Tips for making your holidays plant-based

Tips for making your holidays plant-based

Holidays provide a special opportunity to try out new plant-based traditions, adapt your favourites, or continue ones that have been in your family for a long time. Keep reading for tips and suggestions from Plant University volunteers and supporters on how to make your holiday deliciously plant-based.

Submissions have been edited for grammar and clarity.

The holidays are full of good food which can all be made compassionately. We start with baking and decorating holiday cookies and sweet treats to share. Our new neighbours are Italian, so this year we found a delicious vegan biscotti and almond cookie recipe to make for them. We also have a few traditions for our Christmas meals. My daughter makes the best vegan cinnamon rolls – the recipe was adopted from our favourite local plant-based bakery To Live For. They are accompanied with a berry platter recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi I vegan-ized by substituting labneh for Yoggu plant-based yogurt.
Our Christmas day dinner is completely plant-based. Guests bring a plant-based dish to share so the menu changes every year, but some consistent dishes we serve are puffed pastry filled with mushrooms, lentils, and onions and broccoli, cannelini beans, and vegan cheese for the kids version. We also have mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts with cranberry and walnuts,  green beans with lemons, and dinner rolls. 
Plant-based meals can be intimidating at first but once you break it down, they can be completely nourishing, fulfilling, simple, leaving your belly and your heart full.  
For the holidays, I try to appeal to everyone’s dietary restrictions and preferences while keeping everything cruelty free. Beyond beef is a great substitute for ground beef – it’s made with pea protein, has no soy, gluten, GMOs, and is even kosher! I like to make a variety of dishes with it like cabbage rolls, meatballs, lasagna, and meatloaf. For dairy, it’s very easy to swap your favourite recipes with vegan butter and oat milk. Veggie and fruit trays are also a great snack or appetizer that many people can enjoy. Happy holiday hosting!
Monica Hiller
You can be really creative with food during the holidays. I love helping my family make their favourite recipes like hamburgers and enchiladas with plant-based products like Yves. Chips and guacamole are a great snack to bring family together. My family also really likes making tacos as they’re very easy to make plant-based. We replace the meat with foods such as beans, tofu, vegan chorizo with cilantro and tomato sauce – delicious!
Brian J
I make roasted potatoes with rosemary and balsamic vinegar, Gardein stuffed not turkey, vegan gravy, Brussels sprouts, and carrots, and yorkshire pudding made with plant-based milk and egg substitute.
Sue McCaskill
I like The Very Good Butchers Stuffed Beast, mashed potatoes, roasted carrots and Brussels sprouts. Oh, and vegan gravy and whole cranberries.
Phylis Brown
I make a big vegan dinner and try at least one new recipe every year. I make vegan desserts and hot chocolate too! My fave roast to make is the Tofurky ham roast! But I don’t like the ale glaze it comes with so I make my own glaze with maple syrup, cinnamon, and brown sugar!
Melissa Viau
Slowly & gently melt 3 Lindt 90% chocolate bars (broken into pieces) in top of a double boiler: stir in rough-chopped pistachio nuts, dried cranberries, and a bunch of fresh orange zest: spread mixture on a non-stick cookie sheet: press flat, cool until set. Break it up. This is called holiday bark. What’s not to love!
Susan J Broatch
We have plant-based ‘eggnog’, all the trimmings, just no turkey. We don’t miss a thing!
Jill Sonia
I make beet wellington instead of turkey.

Bonus tip: Wanting to take your plant-based holiday to the next level? Consider donating to a vegan or animal organization – you can even do so as a gift for a loved one!

For more plant-based holiday inspiration, check out this episode of the Vancouver Humane Society’s podcast, The Informed Animal Ally, about adapting to the holidays as a vegan!

Podcast: Adapting to the holidays as a vegan

Go to our recipe library!

Check out PlantUniversity’s original recipe library for more delicious plant-based meal and snack ideas.

Eating habits pose a problem for fish

Eating habits pose a problem for fish

A tuna swimming in the ocean with more tuna in the background

You’ve probably heard somewhere that goldfish have only a three-second memory.

Like so many of the “facts” about fish that have been widely accepted for decades, it’s not true. It’s also symbolic of the many misconceptions humans have about the estimated 3.5 trillion fish with whom we share the planet.

It turns out fish can not only remember things; they can plan, use tools, socialize and play. They are far more intelligent than previously thought and, more importantly, they are sentient. They can experience feelings such as fear, frustration, comfort and enjoyment. They can feel pain.

Sadly, these complex and misunderstood animals are in trouble; and our society’s appetite for fish and other animal-based food products is largely to blame.

This World Oceans Day, let’s explore some of the ways fish are harmed by eating habits—and what we can do about it.

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Fish farming

Industrial fishing

Agricultural runoff

How you can help

Alternatives to eating fish

Fish farming

A fish farm in British Columbia

Fish farming, also known as aquaculture, has been referred to as the factory farms of the sea. That’s because farm-raised fish are kept in crowded conditions without enrichment where they cannot engage in their natural behaviours.

Fish raised in fish farms are subjected to intense stress that leaves them vulnerable to disease. To prevent disease, fish farms depend heavily on antibiotics, which can contribute to drug-resistant infections in humans.

Farmed fish aren’t the only ones who suffer due to aquaculture, though. Naturally carnivorous fish like salmon, halibut, and tuna are typically fed diets made with fish meal and fish oils. The antibiotics and waste from fish farms can seep into the surrounding water, impacting the local ecosystem. Fish farms can spread disease to wild fish. Most First Nations in B.C. oppose open net fish farming, citing the harms they cause to wild fish populations.

Farmed fish account for about 20% of Canada’s seafood production.

Content warning

The following video contains graphic scenes depicting the inhumane conditions and slaughter of farmed fish.

Industrial fishing

Fish caught in a net from a commercial fishing boat

To meet the world’s growing demand for fish, the commercial fishing industry uses methods that result in massive losses of marine life. Methods include:

  • Bottom trawling: a large net with heavy weights is dragged across the seafloor, scooping up everything in its path and damaging sensitive marine habitats.
  • Longlining: Boats use lines that can extend for up to 50 miles, with thousands of baited hooks branching off from the main line.  

It has been estimated that between 0.79 and 2.3 trillion fish are caught globally from the wild each year (2007-2016). According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), more than 34 per cent of fish in the world’s marine fisheries were classified as overfished and nearly 90 per cent of the world’s so-called marine fish stocks are now fully exploited, overexploited or depleted.

An estimated 80 fish species have gone extinct in recent centuries and more than 3000 are threatened with extinction.

Industrial fishing methods also result in bycatch, the unintentional capture of non-target species such as dolphins, sea turtles and diving birds. Animals unintentionally caught in nets often die by suffocation, starvation, or drowning.

Agricultural runoff

An animal agriculture feedlot seen from above

The animal agriculture industry is a major source of ocean pollution. Manure from animals raised for food and pesticides used to grow animal feed can make their way into our earth’s waterways with each rainfall.

Agricultural runoff can lead to the overgrowth of algae, which then decomposes and depletes the water of oxygen. Fish, who cannot survive in oxygen-depleted water, either die or move elsewhere to compete for increasingly scarce territory and resources.

In 2017, the meat industry was criticized for causing what is now considered the world’s second-largest ocean dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

How you can help fish

School of fish underwater

By shifting to a plant-based diet, you can directly save about 348 fish lives each year! This includes fish who are caught or farmed for eating and those used as feed for farmed fish. Eating more plant-based foods also decreases the demand for industrial land animal agriculture and fish farms, two major contributors of ocean pollution that harm wild fish and other marine life.

Alternatives to eating fish

PlantUniversity’s Recipe Library has plenty of tasty meals and snacks, including plant-based versions of fish foods!

Try this tasty Chickpea Salad Sandwich for some quick and easy lunches, or use this clever Vegan “Fish” Sauce in a mouth-watering Pad Thai!

You can also take the Plant-Based Pledge to receive free weekly recipes straight to your inbox. Each week you’ll receive a unique and delicious recipe, like this Sticky Garlic Vegan “Salmon”, just in time for Meatless Monday.

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Understanding meat alternatives

Understanding meat alternatives

Featured author: Jessica Wang
Jessica Wang is a registered dietitian based in Vancouver and the North Shore.

A 2018 survey from Dalhousie University found that there are 2.3 million vegetarians and 850,000 vegans in Canada, with the majority living in British Columbia! Luckily, numerous companies now offer a variety of plant-based meat alternatives that mimic the taste and texture of various meats.

About meat alternative products:

Meat alternatives are convenient, quick and easy to prepare. Most of them are sold as ready to cook and serve from frozen, making it super easy to whip up a quick meal. Unlike raw meat, you typically don’t have to worry about cooking these products to a food safe temperature.  But, always make sure to check the package for instructions on how to properly heat up the product.

The goal for someone transitioning into plant-based eating is to have most of your diet centered primarily around unprocessed whole foods, like choosing legumes, beans, tofu, tempeh, nuts and seeds as your main source of protein. This also means leaving meat alternative products as treats at your next summer BBQ or that tofurkey roast at holidays for health purposes and also because they can be a bit more expensive if eaten regularly.

Plant-based diets are more environmentally friendly compared to diets rich in animal products. Plant production uses fewer natural resources, putting less strain on the environment. Meat production requires 7 times more land than a plant-based diet, and 10-20 times more energy than grain production

Because meat alternatives are made from plant proteins like soy, peas, legumes, and grains, they are usually lower in saturated fat, and higher in dietary fiber. Jessica compared 13 popular brands of plant-based burgers, and saturated fat ranged from 0 –8g per patty, with 10 out of the 13 brands containing 5g or less, and fiber was between 0-13g per patty. A diet higher in fibre and lower in saturated fat can be beneficial for heart health. Nearly all brands also provided a good amount of iron, zinc and B-vitamins, which are nutrients normally found in meat. By incorporating plant-based meat options more often, you’re able to support both the health of the planet, and yourself. See the infographic in this post for more health and nutritional information between the plant-based burgers Jessica compared.

What are these products made with?

There are four main types of plant-based proteins commonly used in meat alternatives:

Whole foods based products:

These products are typically made with legumes, like lentils and beans, whole grains, and a variety of veggies. These products are also usually highest in fiber. Coastie is a local Vancouver company that offers plant-based burger mixes made with whole, organic ingredients like peas, beans, seeds, and oats. They use sustainable glass jar packaging and can even deliver the product to your door!

Gluten-based products:

These products are made from gluten, the protein in wheat products (commonly seen as vital wheat gluten, textured wheat protein, or wheat gluten on ingredient lists). Brands that use gluten as the primary protein source include Field Roast, Tofurkey, TMRW Foods, and The Very Good Butchers. Based in Victoria, B.C., The Very Good Butchers offer a range of meat alternatives including burgers, ground meat, holiday roasts, sausages, bacon, ribs, steak, chicken, and hotdogs. Note that any product made with gluten is not suitable for those with celiac disease or wheat allergy.

Soy-based proteins:

These products are derived from soybeans. You may see this listed as soy protein concentrate or isolate, but it still means the product is based from soybeans. Brands that use soy protein as a base include Gardein, Yves, Morning Star, Impossible Burger, and Happy Veggie World.

Pea-based proteins:

These products are derived from the split pea and are also listed as pea protein concentrate or isolate. Beyond Meat, Lightlife, and Modern Meats are a few brands that use peas.

Some brands may also include a combination of these protein sources, for example Wholly Veggie, Big Mountain Foods and Sol Cuisine.

Many companies offer a variety of options like ground crumbles, burgers and sausages.  Any ground or crumbled product, like Beyond Meat, Lightlife, and TMRW can easily be seasoned and turned into taco filling, meatballs, as a topping on nachos, or in place of ground beef in tomato sauce or chili.  Some crumbles come pre-seasoned, like Coastie offering Mexican and Indian inspired flavours. Burgers and sausages are typically already seasoned, so all you need to do is throw them onto a grill, cook them on the stove top, or in the oven. Once cooked, sausages can be incorporated into a pasta bake, veggie breakfast skillet, a topping on pizza, between a bun or sprinkled onto a salad.

There are so many ways to get creative with these products, offering opportunities to explore new foods and flavours – whether you’re new to cooking, or experienced. Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, or looking for ways to introduce more meatless meals into your life, plant-based meat alternatives can have a place in your diet. With their increasing popularity, many brands can be found at your local grocery store. Next time you’re there, pick one up and give it a try!

Check out the video library on our PlantU Platform for more educational content about the benefits of a plant-based diet.

Watch a video about meat alternatives

Compare plant-based burgers