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When I started practicing yoga, I had no idea how much it would affect my life.
After two years of practicing asana, I started to dabble in the spiritual.
My diet relied on killing animals and used far too many resources for it to align with those precepts. So I gradually weaned myself off of meat, eggs, dairy, and all other animal products to better align my lifestyle with my beliefs.
While some might interpret ahimsa differently, my decision to go vegan was completely my own, and I’ve honestly never felt better.
Now, I can’t wait to share my transformation with others and help them make more sustainable, and often healthier, food swaps.
Here are just a few of the many simple substitutes I’ve made:
1. Oat Milk for Almond Milk
Before I had even considered practicing yoga, I’d already phased out regular old milk. After learning that a glass of it produces nearly three times as many greenhouse gases as vegan options, I made the switch to almond milk. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered almond milk to be a poor alternative.
This plant-based option requires more water than any other kind of vegan milk, with a single glass requiring a whopping 130 pints. In light of recent water shortages, I decided to swap my milk yet again. This time, however, I chose oat milk, which has a much smaller environmental impact. Unlike almonds, there are plenty of oats to go around, and they require much less watering than nuts and dairy cows. Not to mention, oat milk is delicious.
2. Seafood for Meat (and eventually No Meat at All)
Humans slaughter 80 billion animals a year for meat, the production of which uses 77 percent of global farming land, while only yielding 18 percent of the world’s calories. This imbalance alone was enough to make me rethink eating foods like steak and bacon. Eventually, I transitioned to eating no meat at all.
Swapping seafood for meat was incredibly helpful during those first few months. I recommend that anyone who wants or needs animal protein in their diet try this strategy too. Seafood is one of the healthiest animal protein options, as well as one of the most sustainable if you source it correctly. You can find sustainably sourced products online or at your local grocery store.
3. Sunflower Oil for Palm Oil
Cooking oil is tricky because using butter and most varieties are rather unsustainable due to their high water consumption. However, if you frequently use cooking oil, you should definitely ditch palm oil and use sunflower or safflower oil instead.
Palm oil is responsible for rainforest deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia, destroying animal habitats and putting some species in danger. Burning, a common method for clearing natural forest vegetation, also contributes to carbon emissions and air pollution. Sunflower and safflower crops, on the other hand, are generally GMO-free and require less water.
4. Tofu for Eggs
Giving up ooey-gooey eggs was one of the toughest parts of going vegan. However, if you primarily enjoy your eggs scrambled, substituting tofu for eggs is an excellent way to make another sustainable swap in the kitchen.
Tofu is right down there with beans, peas, and nuts, all of which have the lowest carbon footprint, especially when you compare average emissions. This soybean product also contains less saturated fat and more iron than eggs. All that’s standing between you and vegan eggs is five minutes and a few simple ingredients.
5. Millet for Rice
Rice is a staple food for more than 3.5 billion people around the world so, if you can’t imagine giving up rice, don’t worry. This food isn’t the worst thing you can eat. However, its production does require a significant amount of water. Therefore, if the option is available, you might choose millet over rice.
This grain is incredibly drought resistant and rich in dietary fiber, both soluble and insoluble. It also contains a prebiotic, which supports good gut health. Use millet anywhere you’d use rice and you’re sure to enjoy a subtle nutty flavor and plenty of protein.
A Holistic Approach
Of course, diet plays a huge role in creating more sustainable habits. However, it’s important to take a holistic approach and look for other ways you might make your kitchen more eco-friendly.
Swap pre-packaged produce for fresh fruits and vegetables. Use beeswax wraps instead of plastic wrap and replace the single-use coffee cups with reusable ones. These swaps might be small, but they’ll culminate in a powerful way and truly make a difference for the planet.
Just remember to do what’s right for you. You don’t have to become a vegan, like me, to make a huge impact.
After all, the most sustainable cook is the one who’s able to stick to her eco-friendly habits, so take it slow.
This is a journey of a lifetime.