Seeing Things Differently

Visited the hair salon today – I go every 6 weeks and normally by the middle of the 5th week I’m looking at my grey roots thinking the next appointment can’t come fast enough. This time however, I was out with my friends when I received a text reminder for my next appointment, and was genuinely surprised it was so soon – in 2 days time. I remember thinking I’d not been overly concerned about my grey roots that morning! Got me to thinking, was my wfpb lifestyle responsible for my grey not coming through as quickly? Or, more likely I feel, during the pandemic lockdown I went 20 weeks between appointments, so the amount of grey after 6 weeks seems nothing compared to that. Needless to say, I always feel fantastic after my appointment. Hair by Pip at Honeycomb Hair and Beauty, in Staveley, Chesterfield.

After struggling with my weight for so long, what also struck me on my visit to the salon was – I like what I see in the mirror now – because I’ve lost so much weight. I now feel comfortable in my own skin. Such a good feeling. It makes me feel so free, I feel lighter, I walk with more purpose, I smile more – how many more reasons do I need to keep me on track?

Plant-Based Alphabet

As an ongoing theme I’ve decided to do an alphabetical rundown of some plant-based foods – starting with:

Aquafaba

I have used this as a thickener in stir fries and curries – not bad for something you would usually discard!

Aquafaba is the viscous water in which legume seeds such as chickpeas have been cooked. Due to its ability to mimic functional properties of egg whites in cooking, aquafaba can be used as a direct replacement for them in some cases. It makes a great vegan egg replacement. It can be used for meringue, pavlova, used to make mousse, included in ice cream, Mayo and much more – a very versatile ingredient.

Avocado

I had never eaten avocado before eating wfpb
  • The avocado is incredibly nutritious and contains:
  • Vitamin K: 26% of the daily value (DV)
  • Folate: 20% DV
  • Vitamin C: 17% DV
  • Potassium: 14% DV
  • Vitamin B5: 14% DV
  • Vitamin B6: 13% DV
  • Vitamin E: 10% DV
  • It also contains small amounts of magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, phosphorous and vitamins A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin) and B3 (niacin).
  • An average sized avocado contains 160 calories, 2 grams protein and 15 grams of healthy fats. It contains 9 grams of carbs of which 7 grams is fibre – so this is a low-carb plant food.

I definitely see avocado differently now. I use it in ‘Vegan Toona’ – makes a wonderful sandwich with lots of salad accompanied by a jacket potato, in Buddha bowls and in chocolate puddings.

Going Back to Basics

On Monday 19th October, I joined the “fatmanrants” 7 day bootcamp challenge. It means going back to basics, eating only greens and vegetables, starchy veggies like potatoes and squash, whole grains, beans and fruits, while holding off on nuts, seeds, tofu and flours. After the 7 days I can start eating them in a very limited way. All the time avoiding meat, dairy, eggs, processed foods and oil …forever! A great way to eat very cleanly. The challenge also asks that I write down three things I am grateful for each day and to complete at least 30 minutes exercise every day. I will let you know how I get on in my next post. You can find this challenge at #fmrbootcamp on Facebook or at fatmanrants.com

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Still Keeping It Simple

Went out for lunch in Chesterfield today with 2 wonderful friends. We chose to visit Wetherspoons in Chesterfield Town Centre – we know it as The Portland Hotel. Before lockdown this was our usual haunt to meet up every 3 to 4 weeks. It’s a great place to meet because no one minds that we spend 4/5/6 hours there, drinking refill coffees (not often I drink anything other than water these days) and having lunch. But more importantly, having a good old catch up, reminiscing, laughing and joking around, along with a good dose of mutual therapy – a safe and supportive place to offload – priceless! What’s the old saying, “laughter is the best medicine,” It most definitely is – along with wfpb!

On to what to eat. I was about to choose the Rainbow Quinoa Salad – comprising quinoa, grilled butternut squash, pink cabbage, black eyed beans, black rice, yellow cherry tomatoes, red Roquito pepper, pumpkin seeds and kale with a dressing (sounded delicious). I was about to ask what the dressing was when my friend who was ordering on the app told me it wasn’t available – that was disappointing! I will definitely be ordering it when I next eat there. So, back to the drawing board – found a Beyond Burger meal! Having read so much about plant-based alternatives that big companies are producing to meet the needs of an ever growing demand for plant-based products, I decided to give it a go – for research purposes you understand!! As you can see from the photo below, the food looked decidedly underwhelming, but the actual plant-based patty was very good. As I’ve said before, when I eat out, I try to be as compliant as possible but I don’t stress if I can’t meet that standard.

Beyond Burger

I always advocate keeping things simple and by chance in the early hours of Monday morning when I was struggling to sleep I came across ‘fatmanrants’ on Facebook. Tim and Heather Kaufman are a couple who were considered morbidly obese and have turned things around by adopting a plant-based diet/lifestyle. Their blog ‘fatmanrants’ has documented their journey and provides inspiration, advice, tips and recipes to anyone who has or is thinking about adopting this lifestyle. On this occasion they were talking to Joseph Alexander who has lost 245 lbs on a whole-food plant-based diet. His story resonated with me because he believes in “keeping it simple.” He described how he has the same breakfast every morning, often has leftovers for lunch and said if he didn’t have to cook for others in his family, he would readily eat the same thing for dinner every evening. I try very hard to keep my own meals very simple but I do have a bit more variety than Joseph. As I stated in my last blog, I recently changed my own breakfast after eating the same thing every morning for over 10 months. I now have oatmeal (porridge) every morning, with a variety of fruit, flax seed and a drizzle of maple syrup. I love it and it keeps me fuller for longer than my previous fruit only breakfast. Tim Kaufman’s motto is“Eat plants and move your body, all ya gotta do is a little more than yesterday” If you are looking for inspiration, I recommend you check out ‘fatmanrants’ and Joseph Alexander – among many others. As Heather and Tim Kaufman say, “if we can do it, you can too.”

My grandson who adopted a vegan diet a few months ago stating he no longer wanted to eat animal products, went off plan for a while and started eating some dairy. Last week, he told me he he felt his mood slipping back to pre vegan diet days so was ditching the dairy again. Wow, such insight! So proud of him for recognising that what he eats impacts the way he feels. There is so much evidence out there about a strong connection between gut health and the brain. We could do worse than listen to what our bodies tell us.

Reading the ingredients on the pack of ‘fake ham’ the grandson had bought, he exclaimed, “what, I’m eating insects?” The ingredient, ‘Locust Bean Gum!” Googled it – a natural food additive derived from the seeds of the Carob tree. Result – grandsons mind at rest! The gum, also called carob gum, acts as a stabilising and thickening agent. It has a sweet, slightly chocolaty flavour. I’ve got some being delivered today.

I don’t preach, I don’t judge others for their food choices, (I hope I don’t come across that way) but I will talk about my own choices when asked. My influence on my families food choices comes purely from me living it. One grandson deciding on a vegan diet and the other two gladly trying more and more plant-based meals. One in particular will comment on something “smelling good nana” as he walks into the kitchen and will identify ingredients before he sees the food – that makes me smile.

Next month, November, I will have been living wfpb for a year! While the weight loss has slowed down, my enthusiasm for this lifestyle change has not diminished. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this isn’t a diet in the way I’ve always used diets in the past. There is no end date and for me there’s no going back to my old eating habits. I’m feeling way too good to contemplate a return to my previous unhealthy lifestyle.

My immediate goal, in the spirit of Tim Kaufman is to eat more plants and move a little more than I did yesterday!

Thanks for reading, please like, share and feel free to comment. I really appreciate your input.

The Plant-Based Food Market is Booming!

One estimate I have seen recently is that the plant-based food market is set to grow to $74.2 billion by 2027. That is big business by any standard! The report I read was from plantbasednews.org

The evidence suggests that more and more individuals are choosing a plant-based lifestyle. There appear to be a number of factors and key issues driving this growth, including better health, weight loss and concerns for animals and the planet. As demand for animal products has reduced, companies have sought to produce more and more plant-based meat substitutes, dairy alternatives and plant based eggs which have the capability to satisfy food need with high nutrition and environmental sustainability.

Supermarkets, cafes and restaurants have also responded to the increased demand for vegan plant-based food and have a much wider choice of meals.

But, does moving away from animal products mean we need to go the processed food route? There is obviously a market for the “meat substitute burgers, sausage etc.” But it is still processed food – with all that that entails such as additatives, preservatives, added sugar and salt etc. which are known to not do our bodies or health any favours. I’m not saying I never eat the processed stuff but I try to really minimise eating it. Wherever possible, I make all my meals from scratch using the minimum of processed foods. My body thanks me for it and I definitely know when I’ve strayed into eating more processed stuff. But if someone has made the decision not to eat meat, I can see how eating the substitute products is appealing and could aid transition to a wfpb diet. I don’t judge anyone for their choices.

Of course, if you do choose to use the processed foods you will be back to checking the ingredients on the back of the packaging. With whole-food plant-based meals using natural fruit vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains, what you see is what you get and the only things added in the cooking and preparing process is what you choose to put in!

Do you imagine I eat meat? I’m pure plant power! You can build strength and muscle through eating wfpb

This week, some family members asked for a Sunday dinner. Normally that would be meat with all the trimmings but I don’t buy meat anymore. A couple of sausages from the freezer, (I know – don’t judge!) satisfied the omnivores among us! I kept some of the mash potatoes aside for myself and ate them with broccoli, peas and sweet corn and some roast potatoes cooked in the air fryer. I sautéed some mushrooms (using water rather than oil) with garlic and added spinach. Turned out to be a delicious simple dinner and preferable to making two entirely different meals.

My new go-to breakfast

I have added oats to my breakfast and still include fruit, ground flax seed and a drizzle of maple syrup. It definitely keeps me fuller for longer.

If you have changed to eating none or less animal products, what has been your driving force? I would love to hear from you. Personally, I was driven by wanting to be healthier. Of course, I needed to lose weight and hoped that I would. I’m very happy to report that I have and with far less effort than any other diet I have ever done – and there have been many of them over the years!

Please, share, like, follow, comment and make suggestions. I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog.

Whole-food plant-based and health benefits

I was prompted to talk about this subject following a conversation with a friend. I was telling her what I eat for breakfast and she said that would be no good for her because it would cause her blood sugar to spike – she is diabetic. That got me to thinking! I’m sure I’ve stated often that I’m not an expert and that I recommend you consult a doctor if you are looking to change your diet, particularly if you have underlying health issues. But I wanted to say also, that we are all different and what works for me won’t necessarily be the same for someone else. Changing your diet is a very personal thing and it’s very much about finding what works for you.

People choose to follow a vegan/plant-based lifestyle for different reasons, such as concern about animal welfare and the planet. However, another significant factor is that following this lifestyle can provide health benefits. A large part of a vegan diet – particularly fruit, vegetables, nuts, pulses and seeds has been shown to help in the treatment of chronic diseases, resulting in lower levels of Type 2 diabetes, less hypertension, lower cholesterol levels and reduced cancer rates. Some studies have shown that vegans are less likely to be overweight and tend to have a lower percentage of body fat, which as we are aware reduces the risk of many other diseases,

Butare vegan foods always healthy?

The simple answer to that is no! Ingredients such as salt, sugar and fat can still be added, making the food less healthy. With the increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in people with diabetes, keeping your weight under control and reducing blood pressure and blood cholesterol are all essential and plant-based foods can help with this.

General healthy eating advice

Choose whole grain, low-GI carbs over refined options, to eat less salt, saturated fat, sugar and to watch your weight. Whole wheat bread, pasta and rice is preferable to eating white bread, pasta and rice as it is far less processed. Aiming to eat whole foods (unprocessed) will deliver better results in terms of health benefits and weight loss.

Are vegan diets suitable for people with diabetes?

Vegan diets tend to be lower in saturated fat, higher in fibre, fruit and vegetables and other protective substances like phytochemicals and antioxidants. Current dietary guidance states this fits well for those who have diabetes. Always consult your diabetes team if you are looking to change your diet. If they know anything about a plant-based diet they would surely support this change in lifestyle.

Also, please check things out for yourself, do your own research, there are many studies out there. Diabetes UK has all the information you need in terms of getting enough protein, vitamins, nutrients, calcium, iron and omega-3 etc. in your diet.

So here’s what I typically eat in a day. If you have read my earlier blog posts you will know that for the last 11 months I have eaten the same breakfast almost every day. However, I’ve known for a while that including oatmeal would keep me fuller for longer. So, this morning I chose to include oatmeal – I still added some fruits, chopped nuts, flax seed and maple syrup – I think I’ve found a new favourite!

I changed up my breakfast – believe it or not, there is oatmeal under the fruit

For lunch I had chickpea curry, I make this often and usually include spinach but didn’t have any. I always add lentils and on this occasion added frozen peas and green beans.

Chickpea curry with wild rice and quinoa for lunch

Ingredients for Chickpea curry – made in the Instant Pot

Ingredients:

  • Water for sautéing purposes
  • 1/2 cup yellow onions – diced
  • 1 1/4 tsp sea salt (if using)
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger – grated
  • 1 tbsp fresh garlic – minced
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 can tinned diced tomatoes
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 can chickpeas – drained
  • 1 can lentils – drained
  • 8 oz fresh baby spinach

Directions

  1. On sauté, add water, onions and 1/4 tsp salt (if using). Cook for 3 minutes, until soft and translucent.
  2. Add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes
  3. Add ginger and cook for 2 minutes
  4. Add curry powder and toast for 1 minute
  5. Stir in the tomatoes and use the liquid to deglaze the bottom of the pan
  6. Add the chickpeas, lentils, coconut milk and remaining salt (if using)
  7. Lock the Instant Pot lid and cook on high pressure for 6 minutes
  8. When the cooking time is complete, quick release the pressure and add spinach leaves – mix well until fully wilted
  9. I used frozen peas and green beans and added along with the coconut milk etc.
  10. Serve with rice, couscous or quinoa

For my evening meal I chose to prepare a Buddha bowl. Mine consisted of salad leaves including baby spinach. Left over wild rice and quinoa from lunch. Cucumber and red pepper. Roast potatoes with garlic and roasted butternut squash with a sprinkling of cumin. I also added a few strawberries and blueberries and finished it off with some cashew cream – delicious!

My version of a Buddha bowl for my evening meal

This meal was made up from everything that needed eating today, to make sure I didn’t waste any food that had either been prepared earlier in the week or was about to go out of date. All the cooked ingredients were cooked in the instant pot and/or the air fryer – great time saving appliances.

Did you know? The humble cucumber contains most of the vitamins you need every day. Just one cucumber contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Pottassium and Zinc. It’s an absolute power house!

Please follow, like, share, comment and feel free to make suggestions for what you would like to see in future posts. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog

Cooking on Gas! Spaghetti with Cauliflower Walnut Meat Sauce

Recipe – convegblog.com (with a couple of tweaks)

Recently I realised that I’m cooking the same few meals over and over again and looked around for something new to try. Came across this recipe and thought it might be another one the boys would enjoy. This was my first attempt at cooking a plant based version of a family favourite – Spaghetti Bolognese – ably assisted by my sister as I was staying over at hers for the weekend. Hence the title – Cooking on Gas! I have an electric cooker at home but gas is so much more responsive when turning down to simmer for instance.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cauliflower florets (about 1 medium crown)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (I used water)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (I used a mix of Basil and Thyme instead)
    • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I used red chilli flakes – it’s what we had)
  • 1 teaspoon organic granulated sugar (I used maple syrup)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 12 ounces dried spaghetti

Instructions

  1. Begin by making the cauliflower walnut crumbles. Preheat the oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Place the cauliflower, walnuts, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, liquid smoke, onion powder and garlic powder into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped, stopping to scrape down the insides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Distribute the mixture evenly on the baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, flipping halfway through until browned around the edges
  4. While the crumbles bake, coat the bottom of a large pot with olive oil (I used water) and place over a medium heat. When hot, add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté about 1 minute more until very fragrant.
  5. Stir in the wine and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and allow it to simmer, uncovered, until it thickens up a bit, about 5 minutes
  6. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, oregano, red pepper flakes and sugar. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and allow it to simmer uncovered, until it thickens up, about 25minutes
  7. While the crumbles bake and the sauce simmers, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions. When cooked, drain and return to the pot. Toss with a dash of olive oil (I omitted this)
  8. When the sauce finishes simmering, stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cauliflower-walnut crumbles.
  9. Divide the pasta onto plates and top with sauce. Serve immediately.
This is the cauliflower-walnut mix. I made a larger quantity – 1 1/2 times the recipe so we’d have additional meals for the week
Sautéd onions using water – one of my top tips!

I personally choose not to use oil and so for the last 10 months have used either water or vegetable broth to sauté. I don’t miss the taste of oil and really its not needed.

Don’t need oil to brown the onions

Don’t add too much water at the beginning as the onions will steam rather than sauté. The secret to sautéing with water or vegetable broth is to add a little more water if the onion or other vegetables start to stick to the pan.

This was half way through baking the cauliflower-walnut mix, before attempting to flip it over

We didn’t have any parchment paper so we used greaseproof paper to line the baking tray. We almost came unstuck at this point – or rather the mix almost stuck to the paper! Sis came to the rescue and saved the day.

Turning attention to the sauce – the Red Wine deglazed the pan perfectly

Top tip – As is often the case, we were missing an ingredient – Coriander – so I googled what could be used instead. The search came up with using Thyme or Basil in its place. In my experience there is always an alternative so don’t let a missing ingredient put you off making the recipe. I also don’t use sugar so chose to use maple syrup instead.

The “faux” meat out of the oven and the sauce ready

All that remained was to combine the baked cauliflower-walnut mix with the sauce and serve over spaghetti. The resulting sauce wasn’t as tomato ‘coloured’ as I expected so I added a tablespoon of tomato paste and cooked for a little longer.

The final product – should have saved some fresh basil leaves for presentation purposes!

The verdict – if you are expecting this to taste anything like a meat Bolognese sauce, think again! After discussing with my sister, it was the texture that was missing and she suggested leaving the cauliflower in larger chunks. The beauty of following any recipe is that you can amend it to suit your own taste. We thought we could add mushrooms for instance and my sister also wondered about not mixing the cauliflower- walnut mix into the sauce. So pasta, sauce and the mix on top – to keep more of the texture. We’ll certainly try that next time. Also, think about adding the green leafy stuff, kale or spinach for instance, either in the sauce or as a side.

Nutrition Facts – as per the original recipe: amounts per serving

  • Calories – 481 – from Fat 170
  • Fat 18.9g
  • Sodium 787mg
  • Potassium 726mg
  • Carbohydrates 55.7g
  • Protein 20g
  • Calcium 90mg
  • Iron 5.6mg

If you make this recipe, let me know what you think, and if you tweak it to suit you, I would love to hear about that too.

Please Like, share and/or comment including ideas for future posts. My aim in writing this blog is to provide information, tips and advice to aid those thinking about or already following a plant-based diet. I’m no expert but I can pass on what I know and what I’ve learned since deciding to follow a wfpbno lifestyle.

What exactly is a Plant-Based Diet?

I’m asked this question a lot

The possibilities are endless, the benefits are life changing

A Whole-food, Plant-Based diet is a heart healthy, environmentallyfriendly, type-2-diabetes-fighting lifestyle eating plan that celebrates food and nourishes your body. On a plant-based diet, you’ll focus on whole non-processed foods and plants like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts.

Sometimes this diet is confused with a vegan diet. But the two are not the same. Vegans don’t eat any meat, dairy, eggs or honey because it originates from a conscious being. Sounds healthy doesn’t it, but vegans can eat foods such as Oreos and french fries all day if they choose to, because they do not come from, or use any animal product. I’m not saying all vegans would eat this way! Just that they can.

A plant-based diet is similar to vegan because both avoid animal products, but a plant-based diet takes it a step further. Plant-based focuses on whole-foods, so nothing processed, no fast-foods, even those considered vegan.

What can you eat if you choose the Whole-Foods, Plant-Based lifestyle? The list below is not exhaustive!

  • Fruits: berries, citrus fruits, pears, peaches, pineapple, bananas etc.
  • Vegetables: Kale, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, asparagus, peppers etc.
  • Starchy vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash etc.
  • Whole grains: brown rice, rolled oats, farro, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, barley etc.
  • Legumes: peas, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, black beans etc.
  • Seeds, nuts and nut butters: almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, natural peanut butter, tahini etc.
  • Unsweetened plant-based milks: coconut milk, almond milk, cashew milk, oat milk etc.
  • Spices, herbs and seasonings: basil, rosemary, turmeric, garlic, onion powder, curry powder, black pepper, sea salt etc.
Spice up your life
  • Condiments: Salsa, mustard, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, etc.
  • Plant-based protein: tofu, tempeh, plant-based protein sources or powders with no added sugar or artificial ingredients
  • Beverages: coffee, tea, water
  • Tofu and tempeh

Foods to Avoid on This Diet – the list below is not exhaustive!

  • Fast food: french fries, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, etc.
  • Added sugars and sweets: table sugar, soda, juice, pastries, cookies, candy, sweet tea, sugary cereals etc.
  • Refined grains: white rice, white pasta, white bread, bagels, etc.
  • Packaged and convenience foods: chips, crackers, cereal bars, frozen dinners etc.
  • Processed vegan-friendly foods: plant-based foods like faux meat, faux cheeses, vegan butters etc.
  • Artificial sweeteners: Equal, Splenda, Sweet’n’ Low etc.
  • Processed animal products: bacon, lunch meats, sausage, beef jerky etc.
  • All meat, dairy and poultry

I have previously stated in this blog that I did not ‘transition’ to a wfpbno eating lifestyle. That doesn’t mean everyone will do it the same way and I will not judge anyone who chooses to transition rather than jump right in. I know there are those who struggle to let go of cheese for instance, or choose to eat wfpb a few days a week, or for a few meals a week. Whatever you choose to do is right for you. I would suggest, however, that you do your research. For instance, there is so much information available on the internet. Join some Facebook groups such as: Forks Over Knives Official Plant-Based Group, WFPB Family Healthy Food and Daily Inspirations, WFPB No Oil – Trust the Process, WFPB Beginners!, Mostly Plant Based UK, and Plant-Based on a Budget Support Group. Joining these or others will provide you with tips, recipes, meal plans and inspiration.

I will continue to passionately advocate for this lifestyle as I know how amazing I feel eating this way. I will be perfectly honest here, I can’t say I’m 100% wfpb. I’ve already said when I eat out I’m not always 100%. But let me tell you, if you do follow the wfpbno eating lifestyle, your body will let you know in no uncertain terms when you have strayed from the wfpb path – I’m speaking from experience! Your body will have detoxed from all the processed foods you may have been used to eating and your gut will not tolerate it. Whenever this has happened to me it has served as a huge reminder as to why I have chosen this eating lifestyle – for my health! The significant weight loss is a very welcome bonus.

Eating for health

The first recipe book I bought was The Plant Based Diet For Beginners: 75 Delicious Whole Food Recipes – by Gabriel Miller. 10 months in and I still use this recipe book and some of his recipes have become my go to meals to cook.

Health Benefits

  • Plant-based diets are recommended for people with Diabetes
  • Plant-based diets reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure, improving cholesterol and promoting weight loss
  • Research shows a plant-based diet may help with slowing the progression of some cancers due to the antioxidant content of plant foods such as fruit and vegetables
  • With no calories or macros to count or portions to measure, many find plant-based diets easier to manage than other weight loss programmes
  • Inflammation is significantly reduced on a plant-based diet, more so I believe if you eliminate oil from your diet
  • Check out the internet, Facebook groups etc. Regarding the research and testimonials about the benefits of adopting this lifestyle.

On a personal note, a few days ago, my 17yr old grandson was struggling to open his water bottle and asked me to try. It took a couple of attempts but I did it. 10 months ago I wouldn’t have been able to do that, I had no strength in my hands and the pain in some fingers was excruciating….. no more. Of course, the grandson would say his attempts had loosened it before I opened it….I don’t think so!

Healing through eating plant-based

In my last blog I talked about the appliances I use to help me save time in the kitchen. Just wanted to let you know I made brown rice in my Instant Pot. Simply put the rice and water in and the Instant Pot does the rest. However, I did change it up a bit and instead of using water, I used low sodium vegetable broth – absolutely delicious! And of course while it was cooking, I was free to get on with other stuff.

Please like, share , follow and/or comment on this post. Let me know if you found it useful and please ask questions and make suggestions for future posts

Appliances – Saving Time!

I didn’t have many kitchen appliances before I started eating whole-food plant-based, just the usual, oven and microwave, oh and a slow cooker gathering dust in a forgotten corner! What more does a person need when living off processed food and whatever was easiest to heat up or throw together with the aid of the microwave.

My first purchase when I was faced with actually having to prepare meals from scratch!!!! was a Ninja food processor including blender. Next came an air fryer and then an Instant Pot. All of these now get a great deal of use because eating wfpb takes some planning and can take a lot of preparation. The good news is you can save time when preparing delicious healthy meals by investing in some appliances. Believe me, they will not be relegated to sitting in a corner gathering the afore mentioned dust!

Ninja Food Processor

My Ninja Warrior

I think the first thing I made in my Ninja Food Processor was Cashew Cream. This is quite calorific so I try not to have it too often. I love it on whole wheat toast – this from someone who had to have toast with lashings of butter – and ate it despite it causing acid reflux! I have a dollop of cashew cream on top of Buddha bowls and also add it to some pasta and curry recipes. It is important to soak cashew nuts before blending and the Ninja handles this very well, providing a lovely smooth cashew cream. The ninja is also a time saver as it has attachments to slice and chop vegetables – which needless to say, saves a lot of time.

What’s an Instant Pot? – found this on a couplecooks.com

An Instant Pot is a programmable digital pressure cooker (Instant Pot is the brand name). There are many other brands available. The concept is to cook foods at high pressure, which cuts down on cooking time – verses traditional cooking , crock pot or slow cooker. I do remember having a Pressure Cooker at some point many years ago but if I recall correctly, I didn’t do a great deal with it. I use my Instant Pot a lot. It’s great because you put all the ingredients in, set it to the desired programme and then leave it to do its thing! Then you are free to do something else because you are not constantly having to stir, add etc. Here’s a recipe from a couple cooks.com for a very simple but tasty pasta dish.

My wonderful time saving Instant Pot

Instant Pot Spaghetti

  • 2 cups water
  • 28oz can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (I use water to sauté)
  • 1tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves (chopped)
  • 8 fresh basil leaves
  • 8oz spaghetti
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the water, tomatoes and their juices, olive oil (if using), balsamic vinegar, garlic powder, oregano, salt (if using), spinach and whole basil leaves
  2. Ladle just enough of the tomato mixture into the instant pot to cover the bottom
  3. Break the spaghetti in half. Working in batches, add the noodles to the Instant Pot in a fan shape so that they stack on each other – this will prevent the spaghetti sticking together.
  4. Pour remaining sauce over the spaghetti
  5. Cook on high pressure for 6 minutes. Note that it takes about 10 minutes for the pot to ‘preheat’ and come up to pressure before cooking.
  6. Quick release: vent the remaining steam from the Instant Pot by moving the pressure release handle to ‘venting’, covering your hand with a towel or oven glove. Never put your hands or face near the vent when releasing steam.
  7. Once all steam is released (the button near the vent will pop down), open the lid and stir. Then remove the inner pot from the Instant Pot and allow to cool for about 5 minutes for the sauce to thicken. Ladle into pots and serve.

Air Fryer

Versatile Air Fryer

I have a really small Weight Watchers brand Air Fryer. Not big enough for a family, so I tend to cook in batches if we all eat together because you need to lay your food in as flat a layer as possible. The air fryer makes fantastic chips. I par boil my chips first, dry them on kitchen paper then place in the air fryer. The boys like them sprinkled with a little garlic salt. I’ve air fried baked potatoes – so good!

What else can you cook in an Air Fryer?

Tender vegetables – approx 10 – 15 minutes, shaking a couple of times during cooking

  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower
  • Soft vegetables like, peppers and tomato
  • Thin veggies like asparagus – all of the above can be done quickly in an air fryer.

Firm vegetables – approx 20 – 30 minutesshaking the pan a few times during the cooking process to promote even cooking

  • Root vegetables (carrots, beets, potato, parsnips)
  • Winter squash (butternut, acorn, pumpkin)

How to air cook frozen vegetables

Determine which category your frozen veg falls under (tender or firm) then add a few minutes cooking time to allow for your frozen veg to thaw. Allow space between your veg for the water to evaporate during the cooking process so the veg is perfectly roasted.

Of course, you can find lots of plant based recipes on the internet suitable for the appliances shown here. All of them will save you time in preparing wonderful healthy meals. Don’t be afraid to create your own recipes either as you become more confident in planning, preparing and cooking.

Please like, share and/or comment. Ideas for future posts are welcomed.

Out and about in my home town eating whole-food plant-based…..or as near to it as I can get!

So, a few years ago I bumped into a couple of friends (on separate occasions) that I first met at age 11 when we started secondary school. We were pretty much inseparable all through school and later through college. Then life got in the way and gradually we saw less and less of each other. Meeting up again, many years later, it was like the intervening years hadn’t happened. We were right back to how we used to be. There were so many memories to reminisce about and we have created and continue to create new ones.

We currently meet up every 3 weeks or so and spend the day together, laughing, joking, setting the world to rights – we call it our mutual therapy session! Of course, the pandemic and lockdown put a stop to us meeting up for a while, but we stayed in touch by text and phone as often as we could. One of my friends had to shield for 12 weeks but as soon as we were able to meet up we made sure we did – normal service has resumed, well, a new normal for us all in this unprecedented time!

Eating out for Lunch is always part of our day and since I started eating whole-food plant-based in November 2019 it involved searching menus finding something suitable. For me, eating out has now become about getting as close to whole-food plant-based as I can but not sweating it if the food is less than strictly compliant. The whole point of meeting up with friends is to enjoy each other’s company and totally destress from what else might be going on in our lives.

Very recently, since lock down restrictions have been relaxed, the three of us have met up twice. Once at ‘Coffee St’ a coffee and cocktail bar with a difference in our local town, Chesterfield Derbyshire. A friend introduced me to their ‘Buddha Bowl’ comprising of everything our body needs in terms of macro and micro nutrients and absolutely delicious. My friends don’t follow the wfpb diet but are more than happy to eat the Buddha bowl – after all, what’s not to like – and so filling.

VEGAN BUDDHA BOWL by COFFEE ST

I would highly recommend a visit to ‘Coffee St’ they cater for everyone. They have a wide range of delicious meals, beautiful cakes, fabulous drinks and all topped off with a lovely atmosphere and wonderful staff who are so welcoming. Nothing is too much trouble – well worth a visit. Find Coffee St at 15 Cavendish St, Chesterfield S40 1XA

Last week we visited the ‘Sorbo Lounge’ in Chesterfield Town Centre. I visited prior to eating wfpb and enjoyed some wonderful meals. This time, I was interested to see the Vegan menu and it didn’t disappoint – I chose the wonderful dish below – ‘Mexican Superbowl’. It was so incredibly tasty and has inspired me to attempt to recreate it at home.

MEXICAN SUPERBOWL by SORBO LOUNGE

Sorbo Lounge in Chesterfield is in the former Post Office building, I don’t imagine it originally housed the post office, but when I’m in there I try to remember how it looked. The Sorbo Lounge is warm and welcoming and has a great atmosphere. The staff are friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. The menu is varied and has a wonderful vegan selection. Find Sorbo Lounge at 1 Market Place, Chesterfield, S40 1TW. Sorbo@thelounges.co.uk

Eating out for those of us not eating the standard diet has certainly come a long way! I remember how, back in November 2019, which is less than a year ago, I would take my mum to a local supermarket and have lunch in the cafe there. The difference was, being new to wfpb and struggling to find something appropriate to eat. I recall I would ask for a plain jacket potato with a simple side salad. Asking for a simple dressing to go with it, turned out not to be doable because there was no ‘button’ on the cash register for that! They did allow me to take my own dressing, so I took a small pot of cashew cream with me the next time I ate there. That was a very simple meal, but you know what? I thoroughly enjoyed it! Just goes to show that eating wfpb doesn’t need to be complicated. Things have moved on so far since then and I find everywhere I eat now has a good choice of vegan/plant based meals.

I would suggest if you can’t find exactly what you want on the menu, ask if you can mix and match elements of different meals. Obviously, if eating out in a restaurant you will be able to ask for your meal to be prepared to your own requirements. As I’ve said before, getting as close to wfpb as I can when I eat out is ok with me.

Please like, follow, share with friends and/or comment on this post. Thanks for reading

Let’s talk bloating and gas!!

After my last post, (Whole-food plant-based – Change for the better) I received a question from Nikki about what causes bloating and how it can be prevented. First of all, thank you for the question Nikki and for encouraging others to visit and read my blog.

Well, I remember very clearly experiencing bloating for about the first 3 weeks of wfpbno (whole-food plant-based no oil) I wasn’t worried about it at the time as I knew why it was happening and had every expectation that it would end. That belief, I think, came from reading all the comments of others ahead of me in the 21 day plant-based challenge that I started in November 2019. I now know of course that for some people it takes longer for the gut to adjust, and some need to continue to be careful of what they eat. Bloating and gas is completely normal by the way!

There are so many benefits to following a plant based diet: better health, weight loss, lowering your carbon foot print etc. However, there are side effects that are not so enjoyable – you’ve got it – bloating and gas! This can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, but for me the pros outweigh the cons.

If you are new to plant-based eating, or have increased the fibre in your diet, you can blame any gas and bloating on all the fibre you are eating. Fibre, also known as roughage is the indigestible part of plant foods that cleans out your digestive system. However, fibre is a double edged sword: while it may cause gas and bloating, it also improves digestion and relieves constipation. Also, there are studies that have shown a diet high in fibre can prevent certain types of cancer, heart disease, obesity and type 2 Diabetes. It also promotes a healthy gut, so it’s well worth persevering with plants.

So, what are the culprits that can cause gas and bloating:

What did I eat?

Cruciferous veg: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and our old favourite – Brussel sprouts (personally, one of my favourite veg). These vegetables contain glucosinolates, which are sulphur containing compounds – smells like rotten eggs, right! So with the fibre that humans can’t digest, bacteria breaks down the food via fermentation. The end result (pardon the pun) is carbon dioxide, methane or hydrogen – also known as gas!

Beans/Legumes: Legumes such as beans and lentils are the second leading gas producing foods (dairy products being number 1). These contain 2 relatively indispensable sugars: raffinose and stachyose, that end up in the large intestine. Tip: if you use canned beans, rinse them thoroughly with water. If you use dried beans, soak them before cooking.

Processed foods and oils – can be hard on your digestive system (even plant-based processed foods). If you are following a whole-food plant-based diet you will be avoiding processed foods as much as possible. High fat foods, especially oils and fried foods move slowly through the digestive tract and is often the cause of bloating.

So, that’s the science bit. Now – 5 tips to reduce gas and bloating:

  1. Incorporate fibre slowly – too much too soon will cause gas and bloating
  2. Drink water – plenty of it as it aids the digestion process
  3. chew your food – really chew it. Well chewed food is easier to digest
  4. Cook your veggies – easier to digest than raw, especially as you transition to eating more vegetables
  5. Drink your smoothies slowly – sip them and drink half and save half for later

Natural remedies that can help with the issue of gas and bloating:

  • Ginger – add it to water with lemon. Incorporate it into meals such as curries and soups
  • Herbal teas – such as peppermint, ginger or fennel, can provide digestive relief while also increasing your water intake
  • Lemon water – neutralises stomach acid
  • Yoga – certain yoga poses have been shown to relieve gas and bloating, including the aptly named “Wind Pose”.

I personally would suggest keeping a food diary so you can identify the foods that are causing bloating and gas. That way you can eliminate or reduce that particular food for a while until your body and particularly your gut has transitioned to the new diet. Its your gut biome that has to adjust from your former eating style.

There are some real but benign reasons of bloating and discomfort so consider:

  • Eating smaller meals
  • Eating slower. A substantial amount of gas in your gastrointestinal system is from swallowing air
  • Drink plenty of water. This will assist in ‘keeping things moving’
  • Pay attention to other beverages: coffee, alcohol, and some teas may exacerbate stomach bloating and discomfort. Try eliminating these drinks if this applies to you.

Of course, I would always advise anyone who is changing their diet to consult a medical professional before embarking on it. If you find a doctor who is aware of the health benefits of this eating lifestyle, you will have hit the jackpot! But, be prepared for a doctor saying you need to eat meat and dairy for a balanced diet. Be prepared also for comments such as ‘ where do you get your protein from.’ The answer to that is very simple – from plant-based, whole-foods. Most of us consume far more protein than our body requires. Eat a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains and you will give your body the nutrients, vitamins and fibre it needs to function optimally. I personally take a Vitamin B12 daily oral spray, as this is not readily available in a plant-based diet. Equally, if you choose to take a multi vitamin daily tablet, as I do, it’s not going to hurt either.

Just to demonstrate how quickly our bodies adapt to a plant-based diet. Remember I started eating wfpbno in mid November 2019, well a friend bought me a box of Baileys Chocolates, my absolute favourites. I resisted until late Christmas Day evening, thinking a few wouldn’t hurt! My body was very quick to let me know that a few would definitely hurt. The pain I experienced I likened to child birth!!!! That could be an exaggeration – But lesson learned.

I am passionate about whole-food plant-based eating because it works – on so many levels. After over 40 years of yo-yo dieting I have not only found an eating lifestyle that supports weight loss, but, I am healthier, fitter, have more confidence and improved self-esteem. What’s more, I don’t even entertain the idea of going back to my previous way of eating – there is no end date. I have thrown the yo-yo away! I’m now skipping around like a 20 year old – well not quite, but I’m sure you get what I mean.

This post has been a bit long winded (sorry – not an intentional pun!) But so important to address the real issues. I hope this information is beneficial and please keep your comments and questions coming.

Whole Food Plant Based – Change For The Better

Making a change isn’t always easy! I’m sure I’ve already mentioned that I didn’t transition to a wfpb eating lifestyle. But not everyone chooses to jump straight in with both feet. Some choose to transition over time – it’s a personal choice. Some may choose to cut out meat while still eating dairy products. Others might choose to eat wfpb a few days each week or a few meals each week meat and dairy free. Some may choose to eat wfpb but still use oil and salt. For myself, I didn’t trust myself to transition, but however you decide to make the change will be right for you. I fully embraced wfpbnons (whole food plant based no oil no sugar) and have reaped the health benefits for doing so. I haven’t felt this good in so many years.

I recently spent a few days with my sister. Originally we started eating wfpb around the same time. She was off work at the time and we started the 21 day challenge, sharing the meal prep and cooking which certainlly made it easier. Since then my sister returned to work (she is a carer and has worked all through the lock down) working long hours with few days off, she has found it very difficult to maintain wfpb because of the lack of time to devote to preparing and cooking. During the few days we spent together, we prepared and cooked meals, sufficient to keep her going for a week. Four days in she admitted to feeling better, apart from what we call ‘brain fog’. Now, I’m not going to lie, going from eating a typical western diet to wfpb can result in some side effects/withdrawal symptoms. I remember having a headache for about 5 days and mild stomach pains and bloating for three weeks. As I’ve stated in previous posts, I also felt the benefits of this change immediately – no acid reflux from day one, reduced pain in my fingers and knees from day 3 and pain gone totally within 3 weeks. I don’t have numbers relating to blood pressure, cholesterol and other markers considered by health professionals to signify good health etc. but there are many testimonials out there relating to people reducing their meds or coming off medication altogether. Plants are amazing. Everyone is different of course and individual experiences will be different. All I can tell you is eating wfpbnons is the best thing I have ever done for me.

While with my sister, conversation inevitably turned to health and weight loss. We’ve both been overweight at different times in our lives. We talked about how our weight had impacted on us and how it made us feel. I know for certain being overweight destroyed my self confidence and I had very low self esteem. I know feeling this way prevented me achieving my full potential. I couldn’t rise above how being overweight made me feel – I not only judged myself but felt judged by others. My sister recognises she uses long cardigans as a way of making herself feel better about her weight. Believing that it hides her lumps and bumps – almost like camouflage!

Can You See Me?

That comment resonated with me as I have used cardigans, jackets and coats to ‘hide’ myself. Using these items like a security blanket! I can honestly say since turning to the wfpb lifestyle, I am feeling much more confident as well as being much healthier.

Code Blue – what your doctor doesn’t know will shock you!

Had to share this with you. I’ve just listened to a podcast featuring Dr. Saray Stancic (Producer of the documentary ‘Code Blue’) who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at age 28. Her doctor told her she’d be in a wheelchair by age 40. Twenty five years later, she takes no medication and is largely symptom free after embracing lifestyle medicine as a patient and as a practitioner. Her journey is highlighted in the recently released documentary Code Blue, directed by Marcia Machado. The film dives deep into the problems with the current health care system, from medical school curricula to the influence of Big Pharma and features experts such as David Katz, MD, Neal Barnard, MD, and T. Colin Campbell, PhD. While undergoing a traditional approach to MS, Stancic stumbled upon an article touting the benefits of blueberries for MS patients. From there she researched how nutrition affects disease outcomes. The big question here being, why is nutrition not given more emphasis in medical professional training, while lifestyle including healthy nutrition has such an amazing impact on our health and wellbeing.

Dr. Stancic also talks about a lifestyle medicine wheel consisting of 6 spokes: Follow a whole-food plant-based diet; physical activity; stress management; effective sleep hygiene; avoidance of tobacco and reduction or elimination of alcohol; and the importance of social connectedness. Each of these are important. I am yet to embrace physical activity! Stress management and effective sleep hygiene are also work in progress – but improving. Social connectedness has been a challenge during this pandemic lock down but we have still been able to connect via the wonders of technology. We have recently been able to meet friends and family again – laughter and support also being great medicine!

A Few Top Tips – to help cooking a little easier. Remember Google has lots of information to help adjusting to wfpb

  • Use water or vegetable broth to saute instead of oil
  • Use unsweetened apple sauce instead of eggs in muffins, cakes etc.
  • Roast vegetables on parchment paper – no oil necessarily
  • An air fryer is perfect for cooking chips, wedges and fries – no oil needed

If you are thinking about changing your diet, I hope I have given you some food for thought! There is such a huge amount of information out there to aid you in whatever you choose to do. Please comment if you found this post useful. Ask me anything regarding wfpb – not that I’m an expert at all, but if I can help, I will.