Some people learn about what it means to be vegan or vegetarian from social media or in class, but others take their education into their own kitchen. Sameer’s Plate helps people do just that.
Sameer Ghai, a senior in the School of Communication, started the plant-based blog and accompanying Instagram account with vegan and vegetarian recipes during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I started it during COVID,” Ghai said. “I remember I was just bored and just looking for ways to show my creativity and I thought this blog was a perfect way.”
Overtime, Ghai has considered adding graphics and content to the blog that details how the food, sustainability and meat industries work in the U.S.
Many Americans, without realizing, regularly consume substances in their food that other places such as Europe, have deemed dangerous.
“There is a lot of misunderstanding with how safe our food really is,” Ghai said.
Additionally, only about 27 percent of people are willing to pay more for plant-based alternatives, so until prices decrease, people who prefer meat may be hesitant to switch.
“I don’t really love the current take that a lot of vegans or vegetarians use, like shaming people into thinking that eating meat is really wrong or incorrect,” Ghai said. “Plant-based foods can look cool and look presentable and also just be really fun.”
For students and families, strict budgets can prevent them from being able to craft a plant-based diet. Recently, food companies have continued to increase their prices which has caused families with strict budgets to change their routines.
The blog features plant-based alternatives such as tofu, and having readily available recipes online can help people efficiently meal prep, grocery shop and budget.
According to the Good Food Institute, plant-based alternatives to meat had a 43 percent price premium with prices similar to organic grass-fed ground beef. This means plant-based alternatives are accessible to people who can afford organic grass-fed products, but expensive for those with lower incomes.
“In general, it's definitely more expensive and it's really unfortunate that it is, because I don’t think it should be,” Ghai said. “I definitely noticed that I was choosing unhealthier options when I was eating meat, and so it's been five years since I’ve been eating meat. I have definitely noticed a lot of differences in my own personal health.”
Ghai spoke about how Europe and Canada often use fresher ingredients and process meat differently than we do here in the U.S. “I think food security in the U.S. has been really hard, especially in the last few years with inflation,” Ghai said.
Students concerned about paying for college and maintaining their health may have an even harder time finding healthy options. “I think AU could definitely introduce more vegetarian options, I know there are a couple of vegetarian options on campus,” Ghai explained, but students who have meal plans have limited plant-based options.
One way that Ghai explores his off-campus options is through plants like mushrooms. The fungi are some of the most sustainable foods in the plant world, using 96 percent less water and less energy for growth, according to the American Mushroom Institute.
“I love making any kind of mushroom wraps or mushroom tacos, I think those are delicious,” Ghai said. “And I think a lot of times they do taste really similar to meat so it's a good starting-up point.”
The blog provides a number of recipes that are great options for those new to exploring plant based food.
“If you don’t want to be fully vegan, going vegetarian is still a great way to lower your carbon footprint,” Ghai said.
This article was edited by Patricia McGee, Kylie Bill and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis, Sophia Rocha and Stella Guzik.