My Vegan Challenge; Roundup

I DID IT!!! I spent the whole of July vegan. 31 days (well, I still have the remainder of today to go) of eating and living a vegan lifestyle. I ditched the Dr Marten boots, I ignored the Jaffa cakes in the pantry and I didn’t eve glance at the reduced meat in the supermarket.

Was it hard? Surprisingly, nowhere near as hard as I thought it would be. The month has gone so quickly. I was shocked when I realised only yesterday, that it was the end of July already. I’m not going to lie, that I did give into temptation a couple of times with food. On my first day I had a sneaky spoonful of lemon meringue, and I popped a chocolate button into my mouth (stolen from the kids) in the second week. But, after that blip my brain just functioned into ‘Vegan Mode’ and nothing seemed tempting anymore. I smelt cooking bacon a few times from neighbours houses and I did suddenly feel a massive craving, but I quickly remembered why I was doing my vegan challenge.

How do I feel about my veganism challenge? I feel really positive actually. I think it went well. You know the saying ‘Time flies when you’re having fun’? I think I can apply that to my vegan challenge 100%. I honestly found the month fly past. Ditching milk in my coffee was so easy. I haven’t touched a drop of milk, and the thought of going back to drinking it really doesn’t appeal to me. I will quite happily stick to milk alternative’s for my drinks, cereals and baking. I started the challenge drinking Soya milk, but later found it to be very fattening and I was bloating on it. I now use rice milk instead. I haven’t missed cheese (weird!) and I have found some great chocolate to keep my cravings happy. Milk chocolate was my vice, but I have switched to Green And Black’s dark range and Cadbury’s Bourneville. I think I can learn so much more about vegan foods and baking (I worked out how to make a mean chocolate cake), and having learnt so much in the space of 31 days, I would be interested to see how much more is out there to discover with more time.

Have I noticed any differences in my body? Massively. I’ve lost 8.5lbs since day 1. I have to keep up the extra calorie intake because I am breastfeeding Ivy, but I have still shifted some pounds. My tummy is less flabby and I have lots more energy. My hair is getting less greasy and my skin appears a lot brighter too. And my nails! I have nails! My brain is functioning more efficiently and it doesn’t take me as long to wake up and get going in the morning. My bad days with post natal depression have reduced, but I have been put on medication and I genuinely feel amazing.

Shopping, cooking and washing. The first few weeks of label reading was tough. It took me ages to do a simple food shop, but I soon got into the swing of things. I stocked up on lots of dried beans and pulses and carbs became my friend. Cooking was a similar story. I felt like I was spending forever in the kitchen, but I soon learnt to cook foods in batches and keep my fridge stocked with food that I could just grab and go. I also quickly learnt that if I was going out for the day, it was easiest to take a packed lunch and a bottle of rice milk, because finding vegan food out and about was harder than I imagined, and having a cuppa at a friends house meant that my milk alternatives were limited. Alcohol was a massive head scratcher. I am not a huge drinker anyway, its tough with kids and breastfeeding to have a session. Many alcoholic drinks are not vegan, due to them being filtered through isinglass, basically fish guts (WTAF is that all about!?!). I found the website Barnivore great for checking what booze is vegan friendly.

As for house work, it was clear that human beings aren’t just non-compassionate beings with food, but also with cleaning and washing our homes and our bodies. So many products have been tested on animals, or include animal ingredients. Looking for the leaping bunny logo on packaging became second nature. I turned to lemon juice for cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, stocking up on huge bags of lemons! I also found Original Source shower gel is very loud and proud vegan.  Sainsbury’s Basics shampoo and conditioner are also cruelty free and very cheap! Sainsbury’s is where I found to be the most vegan friendly UK supermarket to shop in. Any of their own brand vegan products are clearly marked and save loads of time when shopping. Instead of scrolling through ingredients lists, just one quick glance tells me if its an OK product.

Will, I continue? Yes. definitely. I still have so much to learn and write about. I don’t feel like 1 month was long enough. I think I will give it 3! So, there you have it… my word I will go for another 2 months. GULP! If you would like to give the 30 Day Vegan Pledge a go, you can sign up here, through the Vegan Society website. You will receive daily emails with great hints and tips, super recipes and great links to keep you on track. The Vegan Society website is packed full of useful information and resources, and they have a super team of staff that will answer any questions you may have about your transition into veganism.

vegan

 

Finding My Body’s Essentials As A Vegan Breastfeeding Mother

I was nervous about starting my vegan challenge as a breastfeeding mum 30 days ago. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find all of the essential vitamins and minerals that my body would need to create a good quality, satisfying milk. I quickly learnt however, that with a good varied diet including lots of mineral rich food, I would be OK, my milk supply and quality wouldn’t suffer. In fact, I can say that I actually get more vitamins and minerals now I am on a vegan diet than when I was on an omnivore diet.

Breastfeeding your baby has many obvious benefits to mum and child. A breastfed baby has a boosted immune system, reduced risk of developing diabetes, reduces the chances of sudden infant death syndrome, higher IQ rates, healthier joints and muscles, less chances of suffering with constipation and diarrhoea, fewer ear and eye infection, less likely to develop arthritis… the list goes on. For mum, reduced blood loss after birth and the uterus will contact back to pre pregnancy size quicker, reduced breast and ovarian cancer rates, lowers chances of developing osteoporosis, reduced diabetes risk, more sleep… need I go on?

Reasons-to-be-Proud11

Eating healthily during pregnancy and breastfeeding is essential, whether you are vegan or not. Your body needs to be happy and healthy to grow your baby, and keep your baby growing as it should. Many women take folic acid during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (many taking it during conception too) to ensure that baby develops a healthy spine and neural tube. Vegan Folic acid supplements are easily available, and naturally found folic acid can be sourced from green leafy foods such as spinach or spring greens, brown rice, fortified cereals, broccoli, asparagus, lentils, beans and pulses… to name a few. The name Folic Acid comes from folate – green leafy foods- foliage!

We are all advised to have our 5 a day of fruit and vegetables. When breastfeeding, it has been noted that this number should rise to 7 (Although I cannot remember where I first saw this piece of advice). 7 portions of fruit and veg really isn’t hard to achieve when eating a vegan that’s for sure.

lentils

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should aim to include a portion of protein with each meal. For meat eaters, finding protein isn’t a biggie because meats include protein. But nuts, soy products, beans and peas all contain great levels of protein, and including a portion with each meal seems to happen easily with almost no second thought. The same rule of one portion of iron per meal is also recommended. Iron is also found in beans, legumes, dark green vegetables and soy products. Vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron, so snacking on oranges, berries or tomatoes will really help. Try keeping a pack of frozen berries in the freezer, the make a sweet treat, last for ages and are a cheaper alternative to freash berries that will have to be eaten quickly. They also cool down a smoothie perfectly in the summer when thrown into the blender.

Calcium for strong bones (for you and your baby) is a biggie. As a vegan mother getting calcium for dairy products such as milk and cheese is out of the question. Calcium can however be found in tofu (yummy when scrambled and on wholemeal toast!), almonds, sesame seeds and tahini.

During pregnancy a woman’s immune system is lower, making the risks of falling ill higher (one reason why pregnant women are advised to avoid soft cheese and undercooked eggs). It is important that vegan and vegetarian mums wash their food thoroughly, especially when eating any raw foods to avoid listeria getting into the body, which can cause premature birth, or even miscarriage.

veganicity pregnancy essentials

Veganicity have an amazing range of vegan supplements that are all 100% vegan, 100% animal friendly and 100% Vegan Society approved. This bottle of  Veganicity Pregnancy Essentials is ideal for any vegan or breastfeeding mum, as it contains 25 vital vitamins and minerals in one convenient tablet, containing folic acid, vitamins C, D, E and B complex and Vegan D3. The tablets look a little big and daunting to take, but they are nothing unmanageable. You simply just take 1-2 tablets daily, with food. The Pregnancy Essentials tablets are also sugar free, gluten free, lactose free, yeast free and wheat free and contain no colouring and use minimum natural fillers and binders. Veganicity’s Pregnancy Essentials can be purchased from the Veganicity website and are £9.95 for 60.

Some of my favourite vegan breastfeeding grub:

Avocado’s. Oh man, so creamy! They are packed full of good fats. BURSTING with vitamin K, fibre and one avocado equals to about 22% of your daily Folic acid intake too! They also contain 60% MORE potassium than bananas. Amazing! They mix well into a yummy green smoothie, or you can whip out a mean guacamole!

Flax Seed. This bag of Milled Organic Flaxseed by Linwoods is a healthy superfood that can be added into sooooo many recipes, from smoothies to cupcakes and porridge to casseroles. Just 2 heaped dessert spoons provides you with 5.8g of Omega 3. Flaxseed is a convenient and quick source of iron, magnesium and calcium and is absorbed quickly into the body, meaning that you feel its benefit instantly! It’s also suitable for freezing, great for people like me who like to cook up batches of food for the freezer. A 425g bag of Linwoods Milled Organic Flaxseed is £5.99 and is available in Holland and Barrett.

vegan linoods flaxseed

Rolled Oats. Great for milk production, full of iron, filling, low fat and very versatile. Don’t just use it to make porridge, but throw a handful of raw oats into smoothies, make your own flapjacks or cereal bars and tie some up into a muslin cloth and throw in the bath when the dreaded chickenpox arrive (like they have this week in our own home).

Blueberries. Oh, they are like little sweeties! A tub of blueberries doesn’t last very long in our house at all. We all love them. I like to throw handfuls into smoothies and cakes (which I bake a lot). They are a superb antioxidant, and are packed with Vitamin A, calcium and potassium… which all go into make great milk.

So, there you have a brief lowdown on how being vegan and breastfeeding CAN work together, it isn’t hard with a little planning and patience to learn.

me

 

 

 

Happy Vegan Leftovers And DIY Crisps

Sadly, more than 15 million tones of food per home, is wasted every year in the UK. Why is that? Do we spend too much time worry about Best Before dates, do we refuse to eat something that has been sat in the fridge for a day or 2? Less people cook from scratch these days, and people often find themselves ordering takeout several times a week and many people often seem to panic when the cupboards run low because they are thrown into the fear of starvation when there are only raw ingredients left over *and breathe*. It really is a scary, hungry world.

Think of how careful those really hungry people must be who don’t have the option of throwing away food, just because it seems convenient. As my old nan used to say; Waste not, want not.

I worry for the next generation of children, and their health. When you throw away food, is it because it’s inedible or is it because you just don’t really fancy it   you just prefer a Chinese rather than rummaging the back of the fridge? The food that you were about to throw away is most likely still good to eat. You really will just be throwing away money. And money doesn’t grow on trees, unlike apples.

We try to waste as little amount of food as possible. And since turning vegan we have noticed that we throw out even less food. Most food is eaten before it ever goes off, and can easily be mixed together to make a new tasty dish for dinner (and the husbands lunch the next day).

lentils

I eat a lot of beans and pulses that can be cooked in batch to save electricity and extra cooking times and can easily be dipped into to add into other dishes. My favourite thing EVER to make out of my vegan left overs is ‘Vegan Mush Mush’ – named because it is just a massive pile of mush! It’s filling, hearty and warms the soul after a rough day. It’s feel good food, but also a comfort dinner. It also requires no thinking.

Throughout the week, I open many tins of different beans, I roll a lot of falafel and chop a lot of veg. A LOT. My fridge has become my best friend (for the better this time!) and the fridge is now always fully stocked with such a huge variety of colours and flavours from around the world. This last month being vegan has taught me how to live healthily, more frugally and a lot cheaper, despite people thinking that a vegan diet is more expensive. And since the thermostat in my fridge seems to be not working as it should, I feel like I have to work harder at ensuring food is eaten before it is wasted.


The Waste-less Journey has been created by AO.com

My Vegan Mush Mush

I have recently discovered Quinoa. Something I had never even heard of before I started my vegan challenge. This easy to cook seed can easily bulk up any dinner, adding some much needed protein and calcium. It cooks in 15 minutes, keeps well in the fridge and is useful for chucking into any dinner. It’s also low gluten, perfect for those who may have gluten intolerances. Quinoa is something that seems to always be hanging around in my fridge since turning vegan. It’s a must. A pack of dry Quinoa is pennies and lasts for a long time in the cupboard

Lentils and split peas mix well together and are always surprising me with how filling they are, meaning that you often have quite a good sized portion left over after a meal especially when I over estimate how much I will actually cook. This is a big problem for me and I need to remember that a good healthy diet is much more satisfying than my pervious food choices. Add the lentils and split pea’s to your left over Quinoa for a real hearty and heavy filler to any ‘left over’s’ meal.

Falafel mix can be easily made (and is much cheaper than shop purchased ready-to-eat stuff). You simply add water, give it a good mix, mould it into shape and chuck in the oven for a few minutes. This super yummy Sharaf Falafel is egg free (because dairy free doesn’t always mean egg free), GMO free, nut free and yeast free. I found cooking up half of the bag made lots of falafel patties that could be easily kept in the fridge for several meals to come. Falafel is basically chickpeas, onions and peppers with seasonings and spices all blended together. It’s not bad for you, it feels hearty and filling and it not only makes a great side to your dinner, but is also yummy when made into little bite size nibbles and used as a late night, TV snack! Sharaf Falafel can be purchased from Holland And Barrett for £2.79 for 200g bag, which makes loads of yummy patties and is available in original flavour, sundried tomato and basil flavour (my kids love this one and is definitely my husbands favourite too) and a chilli bites flavour… spicy and moreish!

When cooking vegetables, I quite often cook an extra amount to cover lunch for next day. New potatoes, spinach, carrots and courgettes keep really well for a few days in a sealed tub. Even once cooked, as long as they are in a sealed tub they will keep for a few days. Vegetables can also be eaten raw, which is actually really good for you! Keep some chopped carrot sticks or peppers ready to hand to throw into your quick supper, or even into smoothies. My fridge is always stocked with chopped (raw and cooked) fruit and veg. This has always been the case, even since before going vegan. I find it easier and quicker to spend some time chopping up my peppers, onions and salads ready to grab at a later date, rather than just chopping them when needed. They last just as long, and save lots of time when it comes to meal preparation. Plus, when you are making this yummy Vegan Mush Mush, any thing goes so just feel free to chuck whatever you fancy in the pan and see what you come up with.

I had some left over vegan cooking sauce from a stir fry that I had made over the weekend. I watered it down a touch and poured it into a pan with my leftover veg to heat everything through thoroughly, I blitzed the quinoa and lentils in the microwave and quickly heated up a little left over wholemeal pasta from the previous days lunch. Throw onto a plate and enjoy! I managed to feed the 4 of us entirely with left over food that was just sitting in the fridge, for pennies! We cook like this at least once a week, and rarely anything goes to waste.

vegan left overs

So, as you can see, this is not an actual recipe, nor does it actually exist as a thing. I’m simply just highlighting the fact that as a vegan, nothing goes to waste. It can be all thrown in together. Flavours mix and work! Food is still fresh and very healthy and nothing is wasted. And anything that really can’t be eaten, goes straight into to compost bin, to feed my vegetable plants.

STOP!!!!!! That’s isn’t the end. How many potato peelings go into compost bins (or even worse, black bins)? I don’t actually have a figure, that would be a little nerdy for me, but I can guess its quite a lot. But potato peelings can also be eaten.  Just roast them! You’re best to cook them ASAP after peeling because they can go a funny colour and not crisp-up so well. Toss the peelings in oil, sea salt and pepper (you can also throw in any other seasoning you may fancy) and throw into the oven on gas mark 6. Bake until crispy, tossing them half way through cooking. When cooked, chuck in a bowl and garnish with some parsley or rosemary. FREE CRISPS! YEAH!!

 

potato peel crisps

For more information about being more frugal and saving food (and money) check out A Wasteless Journey, a fun new interactive site where you can download meal planners, tips on understanding those tricky food labels, recipes and even a ‘what can you freeze’ guide. The website, created by electrical appliances giant AO.com have covered everything to get you living more frugal and healthy!

 

To Pulsin and Beond

Buzz lightyear needs a good boost get into Infinity and Beyond! And as a busy mum and new vegan I have discovered Pulsin protein bites and Beond raw snack bars for my extra little boost. Because, after all it is the school holidays and the kids are already running me ragged.

The company was set up by 3 friends Ben, Nick and Simon who all met at university and realising that they had made something special and very popular, quickly set up the Pulsin company. Their products are made in Gloucestershire and all ingredients are organic and naturally low in sugar, relying on natural sweeteners such as dates brown rice malt, agave nectar (from catus) and xylitol (from tree bark!). The boys also source produce as locally as they can, from sustainable sources. They also use minimal earth-friendly packaging and all of their power comes from 100% renewable energy! How’s that for a feel good snack!?

Pulsin

Pulsin have created a yummy range of quick nibbles that are natural and high in protein. The selection of snacks contain 6g of protein in each bar, are vegan, dairy free, gluten free, soya free and contain no GM products.

Pulsin bars

I gave the Vanilla choc chip bite, the Mint Choc Chip bite and the Orange Chock Chip flavours a thorough test. These bars are all part of the Protein Bite range and each bar is 25g in weight and contains 6g of protein each but despite their small size they are very satisfying and full of energy.

My favourite in the range had to be the orange choc chip. Before I turned vegan, I could have eaten my body weight in Chocolate Orange bars, and the Pulsin bar hit the same spot. In the choc chip bars you can find cheeky lumps of choc chip that make the bar feel very naughty, when really it isn’t at all.

pusin bars review

Also available in the Pulsin range is a bigger protein snack bar, that is 50g. This bar contains 13g of protein and is also gluten, dairy and soya free. The Maple and Peanut flavour bigger sized bar, is equally yummy and really hits the spot. I get to around 3pm, my energy levels start flagging and dinner seems a million miles away. This 50g bar provided the perfect afternoon snack, and kept me going until dinner time. It’s very nutty and chewy and perfect for throwing into your handbag when the munchies strike when you are out and about, especially as a vegan when vegan friendly foods can be hard to find in a hurry.

pulsin maple and peanut protien snack

You can follow Pulsin on Twitter and on Facebook, to keep up to date with their new flavours and fun recipes.

Beond

The Pulsin talents don’t end there, the boys have also created the yummy Beond bite size treats. These little bars are just 15g, but certainly keep sweet cravings happy. Each bar is 1 of your 5 a day, and uses organic raw ingredients.

These little Apple and Cinnamon bite sized bars are just 55 calories, and while small in size they deliver the satisfaction perfectly and are bursting with sweet flavour.

Apple and cinnamon beond bar

 

My 3rd Week Vegan, Sweet Treats

I am in full swing now. I am finding this week, much easier than the previous 2. I now don’t think twice what I grab from the fridge and I find thinking of dinners easy peasy. I am finding lots of treats that keep me (and my sweet tooth) happy. Before I started my 30 Day Vegan Challenge I imagined that I would spend a lot of time with a rumbling tummy, and going to bed hungry. But I have been quite the opposite. I find I can eat more with less calorie damage, I also don’t find myself getting hungry as quickly as before, after meals. I feel way more satisfied. My body is finally using my full time to absorb nutrients, rather than just a small part of what I eat.

I have only 10 days left of my vegan challenge, but as I draw closer to the end, the more I am convinced that I will stay vegan. Or at least a mostly vegan diet. I most certainly will NOT be turning back to a meat diet. Why would I, when I feel this amazing?!

http://www.thisamericanbite.com/rutabaga-fries-grilled-tofu/

http://www.thisamericanbite.com/rutabaga-fries-grilled-tofu/

This week, I have been discovering sweet treats. Mylk tasty milk alternative drinks, Pulsin bars, Goody Good Stuff jelly sweets and Beond bars. All delivering a sweet treat, without the worry of straying away from my vegan diet. Who said we can’t have a sweet tooth, and not contribute to the suffering of animals?!

mylk coffee drink

Pre Vegan days, I really enjoyed supermarket bought Iced coffee. They were not vegan, so I’ve had to say goodbye to them. BUT, my happy liquid treat loving self was soon to discover Mylk. by Rebel Kitchen. These  dairy free, coconut Mylks use natural products and no additives or preservatives. Real ‘feel good’ food.

I first tried the coffee Mylk carton and it tasted like pure coffee heaven. I tried to savour the carton but I couldn’t help drink it fast, which I regret now. The cartons are 330ml and can be resealed, so I have no excuse. It was just tooo yummy. Ooops! I also tried the Chi flavour and found that its pleasant spices worked so well with the coconut milk and equally went down as well as the coffee flavour, even though it was a totally new flavour for my taste buds to try!

Mylk cartons are available from Holland and Barrett and are priced at £1.99.

Pulsin bars

Pulsin have delivered to us sweet toothed people, a natural and high protein, low calorie range of snacks and bites. Pulsin’s Protein Bite range include Mint Chock Chip, Vanilla Choc Chip and Orange Choc Chip and each contain 6g of protein each.  Pulsin also have a protein snack, The Maple and Peanut bar. It contains 13g of protein and is ideal for a pre-exercise boost, or great for busy mums like me that just need a little extra long lasting energy during these summer holidays.

pusin bars review

Each bite is chewy and yummy, And what’s even more wonderful is that they are dairy free, Gluten free, Soya free and non GM.  A full review of the Pulsin range can be found on my blog very soon.

Goodies Good Stuff Summer Peaches review

A really sweet treat that even the kids wanted to steal. Goody Good Stuff Summer Peaches jelly sweets. Approved by the Vegan Society these yummy sweets are gluten free, soy free, nut free and lactose free. They use all natural flavours and colours too. They are very moreish and the Summer Peaches flavour taste even better when sat in the sunshine now that our great British summer has finally arrived.

The Goody Good Stuff sweets range can be found in Holland And Barrett for £1.49. Also in the range is Cola Breeze, Cheery Cherries, Sour Fruit Salad, Strawberry and Cream, Sour Mix Match, Tropical Fruit and Kola Gummy Bears.

And finally…

Beond bars

Beond refuel us with a tasty raw snack bar, that’s only 55 calories. These bite size bars are ideal for keeping in your handbag for those ‘snack moments’ or even a healthy treat for kids school lunch boxes. Each bar gives you one of your 5 a day (although since turning vegan, eating my 5 a day has been a piece of cake- not a great analogy to use 😉 )

The organic Apple and Cinnamon Bite, is sweet and sticky. A perfect blend of flavours, and despite being a small snack size, I was feeling very satisfied after. It’s sweet and actually really good for you. Only raw and organic ingredients are used to pack out the bar. Guilt free and tasty!

You can find more tasty vegan food in the Holland & Barrett Free From range online. You can also search the Free From range by allergen as well as food, making sure that all individual dietary requirements can be catered for.

A Few Body Stats: Day 21

Weight: 10 st 9lb (< 5lbs since day 1)

BMI: 27.3 (Overweight)

State of mind and how I feel: Very positive. I am starting to get even more energy and my skin is clearing up. I think my body is working through a detox and is now running much better than before. Sluggish moments are dropping and I am digesting food much better.

Skin: A lot clearer. Less greasy and much more hydrated. I have upped my water intake dramatically since turning vegan.