Plant Based Life
Plant Based Life
If you have been following my exploits for a while, you will know both Steve and I decided to switch to a plant based(vegan) diet back in November 19. This followed us watching the controversial documentary ‘The Game Changers’. Weirdly enough the day we started was World Vegan Day which we didn’t know about. Neither of us were vegetarian nor had even ever considered completely giving up animal products. We went through our entire kitchen getting rid of all the products we wouldn’t be able to use. It was quite cathartic having a clear out. I bought Fearne Cottons ‘Happy Vegan’ cookbook and we were good to go
My main concern was what I would substitute in my morning cup of tea. Many a tough day has been started with a good cup of tea and I was worried this would be affected. I tried soya milk and almond milk, but it made the tea taste a bit odd. Finally, I found full fat oaty milk which is creamy, more like milk. I was a member of a FB page that had lots of tips and advice on eating a vegan diet.
I wasn’t keen on the label of ‘vegan’ as this often conjures up images of militant hairy pitted activists which we certainly weren’t. I was interested in the health benefits and seeing if it would make any difference to my running and training in general. I would say we did not eat a bad diet anyway and tended to stick to chicken and fish with the occasional red meat. We liked bacon, sausages, a good hearty steak. Would me miss all this??
We spent our first few shopping trips trawling around Sainsburys trying to find some of the staple ingredients used in plant based cooking. Tahini, miso paste, tofu were all odd things I’d vaguely heard of but had no real idea what they were. We flicked between Morrisons and Sainsburys but soon settled on Sainburys having the better choice. Steve loves cooking so he leaped into plant based cooking. It was nice to sit down and plan our weekly menu with a bit more thought. Breakfast was covered as we have always started our day with a Herbalife shake packed full of fruit or veg. Thankfully most of their products are vegan. I missed my scrambled eggs but over time have got used to not eating eggs at all. We have both said though if we ever kept our own chickens we would include the odd egg in our diets as we could guarantee a no cruelty production. We discovered Sainsburys Shroomdog sausages which are succulent and tasty and really hit the spot for a post park run butty.
We packed our cupboards with the basics for plant based cooking and always have lots of rice, nuts, pasta, beans and lentils. The first few weeks bought a few upset tummies as we had changed our diet so drastically but we began to enjoy the recipes we were trying. At the time we went plant based it was becoming ‘trendy’ to eat vegan food and there was a real boom in choice and variety both in the supermarkets and when dining out. The first thing we had that was convenience food was a subway. We would never usually eat at subway but we thought we’d see what was on offer. It was ok but I was shocked when I compared the details of the vegan wrap to that of a bbq chicken wrap. Way more fat, which shocked me.
People seemed to be interested in our plant based journey so we set up a FB page so we could share tips and advice on changing your diet. It became easier to shop as we started to recognize how labels differed and what to look for. Some products use a green V for vegan but on others this means vegetarian so you do have to be a little more aware when shopping. I did try some fake bacon…..never again. It was foul. Somethings are best left unchanged. Fake tuna is possibly the most disgusting thing I’ve ever tasted so this is definitely best left alone.
We started to watch other documentaries about the animal agricultural industry and were genuinely shocked at the scale of devastation it is causing to the planet. Cowspiracy was a real eyeopener. (https://www.cowspiracy.com/about) Animal agriculture is killing our planet and it felt good to be able to do our bit and feel like we could make a difference. A really informative documentary by George Monbiot (Apocalypse Cow) showed the effect on the UK landscape of animal agriculture and how by reducing this we could bring back woodland and natural habitats. It showed us how from a very early age we are softened to the cruelty of the meat industry as we are shown pretty farm scenes in books with happy animals, whilst behind all this is the slaughter side that we grow up not even thinking about. Meat eating is the greatest marketing success ever seen. From our very early days we are brought up on meat, our very British history is built around the great Sunday dinner and its always been a sign of wealth, long through the ages of time.
We don’t eat out often but were really pleased with the choice at most restaurants. We even found some real gems that really understood the concept of plant based and not just substituted a burger for a crap, processed pile of dry veg. Some of the bigger chains were just playing lip service, in our opinion but we tended to eat at recommended local restaurants. We had some great meals that I wouldn’t usually have considered pre vegan life. Our wonderful local cage Madhatters even hosted a Vegan night and the food was exquisite.
We carried on into December and Christmas started to loom. I was worried abut missing out on a traditional Christmas meal and having to be the awkward one at Christmas fuddles. Instead what it meant was we took vegan options and then didn’t pig out on all the excess food. We’ve both always dreaded the lead up to Christmas with the glut of food and drink. There simply isn’t any need for it and the over eating is something that is all too often now and hence we have a nation that is sliding more and more into an obesity crisis. It felt good to come away only eating what we needed and although most of the goodies were off limits we didn’t need them. We had a night away at a hotel with friends and were worried we would end up with some dry, vegetarian roast but to our great delight the cook was also vegan and we were served with one of the best dishes I had tasted in a long while. It was colourful, creamy and healthy and made the chicken dinner look rather bland. Christmas dinner was pretty much the same as every year with the exception of the turkey. We had a really moist, tasty vegan roast with all the trimmings. I even made vegan rum butter to go with the Christmas pudding. We got through Christmas without putting any extra pounds on which is unheard of. We didn’t go without but what we didn’t do was continuously gorge on cheese, crackers, mince pies, puddings, different meats and big stodgy breakfast.
January was ‘Veganuary’ so everyone got on board with the change of diet and our group grew. Interested people who were following our story were coming up to us to let us know they were giving it a go. It seemed like the whole nation were going vegan crazy. At this time though many of the big chains were jumping on the band wagon with vegan options but it was starting to become more about processed vegan food and it was obvious that being a ‘vegan’ wasn’t necessarily very healthy. I heard stories of vegans living on coke and lentils which isn’t healthy in any form. We tried to stick to our goal of eating a plant based wholefoods diet. We included lots of fruit and veg and kept the processed food to a minimum.
Here we are in May in this weird world we now inhabit. Its been 7 months since we ditched animal products from our diet. We both lost weight over these months and now our weight is very constant. We do eat processed food and have good days and bad days as does everyone but what we’ve found is we don’t feel bloated and lethargic after a big meal. It feels like the food is easier to digest. I’ve certainly noticed an improvement in my recovery after runs and long events. I’ve done several ultras over the last few months and have cut out the sugary crap and stuck to natural foods like fruit and nuts. I am still partial to a peanut butter bagel though. We’ve settled into a good routine with our meals and eat fresh most nights. We make pizzas once a week and use jackfruit as a tasty topping, tofu is usually on the menu at least once and we eat lots of veg with each meal.
I have found some local takeaways that do vegan kebabs, delivered to your door and one that does the most amazing cake box.
We’ve tried vegan brownies, vegan burgers and lots of other tasty vegan alternatives. When we could still go out I loved Annies burger shack in Nottingham where they offered their entire menu as a vegan option. You cant beat a good burger for that feel good factor and I’m excited to find out they are now offering ‘call and collect’. We’ve even had a vegan kebab which was incredibly good. They use a meat substitute made from soya which is remarkable ‘meaty. Check them out for a bit of ‘filthy’ vegan food (https://www.thefilthyvegan.co.uk/)
Our page continued to grow and we picked up all sorts of tips and recommendations. We try to post recipes we’ve tried and liked or local businesses that we’ve tried.
So will we continue?? Definitely. I have been reading a book called ‘How not to die’ which covers; in great scientific detail, the benefits of following a plant based diet. Studies across the word have shown its effects on disease from liver cancer to diabetes and gout. You can pretty much eradicate type 2 diabetes with a plant based diet and there are some GPs that are starting to promote this to patients. We often go for a walk of an evening and there are some cows along the way that we stop and chat to. I’d never really considered my part in their cruelty and it feels good to not be a part of that any more.
Do I miss meat?? No I genuinely don’t as we have many other tasty options. What I do miss sometimes, is the texture. I loved chicken and you cant quite replicate that, sometimes I do fantasise about a nice chicken curry or a roast lamb dinner but this passes and the curry we have from Fearne is just as yummy. We still have fried breakfasts occasionally, biscuits are still in the tin and we aren’t afraid to venture out now and try new dishes. I don’t see we are missing out on anything. Our diet is much more varied, we eat way more fruit and veg, we both feel better and from a training point of view I’ve never felt better. We’ve expanded our cookbook collection and continue to try new recipes weekly. The mushroom wellington is especially good for a Sunday Dinner.
As we continue to experiment with new recipes and learn more about the health benefits of a wholefood plant based diet, the more certain I am we will stick with it. Neither of us feel we are missing anything, the foods we eat are packed with goodness and we both feel much better physically. The fact we are now not eating slaughtered animals or supporting animal agriculture that is slowly squeezing the life out of our fragile planet also feels good both ethically and morally.
If you want to join our FB group please feel free to and share some of your favourite plant based tips and ideas. Stay safe folks and why not give it a go for a week even.