Beginners Guide to Vegan Eating

2014 The Year of the Vegan……

…..or so they are saying. From reading all the articles on singers, actors and even politicians  turning to a vegan way of life, it is seeming that way! For about 6 months now, myself and my Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 14.27.20husband have been part-time vegans.  Not fully yet, as I’ll explain further on, but a good 90% of the time.  About 4 years ago, I went vegan for a week. This was the time when news broke that a 2 month vegan low-calorie diet could help Type 2 Diabetes.  I decided to try it, in case I needed to advise patients.  I wanted to be informed on what they could eat, and how to adapt their routine.  I find getting a patient to completely over haul their diet leads to poor patient compliance.  Little by little, with items they know, gives better results in the long-term.  So after my vegan week, I had new-found appreciation for those out there following this style of eating.  It means a complete change in how we cook and how to put a meal together!

3 years on, after I had been dairy free for a good while, I decided at home, we were eating vegan! The other half is not a big red meat fan and really only eats chicken or burgers.  So the decision made sense.  We also went purely organic and organic meat was hard to source.  Finally, I also wanted to increase the amount of whole foods in our diet plus veg.  Thats why I love vegan cooking.  If you are not 100%, the recipes are a brilliant way of seriously upping your FRUG (Fruit & Veg)  intake.  It hasn’t all be plain sailing – my lentil tagine could not have been more of a disaster.  There was a time when the thought of another chickpea would make me weep and the craving for a creamy chai latte or milk chocolate bar was, at times, driving me to distraction.  But those are the cravings egg you on to find the most amazing recipes! Here are a few tips I wish I had have known when I began.

EQUIPEMENT

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 14.28.53I’ll be honest with you, you will need a really good powerful blender to get the best out of vegan cooking.  I went without for a while (I never realised how fragile a plastic blender bowel was until it bounced off the ground and smashed!) and your stomach thinks your throat is cut.  You daydream of chewing food rather that the weak mushing action  needed for eating veg! You very soon become sick of salad and the idea of another lentil or chickpea curry, makes you kind of gag! A blender is essential. Have a lot of bowls, plastic containers and baggies.  You’ll see why in a minute.  Also, be prepared to do a lot of washing up.  Again, you’ll see why in a minute.

SHOPPING LIST

Maybe not in the beginning, until you get into your stride and know what ingredients work for you, but in the long run, bulking buying is the cheapest way to go.  I’m looking into ordering a stock of cashew nuts, almonds, brown rice, quinoa, chickpeas, lentils, spelt flour, nutritional yeast flakes and flax seeds.

Herbs are invaluable for recipes! Not only can they transform a dish but, as I am a health practitioner, they are fantastic for your body. Its a win win situation. Did you know coriander is known to help eliminate heavy metals from the body? Parsley is one of the richest sources of absorbable iron? Get your fresh herbs in! I want to say grow them, but as I’m typing my herb garden is but a distant memory! If you have green fingers and the space, grow your own!

Fruits & Veg! I love these 🙂 Many people are not calling themselves vegans but say they follow a plant-based diet. Fruits and veg are going to make up the majority of your dishes and meals go plants! For some, veganism is synonymous with the politics of animal cruelty.  As I mentioned, I did get into this way of living for health reasons, but following websites for recipes, you can not help but become exposed to this aspect of veganism.  It is absolutely shocking what you see and read regarding the meat industry.  You can not help but be effected my these stories, at least in you have a heart! Was that a bit strong? It’s the truth though.  Ricky Gervais, the comedian, actor and all around genius,  gets you into hysterics of laughter with his comedy, and at the same time always gets you thinking.  When I see his love shows or in interviews I’m often left with tears in my eyes, a stitch in my side, a praying to god I don’t wet myself, to openimg my eyes and realising, he is so right! How have I never thought of that!? A bit like Bill Hicks, you know him? Well, Mr.Gervais has posted great tweets regarding animal cruelty, which are impossible to not agree with!Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 14.52.11Anyway  I digress – FRUG. In my area, fruit&veg delivery systems are available on a weekly basis and are very reasonable.  Trust me, cooking vegan can be quite time-consuming initially, you’ll want shopping to be a breezy and not another worry! I’m lucky that I can grow my own produce which handy.

PREPARATION

Set aside a cooking day! A lot of recipes can be stored and even require a few hours or days rest to enhance the flavour. This also gives time to get all shopping items together! I can not tell you how many occasions I would really fancy a recipe and need to go back out to the shops only to come home and forget something.  If you are using dried store cupboard items like lentils, you will also want to soak them over night (they taste better than cans).

The other point of a cooking day is the washing up.  Vegan cooking isn’t pretty, well not in my house! I’m going to invest in a 2nd and 3rd mixing bowl for the magimix to save the trips to the sink washing it out.  Or maybe keep the one? I know I’m get my 10,000 steps in for that day. So one day a week or even every two weeks, clear your kitchen, dishwasher and attack.

RECIPES

There are loads of great vegan recipe websites out there – tons! These three beauties are who helped me and even got a few carnivores interested 🙂 I’m discovering new ones all the time, so will update this page when I can! Most of my favourite meals are on my vegan board on Pinterest Here a websites with hundreds of recipes

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 14.56.04Oh She Glows

A beautiful website, I love the layout, full of great information.  Not just solely for vegan issues but health in general.  The recipes are well laid out and you can even search by ingredient?  Say you got a tone of squash in your weekly veg box – type it in the search box and see how many creations and possibilities there are! I love the butternut mac’n’cheese! The star recipe for me here is the OSG Lentil Loaf! Even when I previously used meat, I never got a meat loaf like this! If you only ever cooked one vegan dish in your life – it’s this recipe!

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 14.55.46Vegan Richa

Another great vegan website with, even better, indian recipes & burgers, drooooool! Love it! To me this is the best site for really hearty food.  I also love how manages to add veg or legumes to just about anything! Im in the process of proofing my lentil sandwich bread! There is also cauliflower sandwich bread! I’ll let you now how I get on 🙂 Finally, each recipe can be seen in pdf and printed for you convenience.

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 14.53.40Nom Yourself

The name alone of this site, sold me 🙂 I found the site from Instagram.  Ellie Goulding is a huge fan! The amazing photography and recipes make anyones mouth water, meat-eater or vegan.  There are not as many recipes as the other two previous websites, but it is home to the amazing chocolate chip cookies, chewing, gooey loverliness! Have a look at the webstore section.  How gorge is the t-shirt!!!?

The best though about all three websites is, they now have recipe books you can purchase!

HEALTHY EATING TIPS

When I speak (read rant) to my friends about how annoyed I get after seeing rubbish items with the vegan label, they are surprised.  They automatically assumed that vegan equalled healthy. Not the case.  Its like some organic cosmetics.  Some ingredients may be organic but the preservatives are horrendous for your body, so they are as bad for you as mainstream items.  Same goes for prepackaged vegan meals.  Just because a product contains no meat or ingredients derived from animals, does not automatically mean its healthy for you or healthier than any other packaged item.  If your vegan yellow brick road is to lead you to health, then stay away from packaged food.  The occasional piece of facon, tofurkey or tosausage is not that bad, but as they (in my opinion) don’t taste that great, you will be motivated to find an alternative!

The VEGAN DEBATE

There is and always will be heated debate over health implications of a purely plant-based diet. The research can not be argued though, and dating back as far as the last 105 years ago, the benefits of following a vegan diet were well documented.  Opponents argue that nutrient deficiency, such as B12 , is leading to health problems in many vegans.  It’s for this reason that I am not a full-time vegan yet.  Long story short, my body does not absorb B12 efficiently and I can become deficient very easily if I do not pay attention.  What works for me is once a week or every two weeks I may have an egg, or fish or a bit of meat that I know comes from an ethical source.  This works for me for now.  That whole, “I’d be vegan if it wasnt for bacon” is not me. I could, and am, easily live without it.  My husband though used this phrase a lot in the beginning.  It’s now been months since even a hint of bacon was in our house and he hasn’t noticed LOL Initially vegan newbies can report feeling very weak and lack of moral/motivation.  It is VERY important eat a balanced vegan diet. Plan your first week.  Dont automatically swap dairy for soja alternatives and meat for tofu or go purely FRUG.  You are definitely on your way to a nutrient imbalance.  Make sure you include nuts, seeds, fats (YES fats!!!!).  Each meal you eat should be nutrient dense.  Basically do your own research, everyone really is different and even throughout your life your body requires different nutrients.

GO FORTH AND SPREAD THE VEGAN LOVE…….

Finally, here is a brilliant resource for your first week, How To Eat Vegan For A Week And Love It by Rachel Saunders. Recipes and meal plans! Let me know how you get on?

MY RECIPES – click in images

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One thought on “Beginners Guide to Vegan Eating

  1. Pingback: Gluten, Egg Free Fried Chicken with Dairy Free Option | Julia Homeopath

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