What do we mean?

Plant-based foods are those containing no animal products.

A Plant-based diet on the other hand is a diet that is based mostly on plant-derived foods and their products (including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans), but can also contain limited animal products, which is where it differs from a vegan diet which would contain no animal products.

Click on the image below to hear from Whistler local Julia Murray- Olympian, Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Vegan Chef

Planetary Health Diet

Why the focus on plant-based recipes?

Ensuring the future of global food security will require changes in the way we produce our food as well as in what we eat. Increased consumption of protein-rich plants, such as soy and legumes, could be part of the solution, but more intriguing options may also appear on supermarket shelves. Plant-based meat substitutes, insects, algae, and lab-grown meat are claimed to be as nutritious as meat, but their production could use the earth’s natural resources more sustainably.

Check out: Surprising sources of protein that are not animal products

Currently in order to sustain our diets, global food systems are over-exploiting the earth’s limited supplies of fresh water, disrupting fertile lands and destroying entire forests. It is estimated that nearly 60% of the world’s ecosystems are already degraded or used unsustainably. Livestock production methods are considered one of the main drivers of environmental damage, including climate change and biodiversity loss.

Imagine having to produce 70% more food than we do today with fewer natural resources available. That is the predicted scenario for 2050 as the world’s population is expected to grow by 34%, to around 9 billion humans. Global diets are becoming increasingly "Westernised" and that trend is anticipated to continue.

In order for our food systems to meet future demands for food and protein in a sustainable way the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggests we need to achieve two very important things:

  • Firstly, our systems need to produce food that is both nutritious and safe in quantities sufficient to feed the entire globe.

  • Secondly, it must be done in ways that will allow the earth’s limited resources to sustain food production in the future.

FAO defines sustainable diets as ‘diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations’.

In short, people in developed countries, and those who appear to be transitioning to more western-like diets in developing countries, are eating too much red meat, saturated fat, processed foods and not enough natural foods high in nutrients and fibre. 'Western diets' are not just bad for our health; they are also disastrous for the planet.

Here's some facts and figures:

Contribution to Greenhouse Gas Emissions

In high-income countries, 25% of GHG emissions are related to the production of our food and more than 50% of these emissions are caused by meat and dairy farming, with beef and lamb being the worst offenders.

It is understood that if people switched to healthier, more plant-based diets, we could halve the greenhouse gas emissions of our food system.

Many countries have government-issued guidelines for healthy eating. In Canada we have Canada's Food Guide which recommends 50% of our diet is composed of fruits and vegetables, 25% of whole grain foods, and the final 25% consisting of proteins. It recommends choosing protein foods that come from plants more often, stating that "Plant-based protein foods can provide more fibre and less saturated fat than other types of protein foods. This can be beneficial for your heart health."

This is very close to the 'Planetary Health Diet'. A diet designed to meet those goals of both a healthy diet and a sustainable diet. The EAT-Lancet Commission had 37 experts work for 3 years analysing the best available data from around the world, resulting in this diet. In this diet, no more than 3.5% of the diet should be sourced from animal protein, compared to the 12% from plant protein sources, and dairy shouldn't contribute to more than 4% of the total diet. 50% should be consumed in the form of fruits and vegetables, 17% in the form of carbohydrates such as whole grains like bread, rice and pasta, 1% in the form of starchy vegetables like potatoes, 3% from sugars and 9.5% of the diet from unsaturated fats such as those contained in olive/vegetable oils, avocado, nuts & seeds.

If everybody switched to this diet, it is believed that global GHG emissions would be reduced by 60% (50%-80% depending on the country) and premature deaths would decrease by 19%.

Deforestation and the extinction of our fish populations

Today by area, agriculture accounts for the largest land use, taking up 50% of all habitable land surface. 77% of this agricultural land is dedicated to the growing of livestock (meat and dairy), which includes grazing land for animals and arable land used for the production of feed for those animals. The remaining 23% of agricultural land is farmed for crops for direct human consumption.

Since the early 1900's, forests have been halved in area. This has devastated natural ecosystems and biodiversity and released huge quantities of carbon to the atmosphere that was once locked up inside trees. By choosing to eat less meat and other animal products we can decrease demand on the animal agriculture industry and slow the deforestation associated with it.


The End of The Line - Available to watch on Waterbear and Youtube

Seaspiracy - Available to watch on Netflix

Cowspiracy - Available to watch on Netflix

Resources to help eat more plant-based

80/20 Plants - Plant-based coaching service

Meatless Monday Campaign - Sign up to try going plant-based for one day each week with the support of a multitude of "Meatless Monday" resources

Veganuary Campaign - Sign up to try going plant-based for the month of January with the support of a multitude of "Veganuary" resources, which are also available year-round on their website

Vegan Supply - 100% plant-based grocery store with locations in Vancouver (Chinatown) and South Surrey as well as online

PlantX - 100% plant-based grocery store located in Squamish as well as online

The Green Moustache - 100% plant-based cafe and zero waste market with locations in Whistler, Function Junction, Squamish and North Vancouver

Happy Cow - App and website providing information and locations for plant-based and vegetarian-friendly restaurants and cafes in your area

What do I need to consider when avoiding animal products whilst shopping?

There are many products we consume in our everyday life that are what we can call "accidentally plant-based". These are products that don't usually use any form of animal product anyway but don't necessarily label themselves as plant-based or vegan. Think along the lines of some types of dried pasta products, breads, pickled foods, fruits and vegetables (obviously), grains, (high percentage cocoa) dark chocolate, some sauces, dressings & spreads, soy sauce, vinegars, crackers, crisps, dips... the list goes on.

And sometimes there are products that have rarely-known links to the use of animal products, usually in their refining and filtering processes, and there are a LOT that use milk products to affect the texture of a product also.

Here are just a few common ingredients that might not be so obvious that their inclusion renders a product non-plant-based:


Some brands of cane sugar may be filtered with bone char.

Bone char (or natural carbon) is made from the bones of cattle, and is widely used by the sugar industry as a decolourizing filter, allowing the sugar cane to achieve its desirable white colour. Other types of filters that are used involve granular carbon or an ion-exchange system rather than bone char.

Brown sugar is created by simply adding molasses to refined sugar, so companies that use bone char in the production of their regular sugar also use it in the production of their brown sugar. Confectioner’s sugar — refined sugar mixed with cornstarch — made by these companies also involves the use of bone char. Fructose may, but does not typically, involve a bone-char filter.

It appears most Canadian sugar is free of bone char but for one major Canadian brand, Roger's. Depending on which factory the sugar has been processed in will dictate whether bone char has been used in the filtering process.

Bone char is used only at the Vancouver cane refinery. It is not used at the sugar beet factory in Taber, Alberta, or in Montreal’s cane refinery.

All products under the Lantic trademark are free of bone char. For the products under the Rogers trademark, all Taber sugar beet products are also free of bone char. In order to differentiate the Rogers Taber beet products from the Vancouver cane products, you can verify the inked-jet code printed on the product. Products with the code starting with the number “22” are from Taber, Alberta, while products with the code starting with the number “10” are from Vancouver.

If you want to avoid all refined sugars, there are alternatives such as sucanat and turbinado sugar, which are not filtered with bone char. Additionally, beet sugar — though normally refined — never involves the use of bone char.

Gelatin and Gelatin Products

Protein obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones in water. From cows and pigs. Used as a thickener for fruit gelatins and puddings (e.g. Jell-O). In candies, marshmallows, cakes, ice cream, yogurts. Sometimes used to assist in “clearing” wines and in vitamins as a coating and as capsules.

Isinglass in Beer and Wine

A form of gelatin prepared from the internal membranes of fish bladders. Sometimes used in “clearing” wines and in foods.

L. Cysteine in Bread Products

Also known as bread improver, flour agent, dough conditioner or additive e910, e920 and e921, is used in dough production. It strengthens the gluten and feeds the yeast, which yields a more reliable loaf and shortens the production time of baked goods. L-Cysteine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that is made from either duck feathers, hog hair or human hair.

Whey in Bread and Sweets

A serum from milk. Usually in cakes, cookies, candies, and breads. Used in cheesemaking.

Casein or Milk Byproducts

Milk protein. In “nondairy” creamers, soy cheese, many cosmetics, hair preparations, beauty masks. Alternatives: soy protein, soy milk, and other vegetable milks.

Lactic Acid

Typically derived from plants such as beets. When animal-derived, found in blood and muscle tissue. Also in sour milk, beer, sauerkraut, pickles, and other food products made by bacterial fermentation.

Read more about this:

Animal derived ingredients - PETA

An article by The Guardian about Unusual food ingredients