Let’s get one thing clear up front. There’ll be no list of eat this, not that foods here. There are countless foods that are ‘good for you’, and there are lists of good food everywhere; you don’t need another. Instead, let’s get into the ‘what’ — what makes a food good?
If you’re reading this while it’s hot off the press, check in with us on Instagram. We’ve teamed up with Botanica to bring you a closer look at the foods we eat and what we think good food really is. We’re sharing some of our meal choices for the weekend, right through to the end of the week.
Good Food — My AHA Moment
Back in November 2017, after our cooking demo at the Montreal Vegan Festival, someone asked me where I get my protein. It was an honest, genuine question from someone interested and eager to learn more. I think I replied something like ‘I dunno, beans?’. It was at that moment that it occurred to me that I didn’t really know a thing about food. I knew why I went vegan, but I didn’t actually know what it meant I was choosing to eat, only what I was committing not to eat.
So here I am, 2 years vegan, only now getting proactive about making good food choices. But what does that even mean? What makes a food ‘good’?
Tip #1: Health — Eat the Rainbow
Be mindful of what the food you eat does to your health.
Good food is colourful and vibrant. Full of vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and naturally occurring nutrients. Key word, naturally occurring — Ideally not processed and fortified after the fact. Don’t get me wrong, there’s room in my diet for processed food, because that’s what I’ve decided I’m ok with, but regular and abundant servings of naturally occurring green, purple, red, orange, and other colours are important.
There’s value in adding greens, protein powder, and supplements to your food routine. They can be beneficial to achieve fitness goals and meet minimum recommended daily intakes in areas where you might be lacking. Just remember that they shouldn’t be your diet, they should complement it. A strong foundation of whole foods is critical.
If you know me at all, you’re thinking ‘but Chris, you eat plenty of junk’. You’d be right. Apple Fritters, for example, are a favourite of mine. A cinnamon sugar and dough mixture, deep fried, and glazed with more sugar. Not exactly whole, unrefined, vibrant food. So if I ask myself, is that ‘good’ food? Well it’s delicious and it’s technically plant-based, but deep fried and high in refined sugar. Thinking about my health, the short answer is ‘no’, but I have no ethical problem with them and assuming the ingredients were sustainably sourced, I have no environmental qualms.
The moral is that you can have treats, buy you should focus on eating an abundance of vibrant, nutrient rich foods.
Tip #2: Environment — Ditch the Meat
Be mindful of what the food you eat does to the planet.
The production of meat has devastating effects on the environment. It’s one of the leading causes of pollution, and ultimately, climate change. Did you know that 4 million hectares of forest are cleared in South America every year? To make room for the production of soy. Damn vegans and their tofu, right? Wrong.
Because it’s so rich in protein, 70% of the worlds soy is fed to livestock, who need a lot of it to grow as big as they do and meet the unfortunate demand for meat. Only about 6% of soy is processed for human consumption. Stop consuming meat, stop deforestation.
Some of the largest dead zones in the ocean (areas without enough oxygen to support marine life), are the direct result of pollution from animal waste runoff flowing from factory farms. Ditch meat and dairy to reduce your impact on the environment. Good food shouldn’t destroy the planet.
Tip #3: Ethics — For the Animals
Be mindful of what the food you eat does to animals.
Veganism has always been about ethics for Vic and I. Really,‘for the animals’ is our sole mantra for adopting the lifestyle. Or at least it was. It can be overwhelming to bombard yourself with ethics, environment, and health facts all at once. You could take a months long university course on each of those topics and still have lots to learn.
And that’s ok, because mindfulness isn’t knowing everything. It’s about making conscious choices with good intentions, based on what you do know. Let’s use coconut oil as an example. Generally perceived as a good food and obviously vegan, right? But did you know that using chained monkeys to pick coconuts is common? A monkey can pick as many as 1600 coconuts a day, far more than any person. So the practice is common. (For the record, no monkeys are used in harvesting Botanica’s Organic Coconut Oil!) If your coconut oil was harvested by an enslaved monkey is it ‘good’ and is it even vegan?
Mindfulness — You practice it
To be mindful, is to be conscious. To actively make decisions instead of passively going with the flow and giving in to cravings and marketing. We make the best choices we can, with the information we have. It’s easy to shop with only convenience in mind. Individually wrapped single servings, dairy and egg products pushed by spiffy marketing, daily servings of meat to get your protein… Change is hard, and even harder when you feel like you need to relearn everything you were taught about nutrition. To help get past the overwhelm (we’ve been there!), here are some practical tips for mindful nutrition paraphrased from Botanica, who know all about good food!
- Eat the Rainbow — We use that as a hashtag on instagram all the time. Fill your plate or bowl with colourful, vibrant, whole plant-based foods.
- Make a Shopping List — Grocery stores are set up to sell you specific products. Know what your priorities are and stick to them. It’s great practice for your health and your wallet.
- Explore New and Traditional Meals — Go back to some of your childhood favourites or connect with an older family member about some of theirs. Recreate them with ingredients available to you.
- Reflect on What You Eat — Self reflection is a powerful tool in making changes. How does what you eat make you feel? One of my favourite quotes goes something like ‘You’re under no obligation to feel today, the way you felt last year, last month, yesterday, or even a minute ago.’ You can change any time you want.
Visit the Mindful Nutrition Challenge page for a copy to the worksheet.
To get you started, here are a few of our favourite ways to Botanica’s Organic Coconut Oil, other than just in a frying pan. We love it because it’s monkey-friendly! Coconut oil is solid at room temp. You can do some really fun things with it because of that, especially in desserts.
Chocolate Magic Shell
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1-2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
This recipe is easily adjusted. The most important thing is to make equal parts coconut oil and cocoa powder. Sweetener and vanilla are based on your personal taste.
- Melt the coconut with the maple syrup.
- Stir in the vanilla and cocoa powder.
- Hardens quickly on cold desserts! Crack with a spoon and enjoy 🙂
Coconut Blueberry Cashew Cake
- 1/2 cup almonds
- 1/4 cup pitted dates
- 1/4 cup shredded dried coconut
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- pinch of nutmeg
- pinch of salt
— Cake —
- 1 cup blueberries, frozen
- 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked
- 3/4 cup creamed coconut
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- Soak the cashews overnight in water (or in boiling water for about an hour if you’re in a pinch).
- Using a food processor, combine the crust ingredients. Pulse as needed to form a sticky, workable dough. This will take a few minutes. Some dates are dryer than other, so if your mixture is too dry, add a small splash of water.
- Flatten the dough to fill the bottom of your mould (between 6-9 inches). Two layers of parchment paper and a rolling pin work well to keep things from sticking everywhere. You can also make small individual sizes using a silicone mini muffin tray.
- In a blender, combine the cake ingredients until smooth. There should be no chunks.
- Pour the mixture over the crust and tap the pan to level out the mixture and remove any bubbles.
- Freeze the cake for at least 4-5 hours (or overnight). Leave at room temperature about 15 minutes before eating.