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What's all the fuss about "plant-based"?

Looking for a hyped-up term? Look no further than "plant-based".

Concerns about our current food systems and their impact on the environment are becoming more widely discussed, and with good reason! Many of our food system practices are unsustainable, contributing to climate change, the degradation of our soils, and decreasing biodiversity.

Meat and dairy productions have been identified as big players in the greenhouse gas emissions game, sparking increased efforts to promote alternative meat and dairy sources in an attempt to reduce emissions. In addition to environmental impacts, there are also ethical issues being raised that require our consideration before deciding how much of it to we need to consume, if at all.

Michael Pollan, the author of “In defence of food”, summarizes his recommendations as:

Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”.

The idea behind a “plant-based” diet is a solid one, and it goes beyond what its short name is capable of conveying. First and foremost, if suggest eating a diet that comprises of mostly plants, as the name implies. It also suggests that these such plants are not highly processed, and are grown from regenerative agriculture practices. A "plant-based" diet does not mean it is a vegan or vegetarian diet, although it could be.

The original idea of a "plant-based" diet is excellent!

But this is where the green-washing begins.

“Plant-based” is being slapped over every label in the supermarket, from non-dairy ice cream to alternative meat burgers, all to way to toothpaste! What started as a way to help consumers visualize a better way to eat for human and planetary health, has been hijacked by the food industry and distorted to suit their own agenda (hello "organic"). It is also sometimes used interchangeably with “vegan”, although these are NOT the same thing. Like many other health claims at the front of a label, “plant-based” means bugger all.

“Plant-based” foods:

  • are NOT necessarily vegan or vegetarian

  • are NOT necessarily nutritious or healthy

  • are NOT necessarily more nutritious or healthier than the original product

  • are NOT necessarily better for the environment

The "plant-based" label has been misused so many times, that it gives you absolutely NO GUARANTEE that the product is either better for the planet or for your health.

To those of you who are really interested in making food choices that are sustainable and nutritious, but are feeling overwhelmed or don’t know where to start, I have a much simpler solution than to buy into food industry's green-washed offerings or spend hours reading labels at the supermarket. It’s only two steps long:

1. Eat more whole (plant) foods

2. Support your local farmers and food producers

For inspiration on how to go about step 1, look no further! This is what we are all about. Supporting you to eat in a way that is sustainable and healthy for you and the planet! Follow us on Instagram (, read and comment on our blog posts, subscribe to our newsletter and, if in need of individual guidance, book an appointment with me here.

In the Canberra region, you can buy local produce at a farmers market, such as:

I hope to have demystified the “plant-based” hype and piqued your interest in sustainable eating. On my next blog post in the series, we will talk through plant proteins.

Until then,

happy eating!


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