Good intentions are a great starting point for anyone who dreams of going vegetarian, but transitioning to a plant-based diet, in practice, can be a challenge for some of us. Kristie Middleton's new book MeatLess: Transform the way you eat and live--one meal at a time, is the helpful guide that any newbie herbivore (or wannabe vegetarian) could benefit from while shifting toward a healthier, more compassionate and environmentally friendly lifestyle. Kristie took time out of her busy schedule to talk with us, and to offer delicious morsels from her book to get the meatless party started.
Kristie, congratulations on your first book! Tell us, who should definitely pick up a copy right away?
First, thank you so much for the opportunity—I love the magazine!
As for the book, maybe you’ve heard, “I could be vegetarian, but I love burgers,” or “I could be vegan if only I didn’t have to give up cheese.” Or maybe you thought it yourself. I’ve heard it. And I said it, too, years ago.
In my work every day for The Humane Society of the United States I help schools, hospitals, and universities with programs like Meatless Monday. I’ve encountered so many people who appreciated that foot in the door approach, who felt like going vegetarian or vegan was overwhelming, but reducing meat consumption was doable. This book is for them and the millions of people who want to take that first step. It encourages people to start with what feels comfortable, gives them the info on how it’s better for their health, animals, and the planet, addresses common obstacles to change and provides tips for overcoming them, and finishes up with some of my favorite recipes.
What makes this topic--reducing meat and dairy consumption--so important right now?
Our diets have an impact on so many things: our health, the planet, and animals. For me and many others, not contributing to animal cruelty is important. Every second 285 animals are slaughtered in the U.S. and they endure unimaginable suffering before slaughter.
At the same time, animal agribusiness depletes precious natural resources and is a large contributor of greenhouse gas emissions leading to global warming and irreversible damage to our planet. The situation is dire.
Our healthcare costs are through the roof. The obesity epidemic is expected to continue to rise and with it, high rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes – the leading killers in the U.S. which have been linked to our diets heavy in animal-based foods.
Reducing meat and dairy consumption can help address these important concerns. Fortunately it seems the concept is more popular than ever with mainstream publications saying meat-free eating is a growing trend. People Magazine said, “Going Meatless” is a top trend for 2017!
What are some of the misconceptions you've encountered about eating a plant-based diet?
A concern I often hear is around cost. What I’ve learned, and many others have too, is that eating plant-based can not only be lighter on the planet and our bodies, but our wallets too.
A study published in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition found that a family of four that eats three meat-free meals per week can save $1500 annually!
When you think about it, it makes sense: beans and grains require fewer inputs than animal foods. Plus, you can buy them in bulk.
Of course if we exclusively eat the most expensive veggie burgers and artisan nut cheeses and shop at the most expensive natural food stores we may not reap this benefit. We can save more by shopping at mainstream grocers. Even Walmart offers loads of meatless foods.
Can you give us one or two suggestions from the book for helping us transition toward a more animal- and earth-friendly diet?
Anyone who has ever dieted will acknowledge that change is difficult. A huge factor is our community-—our eating habits largely influenced by those around us. We can make it easier by rallying the herd, so enlist your family and friends to join you. Plus your impacts will be multiplied!
It’s also helpful to make the change a part of your identity. We make many decisions based on the kind of person we believe ourselves to be, so decide why you’re doing this (you want to be healthy, you want to help animals, etc.), then when making eating decisions, ask yourself, “What would someone like me (an animal lover, a healthy person, an environmentalist, etc.) eat in this situation?”
What does a typical day look like in terms of what you eat? We'd love to hear your personal take on breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I love to eat and cook, but on busy weekdays, breakfasts and lunch are pretty straightforward. Quick cooking steel-cut oats cooked with a banana and topped with nuts and a hint of agave are my Monday-Friday breakfasts. Lunch is often a hearty rice bowl with piled high with vegetables and beans and topped with avocado. Dinner is where I get more creative: lentil shepherd’s pie, kabocha squash and tofu red curry over steamed rice, and vegetable fajitas with Spanish rice are a sampling of this week’s dinners.
My favorite though, is making breakfast on the weekends. You can usually find me whipping up a waffles, blueberry pancakes, or biscuits and gravy on any given weekend morning.
In his glowing recommendation, Sir Paul McCartney mentions MeatLess's "exciting recipes." This really pricked up our ears! Can you give us a little teaser?
Who doesn’t love good food? In MeatLess, I offer some of my favorites like Very Berry Scones, Banana Walnut Pancakes, Golden Country Biscuits and Gravy, and Split Pea Soup. I’m so fortunate that Culinary Institute of America-trained Chef Alex Bury of Vegan Outreach also shared some of her favorite recipes like Vegetable Bisque, Maple Corn Muffins, Chocolate Pecan Pie, and many more.
OK--we're sold! Before we order our own copies of MeatLess, can you tell us about what kind of personal transformations we might experience once we begin eliminating animal foods from our diets?
There’s ample evidence that eating more plant-based food and less animal-based food is better for our health. In MeatLess, I share stories from inspiring individuals who have made the switch to an all or mostly plant-based diet and dramatically improved their health. Some, like my friend Ken Chadwick, lost over 100 pounds and was able to stop taking his blood pressure and cholesterol medicines. Others, like “300 pound vegan” David Carter, were able to heal sports injuries. Anthony Williams found it helped him become more involved in his meal planning, food preparation, and explore new foods.
Ken Chadwick said it best: “It’s nowhere near as hard as you think it is. It’s far more enjoyable than you think it is. If I tell you the benefits, you won’t believe me, so try it so you can see for yourself.”
"Ask yourself, 'What would someone like me (an animal lover, a healthy person, an environmentalist, etc.) eat in this situation?'"
"Our diets have an impact on so many things: our health, the planet, and animals."
"In MeatLess, I share stories from inspiring individuals who have made the switch to an all or mostly plant-based diet and dramatically improved their health. Some, like my friend Ken Chadwick, lost over 100 pounds and was able to stop taking his blood pressure and cholesterol medicines."
MeatLess will be in stores and available online on March 20, 2017. Pre-order a copy for yourself or someone you love today!