Introduction The Simple, Elegant Solution
This book is a movement and a hopeful call to action. It is also a road map, a Swiss Army knife, and an emotional support system. It has to be all of these things—because that’s what most of us need to make the real, sustained changes that save our health and protect our planet. We see the evidence of climate change all around us: wildfires, catastrophic hurricanes, flooding, mudslides. We sense that we’ve reached a tipping point, that we have to make changes now if we hope to leave a habitable world to our children.
I’m particularly passionate about this because I’m a mom. Like most moms, I have wiped many a tear, runny nose, and dirty bottom. I’ve been peed on and barfed on, and I would take down anyone who tried to hurt my children. This fierce, mama-bear, protective love is locked into my DNA. It’s an instinct, a drive in all moms and dads. All humans! How would we have survived otherwise? Even if we don’t have kids, we feel this protective drive about our family, our pets, our friends. This fierce love drives me, every single day, to make the world a better place for all of our children to grow up in.
I’m also a multitasker, like so many of us in this fast world. I have five kids. I’m an entrepreneur, educator, and wrangler of dogs; a former model and actress; and a current daughter, sister, aunt, and mission-driven juggler of way too many things. I’ve spent many years
channeling my fierce protective love into creating initiatives to help save the planet: Red Carpet Green Dress, an organization that challenges and helps the fashion industry to become more environmentally responsible; Plant Power Task Force, an advocacy organization focused on raising awareness and funding highly respected research into the effects of animal agriculture on the environment; MUSE School, an environmental educational organization spanning early childhood to twelfth grade that taps into the passions within each child and awakens their thirst for learning as well as their sense of deep responsibility for protecting the earth and all of its inhabitants, which is also the first plant-based school in the nation (and where OMD first began!); Food Forest Organics, the first completely plant-based market and café in New Zealand; and our newest endeavor, Cameron Family Farms, an exciting chance for us to bring all our philosophies about plant-based eating and environmentalism to life, giving people high-quality, widely available options that will make eating whole-food, plant-based meals more convenient and affordable for all. And for eighteen years, I’ve been married to an amazing father, husband, and partner, a turbo-charged filmmaker, deep-sea explorer, and Renaissance man, James Cameron. My Jim.
Now, I know my limitations. I’m most definitely not a doctor. And I’m not a scientist. Yet I’m a research and information junkie, and I spend a lot of my time trying to get the most credible, up-to-date information out there from real scientists, climatologists, doctors, and researchers. Every ounce of my being that’s not devoted to my family is in service to environmental advocacy, caring for our planet, and creating a better, healthier world.
I am fully aware that in so many ways, I’ve lived a charmed life. I still pinch myself every day, and I know that the big suffering and pain so pervasive in the world isn’t often part of my direct experience. Yet I still put my pants on one leg at a time. This year, my father died, my aunt Betsy died, and my mother broke her hip—all
in one week. No amount of magic or money in the world can take away grieving and loss.
Along with extreme love and gratitude, I feel a great responsibility to make the world a better place for all our children and many generations to come. In fact, I can barely pass an infant or a kid on the street, or in a grocery store—anywhere—without being reminded of the seriousness and urgency of this commitment.
I WROTE THIS BOOK because I know how hard it can be to get through the day, hurtling from one meeting (or deadline, orthodontist appointment, parent teacher conference, errand, or after-school activity) to another.
I know how many competing demands we have in our lives, each one battling the other for our time, our attention, our energy. Sometimes simply getting through the day feels like a Herculean task.
And whether we’re parents or not, we all take care of so many people and problems all the time. Heaping one more consideration onto our shoulders may just be too much. Oh, great—now I have to take care of the planet too? Especially when it just seems so huge and unsolvable.
That’s the beauty of One Meal a Day for the Planet, or OMD: by switching one meat- or dairy-based meal to one plant-based meal a day, we can slash our personal water and carbon footprint of our diet by about 25 percent. If we go fully plant-based, we can slash it by 60 percent. With this one simple shift, we can cut our risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes; lose weight; and even improve our sex lives. With this one shift, we can also help protect the soil, water, and air for all of us. With OMD, we can check off many diverse to-do (or wish-to-do) boxes on our lists simultaneously. We can take care of everyone in our lives—our children, friends, partner, siblings, parents, and especially ourselves—while we take care of our community, the planet, and the future, all at the same time.
Talk about the ultimate life-changing hack.
With OMD, I never, ever want to guilt you into changing your behavior. We all know that “guilt” or “should” or “being right” doesn’t fuel meaningful and sustained change. My goal is to share how easy, fun, delicious, energizing, and gratifying plant-based eating can be. I also want to acknowledge that it can be seriously hard to change the way you’re used to eating, shopping, and cooking, so I want to help you gracefully handle the challenges of incorporating more plant-based meals into your life. I’m going to show you dozens of my family’s favorite recipes, strategies, and work-arounds that will help you radically boost the nutritional quality of your foods without sacrificing flavor or satisfaction. We’ll do this in a way that is at your pace, is to your taste, and fits right into your life, and I promise you’ll notice the impact almost immediately. I’m here to testify (occasionally with a bullhorn and pom-pom!) that the transformation can be nothing less than life-changing, and that’s my hope for you and for the planet.
That’s why we call OMD “the simple, elegant solution.” With this one tiny shift, you can:
Lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, easily and effortlessly, without feeling deprived or counting a single calorie
Help reverse fuzzy thinking, low energy, prediabetes, high cholesterol, muscle or joint pain—while you lengthen your life
Become one of those “glowy” people who radiate youth with their clear gorgeous skin, shiny hair, and sparkling eyes
Genetically program your kids for optimal health, setting them up to be lean and strong, with rock-star immunity, for life
Save money once spent on pricey meat and enjoy more nourishing, clean organic produce and delicious sides, sauces, and condiments
Cut down on trips to the doctor, save on medical costs, and, in some cases, reduce or completely eliminate medications
delicious food that satisfies and surprises you, and wakes up your taste buds to a whole new dimension of exciting foods and flavors
Enjoy heating up your sex life (while cooling the earth) with increased vitality and newfound energy
And, oh yeah—save the planet
No one wakes up saying, “Hey, I’m going to waste water, pollute our rivers, contribute to climate change.”
You may already drive a fuel-efficient (or electric!) vehicle or take the subway or bike or walk to work. Or you may have installed a low-flow showerhead or compact fluorescent lights. Maybe you bring your own shopping bags to the grocery store. You probably recycle—and, shoot, you may even have a compost pile.
You do these things because you care. You want to do your part—you certainly don’t want to make matters worse. The truth is, very little we as individuals do comes close to the environmental impact of what we eat. Michael Pollan (the author who coined the phrase, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”) summed it up at the PopTech conference in 2009: “Our meat eating is one of the most important contributors we make to climate change.”
It’s easy to feel powerless when it comes to climate change. But with OMD, you will realize how much power we do have to make things better. I was shocked when I first learned it, but it’s true: almost nothing you do can help save the earth as much as opting for meat- and dairy-free meals. OMD has been instrumental in helping many people realize and embrace this power, and this book will give you all the tools you need to experience this for yourself.
In part 1, “Why OMD?” I share the story behind OMD, and why it can be such a powerful agent for change, including the surprising research about animal agriculture, how dramatically eating meat impacts Earth’s ecosystem, and why opting for even a few
more plant-based meals a week makes everyone safer and healthier and the whole world more sustainable. As I said earlier, I’m not a scientist, but I have been very fortunate to work with the best and brightest—when we developed the OMD program at MUSE and while writing this book. Members of the OMD “brain trust”—some of the most respected doctors and researchers in the world—have inspired, advised, and vetted OMD every step of the way.
Then, in part 2, “The OMD Way,” I will give you every single stinking idea, trick, tip, tool, suggestion, recipe, strategy—you name it—that I can think of to make OMD as easy, fun, inexpensive, satisfying, and delicious as possible. I’ll help you think through exactly how you can implement OMD into your own life, in what ways and at what pace, and help you discover all the different tools you can use to make it happen, like the Green Eater Meter. This metric, developed with Dr. Maximino Alfredo Mejia in the environmental nutrition group of the Department of Public Health, Nutrition and Wellness at Andrews University, quantifies how much of our precious resources—fresh water, fertile land, clean air—we protect when we make these simple swaps for animal products.
The Green Eater Meter will help you visualize and keep track of just how many gallons of water you’re saving, how much clean air you’re protecting, and even how much natural habitat you’re preserving from clear-cutting and deforestation—just from changing one meal a day. Who knew?!
My ultimate goal is to make you fall in love with plant-based eating, so I’ve also included over fifty delicious OMD recipes that have it all: every possible flavor and texture, every imaginable combination of tastes—sweet, savory, hearty, salty, light, crispy, juicy, smoky. Some-thing for every palate, cooking level, schedule, and budget. Each one of these recipes, contributed by dear family and friends, has its own story.
Because I know people approach change in different ways, I’m offering two plans to choose from. Many prefer to slide in sideways
and trick themselves into small changes. If this sounds like your speed, you’ll be right at home in chapter 5, “One Meal a Day.” Some people do best with an all-in, full-steam-ahead, stand-back-while-I-blow-up-my-kitchen kind of an approach. That’s my style, so I definitely have you covered in chapter 6, “All-In.”
I’ve also included some extra tricks to outsmart that knee-jerk rebellious tendency we all can have from time to time, when we want to make positive changes in our lives but we just seem to keep tripping ourselves up. (Hello, you anti-authority types. I get you.)
Yet there is one thing not permitted on this program: perfection.
We are not about purity; we are all works in progress. Things you will never find here: Shame. Blame. Finger-wagging. “Shoulds.” Direct orders.
(Or what our family in Oklahoma loves to say: “Whatcha oughta do.”)
No beating yourself up. That’s not on the menu!
We recognize that everyone makes decisions about what they put into their mouths on a minute-by-minute, meal-by-meal basis. We know that the secret to honoring your intentions is all about preparation—getting ready, anticipating roadblocks, and creating alternate paths—even if it means your OMD today becomes lunch instead of breakfast, or dinner instead of lunch. (Or you just skip today and start fresh tomorrow.)
Most of all, I want you to recognize that this is not a one-and-done program—this is a lifelong conversation with yourself, your body, your family, your community, your physical world—even your soul. I want to help you develop the tools to honor your own intentions, help you celebrate our sacred role in protecting the earth for future generations, and help you make those healthier, happier choices so simple that they become second nature.
We know that the way any meaningful shift happens is one moment at a time. One choice. One change. One bite. One meal at a time. Let’s rewrite our story, together.