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Going Plant-Based in 2020? Tips From Miami's Top Vegan-Friendly Pros

Set yourself up for success when switching to a plant-based diet.
Set yourself up for success when switching to a plant-based diet.
Photo by Della Heiman
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It's the beginning of the first full week of a new year and a new decade. Though 2020 began last Wednesday, many of us were still vacationing in Mexico or hosting out-of-towners — a bad time to start working on those resolutions.

Today is Monday, so you're out of excuses. If one of your resolutions is to eat a more plant-friendly diet, this is a good time. In 2014, the nonprofit Veganuary was formed to promote the benefits of veganism. The thought is that if you try eating a plant-based diet in January, the habit just might stick.

Beginning a plant-based diet doesn't have to mean cutting out all meat-based foods from your diet forever, though you certainly can. It can simply mean decreasing your meat intake or celebrating Meatless Monday. Eating vegan is easier than ever — supermarkets offer everything from nut-based milk and yogurt to entire dinners.

New Times asked some of Miami's best-known plant-friendly professionals for advice on where to begin. From easing into a vegan diet to incorporating interesting spices into your cooking, here are some tips and tricks to consume more plants in the new year.

Alison Burgos
Alison Burgos
Photo courtesy of Seed Food & Wine Festival

Alison Burgos (cofounder, Seed Food & Wine Festival)

I think this is a perfect time to make a new start and make decisions to elevate your life and how you're eating. Eating a plant-based diet is great for your health and for the planet, and it's more obtainable and easier than ever. The main thing is that you start your journey one step at a time. Don't be overwhelmed, and don't feel you have to be perfect. Every day, we wake up and do our best. Look into the great farmers' markets: From Pinecrest to Yellow Green Market in Hollywood, these are great places to meet some artisan makers and farmers and learn from them. If you have Netflix, watch The Game Changers to get an idea of what plant-based eating can do. I think that movie is a real testament to how a plant-based lifestyle can be transformative to your health. To me, it's about one step at a time, always. I hope everyone gives eating plant-based a try and see where they land. Maybe it's Meatless Mondays, or maybe it's all in.

Chef Todd Erickson
Chef Todd Erickson

Todd Erickson (partner, the Todds Catering)

Many people trying a plant-based diet miss the texture and heartiness of meat and the richness of creamy, cheesy meals. You don't have to sacrifice. If you're looking for a meaty flavor profile, go for roasted mushrooms. Miss heavy cream? Soaked raw cashews puréed with water and nutritional yeast acts as the perfect cream sauce substitute. Don't overcompensate with carbs — opt for flavor and nutrient-dense vegetables over pasta and rice.

Chef Benjamin Goldman
Chef Benjamin Goldman
Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg

Benjamin Goldman (chef de cuisine, Planta South Beach)

Thinking that a plant-based diet is inconvenient for most people is now a misconception. The resources are there. There are tons of fast-food options and thousands of products lining stores. If you're trying a plant-based diet, I would say try to pay attention to the amount of vegetables you eat and to limit your meat intake. I can't tell people to go cold turkey. There are many plant-based meal plan services, and stores like Target have entire sections. Resolutions are supposed to be beneficial and challenging. See this as a challenge and give it a chance. There are all sorts of fun things to eat, so enjoy yourself.

Della HeimanEXPAND
Della Heiman
Photography by Stian Roenning

Della Heiman (founder, Della Bowls and the Doral Yard)

At Della Bowls, it's all about enjoying a colorful meal, made without overprocessed foods. The best way to incorporate a plant-based lifestyle is to start cooking. I think the stigma of a plant-based diet is that you're going to eat bland rabbit food and be hungry a half-hour later, but that's far from the truth. Simply slow-roast some vegetables with a generous amount of olive oil and salt, and see how hearty and delicious a simple vegetable dish can be. Experiment with spices and try new things. The Della Bowls website has some recipes so you can get a jump-start, and we offer cooking classes. I lived in Israel and I cooked a lot of Middle Eastern and African foods. These recipes have wisdom, and so many are plant-based. 

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