Danielle Adams has been eating a plant-based diet for two years and during that time, has discovered a few tips for doing so in Batesville.
“Ethnic food restaurants are my best bets. American-style food is really difficult to eat,” she said. “Thai is the easiest,” she added, explaining that while she is normally limited to one or two items on the menu, at a Thai restaurant, she can order nearly anything on the menu since the creamy items are made with coconut milk and she can add tofu for the protein.
Batesville currently does not have a Thai restaurant of course, but it does have Mexican restaurants. Adams said she and her family were regulars at El Palenque before she went plant-based and still go there after. She said she and the restaurant owner worked together to find a dish to fit her new lifestyle.
“He was asking questions, and because I speak Spanish, I asked all sorts of questions. He was genuinely intrigued.”
She now orders veggie fajitas with corn tortillas (and sometimes refried beans).
Adams is not alone in her quest.
Because of the growing need for more protein sources to address the food gap (amount of food being produced verses the amount needed), as well as perceived environmental and health concerns, a growing number of consumers are turning to plants for their 46 grams (adult female) of protein per day.
“The demand for dietary protein…is projected to increase by more than 50 percent by 2030, compared to 2000,” Anne Pihlanto, PhD, food chemistry scientist of Natural Resources, explained at the International Conference on Food Chemistry and Nutrition recently.
Pihlanto says the reason plants have been underutilized for protein is because of their lower nutritional value and poor solubility in water.
However, now, at two-thirds of the way into the projected growth period, plant-based foods are showing more than 11 percent yearly growth in sales, with plant-based milks contributing significantly to the growth, per a July 2019 report by SPINS, one of the leading wellness-focused data researchers.
Large companies are jumping on the plant-based wagon, too, offering new vegan and vegetarian options.
Disney added a plant-based option to every one of their dining locations in Walt Disney World in October and plans to do the same in Disneyland this spring, to accommodate the growing number of vegan customers. In September, McDonalds announced it was testing a plant-based burger in Canada.
Also in September, Tyson Foods announced its investment in a plant-based shellfish company. This was preceded by General Mills investing in D’s Naturals, maker of plant-based protein bars and spreads, in early 2017, and Dean Foods Co. taking a minority stake in Good Karma Foods, a flaxseed-based milk alternative mid-2017.
Batesville-native Adams says there is a difference between eating a plant-based diet and eating a nutritious plant-based diet.
In high school, she tried to eat “vegetarian,” but did not replace the meat with other protein sources, which caused other health concerns.
And one of the forms of plant-based proteins producers have tried offering, plant-based meat, has been criticized as highly processed, high in sodium, and high in fat; therefore, not any healthier than animal-based meat. However, some argue it can serve to transition interested consumers away from a meat-heavy diet.
Adams started eating plant-based protein to lose weight. She now chooses it as a lifestyle and educates herself by reading books and watching documentaries, and she receives motivation and support from her interactions within plant-based Facebook groups.
She also participates in a local farm share offered by a partnership between Five Acre Farms and Real Goods Market Eatery. Five Acre Farms, in Pleasant Plains, is a Certified Naturally Grown farm, which means it does not use synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or GMOs. To read more about Five Acre Farms, click here. Real Goods Market Eatery is a local health food market located in the old Radio Shack building across from Bryant’s Pharmacy. Five Acre Farms brings baskets full of fresh produce every Tuesday at 2 p.m. to Real Goods Market Eatery where customers can pick them up.
Real Goods owner Paige Hubbard (pictured above) has a Rainbow Wrap on her regular lunch menu and will sometimes offer a weekly special with a plant-based protein, like quinoa.
For the most part, Adams still has trouble going to restaurants in town for a specific reason.
“I am not a send-it-backer,” she said laughing, calling it a quirk. Not wanting to be different means making a lot of compromises when eating out.
“I miss 109 terribly,” she said.
(109 is an upscale bar and fine dining restaurant located in downtown Batesville, owned by Robert and Beth Christian. It has been closed for updates for eight months, since March 2019.)
“I could go and get the veggie burger, carrots and hummus, and eat 100 percent plant based and feel great about everything I was eating, and I did not have to order anything special. It was the one meal in town I would not have to order extra.”