Embracing a Plant-Forward Future: Insights and Practical Tips from the Forward Food Summit

Last month, our team attended the inspiring Food Forward Summit, an event that united food service professionals, health experts, and environmental scholars. The summit, organized by SFU Roots and Humane Society International/Canada, aimed to empower attendees with knowledge and skills to integrate more plant-based foods into their diets and businesses. As dietitians dedicated to supporting diverse nutritional needs, we were excited to gather insights that align with our mission at BC Dietitians.

The Environmental and Health Impact of Plant-Based Diets:

A significant focus of the summit was the environmental impact of animal agriculture, a major contributor to deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. Transitioning to plant-forward diets is not just a trend; it’s a crucial step towards combating climate change. Moreover, diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and plant proteins can significantly reduce the prevalence of chronic diseases, easing the burden on healthcare systems.

Practical Tips for Incorporating Plant-Based Foods:

As dietitians, we understand the challenges and opportunities in adopting a plant-forward diet. Here are some practical tips to shifting your diet to incorporate more plant-based food in your diet:

  1. Start Small: Begin by incorporating meatless meals a few times a week. Use familiar recipes and add in or substitute meat for plant-based proteins.

  2. Focus on Whole Foods: Emphasize whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. These foods are not only nutritious but also environmentally sustainable.

  3. Flavor is Key: Making plant-based meals delicious is essential. Experiment with herbs, spices, and umami-rich ingredients like tomatoes and mushrooms.  The best taste tester? Serve it to your meat-eaters and ask them for feedback.

  4. Menu Integration: When adding plant-based options, integrate them into your regular menu. Create exciting and desirable names to enhance plant-based meals.  

  5. Addressing Nutritional Concerns: Plant-forward diets can meet all your nutritional needs when well-planned. Ensure adequate intake of protein, iron, calcium, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids. Consulting with a dietitian can help tailor a plant-based diet to your individual needs.

How BC Dietitians can Help with the Challenges of a Plant-Based Diet

The Forward Food Summit was a reminder of the powerful role dietitians play in guiding individuals towards healthier, more sustainable dietary choices. Whether you’re exploring plant-forward diets for health, environmental, or ethical reasons, remember that small changes can make a big impact. For personalized guidance, our team at BC Dietitians is here to support you on your journey to a plant-forward lifestyle.

Adopting a plant-based diet can be a rewarding journey towards better health and sustainability. However, it comes with its own set of challenges, especially for those with specific dietary needs or preferences. As dietitians, we are equipped to guide you through these challenges:

  1. Navigating Allergies and Food intolerances:
    • Challenge: Finding plant-based foods that are safe particularly for those with nut and/or soy allergies can be daunting since many plant-based products are made with these ingredients.  In addition, many plant-based ingredients are high in FODMAPs which can be a challenge for people with digestive problems.
    • Dietitian’s Role: A dietitian can help identify alternative plant-based protein sources that are allergy-friendly. We can also help you build up your skills in label reading and choosing suitable plant-based brands confidently, ensuring a balanced and safe diet.

2. Supporting Caregivers of Picky Eaters:

  • Challenge: Introducing new and unfamiliar plant-based foods to children, especially picky eaters, can be stressful for the family.
  • Dietitian’s Role: Dietitians can provide creative and kid-friendly plant-based meal ideas that are both nutritious and appealing to children. They can also offer strategies such as neutral exposures and food chaining to gradually introduce new foods and flavors in a way that is fun and engaging for kids.

3. Prenatal Nutrition and Breastfeeding:

  • Challenge: Pregnant or breastfeeding individuals may have concerns about meeting their increased nutritional needs with a plant-based diet to support baby’s growth and development.
  • Dietitian’s Role: A dietitian can ensure that the diet includes adequate amounts of essential nutrients like iron, calcium, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial during pregnancy and breastfeeding. They can also tailor the diet to support the health of both the mother and the baby.

4. Incorporating Culturally Appropriate Plant-Based Meals:

  • Challenge: Adapting cultural dishes to include plant-based options can be a difficult transition for some families while respecting and keeping the cultural traditions amongst generations.
  • Dietitian’s Role: Dietitians can help in modifying traditional recipes to include plant-based ingredients without compromising on taste and cultural significance. They can suggest culturally appropriate plant-based substitutions that maintain the essence of the meal.
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Interested in transitioning to a plant-based diet or integrating more plant-based foods into your menu? Contact us at BC Dietitians for expert advice tailored to your unique nutritional needs.  Our dietitians can help you navigate these concerns and challenges by helping you attain good health and nourishment through a plant-forward diet that best aligns with your goals and values. You can book an appointment with a dietitian  to help you with these challenges and/or your transition to a plant-forward diet.

Local BC Plant-Based Offerings :

The tradeshow that featured 15 local industry innovators showcasing plant-based products, highlighting a few plant-based local businesses here we have met here: 

  1. True Nosh – True Nosh’s workshop and health food store is located in Vancouver, BC.  Founded by a BC Dietitian, Renee Chan, they offer many delicious and healthy convenience products and host culinary classes for people wanting to learn how to cook nutritious meals.  Their mission is to make healthy food easy and delicious!  Check out their plant-based XO Sauce condiment for stir fries, dumplings, and noodles.


  2. MindfulFUD – 100% vegan honey products that you can order for pick up or have them delivered right to your home.  Their mission to create food that you love from plants without you even knowing it. Check out their Bee-mindful Hunnie Delicious honey are made from apples, not bees!


  3. SPREAD’EM – a plant-based food company that makes delicious dips, spreads and cheeses from cashews.  Their mission is to connect with people through food and do as much good as possible! Check out their cashew dips and spreads made from 100% plant-based ingredients, these delicious spreads pair well with crackers, toast, and vegetables!


  4. Brightside Foods – A women-owned business in Vancouver that sells delicious frozen meals that will bring ease and comfort to your day.  Their products are made from whole-food and locally-sourced ingredients that support the local economy and reduce their environmental impact.  Their burritos and other frozen meals “bring sunshine to your freezer”.  Check out their vegan pinto pocket, Spicy refried pinto beans and vegan cheese folded into a crispy grilled flour tortilla.

Embracing a plant-based diet is a journey unique to each individual. Whether you’re dealing with dietary restrictions, family preferences, or cultural considerations, a dietitian can provide the support and expertise needed to make this transition smoother and healthier. At BC Dietitians, we are committed to helping you navigate these challenges and achieve a balanced, enjoyable plant-based diet.

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