‘What’s The Point In Restricting Yourself? You Have To Die Of Something Anyway’

die of something 4


I hope with this post I’m giving you help in responding to this comment when you hear it.

Or that I’m responding to YOU if you if this comment is aligned with your sentiments.

This one always drives me crazy because it feels so short-sighted.

Which comment am I talking about?

This one. I hear it often when talking about the health benefits of a whole food, vegan diet:

‘..What’s the point in restricting yourself? You have to die of something anyway.’

Uh…well, this is true I guess (not the part about restricting yourself – I’ve written lots on how a plant-based diet is actually the opposite of restrictive), but, and I know it’s a cliche, it’s not about the years in your life, it’s about the life in your years.

Whether we die at 40, 90 or 110, isn’t it better that we lived as many of those days as possible in vibrant health?

Yes we all have to die of something, but how about that ‘something’ just being your heart stopping at the end of a long, well-lived, fully enjoyed life; where you’ve been independent, fit and capable, and a contributing member of society right up until the absolute end? What if you were pain, discomfort and niggle-free right up to the last minute? What if you kept every single one of your faculties and marbles; your spring in your step and your memory right up until that final second?

What if you also never lost your passion, purpose and zest for life EVER; and food tasted good, autumn smelled like heaven, and music made you get up and dance until your last day on this earth?

Doesn’t this sound better than getting to the point where you feel so crap you don’t really want to go on, but the doctors keep giving you pills to keep you alive, because it’s unethical to do otherwise?

Doesn’t it sound better than being immobile and not having a life outside of four walls, or of living somewhere you’re not happy, because it’s the only place they can take care of your needs, and having to rely on other people to do everything for you? Or worse, having to depend on family members to take care of your personal hygiene?

What if you contract dementia and can’t even recognise and be grateful to the family members who are tending to your needs? (Yes, a plant-based diet can help stave of dementia, too)

And how awful if, due to a sedentary lifestyle where you’re not seeing the sun from one day to the next, you become depressed? Nothing is less fun than living life under a big black cloud – it’s not living in fact. It’s existing.

How different this all could be.

A whole food, vegan lifestyle gives you the best chance at an entirely different scenario.

One where your family and friends would have to worry about you very little, how you’d not be a drain on society but a gift and an example to it – but also, just how much more time you’d have to be in the moment enjoying your damn self and all the people around you?

Why waste time and money suffering and being ill if it’s at all avoidable?

Life is too short (even if it’s long!) and time with others; food; music; sex; nature; art etc is way too fun to lose any time to unnecessary sickliness.

I leave you with the words of romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), who wrote an essay called ‘A Vindication of a Natural Diet’

On a natural system of diet [a plant-based diet], old age would be our last and our only malady; the term of our existence would be protracted; we should enjoy life, and no longer preclude others from the enjoyment of it. All sensational delights would be infinitely more exquisite and perfect. The very sense of being would then be a continued pleasure, such as we now feel it in some few and favoured moments of our youth.


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!


How You Being Vegan Benefits Every Living Being On The Planet

Planet Gothenburg #photog from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Erik Söderström, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Ever heard the one ‘you care more about animals than you do about people, but you should care more about people because you…er.. ARE one‘ ?

Me too.

Not too often thank goodness, but I’ve heard it.

Now I KNOW the word ‘vegan’ was invented, back in 1944, to mean someone who chose not to use non-human animals as products in any way, be it for food, clothes, sport or entertainment.

At this time, the intent was to show compassion towards the non-human animals who don’t have a voice.

These days, with easy access to so much more information, we now know there are many beings that don’t have a voice, or not one that’s heard. I am often overwhelmed by reading stories about women and girls who are sold into slavery, forced into abusive marriages while still a child, who suffer ‘dowry deaths,’ who are forcibly kept from being educated; who self-immolate because that’s their only way out of a desperate life, who have undergone extensive FGM – I could go on.

Firstly, it’s ridiculous to separate people from animals, because people are animals too.

And omnivores need NO encouragement to separate themselves from animals – disassociating themselves serves to allow them to believe they are superior, and thus legitimises their eating of animals.

It’s harder to justify eating animals when we fully realise we are animals too. When we understand that we are the same, we have truly seen ourselves in the ‘other;’ in this case a non-human animal.

I believe that ‘otherising’ living beings is not single issue. WE ‘otherise’ animals; men ‘otherise’ women; people ‘otherise’ people of different races; straight people ‘otherise’ gay people; young people ‘otherise’ old people and vice-versa.

Woman is the other of man, animal is the other of human, stranger is the other of native, abnormality the other of norm, deviation the other of law-abiding, illness the other of health, insanity the other of reason, lay public the other of the expert, foreigner the other of state subject, enemy the other of friend ~ Zygmunt Bauman (Polish Sociologist, 1925-)

The fact is, we don’t have to just care about one set of living beings; we have the capacity to care about them all.

It’s not a single prejudice that is the most important, but prejudice itself. Though it’s necessary to fight each prejudice singularly in order to make people aware it exists (that’s why I strive to inform about veganism!); as with all negative things it’s also about treating the root of the problem and not just the symptoms. Hate, fear and the ‘otherising’ that results from this are the root of the problem; racism, sexism, speciesism are how the hate and fear manifest and are the symptoms.

The beauty and power of veganism is that it starts with the beings that are most seen as ‘other’ and the effects radiate outwards.

Caring about the beings who are presently seen as the lowliest in society, i.e. animals (although from things I’ve read lately, I’m starting to believe that women are also not seen as fully rounded, sentient beings, and that many people will see animals as sentient beings before they see women as such), has a ripple effect and spreads out to all of society.

I’ll let these guys help me explain 🙂 :

Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace ~ Albert Schweitzer (French/German theologian, organist, philosopher, physician and missionary, 1875-1965)

As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love ~ Pythagoras (Greek polymath, c. 570-c. 495BC)

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly ~ Martin Luther King (Civil Rights Leader, 1929-1968)

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated ~ (this quote is often attributed to Gandhi but can’t be precisely verified) Mahatma Ghandi (Leader of the Indian independence movement, 1869-1948)

So being vegan in effect, helps all oppressed peoples.

How else does veganism benefit all people on the planet?

Well, it benefits the planet, upon which every person resides!

It helps combat world hunger – I’d say that’s being pretty caring of other people?

If we, as vegans are healthy (which if we stick as much as we can to whole foods, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be), we can better care for all living beings – including people.

What about the quality of life and mental health of slaughter house workers? Slaughter house workers are often from immigrant communities, and they are poorly paid to kill animals for us. As a result of the speed of the machinery they often suffer serious injuries, psychological stress due to the nature of the work, and are more prone to committing acts of violence. By going vegan we are not contributing to the awful quality of life of these people or the people they affect.

So I figure it does a disservice to veganism to think of it as only helping non-human animals. Of course, as vegans we are shining the spotlight ON animal abuse and slaughter, and taking ourselves out of the equation that demands this cruelty happen, but I believe that all the reasons for going vegan are interconnected. It truly does benefit every living organism on the planet if you think about it.

We can care deeply about non-human animals. And we can also care deeply about all living beings. And we can ALSO care deeply about nature, because it gives life to, and feeds the soul of all living beings (you just try living without nature). It’s possible to care about all of these things at the same time.

And the accusation that vegans care more about animals than they do about humans is just silly, nothing more than lashing out because of lack of a better argument.


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?


Iron and A Vegan Diet. What Is The Truth?

026 Iron - Periodic Table of Elements from Flickr via Wylio
© 2015 Science Activism, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

A few days ago I saw an ‘article’ in Harpers Bazaar entitled ‘5 Reasons Not To Go Vegan’ in which a ‘nutritionist’ explained how hard it was to get enough iron on a vegan diet, and that meat is a much better source of iron.

She went on to explain how, as a vegan, it can also be hard to get enough protein and other nutrients that, in fact, AREN’T AT ALL hard to obtain from plant food.

I was surprised this article was allowed to be published – and why didn’t they ask ME to be the resident nutritionist? I tell the truth that I learned from peer-reviewed science, rather than regurgitate old information that I haven’t once questioned. GRRRR!!

Funnily enough, that article has since been deleted – I’m guessing people must have complained. I’d have complained myself if I wasn’t jaded from seeing too many of these types of ‘articles’ with their dodgy ‘nutritionists.’

Just to prove it WAS there – here it was! Just check out that dumb old URL…

Here’s what’s what on iron:

We need iron. It’s well known that iron deficiency can lead to anaemia. Symptoms of iron deficiency and anaemia include fatigue, dizziness, weakness, and palpitations (though if you suffer from any of these symptoms, don’t automatically assume you have an iron deficiency. These symptoms are compatible with lots of conditions, so go see your doctor and find out what’s up).

Many people who go back to meat-eating from being vegan say they felt tired and weak and feel it’s because they weren’t getting enough iron, believing that ALL the iron is in the red meat.

The sad truth is that many doctors still recommend upping red meat intake to those that are low in iron – I’ve even heard this within the last year.

Unfortunately, most have so little nutritional education, they advise their patients to eat food that is carcinogenic and full of saturated fat, cholesterol and antibiotics rather than study modern science on how BEST to acquire sufficient iron levels from food safely.

So what IS the truth?

The confusion arises because iron from meat (haem iron) IS more quickly absorbed in the human body than iron from plants (non-haem iron). THIS is why the medical profession will often prescribe red meat or liver to patients low in iron, thinking that this will be a quick cure.

Because haem iron is known to be more quickly absorbed, people think that haem iron is better for us, period.


…This is NOWHERE NEAR the full picture.

That haem iron is more quickly absorbed is not a good thing. It is absorbed by the body quickly WHETHER WE NEED IT OR NOT. It is not a balanced way for the body to receive iron and can result in iron overload. This increases risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease.

Non-haem iron from plant food is slower to be absorbed by the body but is absorbed as our bodies need it (isn’t this clever?)

All the main health advisory bodies – ADA, BMA, WHO, PCRM – concur that iron deficiency anaemia is no more common in vegetarians than it is amongst meat eaters.

And in the UK in 2002; a study of 33,883 meat-eaters, 18,840 vegetarians and 2,956 vegans found that vegans were found to have the highest daily intake of iron.

As we’ve seen, iron overload is just as dangerous as iron deficiency – but we stand far less chance of over-dosing on iron on a plant-based diet.

Great plant-food sources of iron are whole grains, green leafy veg, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds; and vitamin C-rich fruit and veg help us absorb the iron, but really, if you’re eating a varied whole food, plant-based diet, you don’t need to stress over it.

It’s actually hard to NOT get enough iron on a whole food, plant-based diet.

Just in case you come across an article with information on veganism or plant-based health and you are not sure of it’s credibility; or it seems to contradict information you believed to be true, here is a handy guide to help you navigate conflicting information.


Now Is The Time

onion veg


Well OF COURSE I’m going to take the opportunity when we’re on the cusp of this new year to encourage you to go vegan/plant-based/whatever you want to call it, if you aren’t already.

But let me explain WHY the time is now; why there has never been a better time to take this step.

Global consciousness is rising, it really is. People are beginning to think about the wider issues outside of their own four walls or their own community.

They are beginning to consider the impact their actions have on other beings, both human and non-human.

They are beginning to join the dots and see how their life choices connect to cruelty towards others and environmental degradation, not to mention how these choices can lead to personal ill-health.

In east and west coast US (and progressive cities in between – Hi Austin, Asheville, Boulder etc!) this information is coming through loud and clear and the markets are rapidly changing to accommodate this new demand. You find restaurants, cafes and food emporia loaded with sumptuous plant-based fare. Brighton in the UK is getting there, and I hear Berlin and Gothenburg are vegan meccas. Forgive me Aussie readers, I’m ignorant about your country (though I’d love to visit one day), but I believe Melbourne is the place to be for plant-based delights aplenty.

Other places may be slower on the uptake ( 🙂 ) but are moving in that direction nonetheless. You only have to consider how vegetarians and vegans were perceived twenty years ago and compare that to now to know this is true. If you are too young to know this, ask an older friend or relative.

Yes, sadly it’s true that as some countries that were once poor are getting richer, many of their photo monbiot imagecitizens are indulging in more meat and dairy, believing this is the ‘western,’ affluent thing to do. But, as technology enables information on the destructiveness of animal food production to spread fast and thick on a global scale, it is inevitable that very soon animal consumption will decline in these countries too, and at a much quicker rate than it did in ours.

If you are thinking of moving in a plant-based direction; whether you want to go vegan overnight, or start with vegetarian and see how it goes, or switch some animal products for plant-based ones and see how that feels – you’ve chosen the right time.

Here, here, here and, ooooh… here are some tips.

You will be part of a strong and gathering current of consciousness, a flow of positive energy that will only ever increase exponentially in force.  It doesn’t even matter right now if you think I’m talking hogwash and your reasons for going vegan are more health or environment-based than ethical. All the reasons are interwoven, and you’ll feel connected to them all sooner or later.  It’s no coincidence that the best thing for animals and the planet is also the best thing for you.

Get in on this energy at this stage. Don’t be late to the party. You’ll miss so much!

Just do something. Move forward. Now is the time.


How To Navigate Christmas As A New Vegan

A Safe,Happy and Prosperous New Year to All from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 John Stratford, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Does it seem like it’s Christmas every frickin’ six weeks or is that just me?

It’s just such a lot of….well…bother!

Am I the Grinch?

*sigh* …Probably.

If this is your first (or one of your first) vegan Christmases; you may have a few concerns about how time spent with family and friends is going to pan out in light of your food choices.

It’s true that Christmas CAN sometimes present new vegans with a particular set of dilemmas.

I hope I’ve covered most of them here:


How do you navigate non-vegan family dinners?

I wrote a pretty comprehensive piece on this last year. Hope it helps!


As a vegan, should you even ATTEND non-vegan family dinners?

This is totally your call.

You are no less vegan if you do.

I get that it might be upsetting for some people, but it can also be an opportunity to wow the fam with some gorge food you made to bring and share.

A big obstacle to people going vegan is that they think the food will be boring and bland, so this can be an opportunity to prove to skeptical animal-munchers that the opposite is true.


If YOU are hosting Christmas, should you offer non-vegan food options?

In my opinion? Hell no. Your house = your prerogative. Why would you compromise your values?

However, you MUST offer lots of amazing plant-based food, to stop anyone whining about the fact that there’s no meat.

Look – you’re hosting – so you’re gonna be committed to a certain amount of kitchen time in any case. Try and find some extra-spesh, beautiful looking dishes that will excite the eyes and taste buds of even the grizzliest meat-eater.

Good food is good food. If it tastes great – they’ve got nothing to complain about!

I found some pretty cool ideas here and here.


What do you do if someone buys you a non-vegan gift?

Hmmmm. I have to say I think I would just be gracious about this.

It’s a gift. Their intention was good.

If you say you don’t want the gift and try to explain why...I mean…I just can’t see that turning out well.

If the gift is a leather or wool product, you can always make sure that you communicate effectively during the following year that your veganism includes not wearing animal products so that people get the message and it doesn’t happen again.

As for the gift? If it’s a leather, suede or wool product, I’d probably give it to a charity shop. It’s already been bought – and it can’t just dissolve or evaporate – so it may as well not go to waste.

If it’s a non-vegan food gift?

This one is difficult. Personally I couldn’t give it to some else – because I know how harmful animal products are health-wise and I couldn’t give to anyone else what I wouldn’t eat myself.

On the odd occasion when someone has unwittingly bought me non-vegan chocolate, it’s actually just stayed in my cupboard until its gone bad, such is my cluelessness about what to do in this situation.



How do you make vegan mince-pies

BLEEEEEEEEECCHHHH! I can help you go vegan and blow your mind with a ton of insights and inspiration to help you STAY vegan, but I cannot tell you how to make a vegan mince pie.

I always HATED those things and found them disGUSting. What even IS that mince shizzle made from?

I really don’t know.

I do not have the mince pie gene.

I found this recipe, if it helps, but I have not tried it and have no intention of doing so, so I can’t tell you if it’s good. Looks pretty legit though, if you like that sort of thing…


Is it ok to buy friends and family vegan cookbooks?

I say yes – if it’s a great quality cookbook. If it has lots of mouthwatering pics and engaging recipes, why not? Like I said in a previous point – good food is good food, and a good cookbook is a good cookbook, vegan or no.


What do you leave for Santa by the chimney/back door?

Um, a glass of almond or soy milk and some vegan cookies? We don’t want Santa to eat saturated fat and cholesterol and die of a heart attack or diabetes-related complications do we boys and girls?

And not meaning to fat-shame Santa, but he’s portly enough already if truth be told 🙂


I wish you all a relaxing and joyful holiday period, whatever you’re doing. And don’t forget, any rubbish presents – regift or repurpose 🙂


Everything In Moderation Right?…..WRONG!

Let's have some complexity from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 futureatlas.com, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

I just did a ‘scope’ on this subject and got so wound up I figured I’d do a post on it too, to be sure to get it out of my system!

(And yes, please follow me on Periscope @KarenCottenden. If you’re quick you’ll get to see me while I’m still awkward and nervous. I intend ‘scoping’ every day, so it’s only a matter of time before I’ll be a slick ‘pro’ of course 🙂 )



‘But Karen…don’t you think we should just eat everything in moderation?’

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve heard this.

It used to drive me CRAYZEEE and I didn’t have the counter-argument at my fingertips, so I got frustrated every time I heard it.

I had no answers other than ‘but what about heroin or cocaine, surely they’re not good in moderation?’

But this argument never felt sufficient. Someone would always say ‘er…no….they’re not food, we mean all foods in moderation.’

It didn’t help my frustration levels that the person saying it always thought they’d just KILLED ME with common sense, and that there was NO WAY I couldn’t now see things from their point of view.

And after all, it’s not one of the more aggressive things that get said to vegans. It sounds quite innocuous. Strangely, I prefer the stupider, more aggressive, defensive comments ‘cos they’re… well, just plain silly and quite easy to respond to.

But this one really does sound like common sense. Perhaps in another context, on another planet, it WOULD be common sense, but not in the way we use it today.

Now that I’ve given it some thought, I’m clearer on why the ‘moderation’ defence is poppycock; tosh; balderdash and bunkum.

There are really four elements to it, and they are:


1. What is moderation?

My definition of moderation is different to yours: yours is different to your auntie’s; hers is different to Donald Trump’s (not sure why I picked him, ew). This word has SUCH an ambiguous, indefinable meaning.

Everyone nods in agreement when someone says they ‘eat everything in moderation,’ yet none of them have the same idea of what moderation is.

And do they REALLY eat animal products in (any definition of) moderation? We all like to think we eat certain less-than-healthy foodstuffs ‘in moderation,’ but when it comes down to it, we just don’t.

Me? I like to believe I eat dark chocolate in moderation. I have it JUST on the weekends so I MUST do right? But when I really think about it honestly, I probably eat way more than is healthy for a two day period. I probably don’t eat it in moderation at all.

How many times have I had non-vegans say to me ‘Oh, you’re vegan? Well you know I hardly eat ANY meat or dairy.’ In actuality, they eat a lot more than they like to think of themselves eating. If all the people who said this were speaking the truth; half the livestock industry would’ve shut down by now! People don’t know how much they eat of anything until they stop eating it.

And ‘moderation’ is such a positive word; we all want to be associated with it. It’s the opposite of radical, fanatical and fundamentalist – all of which none of us want to be. We all want to believe we eat everything in moderation, but the truth is that lots of our meal choices are more animal product-heavy than we realise.

Just consider – do you eat chicken in moderation? Beef? Steak? Eggs? Cheese? Fish? Lamb? Pork? Yoghurt? Butter? Most of these? Weeeellll – that’s a heck of a lot of animal products to be eating ‘in moderation.’ If you eat each of these foods in moderation – you’re not leaving much room for plant foods!


2. What is everything?

Do the people who use this phrase really eat EVERYTHING?

I consider myself to eat a wide variety of foods from all over the globe, but I certainly don’t eat everything. I’ve yet to try durian, turnip greens and natto; plus hundreds of other plant-foods I’m sure.

I’m assuming the ‘moderation’ crowd don’t eat monkey’s brains, or frog’s legs, or shark meat. Some of the ‘moderation’ folk I know don’t even eat avocado, or sweet potato for the love of all things holy. And some I know eat chicken and potatoes in some form for pretty much every meal. Maybe they have Weetabix for breakfast.

Their concept of ‘everything’ is narrower than any fair definition of the word oughtta be!

The ‘everything’ they are referring to is the very small group of foods they stick to on a daily basis.

This is not what ‘everything’ means.


3. It’s not cool to eat ANY things in moderation (or otherwise) that have suffered and been brutally slaughtered when we have absolutely no need to do so.

Uh, that’s it.


4. It’s not cool to eat ANY things in moderation (or otherwise) that have a destructive impact on our planet (habitat destruction, global warming, topsoil loss, air/water pollution, desertification and rainforest decimating etc), when we have absolutely no need to do so.

Yep. That’s it for that one too.


‘Vegan’ Does Not = Eating Fruit For Every Meal

Water melon from Flickr via Wylio
© 2006 Hajime NAKANO, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

So there is a trend that worries me somewhat…

I’ve watched a tonne of YouTube videos that have ‘vegan’ in the title and are instructional in nature, and I have something I NEEEED to say.

In my opinion, the absolute vast majority of these videos are great, and it’s heart-warming to see so many people so clued up on the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of vegan. I’m also hugely jealous of the production values, editing skills, and just sheer confidence of the creators of these videos – but really enjoy watching them despite the ol’ green-eyed monster!

Yet some of them really concern me.

Some of these vloggers, if you watch their ‘what I eat in a day’ videos, eat nothing but fruit. Perhaps a nut here and there.

Of course, if you’re eating mainly fruit, then it’s pretty much a raw diet. My thoughts on raw in more detail are here.

I’m not naming any names or trying to take anyone down, I’m just genuinely concerned.

To be fair, some of these people DO look healthy, and report that their blood work is great. If this is true then good for them. But there are definitely others who don’t look like eating 95% fruit is serving them.

It’s popular and trendy diet plans like ’80/10/10′ and ‘Raw Till 4,’ (both encourage you to eat hyyyuuuuuge amounts of fruit for – supposedly – maximal health and fitness), that seem to have inspired this way of eating.

As a plant-based nutritionist I wouldn’t recommend eating a mostly fruit diet. Yes, of course it’s better than eating the standard US or UK diet full of chicken, fries, burgers and cheese etc, and maybe some people can live on it. But it’s not something I would recommend doing.


These are ALL the reasons these videos concern me:

  • Health-wise, we know the optimal diet is based around whole grains and starchy root veg. Brown rice, whole wheat products, whole spelt products, oats, quinoa, corn, potato, sweet potato, squash – these types of foods should be the foundation of most meals. After this come beans and legumes, and your veggies on the side.

Fruit appears as dessert; or a snack; or maybe PART of breakfast.

Where do I get off spouting this?

It’s true, I’m a nutritionist not a doctor…

…So I follow the advice of these guys who are:

Dr John McDougall, has practised medicine for many years and successfully treated hundreds, if not thousands of patients with a whole food, plant-based diet, with whole, starchy carbs as the basis. This is what he says on the matter.

The very accomplished and eminent Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, who again, has treated hundreds if not thousands of people successfully with the same diet Dr McDougall prescribes, has this to say on the subject.

Here is what Dr T Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, thinks of diets such as 80/10/10 that espouse a raw, fruit-heavy way of eating.

All these guys say THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE proving that eating mostly fruit is optimal for health.

However – there IS scientific, peer-reviewed evidence proving that a whole food, plant-based diet with a focus on grains and potatoes etc, IS.


  • I also have personal experience of eating just fruit. About 26 years ago, I’m not going to say I had an eating disorder because I was never diagnosed and I managed to get out of it on my own with no medical help; but I wanted to lose weight, so I started JUST eating watery fruits and veg, knowing that with this regime I could only lose weight as these foods are basically just water and would go straight through me.

Well I lost weight alright, and I lost my period too (if you’re a female human, you NEED your period so everything can function as it should).

Everything went back to normal eventually when I added starchy plant foods back to my diet, but for a while there, I was not the healthiest!

This isn’t to say that it doesn’t work for some people, perhaps it does, I don’t know. But I don’t understand scientifically how it could be a good idea long term.


  • The other thing is – what kind of climate do you live in? In Chinese medicine (not that I’m an expert, but a close friend is a Chinese Herbalist) they believe that some foods are cooling and some are warming.

Tropical fruits, for example, are believed to have a very cooling effect. If you live in a cold climate it doesn’t make sense to be eating lots of mangoes, watermelons and dragon fruit that are meant to cool you down.

The couple of fruit-heavy vloggers I’ve seen who DO look healthy, I believe DO live in hotter climates.

If you live in the UK, Northern or Eastern Europe, East US, or anywhere where the temperatures can drop; eating fruit all day just ISN’T gonna cut it. You need your stews, chilli’s and curries to warm you and fill you up.

Also – how expensive is eating 3 melons for breakfast, 6 mangoes for lunch, 2 dragon fruit as a snack; and 4 oranges, 2 more melons and 3 dates for dinner? Tropical fruit isn’t cheap and with the amounts people are eating in order to fulfill their caloric intake, the cost must rack up pretty quickly. Compare the price of six decent mangoes with a 2kg bag of lentils that will last you months!


  • The final reason these ‘fruity’ videos concern me, is that, to me, they are somewhat misrepresenting a vegan diet. If these vloggers called themselves ‘fruitarians’ instead of ‘vegans’ this would be helpful, so people don’t think that this is a typical version of a vegan diet.

Veganism and plant-based diets are, at last, gaining traction. More and more people are interested. But imagine a person who eats a meat and dairy-heavy diet that starts to be curious about veganism and wants to learn more. So they whack ‘vegan’ into the YouTube search engine. Then imagine the first video they see is someone who tells them that eating 3 melons for breakfast and 12 mangoes for lunch is the way to be vegan. I worry this is off-putting. Lots of people think vegans are weird anyway. I don’t believe the ‘fruity’ vegans are helping this perception any.


If YOU are the meat-eater tentatively looking for info on going vegan and want to do it healthfully, then type ‘whole food, plant-based’ into your search engine; or read anything by the doctors I mention above – these dudes are the real deal; they’ve done the science and published it. They’ve witnessed hundreds of times over how healing a whole food, plant-based diet is and they live to spread the message.

And if you need any help transitioning….YOOHOO!!!!!! You know I’m here to help you. I offer my programs, and have addressed lots of the common questions and stumbling blocks around going vegan here in my blog posts.

Let me know if there’s anything I haven’t talked about yet that you’d like me to, and I’ll get to it in one of my next posts.


Here’s What To Do If Your Parents Aren’t On Board With You Being Vegan

motherfather2© 1900 Powerhouse Museum, Flickr | PD | via Wylio

Last week, in this post, I gave all the reasons your folks might’ve been a tad wary when you told them you were going vegan – or why they are still wary since you became vegan.

Now, I’m not promising that the following suggestions are going to turn your parents vegan overnight;  but they may help to keep peace, relieve tension around your new lifestyle, and just make them comfortable with it.

If, right now, you’re thinking that it’s not up to you to keep the peace and that they should be automatically accepting of your choices because they are YOUR choices – read my post from last week again.

Think of it this way; the more your parents feel secure that your new lifestyle will not change certain things they hold dear, and the more they are convinced that you are healthy and happy; the more peaceful your life will be, so you’re really doing this for YOU!…If you see what I mean.

If your parents are totally cool with you being vegan and if your dad just made you a soy matcha latte to wash down the quinoa and black bean soup your mum made you? Good for you! You are one lucky mofo – be grateful!

This post is for the rest of us whose parent(s) have not yet been enlightened to the benefits and joys of plant-based living!

When you tell your parents you’re going vegan, what first hits them may be sub-conscious fears that they aren’t able to fully verbalise. Sometimes irrational fears crop up just because something is ‘different’, (which veganism is, in their eyes), and they can be difficult to express. If you think it might help, show them my post from last week to see if they relate to any of the fears I listed.

On the other hand, they may realise exactly what they are feeling which might make them defensive. Depending on their generation, they may not be comfortable with ‘the feels’ and would rather be defensive than talk about how you going vegan is affecting them.

However they react – you can cleverly pre-empt any negativity and neutralise it with your stun gun of reason!



Exactly like that.

Use whatever within the following information applies to them and what you think will resonate most:

  • I talked about food memories last week, and how your parents have many memories of you that relate to food; whether celebratory food, or of you all eating a beloved family dish etc.

Remind your parents that the most important part of these memories is not the food. It’s being together WHILE eating the food; it’s the communal participation in something. Often, the food in question isn’t necessarily even LIKED by all of the party; it’s purely about being together. For example, even before I was vegan, I haaaated pretty much all Christmas food. Christmas pudding, turkey, Christmas cake, the lot. I’d rather have had a curry any day! But I loved being AT Christmas dinners. Why? Because we were all together, laughing and joking, being Christmassy, pulling crackers etc…But, food-wise, it wouldn’t have mattered if I was vegan or not for the amount of food I ate, it wouldn’t have been noticed. What mattered was the being together and celebrating.

Reassure them that you will still participate in celebratory family meals to come, and you’ll either help by suggesting and helping make fabulous plant-based dishes with them, or you’ll bring some with you for everyone to share. Paint an exciting picture of all the new memories there are to be made.

  • The best way to stealthily attract people (even parents!) to veganism, is to lead by example.

Explain to your parents carefully WHY you’re doing what you’re doing. Be sure not to say that you think they should do it too, just say that you’ve discovered this information, and it’s made you want to try it, and you’d appreciate their support. Breathe, be calm, and don’t talk over the top of them. I know it can be difficult (God knows I do!)  but this is for the long-term benefit of everyone. If they see you are calm, focussed and reasonable, they’ll have more faith in your decision.

    • Involve them. Sometimes parents might get weird and feel judged if you start living your life differently to how they do. The best thing to do is to get them involved. Go shopping with them, make fun dishes with them, and let them see that you are eating amazing, healthy, vibrant food. Buy them a copy of your favourite vegan recipe book (make sure it’s one with lush, mouth-watering pics!).
  • Did you used to go fishing or hunting with your dad? Did you used to bake something at an annual event with your mum? (I know – this is sooo gendered, but it still happens!)

There are plenty of new bonding plant-based activities you can ritualise. For example, if I visit my dad’s house in winter, he’ll always roast us some chestnuts. Nothing better than cracking open freshly roasted chestnuts on a cold day. This is something we did before I was vegan, and luckily this didn’t need to change. Yay for chestnuts!

It doesn’t matter what the bonding activity is, if it’s gentle and meditative and leaves room for talking AND shared silence, then it’s effective. If you went fishing with your dad, it wasn’t really THAT much about the fishing, was it? It was more about being in nature, sitting quietly, mulling things over, being contemplative, and having a feeling of achievement if you caught something. Well you can get all that with many different activities that DON’T involve animal cruelty.

You can go foraging for mushrooms and wild herbs, picking berries etc. How about vegan beer or vegan wine tasting?

The same with cooking a particular dish in the kitchen if this is a family ritual. It doesn’t matter what the dish is. Maybe you could just veganise whatever it was?

    • Assure your parents you are well informed on the nutrition side of things – show them my protein post if they try and pick the old protein argument! Assure them that it’s as simple as making sure you eat a range of different coloured veg, fruit, beans and legumes, with lots of energy-giving whole grains and you’ll be fine – BETTER than fine in fact!
  • This is a good one! Remind them that there are (depending on their generation) plenty of things their parents ate that they now wouldn’t dream of eating. For example; my grandparents would’ve eaten lard, bread and dripping (I have no idea either!), spam, and they cooked everything in animal fat. My parents wouldn’t eat any of this now because they’ve learned that these foods are unhealthy. People DO better when they KNOW better. This is all you are doing – which as you’ve just shown them, is something they have done themselves.

Bottom line – keep talking. Keep making them (or showing them how to make) tasty food. If you find a great vegan restaurant, take them. If they have health questions, email them facts from reputable websites (anything by Dr T Colin Campbell, Dr Michael Greger, Dr John Mcdougall, PCRM). Talk with them, share information with them (you don’t have to share everything, just anything you think they might relate to; if one of them has a cholesterol issue for example, you could explain how it’s only animal products that contain cholesterol and that plant foods don’t contain any), and involve them.

You’ll soon get those walls down – and you never know what might happen. It might end up being THEM whining about all the Tofurky being sold out at Christmas!