Kristie Middleton is the author of “MeatLess: Transform the Way You Eat and Live—One Meal at a Time” and the Senior Food Policy Director of the Humane Society of the United States.
By Sandy Leung
Kristie Middleton is the Senior Director of Food Policy of the Humane Society of the United States, the world’s largest animal protection organization. She leads the efforts in promoting plant-based eating and has collaborated with some of the nation’s largest school districts, colleges and hospitals to implement healthier eating programs focused around plant-based eating. Some of the nation's school districts include Los Angeles Unified School District, Boston Public Schools and Detroit Public Schools. Kristie’s programs have resulted in 750,000 less meals made from animal products every week. She’s the author of MeatLess, that came out earlier this year.
Kristie’s ethos is motivated by a desire to reduce the suffering of animals and to save the planet from ecological devastation. By convincing people of the efficacy and benefits of plant based diets, Kristie hopes to do her part in helping the planet. One of the best ways to do that is educating people about the negative consequences of consuming meat. Eating less meat has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease and many other illnesses.
Her book, MeatLess, offers easy steps and motivations for reducing animal products in one’s diet, and uses events from the author's own childhood that shaped the way she looked at meat consumption and the defining moments that inspired her lifelong commitment to animal rights and environmental sustainability.
The section on factory farming was difficult to read and is a horrific reminder of how animals in factory farms are treated and how this cruelty is hidden from us. The book details many facts and figures on how our environment has been affected, how we could cure world hunger by switching to an all plant-based diet, and even if we ate meat one less day a week, it would make a huge difference. That’s why Kristie has implemented Meatless Mondays in cafeterias across the country, a simple idea that can help change the world, one step at a time.
If you still needed more motivation to reduce or eliminate meat from your diet, take a look at this quote from the book, “The amount of crops currently fed to farm animals could feed an extra 4 billion people. Oxfam estimates 795 million people suffer from chronic malnutrition worldwide.” (MeatLess) We waste valuable resources on providing meat around the world when we could more efficiently use plant based diets to both save money, save lives, and improve the planet's ecosystem.
To help you along on your path to meat-free living, Kristie provides healthy and delicious recipes that are easy to make, while providing helpful tips that will ease your vegan transition, such as food swaps and places to eat. Kristie includes her suggestions on vegan options that are offered at some of the most popular restaurants in the United States (such as Chipotle, The Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden and Panera Bread) and shares about the specific kinds of foods and dishes to look out for when one is traveling to different parts of the world.
MeatLess is the ultimate guide to transitioning to vegan, with in-depth guides about how to consume vegan proteins, animal-free dairy, condiments, grains and beans. The last section of the book titled “Recipes for Success”, includes recipes for breakfast, soups, sides, sauces, entrees and desserts. She even provides a list of resources and recommended reading for further research and independent study. This critically-acclaimed book will aid you in leading a healthier life, and help the planet in the process.
Interview with Kristie Middleton
1. What inspired you to become a vegetarian and then eventually a vegan?
I became vegetarian after a college marketing professor described euphemisms. The example she gave was to ask how appealing it would be to eat chicken nuggets if we instead called them “processed flesh of dead animals.” Those words hit me and I became vegetarian. Then I started reading about factory farming and was horrified by the way we produce meat, eggs, and dairy and gradually made the transition to vegan.
2. What was the goal of writing Meatless?
So many people are interested in eating meatless in response to concerns about health, animal welfare, and the environment. I wanted to offer a resource to help those people address obstacles to change and over come those obstacles as well as offer resources and tools to ensure their success.
3. For critics who believe that vegan diets lack proper protein, what are some readily available and affordable staples that you recommend for people who are interested in veganism?
U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show men in the U.S. consume as much as 190% of their recommended daily allowance of protein while women eat as much as 160%! There are so many great sources of plant protein: nuts and nut butters, beans—chickpeas, black beans, soy beans and so much more, and plant-based meats are some of my favorites.
4. What is your favorite recipe to make from your book?
That’s like asking me to pick a favorite child. There are so many! An easy and delicious one is the Mac N Cheese Surprise.
5. What is your favorite restaurant in the Bay Area and what is your favorite item to order there?
I love the Platillo de Legumbres at Gracias Madre: it’s a plate of delicious grilled seasonal vegetables, a healthy portion of rice and beans, and fresh corn tortillas. Start with the paps al horno – delicious roasted potatoes topped with a spicy cashew cheese sauce.
6. What was your biggest challenge when promoting plant-based eating across some of the nation’s largest school districts, hospitals and colleges?
The biggest challenge is overcoming the same misconceptions that many people have of a plant-based meal. When they learn it can be as simple as serving familiar favorites, just without the meat or swapping one ingredient with another, using ingredients they already have, it becomes much easier.
7. Does the success of the “Meatless Monday” Program for the Humane Society of the US make you think that plant-based eating has a chance to catch on with mainstream society?
Eating meat-free one day a week is a great way for people to see that it’s doable and explore a new way of eating. There’s no question it’s catching on with the mainstream with estimates from 40-70 percent of Americans saying they’re eating meat-free one day a week.
8. Do you think humans and animals should have equal rights?
My focus is more about reducing suffering. As long as I spend my days being as effective as I can at reducing suffering, especially by making plant-based eating mainstream and abolishing factory farming, I'd be a proud animal advocate.
9. How has your work for the Humane Society of the US allowed you to reach your goals in life?
I couldn’t be more excited to do the work I’m doing every day. I get to work on a team of amazing people, passionate about what they’re doing all while I hope making a difference in the lives of many people and animals.
10. How has being a vegan enriched your life?
I became vegan for ethical reasons, but later learned about the health benefits of eating a plant-based diet and how I’d be eating lighter on the earth. There’s a lot of violence and suffering in the world and it’s often difficult or impossible for individuals to prevent it. When it comes to what we eat, we can make a difference and it feels so good to be a part of that movement.
My personal favorites from MeatLess that are pictured in this article include:
Maple Glazed Brussels Sprouts (Page 162)
simple yet delicious savory dish with a slight hint of sweetness that is perfect as a main course or side dish
Vitality Bowl (Page 176)
a highly photogenic, colorful and flavorful dish that will fill you up in a satisfying way