It's no secret that interest in plant-based diets is on the rise. In fact, according to a Euromonitor study, Australia has the third fastest-growing vegan market in the world. Indeed, there's been a steady decline in meat-eating in the country (though per capita meat consumption remains high here.) Even though more and more people are interested in this lifestyle, some significant barriers still prevent people from making the switch. In this second post of our blog series, we will discuss six of the most common individual and social barriers to being plant-based and provide helpful tips on how to overcome them! You can read the first post in our series here.
Food is more than just about survival - it is also cultural. Dietary habits can say a lot about our heritage and community. So, while food and traditions can bring people close together, it also often becomes the nexus of strongly-held belief systems that may not always have any scientific basis.
Barrier 1. Does not contain enough nutrition
One of the most common discourses against veganism or plant-predominant diets is that it is not nutritious as a meat-centric diet. As long as you take a variety of plant-based whole foods and ensure you're getting enough calories, you can acquire all the nutrients from your diet. In fact, plant food tends to be richer in fibre, antioxidants, and phytochemicals and lower in saturated fats.
How to get your Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient for maintaining nerve and blood cell health. Contrary to popular belief, the vitamin is not made by plants or animals but by bacteria. Animals, like humans, must obtain it directly or indirectly from bacteria. B12 is present in more significant amounts in animal foods because they accumulate this bacterial substance over their lifetimes.
The good news is that plenty of vegan foods still contain B12. These include fortified cereals, soy milk, nutritional yeast, and certain types of mushrooms like shiitake mushrooms and seaweeds like nori and dillisk.
If you want to read more about B12 in plant-based diets, check out our blog about it.
How to get enough Vitamin D
Vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption, which helps keep bones healthy. You can find it in mushrooms, fortified soy milk, orange juice, and cereals. You can also get it through exposure to sunlight, but make sure you don't stay out too long without sunscreen, as this increases your risk of skin cancer.
How to get enough iron
Iron helps transport oxygen in the blood and maintain a healthy immune system. You can find it in…
- dark leafy greens
- Tofu and tempeh
- Nuts and seeds
- Fortified cereals and bread.
If you're worried about not getting enough nutrients in your diet, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian who can help you develop a plan to get all the essential nutrients you need. You can take supplements to fill any gaps in your nutrient intake. This is also often recommended to those on a meat-based diet, depending on how effective one's body is at absorbing nutrients from food.
Barrier 2. Where will I get my protein from?
This is probably the most common concern, and barrier people have about transitioning to a plant-predominant diet. The truth is that plenty of protein-rich plant foods can easily meet your daily needs. Several athletes including Venus Williams, Scott Jurek, and Cam F. Newton all follow a plant-predominant or vegan diet and are in peak performance shape.
You can meet your protein requirements by consuming various sources of amino acids throughout the day. Generally, a vegetarian or vegan diet can meet or exceed protein requirements if energy intake is sufficient. Some good sources of plant-based proteins include:
- legumes such as lentils and beans
- nuts and seeds such as almonds and cashews
- soy products, including tofu and tempeh
- whole grains like oats, barley, quinoa and amaranth
Barrier 3. Meat tastes too good to give up
One of the most common arguments against going plant-based is the assertion that meat and animal products taste so good that they are challenging to give up. However, the question that some vegan educators ask on this point is: do 15 minutes of sensory pleasure justify a lifetime of suffering for the animals? While such moral questions may not be the easiest to mull over, we must consider where our food comes from and what impact it has on the environment and sentient creatures. Indeed, the more plant-based products you choose, the fewer animals are hurt, and you are also contributing positively to global sustainability goals.
There are plenty of alternative meats that are just as delicious as their animal-product counterparts. Mock meats are higher in nutrients and fibre and tend to be lower in unhealthy fats and cholesterol. They are an excellent transition food and can help you hit that spot when craving a burger!
Barrier 4. It is too expensive
Another common barrier to a plant-predominant diet is that it can't be cost-prohibitive. While some may cost more than processed animal products, plenty of others are inexpensive. In fact, when comparing the cost of animal protein to plant protein on a per-gram basis, plant protein is often cheaper. Some cheap and healthy plant-based proteins include beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, and peanut butter.
When it comes to procuring food, you can also save a lot of money by buying frozen fruits and vegetables. These are often just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts (if not more so), and they last much longer. You can also get them in bulk from the freezer section of your local grocery store.
Social barriers are different from individual barriers because they refer to more systemic social structures that might make it difficult to go vegan or plant-based.
However, any change is about creating a new habit and replacing the old ones. So, as mentioned in our first blog post in the series, maintaining a journal can help support your journey. You can also look for online support groups or forums where you can chat with other people on a plant-based diet. These can be great resources for recipe ideas, restaurant recommendations and more. To make things easier on you, why not order our range of plant-based meals for delivery when you are short on time or when you have a large party over for dinner?
Barrier 5. It will make social situations awkward
Social pressure is a powerful force and can significantly impact our dietary choices. For many, the fear of being stigmatised is a significant barrier to going vegan. A recent study found that non-vegans are often reluctant to eat vegan foods because they anticipate being judged by others. The study participants who were college students reported feeling like people would view them as disrupting social norms if they were seen eating vegan food. They also said that they would be concerned about being ridiculed by their friends or family members. As a result, they avoided plant-based foods altogether. The findings suggest that social pressure plays a significant role in shaping our dietary choices. To encourage more people to go vegan, we need to create a more supportive and inclusive environment.
Barrier 6. My family and friends will be uncomfortable
Similarly, going to family dinners or eating meals with friends can seem like a minefield when you are the only one opting for plant-based meals. However, these situations do not have to be anxiety-inducing if you prepare for them in advance. For example, if you are going out for food, suggest a restaurant that caters to vegans - people are often glad to have options. If you are going to a family member's house for dinner, offer to bring a vegan dish or two that everyone can enjoy. This way, you can still participate in the meal and not feel like you’re missing out.
During family get-togethers, having an open and honest conversation about your dietary choices with those around you can help create a more supportive environment. It can also be helpful to educate yourself about the health benefits of a plant-based diet so that you can answer any questions that might come up. The bottom line is that there are many barriers to going vegan or plant-based, but none of them is insurmountable.
Next week on the blog...
Next week we will discuss how to eat healthy plant-based food on a budget. Stay tuned!