus in a tortilla.”
Finally, “you have to learn to rethink your plate,” says Loounie. While we were used to meat and a side dish, a veggie plate could look like a legume stew with nutritious grains.
The results of the experience? Beyond the feeling of pride that everyone shares, Carl feels “lighter”, Theo appreciates the influence he has on those around him and Golden has discovered a new interest in nutrition. Their habits have changed and they don't consider going back.
Jocelyne Lavoie/Photo: Courtesy
Only Jocelyne struggles to find as much pleasure in eating as before. Laughing, she defines herself as “a vegetarian with relapses”. Loounie, she is convinced that vegetable food can be tasty, she has made it her hobbyhorse and offers two books on this subject. As for Jocelyne's relapses, the important thing according to her is not to be perfect. “If 90% of the population reduces their meat consumption by 30%, that already makes a big difference,” she concludes.
< em>Jean-Philippe's kitchen by Jean-Philippe Cyr, Éditions Cardinal
Loounie cuisine 1 and 2 by Caroline Huard, KO editions
Simplissime: the easiest vegetarian and vegan recipes in the world by Jean-François Mallet, Hachette Pratique editions
The documentary on the impact of factory farming on the environment Cowspiracy: the secret of sustainability, Netflix, 2014
Flexitarian: person who adopts a reductionist diet in meat, with a majority of plants, but without completely eliminating foods of animal origin
Vegetarian: person who adopts a diet without animal flesh, without meat or seafood
Vegan: person who adopts an exclusively plant-based diet, without meat, eggs, or dairy products
Vegan: person who adopts a lifestyle that aims not to use animals as a convenience, in addition to a vegan diet, for example by eliminating leather goods, cosmetics tested on animals, etc.