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5 Plant-Based Tips for Gorgeous Guts!

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You may have heard that 70-80% of the immune system is in the gut.

Thus, we need to keep topping up the good bacteria in our guts to help fight the bad. When there is too much bad bacteria (candida) and not enough good, there are a bazillion horrid symptoms that can ensue.

It is particularly nasty because symptoms can appear one by one and gradually, so it can take a long time to realise the core of the problem. While it’s not a death sentence (though if left too long it can lead to chronic diseases – multiple sclerosis, cancer, ME, IBS, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and alcoholism have all been linked to candida overgrowth), it can take a while for the body to get rid of it.

How can we support a healthy gut in the best (and vegan) way?

Here are 5 solid, sure-fire ways:

1. Take a pro-biotic or two daily. (I take Quest acidophilus non-dairy capsules, but there are lots of brands out there that do a vegan probiotic)

2. Eat a serving of (non-pasteurised) sauerkraut or kimchi daily, or at least 4 times a week (next week, I’ll post how I make my own unbelievably simple kimchi!)

3. Garlic, garlic, garlic! You can take vegetarian garlic capsules, or try eating dishes where the garlic is still fairly raw, like in kimchi. Get your garlic any way you can, it really helps keep the gut in order. It’s a natural anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-biotic. Win-win-win.

4. Yoghurt – dairy-free of course! Soy yoghurts are widely available. Sojade is an amazing brand because their plain yoghurt is sugar free, and you can just pop in some maple syrup or some sugar free jam, stir, and you have a delish dessert. Coconut yoghurt is creamy and lush, and in the UK, Australia and New Zealand you can pick up the Coyo brand. In the US there are several brands of yummy coconut yoghurt, Whole Foods have a good selection – ideally buy one without sugar and add your own flavour.

5. Eliminate or cut WAAAAY back on sugar (and all things containing it!) and refined carbs – such as white bread, white pasta and white rice. Sugar and refined carbs FEED candida, so it’s best to reduce our intake of these as much as possible. Don’t worry, wholegrain pasta and brown rice are just as tasty (and you will soon find them even tastier than their inferior versions!).

Feel like you may have a candida overgrowth problem? While I’d normally ALWAYS say consult your healthcare practitioner, unfortunately many doctors either don’t acknowledge candida, or believe it only occurs in severely immunocompromised people, such as those with HIV, or simply just don’t know anything about it. So, if you are lucky enough to have an enlightened doctor, go see them. If not, it may be a good idea to see a reputable holistic doctor or naturopath.

Otherwise, use these 5 tips to help maintain gorgeous gut flora!

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Vegan On A Plane? Synch, Just Get Snack-Packin’!

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Vegan and flying long distance over the holidays? Celebrating somewhere abroad or jetting off for some sun?

How does a vegan optimise the in-flight meal experience, and avoid landing feeling hungry and cranky?

The first thing you should know is that plane food of any description is no great shizz, so you don’t need to feel bad that you are not well-catered for – NOBODY is. ‘That meal I had last night on the plane was the best meal I’ve ever had,’ said NO-ONE EVER.

Once you’ve booked your flight, go to the airline website where you should have the option to select your seat, and any special meals. The code to select to ensure a vegan meal is usually VGML. Depending on the airline, other options you might have to select are ‘vegetarian non-dairy,’ or ‘pure vegetarian.’

The benefit of a special meal is that you nearly always get served first, before the omni masses, so you can sit and munch smugly, listening to their bellies rumble! The downside is that sometimes they don’t have the vegan meal you ordered, and you really need to be prepared for this – it’s happened to me more than once!

If your vegan meal HAS been forgotten, you can ask if there are any Asian meals left (or they could be marked as Hindu). These are usually a curry, or a dahl, and are normally vegan.

Otherwise, make sure you have a good supply of fallback food (though you’ll probably end up eating it anyway – airplane meals aren’t that substantial).

Good snacks to take (remember, there are some foods that won’t get past security) are home-made sandwiches – just eat them sooner rather than later if they are made with perishable goods. Humous, tomato, rocket and spring onion sandwiches in wholewheat pitta (pitta is good because it holds the contents well) are fabulous; or peanut butter, tomato and spring onion, with a splash of soy sauce is another quick and easy choice.

Wholewheat breadsticks, and sachets of dried vegan organic leek and potato soup (you can find these at Whole Foods or other health stores), or sachets of miso soup are good for an easy hot food option. The flight attendants can give you a cup of hot water, and you can just pour a sachet of the powdered soup in and mix.

If you are pushed for space, good old nuts and dried fruit will satisfy an empty stomach. Vegan nut and cereal bars are compact and travel well, so if you don’t get to them on the flight there, you’ll have them for the way back.

Assuming you get your meal as ordered, don’t forget to check the little sachets and things that come with your VGML meal – some airlines are not too hot on the finer details. While the main dish will definitely be vegan, the spread for the bread, or the dressing for a salad, may not be.

What to expect from the meal? Weeelll, it’s kind of hit and miss, but DO remember – the omnis are NOT having a better time than you.

And, there are random surprises. On a flight last year I was thrilled by a tasty quinoa and black bean salad, and several times on overnight long-haul flights I’ve woken up to a delicious whole grain vegan cookie for breakfast!

I’ve never come across soy milk being offered for tea and coffee. It’s a good idea to always ask if they carry it EVEN THOUGH YOU KNOW THEY DON’T. Why? Because, the more people that ask, the more the message gets out there that the market is changing, and soon enough they will HAVE to carry it, it’ll be so mainstream. Crafty, huh?

Bottom line, travel prepared! Everybody should take lots of snacks on longer flights, so it really isn’t extra work for vegans.

Happy travels, where ever you may be going. I’m totally jealous!

Any cool ideas for vegan plane-friendly snacks I haven’t mentioned? Please share in the comments.

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Killer Snacks, Part 1: Avocado Toast

Hungry? Need a killer snack? Something quick but classy? That’s nutritious, tasty and satisfying, despite it only taking five minutes (or less!) to throw together?

Well then, do this. You’ll not be sorry.

You will need:

– A slice (or two) of good quality whole wheat, spelt, or gluten-free bread

– One nice, ripe Hass avocado

– Soy sauce, or salt

And here are the (oh so complicated!) instructions:

– Toast bread

– De-stone avocado, scoop out inside of avocado and put it in a bowl

– Mush up the avocado in the bowl

– Plonk (yes, it is a technical term, shutup) avocado onto the toast.

– Add drops of soy sauce, or sprinkle salt all over for flavour.

You now have Avocado Toast. And you’re welcome.

If you want to get fancy, you can add chopped spring onions, ground black pepper, lemon juice, chilli sauce, sesame seeds. Anything really.

Here’s mine. And no. I don’t share.

 

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How To Eat Well In Restaurants As A Vegan

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So you have a get-together with friends planned, and you are partly responsible for choosing the restaurant you’ll all eat at ?

If you’re a new vegan, you may think your choices are limited, or that you’ll have to leave it to someone else to choose the venue, and just put up with a plate of lettuce when you get wherever you’re going.

Not so.

Yet,  it was so. And really not so very long ago.

I remember a meal, around 12 years ago, in a smart(ish) restaurant in Clapham, London, where, despite the fact that the staff  thought they were cultured, cosmopolitan and sophisticated, all they could offer me was a bowl of lettuce. Um… yeah. Grim.

Thankfully, those days are gone.

Unless you live in a tiny village (though even if you do, I’m guessing there’ll be a Chinese or Indian restaurant at the very least, not too far away) your biggest problem is which restaurant to choose from the many options available to you.

If you are lucky enough to live somewhere where there is a good vegan restaurant, don’t be afraid to suggest this to your friends. You’d be surprised how many people (while maybe not ready to go fully vegan) are open to trying plant-based food. Even if there is one stick in the mud friend who says they would miss their meat (though does anyone actually say this?)  hopefully they will be swayed by the opinions of the majority.

If you suggest a vegan restaurant and it gets the green light from everyone, make sure it is a tried and tested, good place. You’ll want everyone to get the best impression possible of your diet. And once there, don’t hesitate to make recomendations – even great restaurants have some dishes that aren’t as good as others, so advise where possible.

Being vegan is your opportunity to get to know many delicious cuisines from around the world, several of which don’t habitually use dairy anyway, (so no awkward questioning of waiters, checking that there’s no milk, butter, cream etc in a dish – phew!).

In my coaching programmes, I give an extensive guide to restaurant dining options, with vegan meal choices available in each specific cuisine.  But here are 6 solid choices that should serve you well:

 

1. Good old Indian.

Lots of Indian restaurants are vegetarian, so half the battle is won already. There are many different Indian cuisines, but you should be able to find some of the following dishes at most of them:

Starters: Poppadoms with chutney (avoid the yoghurt-y dips),  onion bhajis, spinach pakodas, uttapam, sev puri, veg samosas.

Mains: Vegatable malabar, bhindi bhaji/curry, chana masala, tharka dahl aloo gobi, brinjal bhaji, sambar (Don’t worry if you don’t know what the dishes are, there should be a description of each dish on the menu, and you can read up online and even decide what you’ll have beforehand, if you really want to make it easy). At the very least, there should be a vegetable curry on offer.

2. Chinese.

This is probably the least interesting of all the cuisines I’m mentioning here, in terms of vegans being well catered for, but I appreciate that this might be the only option for some people in out of town areas.

Starters: At the bare minimum, vegetable spring rolls and fried seaweed should be served here. If you’re in a Chinatown somewhere, you may get some chili fried tofu,

Mains: The go-to choice if there’s nothing else is tofu and stir-fried mixed veg with steamed rice. In a city restaurant you may get a choice of specific veg dishes, like green beans or bok choy in garlic sauce for example.

3. Lebanese (Syrian, Iraqui, Israeli and Egyptian are similar in their dish offerings).

It is usually a good idea to get several hot and cold starters  – these are normally more interesting than the mains, and you can share and let everyone have a taste. Choose from houmous, baba ghanoush, moutabal, hot or cold ful madamas, makdus, falafal, stuffed vine leaves, tabboulleh, moussaka. If you do need a main, spinach or okra bamia is the way to go (maybe marked as vegetarian bamia).

4. Korean.

Starters: Soup (there is often miso soup available, or various veg in clear, soup with tofu), kimchi, pickles (there are several different sorts of kimchi and pickles to try – all delicious), salad (often involving seaweed and tasty dressings – check these are vegan, lots are).

Mains:There should be a veg option in the bibimbap (menu may call this ‘pot dish’) section, and in the noodle section of the menu. Try soba noodles. These are made from buckwheat – a whole grain. You should also find some variation on the following dishes: grilled aubergine in miso paste, stir-fried tofu and mixed veg in soybean paste stew, cold soba noodles in spicy chilli sauce.

Desserts: Try cinnamon punch (non-alcaholic) if they have it, and don’t forget to sup on the traditional Korean barley tea throughout.

5. Ethiopian.

I am not even going to try and be clever and name the veg stews available in Ethiopian restaurants. They have several, all clearly marked. You choose one to eat with your yummy ‘injera’ (Ethiopian bread resembling a pancake, but made of teff, a fabulous wholegrain). You don’t need to check if the stews are dairy-free, they are. Dairy is not used in Ethiopian cooking at all. Most times there will be an offer on the menu where you get a selection of the veg stews at a fixed price. Marvellous. What could be easier. Once you’ve tried Ethiopian food, you’ll be hooked. Point your peepers at this plate of heaven!

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6. Vietnamese

If you think this is just a variation of Chinese food, think again.

Starters: Vietnamese spring rolls in peanut sauce (some restaurants call these summer rolls), salads.

Mains: Fried aubergine on garlic sauce, fried tofu in garlic sauce, fried mange-tout/bok choy with garlic sauce. Steamed rice or udon noodles as a base.

Desserts: Truth be told, the whole reason I included Vietnamese food here is cuz of this scrummy dessert called Che Thai. It’s a long drink made of coconut milk, with bits of fruit (usually jackfruit, lychee or longan) and chewy jelly chopped up and thrown in. It’s pretty sweet, which I’m guessing is due to a high sugar content – but you’re not gonna have one every day, right?

Final note:

Never be shy about checking for egg or dairy if you’re not sure, just smile and be lovely while you’re asking. Where possible (and only if in small groups!) let everyone try your dish – show them animal products are not the be all and end all of a dish. And, oh yeah… bon appetit!

I love hearing about great restaurant vegan food experiences. Please share yours with me in the comments.

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You Can Re-train Your Taste Buds at Any Age. This Guy Says So…

How many times have you heard people bemoan the fact that they’d find it hard to give up this or that animal food (usually cheese!) and replace it with anything else, or that they don’t think they could start a new way of eating after eating meat, dairy and eggs for so long? Maybe you are the one thinking it.

Listen to this doctor.

Its around thirteen minutes long, but totally worth it if you have time – he’s a cutie. Not to mention a smartie. He went vegan at 50. But I’ve heard of people going plant-based at 80 and geatly benefitting from it

It’s never too late to change a habit. You’ve probably done it loads of times with lots of things already in your life and not even realised it.

Remember when you gave up putting sugar in your coffee/tea? Remember how it tasted weird at first, but pretty soon after, you couldn’t imagine drinking it any other way?

And remember how when you were a kid you ate a tonne of jelly (‘jello’ if you’re in the US), or (insert any kids sweet treat here), and now you no longer eat it cuz you’re not 7? Do you crave it? Of course not. Why? Because your taste buds got exposed to more sophisticated desserts. You moved on.

The good news is, it’s the same for everything. You may well have been putting cow’s milk on your cereal for 20/30/40 years, and soy/rice/almond milk may well taste weird when you first use it. But after a couple weeks of a new regime, if you put cow’s milk on your cereal, it will taste gross and you’ll wonder how you ever ate it.

Our senses are so amazingly versatile and impressionable, they’ll habituate to whatever we expose them to. Every food habit is just that, a habit. Any habit can be changed in just a short space of time (usually between 14-21 days).

Meat, dairy and eggs are not heroin, they’re not addictive. However, the casein in cheese, during the process of digestion, does release opiates called casomorphins, which can have an effect on humans. Casomorphins were designed by nature to keep the calf interested in it’s mothers milk. So there is somewhat of an excuse for finding it hard to give up cheese. But when all’s said and done, it’s hardly crack cocaine (and doesn’t it feel weird being affected by something that was meant for babies of another species?)

We can crowd out the cheese in our diets with lots of other tasty foods that would leave no room for it. If, in a transitional stage, you need the taste/texture of cheese, there are an abundance of tofu cream cheeses on the market. Nutritional yeast can replicate a cheesy flavour, or you could try one of the vegan cheeses available in your part of the world. In my opinion, Daiya and Follow your Heart are the best ever, but these are only available in the US and Canada. Violife is the better option in the UK (this is only my opinion – try them all and see which one suits you).

Bottom line – it’s always, ALWAYS, a good time to start a new, healthful, life-affirming, world-changing, planet-loving, animal-friendly habit.

What food habit would you find the hardest to break? Why? I’d love you to share this in the comments.

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Vegan? Plant-based? Wtf?

I want to clarify what these terms are and how they came about. Firstly, let it be known that in terms of diet, these words are used interchangeably.

The term ‘vegan’ came about in 1944, and was coined by a guy called Donald Watson – founder of the Vegan Society in the UK, who wanted to distinguish between a vegetarian, who doesn’t eat animal flesh but eats other animal products, and people who didn’t eat any animal produce at all. He took the first three, and last two letters of the word ‘vegetarian,’ and voila! The term ‘vegan’ came about.

This was the word used for years to describe people who ate this way, until there came a time when there were so many negative associations with this word, that some people decided to use the term ‘plant-based’ instead.

Technically – there IS a difference in the meaning of these words. ‘Veganism’ can involve a whole lifestyle of ways in which to avoid cruelty to animals, i.e. not wearing fur, leather, wool etc, and not using any products containing animals or that have been tested on animals, whereas plant-based tends to refer to diet only.

I noticed recently, on some new health coach type websites, the term ‘plant-based’ being used. Upon further investigation, I realised that animal products were involved in their diet suggestions, so they really meant ‘mostly plant-based.’ I’m not suggesting these people are purposely usurping the dialogue, (or am I?) (Of course I’m not!) (Or am I?) but they are clearly not aware of the genesis of the term, and are (ok, most likely unwittingly) mis-using it so it fits their purpose. So I thought clarification was needed.

Which term do I use? I always used to say vegan. Then I learned the term ‘plant-based’ and totally latched on to that. Now? I really don’t care. I use them both. Thankfully, and not before time, vegan is not the dirty word it once was, and if someone really does have a problem with that word? Well, it’s exactly that – their problem.

People will project what they will whatEVER lifestyle you choose, so whatever term(s) you use to describe your diet – just own it, and know that any negative reactions are nothing to do with you.

Do you prefer one term over the other? Why? Please let me know in the comments.

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I Hardly Eat Any Meat/Dairy/Eggs…

What is the most common response I get to people finding out I’m vegan?

I bet it’s not at all what you’d think.

I’m rarely met with the ‘but how do you get your protein?’ question that other vegans seem to get so often, and equally rarely do I get an indignant snort, followed by something along the lines of ‘good for you, now pass the bacon.’

Occasionally, I’m met with an ‘ooh, I don’t know how you do that, I couldn’t do it.’ But the most common response goes a bit like this:

‘Well, I don’t eat much meat, and I don’t really eat dairy either.’

Or:

‘I hardly ever eat meat, and I only have a tiny bit of milk in tea.’

Or:

‘Oh, I only eat meat for Saturday lunch, and rarely eat dairy.’

You get the gist.

I must say at this point, that it only ever comes up that I’m vegan in a natural, organic, way, when it is relevant to the conversation, and I never carry the subject any further, unless asked. So the people uttering the above phrases were not about to be judged in any way. No-one was asking them what they ate, and there was no need conversationally to offer this information.

My best guess as to why this is a common response is this.

They have heard the negative associations attached to the word vegan – one of them being that vegans are judgemental. Ironically, because of these preconceived ideas, they have judged ME as being judgemental before I’ve said a word on the subject. They thus feel the need to justify or explain their eating habits to a very bemused listener who had asked them precisely nothing.

My other issue with this response (though I would only bring this up in actual conversation if asked), is that we all tend to think we eat less of something than we actually do. The truth is, we never know how much we eat of something until we stop. And with dairy especially (as it has so many forms – whey, lactose etc), it crops up in everything, from cookies to cakes to tablets to sauces, so it can be difficult to keep track.

After all this time I’m still learning and trying to improve the ways in which I respond to the reactions I get if it comes up that I’m vegan. This one has always kind of stumped me, I usually just mumble something lame like ‘oh…ok.’

Any ideas?

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