'Start Slowly and be Flexible,' Says Drew Barrymore about Transitioning to a plant-based diet.

Drew Barrymore, an actress and talk show host, recalls her reaction to Jonathan Safran Foer's seminal book "Eating Animals," which explores what it means to eat animals in modern society.

That was 13 years ago, and she still remembers it.

"Well, it ruined my chicken!" In a Zoom interview, Barrymore told Healthline.

Barrymore was reared vegetarian before switching to a vegan diet at the age of 26. She claims that two decades ago, embracing veganism, or avoiding animal products, was more difficult than it is now.

"It was so difficult to find anything to eat back then, and the world has evolved in fantastic ways in the last three years," she remarked, referring to the increased availability of vegan-friendly foods. "Then I experimented with meat and became a flexitarian."

When it came to choosing meals for her children, Barrymore's attitude to food, which included avoiding meat products while looking for sustainable, healthful, and flavorful alternatives, was a struggle.

Barrymore, a mother of two children named Olive and Frankie, stated that after eliminating chicken out of her life all those years ago, she was surprised to find "chicken tenders everywhere" when she went grocery shopping.

"Chicken tenders are everywhere for kids," she explained, "and they get used to them and crave them, and you're trying to avoid a breakdown."

This is why her most recent brand collaboration has completed the circle for her.

Last year, Barrymore joined Quorn. Mycoprotein, a protein derived from a naturally occurring fungus called Fusarium venenatum, is used in the company's meat-substitute food products.

Barrymore chatted with Healthline about why she enjoys serving as the brand's "Chief Mom Officer," her developing dietary philosophy, and advice for other parents looking for the finest options for their children.

Increasing the number of alternatives available to you

Barrymore emphasised that she believes making additional options more widely available is a key aspect of assisting individuals in adopting healthy dietary choices.

She went on to say that idea also applies to how she's thought about her own personal progress in terms of diet and how she tackles it with her children.

"For me, the challenge is to make things as available to people as possible, as a retail alternative..." to go in school meals, to just have [meatless dishes] available as a choice at the end of the day," she explained.

It can be intimidating to encourage individuals to consider alternatives to the meat-heavy typical American diet.

Senior clinical dietitian at UCLA Medical Center, assistant professor at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, and author of the book Recipe For Survival, Dana Ellis Hunnes PhD, MPH, RD, told Healthline that changing one's diet can be scary, but it's not impossible.

"People may be intimidated if they believe they will be constantly hungry or will only eat steamed veggies and sliced up fruits. It does not, however, have to be frightening. Hunnes, who is not involved with Barrymore or her Quorn promotion, claimed that it can "expand your palette to so many fresh and diverse flavours and methods of preparing things."

"However, for the newbie who is unsure where to begin, replacing plant-based analogues for animal-based items is a terrific place to start," she noted.

For those who are inquisitive, Hunnes suggests starting with a plant-based burger rather than a meat-based one.

Although a burger is not a "health meal," it might "be a terrific way to dabble in a plant-based route that also happens to be environmentally friendly," as she put it.

Another example, according to Hunnes, is replacing dairy milk with non-dairy milk.

"You might also try roasting vegetables and purchasing bean-burger patties." Roasting vegetables, particularly root vegetables such as beets, parsnips, rutabagas, potatoes, cabbages, and Brussel sprouts, results in caramelization and a depth of flavour that steaming cannot achieve. Hunnes remarked, "It brings forth their inherent sweetness." "Adding a side of spaghetti with a tomato sauce or spicy arrabiata-style sauce to your meal with these roasted vegetables can also make the transition smoother and less daunting."

"Many of us were educated to arrange meals with meat as the focus of attention of every meal," said Amber Pankonin, MS, LMNT, a registered dietitian and personal chef who is not associated with the meatless food company's promotion.

This can require a significant mental change in which you must retrain yourself to think of meat as "more of a supporting cast member rather than the lead character."

"This may help to create a bit more balance on the plate and make the transition to eating less meat a little easier." "Going fully vegan is unrealistic for most individuals and certain cultures," she added, "but many people are open to the idea of animal mixtures."

"For example, half hamburger meat and half mushrooms can be used to produce a burger. Alternatively, a sausage mixture including half pork and half peanuts. This can still deliver a lot of flavour while also lowering total calories and fat," she added.

Finding alternatives to typical meat-based dishes, according to Barrymore, doesn't mean you have to exclude yourself from foods that others enjoy.

Do you like "hot chicken sandwiches"? Well, according to Barrymore, you may still do so by looking for things that include chicken alternatives.

For her, it's been more about finding substitutions to fill the vacuum left by eliminating meat or chicken, for example.

The advantages and disadvantages of being meatless

What are the health advantages of avoiding meat?

According to Hunnes, "a plethora of studies" "show health benefits from plant-based diets."

She said that eating a diet rich in plant-based foods can help control or reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and renal disease, among others.

"Cutting meat, dairy, and other animal products out of the diet has substantial environmental benefits - so much so that animal agriculture creates more greenhouse gases than all the cars, trains, aircraft, and ships on the planet," Hunnes noted.

While meatless, plant-based diets can be healthy, Pankonin says it's vital to keep things in perspective. It's not always true that something labelled "meatless" is healthful.

"There may be advantages, but it all depends on what you consume." Just because you don't eat meat doesn't guarantee your diet is healthy. Vegetarian diets, on the other hand, can be higher in fibre, lower in saturated fat, and contain a lot of phytochemicals from fruits and vegetables, all of which are good for heart, eye, and brain health," Pankonin said.

When questioned if there are any disadvantages to eliminating meat from one's diet, Pankonin pointed out that meat is a good source of protein, iron, and B vitamins.

"It's vital to make sure you're getting these nutrients from other sources if you're not eating meat," she added. "Many goods, such as cereals, breads, and plant-based beverages, are fortified or enriched with some of these elements, but when making purchase decisions, double-check the nutrition facts label." If you need assistance or meal suggestions, I recommend talking with a Registered Dietitian."

According to Hunnes, there are drawbacks to following these types of plant-based diets when "people rely too much on processed plant-based items." "Impossible or Beyond burgers" are an illustration of this.

People who consume "too many plant-based cookies, cakes, chips, and other highly processed foods" aren't necessarily eating the healthiest foods.

"A plant-based diet must be nutritious and full of nutrient-dense foods, such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits, and vegetables," she emphasised.

'Take it gently and be adaptable.'

"Don't worry yourself out about it," Barrymore replied when asked what people should do if they're unsure how to remove meat out of their diets or simply explore with veggie-friendly options.

"The good news is that there are more options than ever before in terms of restaurants, fast food businesses, and grocery shops. "You don't have to shop at high-end health food stores to find organic options," she explained.

Because the demand for organic products has grown so much in recent years, she claims that you can now walk inside Walmart stores and find organic options on the shelf.

It's also about being kind to oneself, according to Barrymore. It's difficult to carry a lot of guilt and worry about whether you're eating the "proper" foods.

She believes that as parents, "we're everything all the time, every day," and that setting realistic objectives for yourself and your children is critical.

Hunnes' own child eats a plant-based diet. "A lot of what youngsters consume comes from what they observe their parents consuming," she explained.

"So, if we want our children to accept more plant-based options, we need to set an example." Furthermore, it is critical to include your children in the process. Is there a fruit or vegetable they've never tasted but wish to try in the grocery store? If that's the case, give it a shot. "You might discover a new dish you adore that you were previously unaware of," Hunnes remarked.

She also mentioned that while school lunches might be difficult, "laying the groundwork at home can help youngsters make their way through the lunch line."

"Our son eats school lunch on occasion, but he chooses the sides, such as fruit, salad, and/or rice and beans." As a result, we also pack him a modest lunch every day - a simple lunch of peanut butter and jelly with an apple – and he can pick and choose what he wants to eat — portions of school lunch plus home lunch, just one or just the other, any combination he likes," she explained. "It's fantastic that fast food establishments are starting to provide more plant-based options."

"It's a fantastic thing to support your child if they want to consume those." It can help individuals have a healthy relationship with food and feel more in control of their decisions. These activities should be done as a family. "Giving my son some control over what he eats makes him feel more effective in his decision-making," Hunnes said.

"For healthy growth and development, children require nutrients such as protein, iron, and B vitamins. If you decide to exclude meat from a child's diet, you'll need to think about other ways to meet their nutritional needs," she says.

When it comes to her children's nutrition, Barrymore says it's crucial to "start softly and be a flexible person about it."

Barrymore has direct experience with how difficult it can be. That's why, while she enjoys encouraging other parents to try various methods to nutrition, she also encourages them to be patient with themselves and their children's progress.

"To be honest, I wasn't thrilled with what I was offering my kids to keep them from having a meltdown. "And I finally discovered something that was so tasty and equivalent that they loved eating it, and I felt good serving it to them, and you feel good as a parent when your child is eating something better," she said.

"Not every day will be like that, and not every circumstance will allow for that," she noted, emphasising the importance of being nice to herself on this path. "I'm still attempting to reach the summit of the mountain." Because I'm a student, not a teacher, I'm just doing my best."

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