Delicious Vegan Stocking Fillers Omnivores Will Love

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Have you done most of your Christmas shopping, but there’s maybe a few little extra things you need to get for your family and friends?

This totally applies to me this year.

I did a lot of my Christmas shopping online on Black Friday. Win-win right? Ridiculous savings and you don’t have to trawl around crowded shops that blast out obnoxious Christmas ‘music.’ I was trying desperately not to be a consumer on that day, in protest at our greedy capitalist society, but once I saw the savings to be had I went a little…er…crazy (ok, a lot crazy) and decided I’ll have higher principles when I’m rich and can afford to be revolutionary! 🙂

What I’m trying to say is, as a result of my savings, a lot of the gifts I bought came in under-budget, so I feel like I want to top these up with an extra little treat for the intended recipients.

If this is you too, then here you’ll find a few ideas for deliciously decadent, vegan, chocolatey, truffley, praliney stocking stuffers.

Because hello? What says love at Christmas more than chocolatey goodness?

NOTHING, that’s what!

Please consider these gifts ESPECIALLY for non-vegans. Good food is good food right? You can’t argue with scrummy chocolate. The idea is that it will help them see that vegans do not deprive themselves and can easily enjoy decadent treats.

As we know, good food talks!

If you are worried that dark chocolate may taste bitter, avoid any product with over 70% cocoa. Good dark chocolate however, should NOT taste bitter.

You also need to know that I am not getting paid by any of these companies. Although quite frankly I really should be considering the amount I’ve spent on some of their yummy products! 🙂

I have 3 top ideas for my UK friends and 3 for my Northern American pals:

Here are my UK suggestions:

Booja Booja

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Oooh, What would I do without Booja Booja? It is an all-vegan company, and their small boxes of truffles make the sweetest little stocking fillers, which come in a range of flavours. They are £3.99 each. If you want to splash out a little more, they have bigger boxes for £9.99, or super fancy boxes for £12.95

Available at: Holland & Barrett, Whole Foods, Ocado, Booja Booja online.

I recommend: The hazelnut truffles are scrumptious, as are the champagne, and the almond and sea salt caramel flavours.

Hotel Chocolat

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Hotel Chocolat isn’t fully vegan, but they have a ton of vegan products – see full vegan selection here. Usually (though not always), the staff can point you in the direction of the vegan chocolates if you are in store.

The vegan products ARE marked ‘vegan,’ so if the staff are a little clueless, just check the packaging.

They have quite a few cute stocking-filler size gifts around the £3-5 pound mark.

Available at: Hotel Chocolat outlets are in most UK cities, or shop online.

I recommend: Gianduja Bombe Selector (hazelnut pralines).

Montezuma

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Again, Montezuma are not an all-vegan company, but very vegan-friendly, see their vegan selection here.

Again, several great options at stocking-filler prices.

Available at: Some supermarkets stock Montezuma products, otherwise Whole Foods, Holland & Barrett, Ocado, or online.

I recommend: The chocolate buttons!!!!

 

And if North America is the continent you call home:

Whole Foods chocolate truffles

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You may have seen these at the artisanal chocolate counter in Whole Foods. I’m pretty sure most Whole Foods have these – though it’s possible the smaller ones don’t.

They have several flavours that are vegan, so it’s easy to make up a small bag of the vegan choices. You really don’t need to buy many, they are very rich and decadent, so don’t think you need to fill the bag.

Don’t worry if your local Whole Foods doesn’t sell these single truffles at the chocolate counter – they should also carry these boxes of organic chocolate truffles. When I last checked, these were $6.99/box.

Available at: uh…Whole Foods.

I recommend: Everything. Yup, everything.

Hooray Truffles

Courtesy of Hooray Truffles
Courtesy of Hooray Truffles

This Canadian online company is all vegan. They have 3 types of truffle; some made with different flavoured balsamic vinegars such as raspberry and blackberry, some with essential oils (I’ve been drooling over the peppermint one); and some gold ol,’ plain ol’ chocolate truffles.

These are a little pricier, but you can pick up a stocking filler size bag for C$10.99

Available at: Hooray Truffles

I recommend: I haven’t tried these, so I can’t recommend any in particular, but a safe bet would be the plain (Simply Naked) chocolate truffles.

Lagusta’s Luscious

Courtesy of Lagusta's Luscious
Courtesy of Lagusta’s Luscious

Oh man, did I have fun browsing these goodies! Lagusta’s Luscious is an all-vegan artisanal chocolatier, with several outlets across the states – but they ship everywhere too.

From Selma’s Peppermint Patties, to Furious Vulvas (yes, you read that right!), to Cardamom Caramel Bars, to Fig & Caramelised Fennel Bark, just about everything sounds delicious.

For more moderately priced gifts, see the bars and barks.

Available at: Here is a list of the outlets, otherwise online at Lagusta’s Luscious

I recommend: Again, I haven’t tried these, but I’d definitely be willing to try every single product given the opportunity!
For a safe and sure bet stick to more classic flavours, otherwise take a risk on a Furious Vulva!

 

And on that note dear readers, Merry Christmas!!! May your year ahead be rollicking, and stay tuned for exciting, new, RIDICULOUSLY AFFORDABLE programs appearing here at Vegan Coach. I hope to bring you a weight-loss freebie, and a program based around ethnic vegan dishes. I can’t wait to share these with you all!

 

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Be Your Own Vegan

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I know you already know this; but there are lots of Judgey McJudgeypants in the world.

I’m sure you’ve come up against some already, what with living amongst, like, people and shit.

Surprise! We have some Judgey McJudgeypants in the vegan community too!

They are in every space. No community gets away without having its fair share of Judgey McJudgeypants.

This particular vegan brand may think less of you if you don’t transition to vegan quick enough, for example; or if you appear to care too much about the health aspect or the environmental impacts of going vegan and don’t talk enough about the ethics.

They may think you should walk around wearing T-shirts with slaughterhouse images on, or that your every waking moment should be spent raising awareness of animal cruelty.

They may think you’re not vegan enough if you still have leather or wool products that you bought before you were vegan, but don’t want to throw away until they wear out because that would be wasteful.

Look – you can be judged for any darn thing you do in life, so –

PLEASE don’t let a judgey vegan put you off going or staying vegan!

You’ve gotta do you. Who else can you do?

If you need to transition slowly, that’s great! If you do it at YOUR pace you’re more likely to succeed.

If you’re not the sort of person that feels they can push slaughterhouse videos in front of other people’s faces every waking minute – don’t!! Once you get comfortable and confident with your lifestyle shift and feel you might want to share all the positive aspects of it with the wider world, there are a TON of different ways you can do this, and lots that would be a good fit for you.

If, right now, your concern is to better your health, lose weight or improve a specific health issue – fine! Focus on that right now (but I must warn you – you may find you’ve experienced a consciousness shift at some point in the future that connects you to the ethical side of veganism :))

I can give you a list of people as long as my arm who started out being plant-based in order to achieve better health and fitness, then a way down the line had a total expansion of consciousness where they saw animal agriculture for the horror it is; saw how blind society is to it, and started using the word ‘vegan’ proudly (me included!)

I’m not saying this happens to everyone, but I’ve heard enough stories of this happening to not judge or interfere when someone tells me they are going vegan primarily for health reasons. I just think to myself ‘mmmkay,’ and smile because I know the universe probably has other ideas for them.

And even if this doesn’t happen? Well, the world needs more healthy people, not more sick people. Healthy people use less resources.

The world also needs more people concerned with the environment, not fewer. And a healthier, cleaner planet helps animals too, so….

And seriously, why would it be so important to someone who is probably a stranger WHY you are no longer harming animals, as long as you AREN’T?

Equally, If your concern is ONLY about the ethics of a vegan lifestyle; if you are not interested in health and wellness and you want to eat vegan junk food all day, then much as it pains me to say it (being a nutritionist and always wanting to get all up in people’s faces about being healthy) – this is your business and your business only, too!

(Though please do try and substitute whole grains for white refined grains. Aaaaargh! I can’t help myself, it’s stronger than me! 🙂 )

When you make the decision to go vegan, do it YOUR way.

It’s a brilliant idea to join vegan communities, both in real life and online, and you will find great support and fellowship in this.

I am confident that you will gain so much more from a vegan community than the annoyance you may get from the odd judgey vegan – so I highly recommend you join one.

But, if anyone starts to make you feel that you’re not doing it right, or that you’re not vegan enough, or that your reasons and motivations aren’t as pure as theirs, I don’t know how to put this any other way than – SCREW THEM!

If someone persists in saying things that feel critical rather than helpful (don’t worry, your instinct will tell you which of these was their intent); then put boundaries between yourself and that person.

Look, you are going (or have gone) vegan. THIS IS AMAAAAAZING!!!!!

Keep an open mind; keep reading, talking, learning, listening (to those that are genuinely helpful), sharing information etc, and you’ll get to be exactly who and where you need to be.

Let Judgey McJudgeypants find an elsewhere to be.

 

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Questions You’ll Get As A Vegan, And How To Respond

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A while back I posted responses to some of the comments and questions that vegans get; part 1 is here, part 2 here.

I was a little, shall we say, sarcastic with some of the responses back then because as a long time vegan, it can be hard hearing (or these days, reading on social media) the same silly things over and over again while the planet is deteriorating due to animal agriculture; and both non-human and human animals are needlessly dying – the non-human through our brutalising of them, and the human through heart disease, strokes, cancers and diabetes complications that occur through eating the non-human animals.

There are a few I didn’t cover back then, so I’ll tackle them now, and I’ll try and be kinder. Maybe.

 

1. But what if you found yourself on a desert island with a cow, and absolutely NO vegetation around and no chance of getting rescued. Would you eat the cow?

Answer: Probably. But that isn’t happening right now, so I’ll just continue to eat the abundance of plant food available to me and leave the animal products – which only HARM my body and the planet – well alone.

 

2. But if we didn’t eat cows, the world would be overrun with them.

Answer: No. Truly no. We would simply stop breeding them for food if nobody ate them.

 

3. Cont…But if we stopped breeding cows for food and milk, then there would be no more cows. I mean nobody would keep them as pets, so they would effectively become extinct.

Answer: Cows becoming extinct is preferable to them being bred to lead a miserable life in which they are raped, having their offspring instantly taken from them, only living a quarter of their natural lifespan and meeting an untimely, brutal (and in many, MANY cases) long, drawn-out death.

Besides, there are many species that have gone extinct that you never heard of. Did you cry over these?

 

4. But God said we have to eat meat.

Answer: To you? Personally? No, God didn’t. At least not in any religious text I know of. There are proscriptions for IF we eat meat, but that is not the same thing. In the three Abrahamic religious texts, for every verse you give me that you believe means it’s ok to eat meat, there are verses that suggest that meat-eating is against the spirit of the text as a whole. I wrote about religious texts and vegetarianism here if you are interested.

 

5. But I wouldn’t be as healthy as I am now if I went vegan.

Answer: As long as you eat enough calories and enough nutrients (which you should be concerned with if you are omni, too) you will thrive. In general, vegans get less sick than non-vegans, with both serious diseases, and minor ones.

 

6. But I wouldn’t know what to eat on a day-to-day basis.

Answer: Do you have access to Google? Can you type ‘vegan meal ideas’  into the search facility? There you go.

You can do one of two things. Both are great. You can eat EXACTLY as you eat now, but with the vegan versions of everything, or, discover a whole new world of vibrant, colourful foods from all around the world that are vegan by default, and discover how to make them yourself. You’ll have fun while learning, and very soon have a whole repertoire of go-to meals you can draw from each day.

 

7. But I don’t like vegan food.

Answer: You don’t like bananas? Apples? Sweet potato fries? Olives? Sweetcorn? Hummous? Popcorn? This list can go on for miles.

 

8. But eating too many vegetable foods makes me gassy.

Answer: Gross! I mean…If this happens (and assuming you don’t have medical issues with your stomach) then it’s just because your body isn’t sufficiently acquainted with fibre. The more vegetable matter you eat (veggies, beans, wholegrains etc), the more your body acclimates to digesting fibre and the fewer problems you will have with gas. Your body is INTENDED to eat fibre, so get chomping on those beans!

 

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Leather; And Tips On Finding Great Alternatives

leather

 

For me it was a process.

When I first started eating a vegan diet, I didn’t give much thought to leather, suede or wool; where these products might’ve come from; or how much of them I was wearing.

I mean, I knew the specific animals these products came from, but I knew nothing of how the end-product came to be.

I’d heard that leather, suede and wool were all just by-products of the meat industry. That as long as people were eating meat, these products would exist anyway.

I reasoned that I wasn’t contributing to the demand for animal products, and therefore had no participation in the death of an animal. So if the animals were being killed anyway for other people to eat, then me purchasing leather, suede and wool from these already dead animals made no difference to the demand, right?

Besides, I looked shit hot in leather jackets and shoes!  I loved leather bags and purses; and wool is warm in the cold UK winters, so…

This all changed when I saw the documentary Earthlings and saw exactly how leather is produced.

I’m not gonna post any graphic vids, but you just need to know that leather is NOT a by-product. Lots of our leather comes from India, and many cows are skinned alive.

Leather production is also very toxic and disastrous for the environment.

Yup. Lesson duly learned about leather and suede.

I’ll write about wool at a later (more seasonally appropriate!) date. In this post we’ll just look at leather and suede.

When you make the decision to stop buying leather, suede and wool, you may feel bad for owning what you already have.

My suggestion is this:

Don’t feel bad. What’s done is done. You’ve committed to buying no more of these products and that’s amazing.

Don’t throw your old products away – that’s wasteful. Don’t give them to charity or to a friend – that’s just passing on the karma.

Use the products until they wear out, then buy no more.

There is one problem that CAN occur with this, but I have a super sneaky way of getting round it 🙂 If you have a leather or suede jacket (or bag or whatever), that looks really good on you and people often remark how great it looks – this isn’t cool – it might encourage THEM to buy one. So if you get a compliment, tell ’em it’s fake!! Tell them you couldn’t wear leather because of the cruelty involved, but you found this cool jacket/pair of boots/bag made of pleather! Yes it’s a lie, but you already tell your bf they look great when they’ve in fact had a really bad haircut, so…sometimes…needs must!

You could possibly come unstuck if it was a recent item on the High St or at the mall and this person could have seen it in the shops too. In which case you could just tell them the truth – for example ‘yes, it IS a great jacket, but to be honest I’m only wearing it because I bought it BEFORE I found out how leather was produced, and now I know the truth about leather, I’m not going to buy any more.’

Both these responses could spark a conversation that may end up planting seeds in the complimenter’s mind, so weigh up which one would be appropriate to the situation.

 

Tips On Acquiring A Cool, Leather-Free Wardrobe

 

1. Bags (‘purses’ in American:) )

You’ll have no problem finding a great non-leather bag. There are so many great pleather, canvas, and other manmade bags around. I normally go to a high street shop or department store, pick a bag I like, then search inside the bag for the label that will tell me what it’s made of. Yes, sometimes I’m gonna be disappointed because it will be leather, and yes I may have to try a couple more shops, but I ALWAYS end up with a bag I like.

The last two bags I bought got a ton of compliments – even when they got old and raggedy!

 

2. Purses (‘wallets’ in American!)

I go through exactly the same process looking for a purse as I do with bags. Again, it may take a few minutes more than if I just grabbed a leather purse, but I’ve NEVER failed to find something I like.

 

3. Shoes

There are lots of online vegan shoe companies (Bourgeois Boheme, Olsenhaus, Mohop, Beyond Skin etc)  but they’re all pretty pricey. So what to do if, like me, you’re on a regular ol’ Joe Shmoe budget?

Shoes are still pretty gendered (yawn) so:

Women:

Because women are told that they love shoes above all else, there are plenty of varieties of shoes to cater to this worn-out old trope in your regular High Street or shopping mall (um, silver lining, right?) So it couldn’t be easier finding great non-leather shoes, pretty much everywhere, in all styles.

If there is no marking in the shoe, just look on the underside to see if there is a sticker that has the leather symbol or not. If not, it should say ‘man-made materials.’  And don’t forget, for casual footwear; flip-flops, Converse, lots of trainers (sneakers) should all be made from manmade materials. Check out Dr Marten’s vegan shoes too.

If you feel you need long winter boots then you may need to look a little harder but you should find them. Here’s some, for example.

You know the really cheap shoe shops (Shoe Zone in the UK, Payless ShoeSource in the states etc)?  If you’re looking for a basic shoe or sandal, it’s maybe worth trying one of these shops. I’m not saying every shoe is amazing, and yes, these shops kinda stink of rubber and plastic, but you can sometimes find a pair of decent enough shoes, and you KNOW they ain’t gonna be leather or suede.

I’m not too kool for the ‘Zone or the ‘Source, nor should YOU be! 😀

Men:

It IS a little harder to get non-leather footwear for men, but it’s still not DIFFICULT,

Again, Converse, lots of sneakers, flip flops and most sandals should all be non-leather; check labels for materials if you’re not sure.

Dr Martens do an amazing vegan shoe – so no need to miss out on the old DM’s!

My partner has to dress smart(ish) for work, and did have more of a problem getting smart dress shoes that weren’t leather, but eventually found some on vegetarian-shoes.co.uk.

There IS another issue with shoes – sometimes the glue used in the manufacturing of them contains animal products. Some shoe companies can tell you if they use this kind of glue; others can’t, and sometimes there is conflicting info.

It’s up to you what you do with this. For me, if there is no visible animal product in my shoe, and if it’s not a company that says they definitely use glue containing animal parts – I’m good. We can only do what we can do.

 

4. Jackets, skirts, trousers etc:

As for jackets – I don’t even need to tell you there are a million fabulous alternatives to leather everywhere. If you specifically want the leather ‘look,’ a quick google search just told me that H&M, New Look, Warehouse and Miss Selfridge have great, inexpensive faux leather jackets. I don’t doubt it’s just as easy to get faux leather in any mainstream clothing shops in any country.

Confession: I’ve never worn either leather or non-leather skirts or trousers, and so was completely ignorant on where the faux leather versions may be.

I feared I may have to look toward, er, specialty shops for them 😉

It turns out Forever 21, New Look, H&M, Misguided, Top Shop and MANY, MANY other mainstream shops come up with a TON of results for faux leather trousers and skirts with one quick google, so if this is your thing – Go for it!

 

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4 Ways To Go Vegan

Basket of Veg from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 Micolo J, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

 

There are ways and ways to go vegan.

All ways are good – and if you pick the way that fits you best (in terms of your character; the speed you feel you can move at, and where you’re at right now with regards to how much you currently eat animal products), you’ll stand more chance of succeeding.

So, before you go vegan, WHICHEVER way you do it; do these things.

Then, think about HOW you are going to do it.

Are you someone who likes to face a challenge head-on, and who has a track record of being successful at overnight change? Then number 4 is your bag. Go for it baby!

Are you currently eating a standard American (or European) meat and dairy heavy diet, and have no idea how on earth you’re going to make the transition to this amazing cruelty-free, planet-friendly lifestyle you’ve learned so much about? Worry not. Number 2 is for you. It might take longer but you’ll get there in the end. Just remember the hare and the tortoise!

Are you a whizz in the kitchen, adventurous with food, LOVE all the incredible plant-based meals you’ve previously tried – and as long as food tastes good, you’re happy? Then Number 1 is where it’s at for you!

Do you feel you’re not so bothered about the meat, but might have issues with cheese? Try Number 3. Once the meat is out of the way, you can work on the dairy.

 

These are all the ways to go vegan:

 

1. Crowd Out The Bad

I definitely recommend this way if you’re a foodie and love cooking, but feel a little overwhelmed at the idea of going vegan overnight. What you do here is not focus on what you’re eliminating, but on all the gorge new foods that have been added to your life and are now making up your meals.

It’s similar to cold turkey, but you’re framing it in a different way so that you don’t feel intimidated. While you might not have thrown all your animal products out, you want to make sure you’re eating so much great food that you don’t even think to reach for them.

Have oatmeal for breakfast; add ground flax and fruits and you’ll not have room for anything else. Find recipes that contain whole grains, beans, starchy veg (sweet potatoes, squash) and tubers (potatoes), as well as veg (here’s a good resource) – trust me, you won’t want a piece of cheese after these meals! Have pieces of fruit when you feel like it throughout the day. Drink enough water. You get the picture. If you eat enough good stuff, you won’t have room left for animal products.

 

2. Step By Step

There’s nothing wrong with eliminating one thing at a time. What matters most is that you’re successful in the end, and if this is the way you feel most comfortable transitioning, this is the way that’s more likely to work.

So, for example, you could start by eliminating beef. Then chicken. Then fish. Then cow’s milk. Then eggs. Give it a couple of weeks each time – make sure you fill up the space that particular thing took up with yummy food – then eliminate something else. You’ll get there.

 

3. Vegetarian, Vegan

This is a classic- lots of vegans were vegetarian first. If you’re somewhere in the middle, i.e. not that hung up on meat, and you love your veg already but just feel you need a little time to get used to no meat before moving on to being 100% plant-based; then this way will likely work for you as it’s worked for tons of others.

 

4. Cold Turkey

To have the BEST chance of succeeding with going cold turkey, do your research first. And prep, prep, prep. So the day when you think, ‘that’s it, from now on I’m vegan’ your cupboards and refrigerator will be packed with luscious treats, fresh produce, grains, beans, nuts and seeds, dark chocolate, coconut based ice-creams etc.

———————————————————

Even though these are pretty much all the ways to go vegan, they are fluid and can be combined or melded:

For example, a combo:

You can become vegetarian, and then reduce each dairy product one by one.

A meld:

You could try the ‘step-by-step’ route and ‘crowding out the bad’ at the same time – this could well mean quicker progress.

Whoever you are, and where ever you’re at, there IS a way to suit you.

It’s not one way or the…um…highway.

 

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Self-Care Starts In The Kitchen!

Kitchen from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 Dru Kelly, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

We need to talk.

I’m hearing so often from people that they have limited time to spend cooking in the kitchen.

I get it. We’re all so busy working long hours; commuting; ferrying kids around; and just plain exhausted when we ARE home.

The thing is; eating; not just in terms of WHAT we eat, but HOW we eat, is so important to our wellbeing.

Obviously there’s going to be times when we just can’t (for whatever reason), but I believe it’s worth making damn sure that most days in the week we devote a certain amount of time to preparing at least one of our daily meals (ideally the main meal) in the kitchen.

No matter whether it’s a fancy schmancy dish, or you’re just whacking a spud in the oven to bake and heating up some baked beans; time spent in the kitchen is time well spent.

Maybe this is easy for me to say and I’m not being understanding of people’s lifestyles, but if you are so busy that you don’t have enough time to invest in self-care (of which cooking for yourself definitely is), I feel like this is not a sustainable situation.

If you’re a gazillionaire and can afford a vegan meal delivery service bringing fresh meals to your door every day – more power to you.

But even if you WERE a gazillionaire who could afford a vegan meal delivery service – this still isn’t ideal, because you’ll have little connection to the food you’re eating.

You won’t have gone through the creative (and oftentimes meditative) process of preparing and cooking your meal, which would’ve invested you with an emotional connection to it.

And I KNOW you guys are better than this but just in case anyone is about to utter these words; please stop with the ‘but I can’t cook‘ BS.

Can you read? Well then you can cook.

Yes you can.

Stop it.

No-one knew how to cook before they tried it. They just bothered their arse to read a recipe and follow the instructions. The more you do it the more you’ll learn what goes with what and get creative about adding and adjusting ingredients. Just DO IT. Because you CAN!

 

Here are my 4 sneaky ways of guilting encouraging you to get yo’ ass into the kitch! 🙂

 

1. Make kitchen time non-negotiable

Reframe kitchen time in your mind as something that is not up for negotiation. See it in the same light as cleaning your teeth; washing your clothes; wiping your butt…uh…sorry for that last one, but you get the point. Lots of people currently see it as something they can choose to do or not do.

You can choose to spend an hour cooking yourself a delicious meal, or watching a couple of eps from your current favourite box set and dialling some grub in. Let’s take the choice out of kitchen time and make it something we do automatically on most days.

 

2. Make your kitchen a place where you want to hang out!

‘But I have a crappy kitchen’ I hear you say.

Yup, me too.

Doesn’t matter how swanky or downmarket your kitchen is. Mine is a small kitchen in a London flat. It has old-fashioned units and laminate counter tops. However, I feel warm towards the space as I’ve spent many hours there cooking great food. I’m happy to be there as long as it’s clean and somewhat ordered.

Make the effort to always have clear and clean counter space. If you haven’t already, organise your pots and pans and cooking stuff so you know where everything is.

Your kitchen doesn’t have to be all shiny stainless-steel and granite surfaces; it just has to be a clean, pleasant space that you want to spend time in.

To that end…..

 

3. Cooking time is podcast or music time!!

Some may say ‘no, you must put your entire focus on the food you are preparing.’ I say pish! I’ve made a ton of meals to the accompaniment of my fave podcast or album and in my opinion it does NOT detract from the focus you give the meal you’re making or affect the end result.

Anything that makes you enjoy kitchen time and associate it with fun and relaxation is cool with me.

 

4. See kitchen time as an investment in your wellbeing

As much as exercise, meditation or any other self-care activity you partake in; time spent in the kitchen is an investment in your wellbeing.

If you can make it a habit as much as these other things are, you’ll feel the benefits both physically and mentally.

These benefits include:

  • You’ll be eating much better quality food than if you eat out or take out.
  • Restaurant and take-out food often contains way more oil than it needs to. If heart disease or weight loss is an area of concern to you, the best thing you can do is to cook your own meals.
  • The processes of chopping, stirring, mixing etc (depending on what you’re making!) can be surprisingly relaxing and meditative.
  • Even if you’ve done bugger-all else all day – by making a delicious meal you’ll get that sense of achievement and feeling that you’ve done something super productive.
  • You’ll be constantly learning about food. The more you cook, the better your food will get!

 

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How Do You Get Omega 3 As A Vegan?

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So, you’ve probably heard of omegas 3 & 6, and that you need them to be healthy.

You actually need a pretty even amount of both these beauties:

Omega 6 is inflammatory – which sounds bad, but it helps clot the blood soooo….useful if you have a wound you need healing for example. Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory and an anti-coagulant, so it thins the blood. They compete with each other for the same enzymes in the body, and too much omega 6 can inhibit omega 3 – hence the need for an equal-ish amount of each.

MANY people’s ratios are way skewed however, sometimes by as much as 30:1 (i.e. too much omega 6 to too little omega 3). You need to know that this is NOT a vegan problem, this is a universal problem.

As a plant-based superstar (or plant-based superstar wannabe!) you’re most likely getting plenty of Omega 6 through veg, fruit, grains, nuts and seeds, so it’s really omega 3 we want to make sure we get enough of, to balance out the ol’ 6.

It’s sometimes easy to get too much omega 6 through added oils; like safflower, sunflower, cottonseed or corn oil; so ideally stay away from these or use VERY sparingly.

We need omega 3 for basic cell function. And according to PCRM, adequate intake of omega 3 can mean a reduced chance of strokes and heart disease; reduction of menstrual pain and joint pain, relief from ulcerative colitis symptoms, and there is evidence to show it can also mean reduced breast cancer risk.

A deficiency of this nutrient can lead to health consequences that include kidney and liver abnormalities, dry skin or decreased immune function.

Omega 3 comes in three forms.

The main one is ALA (alpha linolenic acid) and this is the only ESSENTIAL omega 3, so this is the one you want to make sure you are getting.

Your body cleverly converts the ALA into the two other forms of omega 3; EFA and DHA.

We’ve all been sold the bill o’ goods that the best sources of EFA and DHA are fish and fish oils, but this is not true. The best sources are our own bodies! Yay for our bodies!

In any case, the fish themselves do not make EFA and DHA in their bodies; they obtain it from the algae and seaweed they consume.

Even though EFA and DHA are not essential nutrients – there is no RDA (recommended daily amount) prescribed for them – it’s possible you may need to up your levels if you are pregnant or elderly. But – you can do like the fish and eat sea vegetables (fancy phrase for seaweed; try nori or wakame for example), or take supplements made from algae. Aim for 250mg of DHA/day. You’ll also be avoiding the yucky contaminants found in fish this way!

So, how to get the main dude, the ALA?

Oh Em Gee this is soooo easy.

ALA can be found pretty abundantly in plant sources. Flax seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, black beans, red kidney beans, winter squash and edamame are all great sources.

One easy way – the way that I do it in fact – is to have two tablespoons of ground flax seeds on my oatmeal most mornings. There are a gazillion other great reasons for having flax seeds, but ALA is one of the main ones.

You could have two or three meals a week (stews or soups or casseroles or chillis) with red kidney beans or black beans in; and grab three or four walnut halves a few times a week.

But is it HARDER for vegans than for omnivores to get adequate omega 3?

What? You haven’t already surmised the answer to this question?

Though plants contain little fat, they contain enough to help the conversion process in our bodies of ALA to EFA and DHA. The ingestion of higher fat levels (like those found in a meat and dairy rich diet) make this process more difficult. SO, to have great levels of these three forms of omega 3; an overall low fat whole foods, plant-based diet is optimal.

Well…but of course 😉

 

Sources used: PCRM, Dr Michael Greger

 

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Going Vegan? Watch Out For These Sneaky Ingredients!

Organic-aisle Hy-vee from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 KOMUnews, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

When you first go vegan, it’s easy to get tripped up by a few sneaky animal ingredients in some food and household products.

If this happens to you, don’t sweat it – it happens; if you haven’t had a reason to look for these before, how could you know? And most of these ingredients don’t even sound like they came from an animal. It can be confusing.

So here I am with a handy guide to spotting the main culprits that lurk sneakily in groceries, so you can look out for and avoid them in the future.

It has to be said that these ingredients are mostly in processed foods; so the more whole foods, plant-based we can go the better, in terms of avoiding them as much as possible.

It may seem like a hassle, always reading ingredients; but I promise you, after a few shops you will know exactly which products contain this stuff and which don’t.

It will be second nature before you know it.

Here are the devious little blighters!

 

Gelatin

You’ve no doubt heard of this one. Gelatin is a gelling agent used in food, photography, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals (I’m absolutely not suggesting you stop taking any meds that contain gelatin  – I’m just imparting info!). It can be derived from the skin, bones, and connective tissues of animals such as cows, pigs, horses, chickens and fish, so is thus not very vegan!

If you are cooking and the recipe requires gelatin, don’t panic! Simply use agar agar, carrageenan, or check out kosher gelatins, which are often vegan.

 

Lactose

Lactose is milk sugar. Though it isn’t added to many foods, it is often added to pharmaceuticals as a stabiliser. It can also be found in body care products and baby formula.

It had recently been added to the ingredients of my favourite hand cream – I am NOT amused!

 

Skimmed Milk Powder

I include skimmed milk powder because I got caught out with this a couple of times. It is often the last on a long list of ingredients, and so you may see the main bunch of ingredients and assume the product is vegan. It’s honestly always worth checking the end of the list to see if this stuff is included.

I got caught out with chai. Please know that there is skimmed milk powder in most powdered chai! Liquid chai however, is almost always vegan, thank goodness!

 

Albumin/Albumen

Albumin or albumen is a fancy name for dried egg white. It is often used in pastries, baked goods and other processed food items. It can also be used to clarify and stabilise wine.

I’m so allergic to eggs it’s super important I avoid this goop!

 

Casein

Casein is the protein found in milk, and is thus in all dairy products.

Believe it or not, casein can be found in products that you would think were vegan, like soy or rice cheese, so unless you see the ‘vegan’ sign on the packaging of these cheeses, DO check the ingredients.

Also, check for any ingredient that contains the word ‘casein’ like calcium caseinate. As you would guess, this contains casein.

 

Glycerine/Glycerin/Glycerol

This ‘sugar alcohol’ is used as a humectant, solvent, sweetener and a shelf life extender in foods. It is also found in pharmaceuticals and body care products.

This one can be confusing because it can either derive from animals OR plants.

It seems that the default ‘glycerine’ as a food ingredient is usually from an animal source – if it is of vegetable origin it will normally be specified as such. So unless it is marked ‘vegetable glycerine’, personally, I’d leave it.

 

Shellac

This is a resin secreted by a bug.

I remember it being an ingredient in Smarties when I was a kid. Ick! I must have eaten a whole crap-ton of it!

It’s used on fruit, candy and pharmaceutical pills, as a glaze.

 

Cochineal/carmine

In actual fact, carmine is the red dye used to colour lots of things including food, and comes from the dried bodies of cochineal beetles, but you may see either of these words on a product label. Whichever word you see, it means beetle!

It’s used in a ton of things including candy, confectionary, juices, ice-creams and puddings.

 

Tallow

I was so grossed out when I learned what tallow was. And it’s in so many things.

Tallow is fat from cows or sheep that has undergone process called rendering. Seriously, you need to read about rendering. It seems it came about as a way to monetise meat industry by-products. The job of ‘renderer’ has been deemed ‘one of the dirtiest jobs’ – I’ll say!

Anyways, tallow (I even find the word a bit sinister!) can be found in shortening, cooking oil, cake mix, biodiesel, aviation fuel (obviously this one is difficut to avoid in modern life) and as ‘sodium tallowate’ in soap.

I don’t know about you but I don’t wanna be washing my bits with animal fat!

 

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6 Tips On What To Do If You Are Vegan But Your Partner Isn’t

pair from Flickr via Wylio
© 2006 Taz, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

When you realise that living vegan is the most environmentally-friendly; most healthy (if it’s whole-food based); most ethically sound way to live with regards human and non-human animals; most effective way to combat world hunger, and the most world-peace promoting lifestyle there is; you naturally want to share this!

And of course the person you most want to share with is your partner.

But what do you do if your partner just cannot see things the way you see them?

When YOU have understood all the reasons for why vegan (or even if there’s just one reason that influenced you), it can have such a huge impact on you that it can feel hurtful and personal if your partner, the one who knows and loves you the most, just doesn’t get it.

Here are my tip-top tipz on what to do in this situation:

 

1. Communication is key.

Yes I know this sounds obvious, but it really ain’t as obvious as you think.

Remember that your partner likely has an opposite personality-type to you. This is why you were attracted to each other in the first place. ‘Opposites attract’ is a cliche because it’s mostly true. THUS, you more than likely communicate in a very different way to your partner.

If YOU are the partner that is not always direct and clear when communicating – now is the time to try and be as clear as possible when expressing yourself to your partner about this subject.

If it helps, write down what you want to say before you say it. More often than not writing something down brings clarity. Be sure to explain all your reasons for your decision, and how much it would mean to you if they would also read/watch/listen to the information that you’ve just learned.

You know your partner. Speak to their interests. If you have kids, talk about the environment. If they have health issues in their family, speak to those. If you have pets or if they had a beloved pet in their childhood, explain how all animals are the same.

But above all, be clear and express how you feel and what would make you happy. Your partner is invested in making you happy. That’s why they agreed to be your partner 🙂

 

2. Once you’ve communicated – lead by example.

If your partner witnesses you getting healthier, happier and living life with gusto and purpose – this is contagious.

Don’t forget your partner will notice this about you more than anyone else will.

As you become more confident in your plant-based lifestyle, your relationships will likely get better too – the more you love yourself (which is what you are doing by living the healthiest, most compassionate and conscious way possible), the more you can love others, right?

When your partner sees what THEY are gaining from you being this new amazing version of yourself, chances are they’ll start to think about what effect a plant-based lifestyle could have on them too.

 

3. Have fun with a little bit of sneakiness and stealth!

If you don’t like the word ‘sneakiness’ just call it ‘creative strategising’!

Nothing wrong with having fun and being tricksy if it’s all for the greater good, amiright? And what’s the greater good if it’s not guiding your partner towards living in accordance with their own ethics (that you KNOW they have, deep down), improving their health and that of the planet??

Here are a few ideas:

  • Leave some yummy vegan treats lying around open (chocolate, cookies etc), just begging to be sampled by the next person that comes along – who just MIGHT be your partner! When you can see they’ve availed themselves of the goodies you left out, just casually mention that they were vegan!
  • Take your partner out to an ethnic restaurant; Ethiopian, South Indian or Middle Eastern for example; somewhere you KNOW the vegan options are plentiful, delicious, and look far more engaging than a plate of brown sludgy-looking meat and rice. Let your partner order whatever they will, then tuck into your plant-tastic lusciousness with alacrity and be sure to make all the relevant foodgasmic noises!
  • We all know omnivores take longer in the, er, bathroom than vegans. Leave some interesting reading material in there, like, ooh, The Food Revolution by John Robbins (lots of interesting bite-size facts in there!), or Veganist by Kathy Freston.
  • Dial (or go get) a pizza, and have it made with Daiya mozzarella. Make sure there are plenty of other tasty veg on there too (olives, mushrooms, red onion etc), and serve it up when your partner comes home from work hungry and you know they’ll eat whatever’s being served up. If they are a pizza lover, I can pretty much guarantee they will enjoy it, and will not believe it when you tell them (once they’ve eaten it of course) that it was vegan. Nothing like showing people that they won’t miss out on anything when stealthily nudging them towards being plant-based!

 

4. If it feels like you are talking to the wall; like you’ve communicated in the best way possible to your partner and tried every trick in the book – you know what? Just leave it for a while.

Yup. Just leave it alone for a time.

If you are a new vegan yourself, you are no doubt still learning and facing challenges too. It can be draining going through this and trying to get someone else on board at the same time.

Conserve your energy for a while. Focus purely on No. 2 – leading by example.

And remember, it’s often in the silence; the quiet; the spaces between; (meaning, in the times when you are NOT actively encouraging your partner to go vegan) that information can settle, and register.

 

5. Know where you end and another person begins.

This is the title of a podcast episode by Colleen Patrick Goudreau. If you want to listen to the relevant portion it’s at around 30 minutes in. The caller is talking about her family, but it’s relevant to anyone you are close with.

Ultimately, you CAN’T change your partner. They have to have their own realisations and their own, in Oprah parlance, ‘AHA moments.’

All you can do is share information, lead the way, and make it easy for them to transition to a vegan lifestyle as and when these revelatory moments happen.

Again, it’s often in moments when you are least expecting it that dots get joined and consciousness shifts. Be patient.

 

6. Never give up hope

No, never!

You never know what’s down the line.

Even if right now, your partner is chowing down on a big bacon sandwich and gurgling ‘…ooh, yummy, yummy flesh’ – I can promise you that far more unlikely people have gone vegan.

You want examples?

Check out the plant-fuelled trucker; or this chef that previously loved meat and cheese; or this Cajun guy who was raised on rich, fried traditional food.

John Robbins (author of The Food Revolution) was heir to the Baskin-Robbins ice-cream legacy, but went vegan and walked away from it – how unlikely is that? Dr T Colin Campbell (author of The China Study) was raised on a dairy farm and actually started his career trying to prove that animal protein was the optimal protein for humans. Again, he is NOT the person you would have expected to go plant-based.

There’s plenty more examples where that came from.

Your partner will never be the most unlikely plant-based candidate, so stay optimistic!

 

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How To Never Be The Apologetic Vegan

ristorante italiano in NYC from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Michele Ursino, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Because I’ve been vegan for a million years (ok, 26), there were a good few years when I was the only vegan I knew, and the only vegan anyone in my social circles knew.

Back then, hardly anyone knew what the word even meant, and when I explained, I could tell that I was considered just a little bit TOO different, extreme, and martyr ‘ish.’

I guess because I was highly aware of how negatively people were perceiving me, I developed a bit of an apologetic ‘shtik’

There was a particular group of friends I used to go out with, and we’d often go to a Chinese or Indian restaurant. When the server came to our table, I’d always check that the dish I was about to order was dairy and egg free. As I asked the server these questions, I realised the table would go quiet and everyone would listen to me, so when I finished, I’d sort of shrug and blush a little and say ‘sorry guys, I’m the weird vegan one!’

Knowing what I know NOW, I cringe at this.

I don’t blame myself – I didn’t know any better. I didn’t have access to the multitude of information we have today that could’ve helped me deal with that situation in a more confident way.

If you’re going vegan today it’s quite the opposite.

Most people now KNOW what being vegan means in terms of the ethics, and thanks to lots of us sharing articles and documentaries on social media; the health, environmental, world hunger and social justice reasons to go vegan are a lot more widely known.

We have the courage to talk about it more as we grow in numbers so we don’t HAVE to be remotely apologetic (I didn’t HAVE to be back then, I just wasn’t equipped with the tools and information to help me NOT be).

If you find yourself the only vegan in a group of non-vegans, you may feel yourself straying into apologetic territory – if you are all choosing a place to go eat for example. While you probably don’t mind going to an omnivore restaurant if you know there are going to be adequate vegan options, you will probably want to avoid a steakhouse that you know darn well would only offer you a plate of garnish lettuce.

Here are my top tips to keep you away from sounding apologetic when you’re out and about:

 

1. Remember: How YOU perceive yourself is often how EVERYBODY will perceive you. If you don’t sound like you’re giving much value to what you’re saying, no one else will value it either.

It could well be that years ago when I was talking about being vegan to my friends I was doing so in such a feeble, apologetic way that I CAUSED their negativity about it, rather than their negativity causing me to be apologetic.

Always try and have at the forefront of your mind the moment when it clicked for you that you wanted to be vegan. Whatever it was that inspired that decision, keep that front and centre. This will help you radiate confidence when talking about it, and when making group decisions based on it.

2. We are not yet in the majority, but we can ACT like we are – because guess what, we should be; and sooner or later we WILL be (yay!). Act like what you’re talking about or asking for in restaurants is completely normal and if you are challenged, be surprised you are being challenged. If we act like we’re the norm, it will happen quicker that we will be. We’ll manifest it. We’ll collectively fake it till we make it!

3. Be ready for when new people ask you why you’re vegan. Tell of your ethical reasons if it’s these that inspired you to go vegan, but also have at hand a few knockout facts that cover all bases. The Cowspiracy Facts page is great for this.

4. Even though I recommend we act like we’re in the majority, we should (and I know I don’t need to say this) always be unfailingly polite. It costs nothing, and a bit of politeness and charm always help a request get heard.

I’ve never EVER had a server have a problem with me politely asking questions. I’ve even managed to get a decent meal in bayou country in Louisiana when only hog and crawfish seemed to be on the menu, and the servers were initially a little wary when I said we didn’t eat meat. When I politely suggested a few ideas we got a perfectly decent salad, and fries with Cajun spices.

Don’t forget, in the restaurant context servers are there to serve, and are aware they’ll get a good tip if they please you, so no apologetic mumbling needed here as long as we are courteous in our requests.

5. Never be afraid to suggest a different restaurant to the one being suggested. After all, others would do this based on taste preferences, there’s no reason why you can’t do this for your ‘taste’ preferences, just suggest another fun place that you KNOW has great food.

6. Know that as long as you are telling your truth, stating facts, and making requests politely – you  have no need to act, or be, apologetic. Should anyone try and make you feel that you should be, this is their problem.

7. Why would you ever act sorry for saving animals, saving the planet, promoting world peace, getting healthy so you are not a drain on health resources, helping combat world hunger, helping end violence and having a positive impact on all oppressions?

 

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