You don’t have to be vegan or vegetarian to enjoy a great plant-based dish.

“People who are shifting to more plant-based (eating) have options. You’ve got colour, flavour, and nutrition,” says Marie Crawford, Manager at Lazy Tulip Café in Barrie.

More people are turning to vegan and vegetarian options for a number of reasons including how food is being marketed, environmental and sustainability concerns, and social media influences.

“People are struggling with their health in our largely sedentary, processed, modern world, and they are looking for ways to feel and look better. Whole food and plant-based can be a good way to do this for many people who are inherently undernourished and eating processed foods,” says Amy De Wolfe, Owner of Renegade Health Bar in Barrie.

When you incorporate a variety of nutritional foods into your everyday meals, it adds zest to boring dishes that need a little flare to make them interesting and flavourful again.

“Plant-based diets are an amazing way to cleanse and reset poor dietary habits. Regardless of one’s overall diet, adding more vegetables is a huge foundational block to health, which is why we’ve adopted a Flexitarian outlook. Whether someone wants to be completely plant-based, or they just want to try meatless Mondays, we love showing people how delicious and fun it can be to eat more veggies,” adds De Wolfe.

Many vegan and vegetarian dishes are plant-based versions of common favourites including wraps, sandwiches, burgers, salads, tacos, and smoothies.

“We make bacon out of rice paper. Pulled pork with jackfruit. Heart of palm for crab cakes. In terms of texture, they make great substitutes. We season the same as anything else,” explains Laura Skelding, Owner of Shine Juice Bar & Café in Orillia.

Vegetarians and vegans don’t eat meat, and vegans also avoid most animal-based products such as dairy – milk, yogurt, cheese, and eggs.

“We’ve been vegetarian since day one. Our gourmet veggie burger is one of our signature items. We make sandwiches, wraps, grilled cheese, salads, pizza, and fresh-cut fries. We’re still pub style, but with a vegetarian twist. We have some vegan options too and can take off the goat cheese and butter to make our gourmet veggie burger vegan,” says Darren Gallagher, Manager of Brewery Bay Food Co. in Orillia.

Making healthier choices when eating out can also be challenging for other dietary restrictions such as gluten-free nutritional needs.

“Our restaurant is 100% plant-based. Anyone can eat here. We’re vegan, gluten-free, and cater to a lot of allergies,” informs Skelding.

Image courtesy of Ella Olsson

It takes some creativity, but there’s plenty of ingredients to select at local food markets for plant-based cooking. It’s also important to include protein in vegan and vegetarian dishes.
“The amount of vegan and vegetarian options at the grocery store outweigh the meat options. One of our popular dishes is our Buddha Bowl. It’s a quinoa-based bowl with lots of protein,” says Crawford.

Soon we can look forward to more locally grown produce to make some delicious vegan and vegetarian meals.

Lazy Tulip Café, Barrie

Brewery Bay Food Co., Orillia

Shine Juice Bar & Café, Orillia

Renegade Health Bar, Barrie

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