No longer the territory of the long-haired and barefoot, plant-based and vegetarian diets are now firmly in the mainstream, thanks to research and studies that attest to their health and environmental benefits, and advocates ranging from superstar athletes and celebrities to politicians and activists — and that one friend who’s always ready to preach the benefits of going green.
Carnivores will be happy to hear that this trend is not all five-a-day and no fun. Whereas vegetarians maintain a strict no-meat policy, plant-based eaters are more flexible, and plant-based diets vary based on the amount of animal products consumed. According to Kaiser Permanente, the largest healthcare organisation in the US, a plant-based diet is one that ‘emphasises plant foods in their whole, unprocessed form, such as vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts, whole grains, and small amounts of healthy fats’.
So you don’t necessarily have to give up your favourite burger or barbecue fare in favour of spinach and celery — meat-free Monday is just one example of a small change that can have a big impact, and plant-based eating is more about being mindful of what you’re consuming and making conscious choices to eat better for your health and the environment. But of course, the increase in enticing plant-based food options in supermarkets and restaurants, drool-worthy plant-based recipes online and all over social media, and growing plant-based eating communities make it easier to green your diet than ever before.
Green Monday, a Hong Kong-based organisation that promotes healthy and sustainable living, recently conducted its 2018 Hong Kong Vegetarian Habit Survey, which revealed that just below 25 per cent of the city’s population identifies as ‘flexitarian’, i.e. they’re primarily vegetarian but occasionally eat meat or fish. It also found that the ratio of ‘hardcore meat lovers’ in the city dropped by more than 10 per cent in just four years. Another study predicts that in China the vegan market is expected to grow by 17 per cent by 2020, the fastest growth rate in the world. Internationally, restaurant consultancy group Baum + Whiteman named plant-based eating one of the top trends in their annual report for the second year in a row.
According to Sonalie Figueiras, founder & editor-in-chief of local eco-wellness media platform Green Queen, there are several reasons behind the global rise in plant-based diets. ‘I think we can attribute the rise in awareness to factors such as global warming and its connection to our diet, and the increasing links between meat and dairy and diet-related diseases. Behind all this awareness change is social media — the visual nature of how younger generations consume their news has accelerated the importance and credibility of the issues that surround moving towards a plant-based diet. I think most people start to explore a more plant-heavy diet because of health reasons, but I believe that eventually they make the connection between diet and environment, and diet and animal rights.’