my experience of veganuary

Red rice and chickpea bowl with lots of lemon and guacamole

I’ve dabbled in and out of veganism for a few years now, experimenting with varying degrees of vegetarianism, and this year, I figure I would take it to the next level.

People go vegan for lots of different reasons. Because of animal cruelty, because of health reasons, because of the environmental impact… I feel personally more connected to the ecological effect of the meat and dairy industry, and I tried to stay as eco-conscious as possible throughout the month.

It’s been a fun month! A challenging and sometimes difficult experience – but I pulled through, despite the odd slip! So I thought I’d share my experience after my first full veganuary!

I relied almost entirely on a Chinese restaurant, a Lebanese deli and an Italian restaurant that had vegan cheese…

…which covered most lunch emergencies and impromptu dinner dates throughout the month. Adapting a pizza was easy – I ordered vegetarian pizzas with vegan cheese or the vegan special, since lots of places were on board with veganuary (like Franco Manca in the UK). I’ll admit I wasn’t exactly sure whether the Lebanese falafel wrap had dairy or not. I also did my best at Chinese restaurants with vegetable dishes and boiled rice, and vegan ramen from Shoryu.

If you can find a handful of places you know you’ll enjoy ordering from, it makes decisions much easier when you’re faced with the menu. Asian cuisine is easy to adapt (but watch out for ghee in Indian food!), whereas French is much harder for example.

Vegan ramen bowl from Shoryu

I didn’t always eat the healthiest things, but by lack of choice

It’s true, you can be a total junk food vegan. You can find burgers, nuggets, cheese, pizza, deep fried vegetables and ice cream… I didn’t really indulge in a lot of processed vegan food because I was trying to limit my carbon footprint and ate mostly home made dishes.

But at times, I really didn’t have a lot of choice, and when I struggled finding something to eat, I often ended up buying crisps, bread and ordering French fries. So just to make clear that when something is vegan, it isn’t necessarily ‘healthier’, whatever that even means.

That being said, I wasn’t obsessed about eating entirely ‘clean’. I don’t think I could have managed an entire month without treating myself and I definitely indulged in lots of pizza!

An example of vegan pizza from Portland’s VegFest last summer!

I majorly f* up at a work conference

I had a couple of trips planned for work and it was really, really hard. A three day work conference in a super nice hotel, buffet lunches and sit-down dinners really limited my choices. On the first day, I ate bread and leaves for lunch. I was so ravenous by dinner time (a whole 9 hours later!) that I ate an entire cheese and ham quiche. Oops.

And you know what? That’s fine. Part of the experience is to understand your habits and challenge them. No one is expecting you to starve to death if you can’t find anything to eat. The important part for me was the ability to bounce back and carry on when I got home.

Moving forward, I think it’d be very difficult to maintain an entirely vegan diet – purely for my sanity!

I saved lots of money, but that’s not always the way it goes

I think it’s a common misconception that vegan = cheaper. I think it depends. I ate a lot of locally grown vegetables from the market, fresh bread from the baker, oats, hummus and lentils (all cheap). But if you’re looking to replace your yoghurt, cheese, meat and chocolate with their vegan equivalents, it can get really expensive. So just watch out and keep track of your spending if you’re trying to maintain your existing food budget.

Cheap vegan food is generally not processed; canned beans, grains, plain tofu etc. I spent more money on specialty items to keep things interesting, like spices, sauces and the occasional wedge of Prosiciano.

A cheap meal of soup and bread – which I had most days

I didn’t eat a lot of protein, and I felt fine

You guessed it – I got lots of questions about protein. And like I mentioned, there are lots of protein alternatives now. But I’ll admit I didn’t have that much protein, and maybe in the long term, it would be an issue. I ate lots of low fat hummus, some tofu and edamame, but mostly, I ate carbs.

I don’t think there are as many excuses as there used to be not to try veganism, but it’s useful to understand what macronutrient combination works best for you. If you know a higher protein works for you, you should honour your personal needs instead of following what some high-carb vegan is eating on instagram. There are lots of delicious vegan meat alternatives out there, like Quorn, tofurky, flavored tofu, Beyond Meat and generic meat alternatives from the supermarkets.

A tofu scramble for breakfast with toast, avocado and veggies

It’s super hard if you have an intolerance, too

This was the hardest part for me – not being able to meat, dairy and fructose. No sweet potato. No tomato. No root vegetables. No ketchup. No sweet chilli sauce or butternut squash or vegan desserts. That makes veganism a lot more restrictive!

It was especially hard at buffets and events, where the only option might be a roasted vegetable dish which I couldn’t have. Eating out for breakfast was also quite difficult, since I couldn’t have fruit or chia puddings or the toppings on oatmeal. Agreed – it’s not the end of the world. So I decided not to drive myself insane and stay flexible. If that meant having chicken instead of nothing, I had chicken. Fortunately, it only happened a couple of times.

A veggie box from the Lebanese – I think it was all vegan!

I didn’t miss meat, but I missed eggs

I actually can’t remember the last time I cooked meat since I moved to Oxford in December. I’ve had chicken in wraps and fish at restaurants, but I had essentially already stopped cooking meat and fish at home. But I used to get half a dozen eggs from the market every Sunday, which I did kind of miss.

Eggs are cheap, and probably not as terrible for the environment as a piece of steak, especially if from a local farm. Eggs are also really delicious and much harder to replace in my opinion – how does one make a vegan poached egg without spending multiple hours creating a fake egg? It’s not possible. So – I’m very likely to reintroduce eggs!

Regardless of slipping up a couple of times and having some dull moments munching on dry bread, I really enjoyed challenging myself. I had fun, cooked a lot more, had interesting conversations with curious friends, and saved money! And really – it’s not as hard as it sounds.

supercharge your oatmeal for gut health & the environment

A while ago, I wrote a post about how to make the best gut healing oatmeal and, believe it or not, it’s the most popular post on the BARE. blog! I guess there are lots of oat lovers out there, just like me.

Things have changed a little since then, and I’ve experimented with way more combos (and so have many food bloggers). Oats are here to stay: they’re cheap, filling and super versatile. I’ve experimented with soaking and making my morning porridge even more digestible. I’ve made savoury porridge. And all the while, I’ve been finding ways to make oats a sustainable and planet friendly dish.

Oats are really fabulous if you live somewhere wet (check) and dreary in the winter months, where not much produce is grown (check). It’s also great if you’re vegan/vegetarian (almost check!) and like a bargain (check). And well – oats are recommended by many heart and diabetes associations, as well as being routinely recommended to boost fibre intake. In conclusion, we should all be consuming oats.

So, whether you already enjoyed my previous post or not, here are 5 further ways to supercharge your oats and be even kinder to your body and the planet!

soak overnight with lemon juice

Well it wouldn’t be my blog if we weren’t talking about good ol’ digestion. Oats are high in both soluble and insoluble fibre. The former absorbs water and lubricates your digestive tract, whereas the latter adds bulk and speed. In other words, you should be expecting better digestion. However, if you’re prone to bloating, there’s more you can do: soaking. It’s really simple – just add 2 parts liquid (water or milk!) and 1 part oats to a bowl and soak in the fridge overnight. You can add chia seeds for an extra fibre boost. And adding a squeeze of lemon before soaking reduces the amount of phytic acid in the oats, which may prevent your body from producing digestive enzymes. Some people claim it helps with bioavailability.

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ayurvedic + gut-friendly savoury oats

A warming bowl of porridge is so much more than a plate of food. Share it with a friend and it becomes a topic of conversation. Make it after a long day and it becomes a source of comfort. Let your imagination run free and it becomes a creative outlet.

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how to make the best gut-healing oatmeal

Oatmeal, porridge, whatever you wanna call it. One thing: treat it like risotto.

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Oats are like the perfect middle-ground between incredibly indulgent and incredibly nutritious.

I was probably born with a spoonful of oats in my mouth. Wherever I was, at home, at school, on holidays, oats always made an appearance. Except my oat consumption has changed drastically since those dairy and microwave days. I actually used to pour cornflakes on top of my porridge. That crunch was everything. Now it just comes in a different shape (i.e. spoonfuls of PB)!

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is your whole30 whole enough?

It’s late at night and I’m thinking about the whole30. I’m thinking about my first whole30 and how I’m still seeking #FoodFreedomForever. And I really feel like I need to take some thoughts off my chest after seeing how much attention the programme has had over the month of January!

I did the whole30 back in September. It didn’t have a happy ending, but it did have lifelong positive consequences. My gut wasn’t happy, but my soul was, and I am so grateful for the experience. I’m also proud I lasted the 30 days without a slip. I know I won’t be doing the whole30 exactly as it is outlined again, but I know that applying the core principles was essential to my mental success the first time around.

But there’s stuff we’re not talking about enough in this community. I still stumble upon whole30ers who just want to “lose weight”. Who think it’s ok to eat almond butter by the spoonful because it’s compliant. Or worse, who stuff dates with almond butter and are cool with that.

No. Don’t be cool.

If these behaviours don’t seem like red flags to you, please don’t stop reading. You need this.

#1. it takes a while to get ready and figure out your boundaries

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green zombie popcorn + why I created #healthoween

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And it’s Monday again. As it turns out, this weekend is Halloween weekend! I am super duper excited. See, I didn’t end up doing much last year, because I wasn’t ‘in the know’. I don’t know how it happened, but I felt very uninformed about what was going on!

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the Whole30: my thoughts + why it didn’t work for me

In a nutshell: it simply wasn’t the right time, the right solution or the right fit for me.

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the reason why

So I decided to complete the Whole30 because the lovely Kate, my nutritional therapist, advised I remove dairy and gluten from my diet to regulate my digestion, and the September Whole30 was about to start, and I thought it would be a good excuse for me to combine the two. So I did, and it took a great deal out of me at the beginning. My digestion took a hard hit. It is very fragile on my regular diet (mostly vegetarian, occasional animal products, lots of grains), and I didn’t give it enough time to adjust to the changes of a paleo-style diet (lots more meat, no grains).

 

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apple cinnamon pork loin from Paleo Leap

 

You may or may not know that the paleo diet includes moderate amounts of meat, fish, nuts and dairy-free animal products, as well as an abundance of vegetables. No grains, no pulses, no peanuts and no soy. You are expected to eat a moderate amount of animal and plant fat to keep you satiated. The paleo community has become renowned for recreating pancakes, cakes and tortillas employing tricks using cashews, cauliflower and avocado. Now, the Whole30 encourages the paleo part, but not the recreating part. You can read more about it here.

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#septemberwhole30 week 3: what I ate + how I feel

Wow, this week has gone by so fast. And successful in terms of non-scale victories. Like snacking. I like snacking, but I’m finally learning not to snack so much.
I’ve not been keeping track of my food so well (or taking photos of it!), but I’ll do my best to recall what I’ve been eating, making, tasting and maybe even smelling.

day 15

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Breakfast is always the same. I’m really intending to change it up next week, which’ll be the final week of my Whole30. 2 fried eggs (in coconut oil), a slice or two of bacon, and some not-so-optional avocado. Yay.
Lunch is pretty interesting. I attempt to make pork sausages out of minced pork, sage and mustard but they turn out to be incredibly wet. So I decide to hash them with some cauliflower rice instead of making patties and serve it over a black kale salad, with some sauerkraut and avocado. My dressing of choice remains the same; tahini, apple cider vinegar and some seasoning.
I don’t snack today. That is a major non-scale victory for me, because I’m normally itching to eat something in between meals. I did have a mandatory black coffee at some point, like evry day.
Dinner is a simple roast chicken, with turmeric and cumin. It turns out amazing this week, really juicy and crispy-skinned, and I serve it with some potatoes, mashed with a little clarified butter.

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#septemberwhole30 week 2: what I ate + how I feel

It’s Sunday, two weeks into my very first Whole30. I feel like I’ve been on this for months already. I’m getting the hang of it, whilst simultaneously feeling like I am not experimenting enough in the kitchen. I know I can do better!

In terms of health improvements, my digestion is 100% improved. Amazing. Not so amazing I may have to restrict my dairy or gluten intake in the future. We shall see. Oh and my sleep. My goodness I have not slept so deeply since childhood. I put my head on the pillow and I don’t wake up until the alarm wakes me. I am so lucky to have seen results two weeks in already. If you haven’t seen much improvement, please don’t give up. I know it’s not easy, but just keep going. It only gets better.

So anyway, week 2 has been a tasty week of meals!

day 8

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Please ignore the nails. Week 2 feelz.

Breakfast is two slices of streaky bacon (I get mine from M&S. It isn’t nitrate-free, but I’m still looking. It’s sugar-free, which matters to me the most right now.), 2 eggs and an entire small avocado. I’m struggling with digesting all this meat, and I order some HCL for stomach acid. I haven’t tested it yet, but it is very likely that I have low-ish stomach acid. Hopefully my body will adapt, otherwise I will have to revert to eating more fibre-rich starches when I am done. I’m pondering transitioning back into a much lower meat diet (90% plant-based) if my body rejects the paleo movement. But I am absolutely convinced I need grains. Like oats and amaranth and buckwheat. I read an article about digestion on PaleoLeap and read that it is normal for digestion to slow down at the beginning of a paleo shift, because fats are replacing grains and grains contain bulking fibre. I might need to eat more vegetables.
For lunch, I finally got to taste my sauerkraut, which has been in the making for 10 days. It’s so delicious, I have it with romaine lettuce, boiled potatoes, garam masala chicken breast in coconut oil and a mayonnaise (from Waitrose, all natural. I fail at making my own.) and apple cider vinegar dressing.
For dinner, I make pork loin with a big kale salad, roasted potatoes and cooked cabbage. Again, very delicious. I’m getting a little comfortable with my cooking, I’ll have to keep my creativity in check.

day 9

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september whole30: week 1, what I ate + how I feel

Happy Monday lovelies 🐭

One week down, 3 to go. We can do this. Even if our digestion is completely out of whack and we can’t stand the sight of ghee anymore. We’re fine.

I thought I would give you an insight into what I have been eating this week, at home and on the road. It’s not been easy every day, but I’m proud of pulling through!

 

day 1:

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Monday morning, post late-night pizza feels (has anyone else tried Domino’s newest pizza with fresh rocket and Prosciutto? It was so worth it.) I am craving something healthy!
For breakfast: two eggs fried in coconut oil, a quarter avocado with hot sauce (Red Hot) and some mushrooms, sautéed in coconut oil + bone broth. I normally have toast. I didn’t miss the toast.
For lunch: a crispy chicken breast on a bed of leaves with a tahini, basil, garlic, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar dressing.
For dinner: homemade beef burger patties (spiced with cumin + paprika) + roasted potatoes + crispy black kale.
I did snack on a handful or two of nuts, I must admit I hadnt quite grasped the concept of not snacking unless you absolutely need it. I promise I’ll get better.

day 2:

Continue reading “september whole30: week 1, what I ate + how I feel”