A NEW YEAR RESOLUTION THAT’S GOOD FOR YOU AND THE PLANET: As more people turn to plant-based diets, local restaurants adapt with vegan and vegetarian options

Lowering your levels of meat consumption does more than cut calories and decrease your risk of heart disease. Research supports that reducing or eliminating meat from our diets could be an important way to combat the looming environmental crisis—raising beef causes 11 times more greenhouse gas emissions than crops like wheat, rice or potatoes.

But for many, the thought of going meat-free induces unfounded fears of outcomes such as alienation from friends and family or, even worse, collapsing from malnutrition!

If you’ve been watching Netflix’s latest documentary The Game Changers, you know that many of the world’s top athletes have thrived on a plant-based diet – including Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Hollywood heavyweight has taken to social media to discuss the impact of animal agriculture on greenhouse gases, urging followers to “cut down on meat.”

You don’t have to go full vegetarian
to make positive change. There are plenty of ways to up your plant protein without depriving yourself of bacon at Sunday brunch. Like many significant life changes, the key is planning ahead – not just with your grocery shopping (though including protein substitutes such as mushrooms, beans and chickpeas is a great place to start), but also with your plans for eating out.

We are fortunate to have many delicious options to satisfy the vegetarian palette in our own backyards. Olde Village Free House on Main Street in Newmarket is known for their full menu of traditional pub favourites plus a number of homemade vegetarian and vegan dishes. Their Vegetarian Curry is not to be missed! Owner Al Cockburn says “We’re a good example of a restaurant that doesn’t have to specialize in vegetarian to serve delicious, homemade vegetarian dishes.”

Aubergine Kitchen & Bar on Main Street in Newmarket offers Mediterranean cuisine, which includes a mix of Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern and Turkish-inspired dishes. The menu features an array of vegetarian and vegan options, including a falafel plate, wrap or appetizer, eggplant marinara, veggie burger, soups and salads, as well as the Aubergine Chef Special, made of crushed eggplant, tomato, garlic, vinegar and olive oil, served with naan bread.

“We make sure the flavour is excellent – and people tell us so when they try it,” says Eddy Heiner, co-owner and chef of the family-owned business.

“The falafel especially has a very significant flavour that people come back for all the time – and it’s filling.”
Heider explains the options will satisfy all taste buds, including those who are used to a meat-based protein in their diet. “You don’t have to switch your life, just try [a vegetarian dish] one time,” he says. “If you like it, try it once or twice a week.”

This is the approach taken by Lory Devenney, supervisor at Copper Branch, when it came to decreasing the amount of meat she consumed. “I went on a five-day retreat and it was vegetarian. At first I thought, ‘How will I do this?’ But the food was so amazing.”

It was around the time she began making the transition to a vegetarian diet that Devenney started working at Copper Branch in Newmarket – a restaurant dedicated to serving 100% plant-based power food. “Everything is lactose free, and it’s a safe place for people with Celiac Disease,” says Devenney, who is also allergic to dairy and understands how it feels to go to a restaurant that doesn’t have anything you can eat.

Guests at Copper Branch can choose from a variety of power bowls, featuring ingredients such as: edamame salad, kimchi, beets, organic sprouted mung beans and spiced chickpeas with a variety of sauces. “We’re not giving up anything on taste just because it’s vegetarian,” Devenney says. “The chefs are always reinventing the menu.”

The New Copper Burger Deluxe, for example, is made up of a beet patty, with caramelized onions, guacamole, lettuce and Cape Cod kettle-cooked chips. “People think, ‘really, potato chips in a burger?’ But it totally makes the burger,” she says.

The dishes at Copper Branch prove you don’t need to get your protein strictly from meat. “We’re offering full meals. Our protein options are tofu, mushroom and tempeh,” says Devenney. When it comes to including more plant-based meals in your diet, Devenney explains, “It’s all about having options. Take it one day at a time. It’s a process, and you’re doing a great job just for starting.”


Aubergine Kitchen & Bar

Copper Branch

Olde Village Free House

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