Consumption of more fresh fruit and veg is on the upturn according to a recent survey done by Alpro*, who claim to be ‘proud pioneers of plant-based eating’ creating plant-based yogurts, drinks and desserts for over 30 years.

According to their results, the power of plant-based eating is a fast-growing trend. In fact, four out of 10 of us are eating more vegetables, fruits and plant-based foods than we were a year ago. And six out of 10 of us are eating more of these types of foods than we were five years ago.

People of all age groups are fuelling this trend, although it is younger consumers – those aged between 18 and 30 – who are looking to change their diets and turn to alternative eating regimes in the greatest numbers.

In fact, the independent survey commissioned by Alpro revealed that more than half of 18 to 30 year olds surveyed have added more vegetables, fruits and plant-based foods into their diets in the last year alone, pointing to a major change in the UK’s dietary habits for generations. Meanwhile, of all those surveyed, one in five admitted they ate meat and dairy-based foods merely ‘out of habit’.

I think perhaps these austere times have pinched the purse strings into submission and that along with increased awareness of the damage over-consumption of meats has on the environment (particularly on products shipped to the UK from the other side of the world) has net resulted in more of us realising that local, seasonal, delicious vegetables provide a fabulous option, as well as being a more affordable way of putting mouthwatering food on our tables.

Plant-based eating conjures up images of a strict vegan diet, but enjoying the benefits of more plant-based choices doesn’t mean becoming a full-time vegan or vegetarian. It’s about reshaping what’s on the plate by making a few simple swaps, while still treating yourself to your favourite meat or dairy products every now or then; in my book, equilibrium is everything and I for one will continue to support the market for well produced, locally outdoor reared meaty things!

As mentioned above, whilst many of us are already eating more vegetables, fruits and plant-based foods for health reasons, a growing section of society is also becoming concerned over the affects that the production of meat and diary-based foods has on the environment. For example, it takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat, while it takes 2,000 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk; it’s certainly food for thought.

In contrast, plant-based crops and foods, meanwhile, are much more water efficient, with an average of 25 gallons of water needed to produce one pound of food.

Despite more and more people becoming more commonly aware of such facts, it appears there is still a lack of knowledge in some quarters about the effect that the production of meat and dairy products has on the world around us.

Six out of 10 people are still unaware that plant-based foods offer the most environmentally sustainable option for food production. Even so, four out of 10 of us are already determined to cut down on the amount of meat and dairy currently in our diets.

The sausages are going to remain on my plate, but I’m all up for raising the levels of food production education, particularly in relation to eating out, which so often drops under our radar…

* Research commissioned on behalf of Alpro by RedShift Research (March 2011) 2,302 UK adults.

PS: If you want a little light reading with your full English breakfast, take a peek at these plant based facts…

Plant-based foods include more than just fruit and vegetables. Five major food groups should form the base of a plant-focused diet (whether in their original form or as an ingredient in the increasing range of plant-based products):

Whole grains, Beans and pulses, Fruit, Vegetables, Nuts and Seeds
Plant-based eating begins with a diet low in fat, particularly saturated fat, rich in unsaturated fats, and provides a wide-range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are thought to promote general health and wellbeing
Plant based products are also naturally free from animal fats, which are increasingly avoided by health-conscious consumers
Eating less saturated fat is particularly important for heart health. Plant-based ingredients such as soya, nuts and oats play an important role in a cholesterol friendly diet
Plant-based foods generally have a higher fibre content. This can lower the energy density in the diet [lower in calorie], which is beneficial for maintaining a health body shape
Making simple plant-based swaps is easier than you think. Incorporate a heart-healthy, environmentally friendlier plant-based diet by eating less meat especially fatty and processed meats, full fat dairy products such as cheese, cream and butter, and fewer high fat snacks such as chocolate, biscuits and cakes. And, where you can, choose soya alternatives, whole grains, beans, pulses and nuts and seeds, and plenty of fruit and vegetables a day – fresh, frozen, canned, dried and juices all count. Giving up meat and dairy completely isn’t essential: even cutting down on half your intake will make a considerable impact on your health and the environment.