Going green has never been so delicious. Are you ready, Malaysia?

THERE’S a new craze sweeping the nation and it has something to do with going green.

What does that mean? Well, we are not talking about the green fingers we’ve adopted during the movement control order, but rather the new wave of plant-based meal alternatives that’s been cropping up all over town.

If you haven’t noticed, many an upscale café and restaurant have begun to make their rounds on social media and many of these trendy new eateries even go as far as centering their entire ethos around, you guessed it, a greener offering.

But beyond the hype of ‘grammable cafés and fad diets, for many Malaysians, it’s about building sustainable and delicious new habits.

Now, the idea of a plant-based diet as a healthier diet is not a new one. In fact, it can be traced back to the 1970s, with the publication of the bestselling book Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé

As the first major book to note the environmental impact of meat production, Lappé argued for a wider practice of plant-based nutrition and incorporated within the book hundreds of meat-free recipes to assist in a healthy and nutritious shift.

It is no wonder then how 50 years on the values imparted by Diet for a Small Planet doesn’t just live on, but also thrives in many parts of the world, Malaysia included.

Globally, the idea of clean eating has been rising in popularity for the past decade with many A-list Hollywood celebrities to serious sportsmen adopting and advocating a plant-based lifestyle. From Beyonce to Lewis Hamilton, all the way to our local stars, a greener diet is the buzzword.

Don’t believe us? Well, a recent GlobalData 2020 Market Pulse Consumer Survey shows that up to 50% of Malaysians are reducing, or at least attempting to reduce their meat intake, and 2021 is certainly seeing a continual rise of this trend.

With stay-at-home orders and a meat shortage hitting its peak in mid-2020, more have gotten on board with the healthier plant-based alternative.

Diyana RahimDiyana Rahim

For ardent practitioners such as Diyana Rahim, writer, dancer, and also an advocate of the eco-vegan lifestyle, it’s all about empathy and sustainability.

Diyana’s plant-based journey began over five years ago, and like many new adopters, she started by taking the reducetarian approach.

“I reduced my meat intake and increased my vegetable intake in the initial weeks so my taste buds and gut could get used to it, ” she explains.

Having gone fully meatless for years now, she finds that discovery is a huge part of her plant-based journey.

“If you cook, the possibilities are endless. Google and YouTube are so helpful when you need inspiration on plant-based recipes, and more brands are providing healthier, more ethical options too, so that’s also great.”

With a growing following of trends such as #MeatlessMonday and #Veganuary, brands are indeed beginning to catch on, and it is something that many conscious eaters are celebrating, “It’s about time, really, and I’m excited to see where it goes. I read the other day that Nestlé has worked with Kyochon on their meat-free menu and I can’t wait to try it, ” said Diyana.

The collaboration that the eco-vegan warrior has her eyes on consists of Harvest Gourmet's meat-free schnitzel made wholly from plants like wheat, beetroot and non-GMO soy, which is rich in protein and a good source of fibre.

Large global conglomerates like Nestlé have invested heavily in plant-based meal solutions to promote sustainability in food production – making them more environment-friendly while balancing taste, texture, appearance, and nutritional profile.

Where it was once about providing the alternatives, it is now about improving taste and quality of these alternatives. Vastly more sustainable, the positive reception towards plant-based meals have illustrated that they are not only here to stay, but could help to reinvent the food industry at large since many have begun their plant-based journey with the reducetarian or flexitarian approach.Melissa Tan Melissa Tan

Another long-time advocate in Malaysia is model, actress, and emcee Melissa Tan, an eco-warrior who has been vocal in her motivations for going plant-based over the years – mainly, her love for animals and the environment.

“I encourage everyone to reduce your impact in any way that you can, and one of the most effective ways is going plant-based, ” Tan says.

It was not always an easy journey though, having experienced the earlier alternatives of plant-based proteins.

“When I went meatless 10 years ago, there weren’t as many options, ” she points out.

However, Tan also acknowledges that food tech has come a long way and the plant-based diet and lifestyle is more accessible than ever.

“Shifting to a plant-based diet has become much easier with the great options available and the wealth of inspiration from the plant-based community, so there’s very little reason for us not to do it. This societal change will be one of the greatest tools in our fight against climate change.”

Differing from hype diets and passing fads, plant-based eating does not revolve around limiting food groups for weight loss. Most who attempt a plant-based diet do so for one of many reasons – to tackle environmental impacts such as water scarcity and pollution, for animal rights, or simply to improve their health.

Priding itself on providing the meatiest plant-based flavour with the juiciest texture, Harvest Gourmet – Nestlé’s latest foray into the plant-based solutions – offers products made of quality ingredients with its colours derived from natural plant extract.

Further leveraging on soy products, and a myriad of fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts, as well as proprietary methods of fermenting plant-based ingredients to boost the “umami” flavour, plant-based meal solutions in the market today stand neck and neck with meat when it comes to taste, texture, and price point.

So what does it all mean? Well, it means that the future is delicious, and you best be ready for it.

Article courtesy of Nestlé Malaysia

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