On 22nd February 2016 after watching a couple of documentaries about a vegan diet I decide I would try changing from a vegetarian to a strictly plant based diet. No more eggs, milk or cheese. In the documentaries the massive positive changes people experienced by cutting out animal products was something I couldn’t ignore.
To be honest, I was worried about where I’d get my protein from and how long I’d last before I got bored of the lack of foods available or became weak living this lifestyle. After all my whole life I was brought up believing a diet with meat, eggs and cheese is normal and beneficial to our health. How wrong I was. I remember a chef telling me that cutting out meat is dangerous and I’d be dead within months. The funny thing was he really believed it. I’d been vegetarian 26 years and not once recommended anyone to follow my diet. I didn’t feel any physical difference being vegetarian but I didn’t want to be a part of any thing that involved harming animals.
Like all new things in life I had to learn about alternatives for eggs and dairy in my cooking. I found it fascinating that you can have egg free cakes by adding mashed banana, chia seeds, tofu, apple puree and many other substitutes. I had always been healthy as a vegetarian (or so I thought) and wanted to be a healthy vegan. I gradually phased out cheese and any foods containing milk (why are there so many!?) and after 2 weeks I was purely plant based.
I started off eating very plain basic meals like rice and tofu or quinoa salads but now I eat what ever I crave but a plant based version. By always eating what I crave I don’t feel I am missing out, in fact my diet is now more varied than ever and I’ve never been healthier. I sleep better, have more energy, my skin is clearer, my nails and hair thicker, my moods are better and I feel like my body is finally getting the foods it was designed for. I feel lighter, my reactions are faster and because of all these changes my confidence is much better.
I can enjoy food now without thinking too much about fats, sugar and all the bad stuff. My portion sizes are large and people think my food blogging posts are for two people. This is the beauty of eating plant based. Five months in I’d lost two stone and even my GP commented on how well I was looking and a blood test was perfect. Whenever someone finds out I’m vegan they will ask about how I survive without protein, if I take supplements and how bored I must be eating nothing but lentils, fruit and vegetables every day.
So, I started posting my meals on social media so friends and family could see I still eat pizza, burgers, steak, yoghurt, cheese, chocolate, French toast, hot dogs cheesy pasta and amazingly creamy cheesecakes, cookies and puddings. The list is endless. By taking away eggs and dairy you are removing a of a lot of bad things like saturated fats and cholesterol from the diet and adding healthier alternatives like nuts, beans or seeds. These foods have been to shown to have a positive effect on our health. Protein is not an issue, I now know you get enough protein from a vegan diet. With so many celebrities and sport stars going plant based they are breaking the myths that we are weak, skinny and lack nutrients in our foods.
I tend to eat 3 meals a day plus snacks and the only difference now compared to being vegetarian is I cook most of my food from scratch. No, its not time consuming or expensive. The majority of my meals take no more than 15 minutes to make. I always make sure I’m stocked up on vegan cheeses, meat alternatives, tofu, beans, plant milks, burgers, sausages etc. When eating out I look at the menu before I go and even if there isn’t a vegan option I’ve found every restaurant I’ve been to will make something for you. Last night I was craving Indian food so I made a bean & tofu curry with coconut cream and some garlic and coriander naan bread. For breakfast today I had sweet French toast with maple syrup, yoghurt and lots of fresh fruit. For lunch I had my own recipe seitan (80 grams of protein per 100g) sandwich with barbecue sauce. My desserts like triple chocolate cheesecake or chocolate mousse are very popular with guests.
Every evening I’ll have a small bit of chocolate or piece of something I’ve made as a treat. Since changing my diet and lifestyle my sister is now fully plant based as is one of my best friends. All three of us have lost weight yet still eat more or less what we want. By swapping sugary snacks, cream and processed meats for wholegrain, unprocessed alternatives you feel full and satisfied and don’t get a dip in energy soon after eating them. My family love coming for a roast and I still serve up crispy roast potatoes, a meat substitute, stuffing, cauliflower cheese and Yorkshire puddings. I made a lemon meringue pie for dessert and my guests couldn’t believe no eggs were involved. A few months ago we had a party in our home and I made a cheese and tomato quiche with tofu and oat cream, before I had a chance to tell people it might taste different it had been eaten and I had nothing but compliments.
There is a lot of negativity attached to living plant based but from cutting out a few foods you gain a whole load of other foods into your diet. I used to live off eggs and cheese but I wouldn’t eat them now and the thought of them is so off putting. Sometimes I don’t have a lot of time so a hot dog with onions and potato wedges or a burger in a wholemeal bun with cheese and mayo are so quick and easy to make yet tasty and nutritious. Plus I don’t feel bloated after I’ve eaten it, yet a veggie burger with cheese used to disagree with me.
On my days off I try and be a little more adventurous and spend more time cooking. I look forward to my meals and cooking is a pleasure. I know everything that’s going in my body and my body rewards me. Recently I made fish and chips using marinated tofu and nori fried in beer batter. It was incredible. I think for the period I’ve been plant based I’ve had a different dinner every day. With over 750 food posts on my Instagram it is proof that going plant based isn’t limiting, boring or restrictive. I’m still learning new ways of cooking and with supermarkets now doing so many different foods there is no excuse to not live this way.
I think giving it a try for 30 days will make it hard to go back when you feel the benefits so many others have felt. Like the majority of vegans I wish I had done it sooner. I feel its a win win lifestyle everyone should at least try. It is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.